Wildlife watching in Kabini wildlife sanctuary, Karnataka

Kabini wildlife sanctuary

While I lived in Bangalore, my friends gave me the impression that they perpetually lived in Kabini wildlife sanctuary.  For every time I called, I find out that they are on a safari, busy following some alarm calls.  And I realised I need to visit the Masai Mara of Karnataka, only after I put what seems like a few lightyears between us. Going after snakes, I completely ignored the big cats, leopards and tigers to be precise, which is what makes Kabini famous. 

Better late than never, as they say, it occurred to me that I have to see a big cat in its abode before I cease to exist, or rather they cease to exist. Thus, my last trip to India – in the pretext of visiting my family, which I did for half a day – was about chasing a cat or two. 

Read Snakes in India – Angels in disguise

Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Bengal tiger – Panthera tigris tigris

Wildlife watching in Kabini wildlife sanctuary

Spread over 55 acres of forest, Kabini is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India. Brimming with lakes, waterfalls and steep valleys, it hosts many endangered and common birds, mammals and reptiles people read about in books such as “The Jungle Book”. The sanctuary is synonymous with leopards on trees, herds of mud bathing elephants, animals drinking from the lakes, and the forest booming with warning calls of animals announcing predators. 

Kabini wildlife sanctuary is quite popular amongst wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and weekenders. But this was not always the case when the tigers and colonialists ruled the world. They were the hunting grounds for the royals and the colonialists. And as you know good always triumphs over evil, Kabini was converted into a wildlife sanctuary making it a wildlife haven.

So no matter when you visit Kabini, it seems, there is never a dull moment. If not cats, at least dogs, I mean the wild kind are sure to keep you engaged.

Also, read A Day Trip to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

A typical safari ride

Kabini wildlife sanctuary

Also, read Agumbe – A Perfect Anytime Getaway for Wildlife Enthusiasts

In the wee hours of the morning, safari jeeps zip through the mist-covered forest. Foraging langurs, usually the first mammals in view, and humans exchange curious glances. Sambars scurry into thickets at the sight of an approaching jeep. A pack of dholes tease each other in the distance.

In the wee hours of the morning, safari jeeps zip through the mist-covered forest. Foraging langurs, usually the first mammals in view, and humans exchange curious glances. Sambars scurry into thickets at the sight of an approaching jeep. A pack of dholes tease each other in the distance.

Jeeps trace their way, each taking a different route, from one water body to another where the animals come for a drink. Naturalists listen and observe intently for calls and sightings of animals and exchange information on their mobiles with other naturalists.

Suddenly, there are alarm calls of langurs and barking deer. The very next instant the naturalist receives news of a tiger sighting. The driver speeds to the location leaving clouds of dust behind him while people hang on to the jeep for their lives.  Jeeps congregate at the sacred site. First, a glimpse of moving black and yellow stripes appears amidst the thickets. Then the tiger emerges as cool as a cucumber, walks past the jeeps bestowing an occasional glance at onlookers in awe and gradually disappears into another thicket. The jeeps follow the tiger until it is out of sight.

Kabini national park borders Nagerhole national park abounding with water bodies and swamps. Nagerhole, also a tiger reserve, has the highest density of herbivores in Asia, which translates to a healthy population of carnivores that depend on them. 

Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Gray langur or Hanuman langur – Semnopithecus entellus
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Female Sambar deer – Rusa unicolor
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Chital or Spotted deer with a fawn – Axis axis
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Dhole or Indian wild dog – Cuon alpinus
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Mongoose
Kabini wildlife sanctuary
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Indian roller – Coracias benghalensis
Emerald dove – Chalcophaps indica

Some common sightings in Nagerhole and Kabini national parks including their status according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):

  • Bengal tigers – endangered 
  • Indian leopards – endangered
  • Indian elephants – endangered 
  • Sloth bears – vulnerable
  • Indian dholes (Indian wild dogs) – endangered 
  • Chital – least concern
  • Sambar deer – vulnerable
  • Barking deer – least concern
  • Four-horned antelope – vulnerable 
  • Gaur (Indian bison) – vulnerable 
  • Wild boar – least concern
  • Grey langur – near threatened 
  • Slender loris – endangered
  • European otter – near threated 
  • Striped neck mongoose – least concern 
  • Indian porcupine – least concern
  • Mugger crocodile – vulnerable 
  • Golden jackals – least concern

There are over 270 bird species including:

  • Oriental White-backed vulture – critically endangered 
  • Crested Serpent Eagle – least concern
  • Osprey – least concern
  • Streak-throated woodpecker – least concern
  • Grey-headed fish eagle – near threated 

It is heartrending to see the number of commonly sighted animals listed as near threatened, vulnerable and endangered. These animals are threatened by poaching, loss and fragmentation of habitat, and human-animal conflict among other things.

Now some fun facts about tigers 

  • The Bengal tiger is one of the biggest wildcats in the world
  • India has 70% of the tigers in the world
  • The Bengal tiger is the national animal of India and Bangladesh

Travel Tips

September to May is the best time to visit Kabini for wildlife sightings 

  • Temperature ranges from 22 °C to 40 °C in summer and from 10 °C to 32 °C in winter
  • Safari rides go out at 6:30 am and 3:30 pm
  • A nice way to watch water birds is to go on a boat ride 

Travel to Kabini

Kabini is 80 km from Mysore and 205 km from Bangalore. People usually drive or hire a cab to reach Kabini.

By train – Closest train station is in Mysore and then one needs to take a bus or hire a cab to Kabini.

By air – Bangalore has an international airport with good connections. From Bangalore, one can hire a cab or go by train till Mysore or by bus till Kabini. 

By bus – Many government and private buses ply directly to Kabini. 

Also, read Velas – The Village for Turtles

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