Monday, October 8, 2007

Kabini Lodge - Nagarhole National Park

Day 1

We left Bangalore and our hotel, the Taj Residency with excitement but some regrets about leaving the wonderful staff. However, the first few minutes in the car taking us to Kabini was a welcome shock. Here was a large Toyota SUV with air conditioning, plus a huge bonus- my front seat seat belt actually worked!
The driver, Uday, was also delightful- calm and courteous as a driver. Instead of honking at every real or imagined slight by another vehicle he merely smiled. He happily answered my questions- yes, he was married, yes he had a son, 15 years old. No he cannot afford a car but he has a motorcycle which his wife does not drive but the son does, and yes, he is expected to go to college.
The drive was delightful with the windows closed and the lack of frantic honking. Soon we had left Bangalore behind and were in the country on our way to Mysore and then on to Kabini on the Nagarhole, which means cobra river because of snaking meanders. The Kabini lodges is on the edge of the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, SSWest of Bangalore and Mysore. As we approached it got exciting because a mongoose ran across the road!
Soon after arriving we were escorted to our cottage, a very attractive, almost Craftsman style architecture. One large room and a bath, and porch. Then time for lunch. More delightful Indian food and Kingfisher beer, which flows like water.
Now we were supposed to rest. Forget it. Sally and I headed off and found a nature trail that brought us down to the river's edge. Within minutes we scored a huge Pill millipede- not the big long one we had see earlier in the eastern Ghats, but a very stout, short character who balled up when you touched him- looking for all the world like a trilobite. Farther down the path great columns of ants stretched out, apparently on maneuvers.
Then a beautiful Brahimny Kite banked over our heads, best look yet in India. Lapwings flew by and a Spot-billed duck. Then over head a great commotion- four Chestnut-headed bee-eaters were in noisy competition for all many of flying insects. Lots of chatter and swooping and diving, including some violent killing of butterflies as the bee-eaters whacked the flying flowers against branches.
Taking a side path we were led to a bizarre and mysterious tree, Kigelia pinnata, which had absurd large sausage like fruit hanging in huge numbers on long strands. The tree was planted and is from South Africa. An Indian Strangler fig was killing it.
Back to the meeting area for tea and a pep talk about our water safari up the Nagarhole. The boat was full but there were not enough life jackets for everyone. Rest assured, I GOT MINE!
It was fun, lots of great bird shots of three different cormorants, ducks, swallows, herons, Langur monkeys, Samba deer, a peacock- India's national bird, our first-of-the-trip good looks at kingfishers- the Common and the Stork-billed.
On the way back we had lovely sunset views of the jungle, river, and sky, ending with a lovely scene of a father and daughter seine netting fish on the river's edge. Dinner was in a large gazebo with everyone in attendance AFTER a film on wildlife at the park. I skipped out on this camp activity to work on my photos. When we went to our cottage we found little geckos all over the entrance area looking for insects attracted by the porch light. Once inside we discovered we would be spending the night with at least one of these tiny geckos- this struck me as great- a natural, living angel of death for insects in my bedroom.

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