Words by Bindu Gopal Rao
A holiday at Kaav Safari Lodge, nestled in the lap of nature, is the best way to beat travel blues in the COVID-19 era.
The serene environs of the Nagarhole wildlife sanctuary make a perfect backdrop for Kaav Safari Lodge, a boutique property that offers a niche wilderness experience, sitting at the edge of the forest and providing a perfect for a getaway into the wild.
The four-acre property has only six rooms; four regular rooms and two tents meaning that you can holiday free from pandemic worries. The property has been designed keeping in mind the surrounding forest space and is largely natural and free flowing.
The original building was a two-storey structure raised on stilts which has been the template from which the existing design has evolved. This structure was then modified to add four rooms, each of which has a separate balcony, a central common area as well as an upper deck that gives a great bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest. The two tented accommodations were added later.
Divya Pant, manager at KAAV Safari Lodge said: “As this space was reimagined, the design ethos was always to have a minimal carbon footprint. The owners are Tony Joseph, an architect who designed the space, and his partner Sanjay who owns a farm in Ooty. KAAV means sacred grove and the space has evolved as such.
“Sharing the borders with the forest, we are very strict with our pest control and we do not spray anything consciously. This is also why we do not allow children below 10 years here as the space is quite wild and there is a lot of wildlife around. The only time children are allowed is when the family books the whole resort and take the onus of controlling them.”
A rugged stone path leads you to the resort that has a small open kitchen and restaurant as well as the manager’s office. The rooms are located on the first floor of this building. The pool (currently closed) is located next to the restaurant on a slight elevation and is flanked by a massive banyan tree and overlooks the jungle.
The décor within the rooms continue the theme of nature with the use of polished cement concrete flooring, wired glass doors, saw-cut timber and white walls. Complimentary Wi-Fi is offered across the resort, while solar energy is used to power part of the electricity needs and a biogas system helps fuel the kitchen with rainwater harvesting also in place.
The food at KAAV is simple, home cooked fare that is full of flavour and taste. You can eat at the restaurant adjacent to the kitchen or at the poolside, and there is also room service. The staff is attentive too, I had all my meals delivered exactly at the time I asked for every time during my stay.
One of the morning activities that you can take part is a coracle boat ride which is roughly a 20-minute experience on a traditional bamboo woven boat. The boat ride is a good way to explore the Kabini River and spot some of the water birds on the banks, and you can walk or cycle to the riverside to take in the natural surroundings on your way too. Kayaking is another activity that the retreat offers, and I would certainly recommend the nature walk, which is wonderful as you can see several birds along the backwaters, and I was lucky to spot scores of migratory bar geese. Within the retreat there are bicycles that you can use to ride at any time of the day along the riverside, through the village or on the main road.
The KAAV’s Tiny Safari is a unique activity that I recommend you make time for as well. The night safari happens around the property where you can see anything from spiders to frogs, to snakes, lizards and caterpillars and Sujith Surendran, the inhouse naturalist who conducts the session will regale you will some amazing facts about the nocturnal life here.
If you are looking to relax, then head up to the open viewing deck to observe the sights and sounds of the jungle. I spotted a variety of birds including the vernal hanging parrot, drongo, coppersmith barbet and red whiskered bulbul from here. Sky gazing is also offered on clear nights as the team sets up a telescope to see the stars and planets. For guests who stay over three nights, a barbeque and bonfire dinner are set up at a plot close by to create a differentiated dining experience under the stars by the riverside.
The main attractions, however, are the wildlife safaris that are organised by the government through the jungle lodges, taking place at the Nagarhole National Park twice a day with land and river options. The river safari occurs on the Kabini River and is a great way to spot aquatic birds, and during the summer months, it is relatively common to see large herds of Asiatic elephants too.
The land safaris are a great way to see the big cats, especially tigers and leopards. The resort will organise a jeep to drop you off and pick you back up from the safari and can also book your seats for the safari (against a separate payment). The jungles of Nagarhole (also called Kabini Jungle and Rajiv Gandhi National Park) have a melanistic leopard who is completely black and is a star attraction, of course, you need lots of luck to spot him!
The jungle itself is vibrant and you can spot a variety of animals including elephants, sambhar, spotted deer, wild boars, gaurs and more – I was very lucky to spot tigers in two safaris on my trip to KAAV. The park is also teeming with bird life and woodpeckers, blue jays and barbets, and bee-eaters are commonly seen.
In a nutshell
A holiday experience at KAAV is a wonderful way to come close to nature and rejuvenate your senses, even as we all come to terms with COVID-19.
Address: KAAV Safari Lodge, Malalli Cross, N Belathur PO., Kabini, HD Kote, Mysore, Karnataka – 571114, India
Tel: +91 82282 96491, +91 82282 96492
All images courtesy of KAAV Safari Lodge