The Hindu (Mumbai)

Private safaris, bush dinners, and forest spas... step into a place that time forgot. Here is how to experience India’s wildlife in style

Evolve Back, Kabini Woods at Sasan, Gir

- Nidhi Adlakha

Season: Allyear ₹35,000 per night, per couple, inclusive of breakfast, dinner, select activities and all taxes. pproximate­ly four hours from

Bengaluru, after you drive past Coorg, lies Kabini and its forests, teeming with a range of flora, tigers, leopards and elephants, among other wild beasts.

The property is bordered on two sides by the Kabini River which separates the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks, and in turn is part of the

ASeason: October to March

Price: From ₹15,000 to ₹32,000 per night t is that time of the year again when the scorching sun is upon us, as is the muchawaite­d summer holidays. If planning a trip abroad or a break in the hills is not on your list this year, may we suggest exploring India’s wild side. Experts say this is the ideal season to holiday in the forests, and get up close with their teeming wildlife. With tailormade safari experience­s to spot tigers, a crocodile safari by boat, and trails on a cycle, we bring you a low down of the country’s popular National parks and the hospitalit­y players offering luxury experience­s in the wild.

Ilarger Nilgiri Biosphere

Reserve. And to experience the natural wilderness, the resort offers safaris via vehicles, boats, and even a coracle ride. “All safaris are by the Jungle Lodges and Resorts which are operated by the Karnataka Government,” explains

Gir is home to the last of the Asiatic lions in the world, and if you plan to head there this year, you can choose from a luxury escorted safari in a private open gypsy, or one by rail.

“We offer an escorted forest safari in a private open Gypsy with our resident naturalist­s to spot Asiatic lions, leopards, among other animals,” says Maulik Bhagat, CEO, 1000 Island Hotels and Resorts, who says he has witnessed a noticeable increase in travellers “expressing a keen interest in wildlife and safari holidays, particular­ly centered around destinatio­ns like Gir National Park”.

This surge, he says, can be attributed to the rise of sustainabl­e tourism and the growing emphasis on wildlifeba­sed tourism. “Over the

Jose Ramapuram, director of Marketing at Evolve Back, adding that safaris begin at the Kabini river lodge. Trained guides are provided by the resort, and the safaris (morning and evening) are “organised and wellmanage­d” to balance the carrying capacity. “The parks are divided into different sections, and limited vehicles are permitted in each section.”

As for the boat safari, it begins from the property and guests are taken in the backwaters upstream. “With Nagarhole and Bandipur on either side, this zone is rich in wildlife. Between January and April, the forest dries out, and animals come to the reservoir from far away. There is ample grass that attracts herbivores, who in turn attract the carnivores,” says Jose, who adds that the light is very different in a boat safari as compared to a land safari. “One can see crocodiles, water birds, geese, etc. that fly in from as far as Europe and Siberia. The animals you see are different, and it is a varied experience.” There are also Nature walks along the banks of the Kabini River, and for the more adventurou­s traveller, night trails that explore the region’s nocturnal insects, amphibians and reptiles. The resort is also home to the Kabini Interpreta­tion Centre, an Insect Interpreta­tion Centre, a small Kuruba Tribal Museum and a twoacre wilderness insect/butterfly sanctuary within the resort premises.

Jose explains how there has been a rise in occupancy over the past few years that he attributes to the pandemic, and how people preferred the property as the area is “relatively isolated”.

Jose further explains that the market is now reverting to prepandemi­c levels, and how “there is an increased interest in wildlife, probably due to more awareness being generated during the pandemic.” past five years, we have observed a notable increase in both domestic and internatio­nal tourist enquiries. This is due to the establishm­ent of an internatio­nal airport in Rajkot, and the region’s reputation as the only natural habitat of Asiatic lions.”

Alongside safaris, guests are offered a range of exclusive, personalis­ed experience­s. The vintage tea tale and community lunch in a mango orchard is especially popular. “The former offers guests a bespoke vintage car ride to a secluded spot by the Hiran River, where they can savour freshly brewed tea while immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the landscape. At the community lunch, guests dine in a secluded setting amidst the forest surroundin­gs of the retreat, while their lunch is prepared over a wood fire, accompanie­d by live flute music,” he adds.

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