(Pinks are links)
Kabini River Lodge of JLR, on the banks of Kabini reservoir, is reputedly their best resort. A jewel in the crown of Jungle Lodges & Resorts and a favourite of many of my photographer friends because the forests of the Rajiv Gandhi National Park ( or Nagarahole NP) was prime leopard country. The resort is located on the southern fringes of the park and my first visit was in 1999. An unforgettable trip because, throughout that visit, I shared a vehicle with Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin!
Kabini was a temptation that I resisted primarily due to one reason, the route and distance.
The first time I took a route that went almost up to Mysore through Sathyamangalam, Chamarajanagar, Najangud then got onto the Mysore-Manathavady road to reach Kharapur. A distance of more than 310 kilometers and a drive of 7- 8 hours.
Later, after Bandipur Safari Lodge came into existence (from what was the erstwhile KSTDC Mayura) I would drive up through Nilambur, Gudalur, Mudumalai, Bandipur, Gundlupet, Begur, Nugu and H.D Kote. This route was shorter by almost 30 kilometers compared to the previous one. From the last mentioned place I'd get on the Mysore Manathavady road again to reach my destination. This route also needed a 7 hour drive to cover the 280 kilometers.
Those were the days when the Mysore-Manathavady road was a nightmare to drive on. The 20 odd kilometers after the national park gates, would take, not less than a couple of hours; that is, if you did not stop to count the potholes and shoot pictures of the wildlife that would be wandering close to the road. On my last trip to Bandipur in January, whenI happened to break my Zuiko 300 mm f2.8, my friend Mohan Thomas told me that this nightmare road was now a pleasure to drive on. That decided me. I had to give in to my long-standing temptation!
Not only was this a better road but it also cuts some 40 kilometers from the Bandipur route! This road goes through Mannarkad, Pandikad, Manjeri, Mukkom, Thamrassery, Kalpetta and Manathavady. That is the route I followed to reach Nagarhole a few years ago. If you want the distances from Palakkad to Manathavady just check the first post of the Nights in Nagarahole series. The Kalpetta bypass mentioned as unmotorable has since been completed and it takes you onto the Manathavady road quickly. If you take the road through the aforementioned places, it is 205 kilometers from Palakkad to Manathavady.
About 10 kilometers after Manathavady, is Kattikulam (215 kms) where the road divides into two. The left goes to Tholpetty, Kutta and thence to Nagarahole. If Kabini River Lodge is your destination, take the right turn to Bavalli (223 kms), the Kerala-Karnataka border. 15 kilometers from Bavalli you reach the Balle check post. About 4 kilometers after that you have to turn right to Kharapur and Kabini River Lodge (249 kms).
To be continued.....................