It was that magical time when the sun was setting in the Serai Kabini, an upmarket resort in the south of India, when we experienced our first Boat Safari. A nimbus of rain clouds growled in the distance and the occasional profilgate flash of lightening heralded our start out onto the back waters of the Kabini river. In a matter of minutes, the ride was enlivened with the sharp sting of river water spray on our faces and life jackets which totally soaked us, as the boat sped out. “ Don’t dip your fingers in the river unless you want the crocodiles to feast on them,” warned Sukanto our naturalist and guide. “ And please, all cell phones off and keep your interaction in hushed whispers, if you want to see any wildlife.”
It was only a matter of time before we saw a large number of Snake Birds, Cormorants, Egrets and River Terns which had migrated from Iran for the winter. Soon a magnificent blue- green Peacock and his non-descript Peahen were spotted on the banks, by their signature mournful cry. Suddenly a massive tusker appeared out of the clumps of flowering bamboo, making is ponderous way towards the waters edge along with a group of females and babies. A large group of Wild Boar snuffled at one end which we had never seen beyond Asterisk & Obelisk cartoon books! Groups of Spotted deer and Sambhar grazed along the edge of the water while a Jackal skulked in the bushes, waiting for us to go before he came out, as they are shy creatures. A boat safari in this weather ensures spotting of wild animals, as the watering holes in the jungles have dried up.
The eight acre lush expanse of the resort is mercifully not manicured gardens, but boasts of large clumps of sandal wood trees and Kabini grass growing around the lobby area. With just 20 cottages, the resort ensures it adheres to eco tourism rules especially about water conservation and recycling firmly in place. The colours for the interiors are browns and greens done in tasteful slate colours and subdued to blend with the sourroundings. Golden Bamboo creak along the granite slab pathway leading to the rooms and the whisper of the wind over the waters, flicks your hair along your neck, as you loll in the hammock reading or dreaming. Particularly inviting are the snow white linen on the beds and the large and comfortable baths. Organic soaps and shampoos ensure that the grey water can be recyled and used for the gardens and the natural grass lawns.
“ We are particularly careful about turning our wet food waste into compost in our vermiculture unit and all our tap fittings ensure that the quantity of water used is minimal,” revealed Venkatesh M, a Director incharge of the group.
Large groups of birder enthusiasts are aware of the treasure of birdlife in the surrounding trees and jungle, so arrive with their expensive lenses very early in the morning. Besides the raucous red vented Bulbuls and mynas gobbling the Singapore cherries in the early mornings, the tiny sparrow seems to have made a glorious comeback in the thatching of the cottages. We were lucky to see and hear a couple of common Flame Back Woodpeckers with its distinctive call, flying from tree to tree during the Jungle Safari.
The Serai Kabini’s kitchens dished out lavish buffets conjured up by Chef Antony Samy at Flames. We tucked into shredded Lamb in hot bean sauce, cruchy water chestnuts in Three treasure vegetable in Hoisin sauce, and a saucily named Naked Fish had us all shovel a slice onto our plates and laugh over the name. “ I enjoy continental cooking,” revealed Antony, but everything including his traditional Avials, Blueberry tortes and lemon souffles had us shuffling back for seconds.
The Jungle Safari began on an exciting note with us entering just as a herd of magnificent Bison and Elephant were indulging in a drink of water. The Bison quickly melted into the brown and dry jungle, but one lone tusker stood its ground, making for a great photo op. Drongos, the Brian Fever Bird, Babblers, Coucals with their red eyes, Plum headed Parakeets and the breath taking Indian Roller flashing by with its striking blue colour were seen on the trip. As we made our way out of the jungle, the rare spotted, usually reticent Leopard loped across our path. In a matter of seconds five jeeps congregated to view the beast which lay in the scrub, ignoring our curious intrusion.
Don’t leave without the masseuse Shankuntala wreaking her magic on your limbs, with the Flame of the Forest full body massage. I could write an elegy on the mystic capacities of her fingers, which divested my body of all aches and pains. Happily the oils used are aromatic, so after a hot shower your skin emanates a gentle aroma, rather than the overpowering oily residues of more traditional experiences.
The Kabini Serai is part of the Coffee Day resorts and Café Coffee Day, so is handled at a professional level, with no room for discomfort. For bookings contact:
Coffee Day Hotels & Resorts Pvt. Ltd, Coffee Day Square, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore – 560001, India. Ph: +91 80 40012345, 40012259. Website: www.theserai.in