Orange County, Kabini-A Nature's Lullaby
Tucked away from the mundane city life and the hustle-bustle of repetitive chores, lies the serene and welcoming shores of the Kabini River flowing between the Bandipur National Forest and Nagarhole Tiger Reserve on its either banks. Orange County, Kabini located on its banks stands tall as the ultimate in Luxury and Fine Living for over the past decade and bears testimony to many a timeless memoir experienced here. My recent trip to Orange County, Kabini reflects on my soul like a serenade where peace, calm and tranquillity play hand in hand with the unknown of the wilderness of this exotic locale.
Kabini is located at about 250 Km from Bangalore and 80 Km from Mysore city. The road after crossing the Mysore Highway (NH275) starting from HD Kote Taluk all the way till the Bheeramballi Village where Orange County is situated is a bumpy and uneven ride and anything from 1-2 hours is advisable to be kept on hand. The total trip time on a good day with moderate traffic should not be more than 4 hours.
We started a bit later in the day and was able to reach our destination around late lunch time- 2:30 PM. The traditional welcome upon arrival included the Teeka with a plate of lighting Diya and a tribal tune being played by a group of musicians. One at once feels transported into the magical lands of the Kadu Kurubas who are the original inhabitants of the Nagarhole forest. As we entered the reception, we were greeted by Mr. Thomas Paul, General Manager of the property who explained to us the Activities for the Day with our Naturalist. Here is a video link of our royal reception:
One glance at the property, it mesmerizes you with its rustic charm and eco-friendliness. Every Building resembles a Tribal Hut and is covered with Coconut leaves as part of its roofing. The picturesque bank of the river Kabini is inviting to say the least and the sight of upturned Coracles (Round Boats for a joyride) makes one feel one with Mother Nature right at its core. The presence of fruit flies can be a bit annoying at times, but with passage of time one gets used to its usual humming sound.
Orange County, Kabini is a nature lover’s paradise. Its adherence to eco-friendliness, exotic rustic chic and the organic farming in-house has won numerous accolades and a permanent position into the much coveted TripAdvisor Excellence Hall of Fame. Here are a few snippets of what follows :
The Hadis or Tribal Villages, which form the basic essence of Orange County, Kabini is recreated in the form of 2 categories of Villas:
The Jacuzzi Hut: This is a standard Villa with an open air Jacuzzi providing a sit-out and a Living and a Bed-Room which opens out to the courtyard.
The Pool Hut: The pool huts come with a super spacious living and dining area, a palatial bedroom and a unique bathroom with a courtyard of its own. Your very own private pool adds special status and glamour to the villa which is accessible via the living and the bathroom courtyard.
No visit here is complete without one to their In-house Spa-Vaidyshala. It is located opposite to the Central Reception area and hosts the best facilities for relaxation and rejuvenation techniques via Ayurvedic treatments. I treated myself to an Udvartana Detoxifying massage to increase the blood circulation within the various muscles cells, a perfect therapy after a hard day’s travel. Two therapists apply a herbal paste, followed by a rigorous one hour massage and finally a few minutes inside the Steam to open the pores. The massage worked like magic and awakened every tiring tissue in my body, making me feel energised and supercharged for the evening.
Before proceeding over to the daily activities, it is important to reiterate what Orange County Resorts are best known for- their impeccable service. Every demand was attended to with utmost precision and professionalism. Special mention needs to be made of the evening when we moved to the Pool Hut and I discovered one of the lights within the pool was not working. The staff was able to fix it at the unholy hour of 1:00 AM and I was able to get my photoshoot done perfectly. I cannot thank them enough for such prompt service.
The Activities amidst this lap of nature is manifold, and Orange County Resorts makes sure that you get enough and more of the sights and sounds of this one-of-a-kind property. I was ecstatic to discover how much one can do in just two nights and 3 days when our naturalist unfolded the plan that he had designed for us.
We started with the Bullock Cart Ride which is along the bank of the river Kabini and lasts for about 30 minutes. You get to experience the real feel of the rustic lifestyle amidst the picturesque locales of the Kabini River. This costs Rs.450 per person.
The Coracle ride is the next attraction and is part and package of the booking. It is mandatory to wear a life vest and lasts for about 10-15 minutes. For the thrill seeker, this is a must.
As night descends on the banks of Kabini, Orange County takes a different view and vigour of its own. The Sunset from the Reading Lounge located right across the Main Pool of the property is something that cannot be missed and is breath-taking to say the least.
As night falls on the banks of the Kabini, the nocturnal life comes alive within the boundaries of Orange County. You can take a guided tour named aptly the Night Crawl every evening organized between 8-9 PM to experience this unique opportunity where various creatures and habitat invisible during the day appear. One such mention needs to be made of the Bull Frog, named after its facial resemblance to that of a bull, and an entire pond which is its habitat. In the day, it is a Lily Pond and its master makes an appearance once the night falls.
Every alternate evening, one gets to experience the traditional Folk Dance of the Kadu Kurubas. The other days, a documentary titled the Secrets of Kabini is played at the auditorium next to the reception. Here is a video of the not-to-be-missed tribal dance where the audience are also allowed to participate alongside. Here is a video link of this amazing experience:
Orange County Resorts, Kabini has 2 regular dining options: The Honeycomb All Day Dining and the Kuruba Grill, open only for dinner. We had a delectable Breakfast and Luncheon at the Honeycomb, and the Kuruba Grill was our destination every evening for quality Grills and Sizzlers. Special mention needs to made of their Seafood and Lamb Sizzler which stands out and is a must-try. The perfect setting with a candlelight dinner sets your mood up for the various possibilities the night and the inviting shores of the Kabini can bring forth.
The honeycomb Restaurant is the primary dining destination of this property and is adjacent to the very quaint pub- Water Hole serving the best of liquors and single malts. Breakfast, Lunch, Evening Snacks and Dinner buffet are arranged here providing a plethora of dishes from South Indian to Continental. There is also the option of ordering Ala Carte in here.
The Kuruba Grill, on the other hand is a very private and unique experience. The absence of any electrical light and the perfect romantic setting with candlelight and lantern caters to couples visiting this venue for a surreal experience. The food consists primarily of Grills and Sizzlers and follows a set of appetisers and daily specials selected by the chef. There are two varieties of set menu available with ample options of various courses for both Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian lovers.
It was time to head back to bed and get up for the first leg of the Vehicle Safari in the morning which starts at around 6 AM. The Orange County vehicle takes you to the bank of the Kabini River where a couple of minutes ride into the other side lands you over to the Nagarhole forest. I was unable to view any of the big cats, even though Tigers are quite a common sight and so are the Leopards which usually camouflage around tall tree branches. I was able to witness a few exotic birds and Elephants and Deer to spot a few. The Wild Boar is also a possibility and can be usually seen in herds. We waited up and down for three regular hideouts of the Tiger and the watering hole where it comes to quench its thirst, but our efforts were in vain.
The Vehicle Safari in the afternoon starts at 3 PM and lasts till 7 PM. The chances of catching a glimpse of the big cats are more in the early hours of the evening, but we were not able to witness any. However I was able to catch a few other species including elephants and a peacock.
Another significant event during the first half of the day is the Responsible Tourism Walk organized by the team at OC. Here special emphasis is provided on the eco-friendly efforts practised here as well as the various initiatives taken by its management. This includes Organic Farming and segregation of garbage between Bio-Degradable and others. They also have adopted Grease Tap Oil techniques here. There is also organic manure created right here and a Greenhouse for all the necessary shrubs.
We started with the Interpretation Centre, which is an in-house museum of the various Flora and Fauna of Kabini. The various species found here are listed on the walls in a rustic set up of the Tribal hut.
The Bullfrog pond is a beautiful Lily pond in the day and is a photographer’s paradise to say the least.
The adjacent Organic Farming and the Greenhouse along with Waste Segregation is also carried onsite here at the venue. Various vegetables like Eggplant, Tomatoes and Red and Green Chillies are grown right here.
It was almost time for us to leave for Bengaluru, but not without one last activity-The Story of Kabini. This is a Guided Tour where the history of the Kabini River and its adjoining areas are narrated by the Naturalist with real evidences and sights which has stood the test of time. We were witness to the various stone carvings and remains of a few temples and sites. We were also able to spot a Crocodile, some exotic birds and a herd of Elephants on the other side of the river. The view of the Reading Lounge and the farmlands within the premises were exotic.
With the onslaught of Monsoon, all the barren lands we stepped on would be filled with water and there would be no scope of the vehicle to transport to the river bank. The water would cover it all, and the Jetty on the premises would serve as the primary dock for the steamers to ferry to the other side for the Safari. Our Pool Hut was adjacent to this Jetty and I could only imagine the picturesque beauty in the monsoons with greenery all around. Orange County Resorts also has provision for a very private Dinner on the boat for two during the Monsoon Season upon prior reservation. At this point in time, only the Ferry used for the purpose can be seen docked next to the Coracles.
It was time for us to embark on our return to Bangalore, but not without another view of the property after dark. Its unique beauty and charm takes a whole new vigour after night descends and is one to be cherished. The peace and serenity interspersed with the tranquillity of Mother Nature weaves a whole new mystery around this paradise on earth, one that has to be felt and no words could do justice to. It was time to bid adieu, but I will make one more trip during the monsoons to witness this property at its best.