A quintessential Indian village where herds of cows & goats block the road, where people hitch a ride on bullock carts in all that swag, where stunts on bikes are less and bullock carts more, and where the occasional visit from a tiger or wild elephant is considered commonplace- this is beautiful Kabini.
1. Visit Nagarhole National Park
It is the highlight of Kabini, and for some, the sole reason for visiting this quaint village in Karnataka. There are safaris into the national park at two timings-6am & 3pm. I went at 6am hoping to spot some of the big cats- jaguar, black panther, tiger which are often spotted here. But as luck would have it, courtesy of the rains around the time of my visit, I didn’t spot any of them. I did see a lot of deer, peacocks, exotic birds I dont know the names of, grey langurs, a wild boar, and an Indian bison. Though at one point all of us in the bus thought that we would spot one of the big cats, as we watched a deer run as fast as ever into the thicket, but it was just not meant to be.
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2. Sail across the backwaters of Kabini
A boat ride on the backwaters of Kabini is a must do. It is a fun way to spot some migratory birds, and to see the expanse of the lush green farmlands of Kabini.
3. Visit the village
Most hotels will arrange for a visit to the village with a local, if you are interested. The village of Kabini is quiet and beautiful, and is certainly worth the visit. Farmers still plough the land with the hep of their trusted bulls, young boys try stunts on bullock carts, and children heard cattle to their homes. It is a village most unlike any you would have visited.
The village is home to tribal folk as well, for whom the government has recently constructed brick houses to live in. Their traditional homes were of mud with a thatched hay roof, which are not to be seen.
Farming is the mainstay of the economy here, and the resorts in the vicinity support the farmers by buying directly from them. Amongst the vast expanse of green, are the pops of orange of the beautiful marigold flowers which are farmed extensively in this part of Karnataka, for their uses in essential oils, religious festivals, and weddings.
4. Visit the Viveka Centre of Tribal Learning
This is a rather unusual thing for people to do, but is a good way to understand the way of life of the people here.
The Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement is dedicated to educating the tribal children of the area. The Viveka Centre of Tribal Learning provides free education to the local tribal children. They house the boys, providing free accommodation & food, while the girls go home after school hours.
5. Buy some yummy ragi treats!
The all women run health food enterprise, Health enRich provides employment & job training to local tribal women, whilst supporting local farmers by being the largest buyer of locally grown ragi.
The women were gracious hosts, taking the time out to explain the manufacturing process to visitors, & very good saleswomen too, for I came out with a bag full of tasty treats to take back!
6. Watch a tribal dance performance
With the wave of modernisation reaching rural India, the tribal community who have left the forests to live with the local community find it increasingly difficult to preserve their traditions. The tribal women’s collective teach the new generation of tribal women their age old traditions, they perform their dances in the resorts, and at nationwide cultural exchange programmes to keep their traditions alive. I was lucky to catch a show of a tribal dance performance, which surprisingly was performed by a group of all men! The simple yet beautiful performance detailed the different choreography & music performed at a funeral & a wedding.
7. Go on a nature walk
When in the lap of nature, take a walk around! Nature walks are the best way to get acquainted with Kabini. Hotels organise nature walks in the mornings with a guide who is well versed with the flora and fauna of the region.
8. Ride in a bullock cart
Some hotels even arrange for a bullock cart ride by the banks of the Kabini river. Do give that a try, because it might just be a once in a lifetime opportunity! There are very few places that still rely on bullock cart transportation, and over time, the number will dwindle. To come from a city, and see people travelling in a bullock cart, is rather surprising, yet humbling.
To see a people content with the slow pace of life, of bullock cart travel, hand water pumps, & hand grinding of the locally produced grain, is an experience that encourages city dwellers like me to slow down and appreciate life.
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