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In search of Black Panther

It was time for another trip to Kabini after a long time as it was long due desire to spot a black panther. It’s been a while I’ve been following the pictures of black panther cat at Kabini and have always wanted to shoot it in person. So I decided to go for a quick trip and booked it for a weekday as getting reservations on a weekend is very tough specially when you’re booking at last minute. I checked the Jungle Lodges site and to my surprise the accommodation was available for the dates I wanted to go. I quickly checked with one of my friend and he agreed to accompany me. So all was set, booked it quickly and packed the camera kit for the trip.

Kabini is nearly 230kms from Bangalore and takes about 4~5 hours depending upon your driving style and number of stops you take in between. The route is very simple

Bangalore - Kanakapura - Malavalli - Bannur - Harohalli - Mysore bypass - Hampapura - Antharasanthe - Kabini

You can take Mysore Road instead of Kanakapura Road but that has a loads of traffic and slows you down a lot. I generally avoid Mysore Road unless you would want to visit any places en-route Mysore Road and need eating options on the way as there are very minimal options on Kanakapura Road route.

We started around 6:00am from home so we can avoid the traffic from JP Nagar to Kanakapura Road until NICE road junction. We filled up the diesel from the HP petrol bunk at the NICE road junction and quickly moved towards Kanakapura. The journey was smooth and we could cover the distance of 130kms in about 2:20hrs non-stop until Mysore bypass. It’s only few villages in between where you get some traffic but otherwise it’s smooth ride. Now that Kanakapura Road also is widening, you might see some work happening near Art of Living ashram and little further but after that, it’s pretty good all the way to Mysore. Once you cross Mysore, the roads are a bit narrow at some places, but in good condition.

As we bypassed Mysore, we couldn’t find any good eateries on the way (as expected) so stopped at a small road side stall serving healthy breakfast. We had some freshly steamed Idlis and chutney and believe me they were yumm. After having the idlis, we moved on further towards JLR.

The drive is pretty scenic as well specially when you’re close to Kabini. We didn’t stop anywhere after that but enjoyed the scenic drive till we reached the destination-Jungle Lodges resorts.

We reached at the resort around 11am and when we reported, we were told to wait as the rooms were not ready yet. So we checked-in and went for a stroll at the resort. The resort is pretty good and decently maintained by the JLR management. It’s has couple of options for stay and we picked the tents for the stay. The tents have good view of the river and also are closer to the golghar (restaurant). We went to the river side to pass some time and then settled at the nets hanging around the trees near the restaurant area to kill some time with some cold cold beer.

The lunch was served around 12:30pm to 2:30pm. The lunch is pretty good and they have good options in non-veg and veg both. After a sumptuous lunch we went to our tent as that was ready by then and refreshed to get ready for the evening safari. The trip for safari starts at 3:30pm and by 4pm you enter the forest area. The safaris are for 2hrs in the evening until 6pm as it gets dark after that and you’re not supposed to be in the jungle after 6:30pm.

So, after a quick relaxing refreshing stay at the tent, we packed our gear and headed to the golghar for boarding the jeeps for safari. We were served tea/coffee before the trip started around 3:30pm. After the tea/coffee, we boarded the jeep assigned to us. We had a family along with us that had 4 adults and an annoying kid :(( who never stopped talking or grinning or cribbing :(((

Anyway, so we had no option but to accommodate and live with what we got. We got the middle seat and usually that’s good position as you get access to front view,side views and you can get low shots at eye level if you spot any good wildlife. The only issue with middle seat is that you don’t get the back side view from there which is ok as you don’t get everything in life as you desire :)

Anyway, so the safari started at 4pm sharp and we entered the jungle. The hunt for the wildlife is always a game of patience and persistence and luck. We kept on roaming in the jungle to spot a cat. We saw many deer, some birds, some peahens and also a serpent eagle.

After roaming for around 90mins, our driver decided to go to another zone and as we were on the main road our naturalist spotted a leopard relaxing on a tree that was around 300-400mtrs away.. he shouted Leopard, STOP. We all were searching for the cat and couldn't spot it for first few minutes until he pin pointed where the cat was... and seriously it was too far for any normal human being to spot a cat so far away.

We saw the leopard was yawning and sleeping on the tree. It was a very difficult sighting as it’s not easy to spot a cat on a tree so far and that too from a moving vehicle at speeds of 30-50kmph. The cat moved a bit few times but didn’t come down or made any big moves.

Leopard relaxing on the tree .. what a sighting it was!

We waited for the leopard to move or come down from the tree for almost 20-30 minutes as it was getting late and we had to get out of the jungle, but the cat did not move.. other than making few small moves.

At this point the cat looked at us for few seconds, yawned and then went back to hibernation mode!

The lovely yawn !

See how far the cat was ...

So we stayed here for around 30mins before it was time to go back and leave the jungle.

That was not a bad start of the safari as at least we saw one leopard today. We thanked our naturalist and the driver and disembarked the jeep upon reaching the resort. We were served with Bhajji’s along with tea & coffee. After having tea / coffee, went back to the tent, refreshed and then later had some drinks at the bar. The bar is well stocked and have good options if you’re a person who wants to drink alcohol. We had our share of the drinks, chit chatted and then had dinner at golghar. The dinner was good again with not veg and veg options.

After the dinner, we went out to take some landscape shots of the river as it was pretty good sight. We took some shots here as below.

This was the end of day 1 for us so we went back and crashed into our beds. The tents and the bedding at the resort is pretty comfortable and more importantly are very clean and tidy. It was a good day for us for sure. Stay tuned for 3 tiger sightings and 2 more leopard sightings as a part of this trip.

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