Nature takes over the senses and drives every activity at Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge, Kabini. By Parvati Mohanakrishnan
The rain was drumming a steady beat on the roof of the Innova as Srini, more local ambassador than driver, drove it down the country road towards the Kabini River. But almost as soon as it came into sight, the driver of a car coming from the opposite direction indicated that the road was blocked ahead. Flooded! The smile on Srini’s face, however, was reassuring. He drove on, and only stopped when we reached the gates to what could only be a dam. Off he sauntered, umbrella in hand, determination in every step to the gate and jubilation in every step back. And we went on our way, through the gates on the narrow road that made course on top of the dam.
On one side of the dam was an inundated countryside, water covering almost every inch of the otherwise verdant land. And on the other was the swelling brown Kabini River, rising as the rain fed its watery ego. The sight was humbling— we were but a spec in the mighty horizon, consumed wholly by the river.
Soon, we were on another country road, signs guiding us to Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge, Kabini. A cow here, a dog there, idyllic village life steeped every part of the surroundings. And almost out of nowhere, the majestic gate to the resort came up in front of us. The music of local drums and horns heralded our arrival at the resort, which, at first sight, appeared to be nothing more than a large village hut. I disembarked to find myself on a long corridor leading to the Kabini River, and walked almost all the way down to it, before I was stopped by Shanmugam, the in-house naturalist.
I had just enough time to drop my bags off in the room and catch a quick bite before the boat safari. So, I gulped down a glass of water and hurried down a cobblestoned path to my Pool Hut. A name can be deceptive, I realised as soon as the door to the hut opened. Inside the thatch-roofed hut was a lovely living area and bedroom done up in tribal shades and with tribal artefacts. But it was the view from the hut that stopped me short. The opposite side of the hut was lined with picture windows, all of which looked out into a private garden, the piece de resistance of which was the private pool and Jacuzzi. There was more to come, I discovered as I stepped into the bathroom to freshen up: a bathtub with views of the pool and a beautiful mini tropical garden next to it—I could live here! But the wilderness was calling out to me, and so I dragged myself out.
Lunch and every other meal at the resort was a delight. I ate most meals at Honey Comb, named after the honey gathering Kuruba tribe. The highlight of the meals was the little section dedicated to local delicacies—brown rice, vegetables, meat dishes, and pickles—that I tucked into at every meal. One evening, I was treated to a large variety of kebabs and grills at The Kuruba Grill. Here, the sounds of the forest and the river played a steady tune as I chomped my way through platter after platter of subtlely flavoured and succulent meat.
The call of the wild was almost deafening at the resort, and I was happy to indulge it on more than one occasion. My introduction to the area’s flora and fauna had been within an hour of my arrival. I had sat in the boat and gazed in wonder at the surrounding beauty as it had made slow progress through the pregnant river. Shanmugan had warned me that I might not spot anything at all, leave alone the elusive tiger. So I made my peace with the water birds, sambar, spotted deer, and ginormous hornbills that came into my line of sight. The jeep safari the next day had many a dramatic moment: the predator was close by but out of sight, always! But I did see a couple of elephants and a few more spotted deer.
The only salve for my disappointment was the Vaidyasala. Nature sounds overwhelmed my senses at the Ayurveda spa, paving the way for a deep-set sense of peace and relaxation that nothing could upset. The treatment rooms both looked out onto a man-made pond, covered with lilies. The vines on the other side played home to noisy weaver birds, whose song energised me during my treatment. I had opted for a brisk udwartanam and a relaxing massage. The former improved circulation and exfoliated my skin, while the latter lulled me into a trance that the natural beauty of Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge, Kabini only enhanced during the course of my stay.