We understood the language of the forest as we sat in a boat that idled in the middle of the Kabini River, Karnataka. Nagarahole National Park that lined the distant shore of the river rustled with nature’s special effects when suddenly from somewhere deep in the heart of the forest, we heard an elephant trumpet. It was a reverberating blast which echoed eerily amongst the bamboo stands and the tall sal trees. A little later, a gentle giant broke through the thick forest cover and strolled down to the river to have a drink. We gazed at the magnificent beast in awe: his muscular trunk, his large flapping ears… It was all so magical that we had no choice but to believe that God existed … somewhere!
We photographed the behemoth, silhouetted against a bleeding sunset and headed back to the tranquil The Serai Kabini, our luxe riverfront sanctuary. The classy resort is part of a perfect world where, despite its luxurious trappings, it is committed to low-impact tourism. At the Serai Kabini, the understated luxury of the villas is complemented by measures that are sensitive to the environment.
The next morning, mist swirled around the river and its banks like a gossamer veil as we clambered into open safari vehicles. The resort’s naturalist accompanying us explained that Nagarahole, spread over 643.39 sq km of teak and rosewood forests, has one of the largest concentrations of Asiatic elephants in the world. It is also a protected habitat of the endangered tiger. The sacred Kaveri river coils serpent-like around the lush forest-scape and gives the sanctuary its name: Nagarahole or Snake River.
As we drove into the forest, everything glistened a shiny-green. The elements were reduced to a whisper – the breeze rustled in the trees, birds filled the air with song and we spoke softly, afraid to disturb the perfect moment and our delicate sense of being one with nature. And as the sun burned away the swirling mist, the forest shared with us many treasures: elephants foraging along the river bank, a pack of wild dogs stalking a herd of spotted deer, bushy-tailed Giant Malabar Squirrel, gaur, wild boar, spider webs shimmering with dewdrops, dancing peacocks, woodpeckers, serpent eagles…
We left the wilderness and made our way back to our resort for breakfast in the open-sided restaurant with a view of the tranquil river. A visit to the local village temple was next on the agenda and there the resident priest informed us that the shrine was over 900 years old and served the spiritual needs of the simple settlement that lived in harmony with the laws of nature.
On our last evening we sat by the waterfront and watched a family of river otters frolic in an idyllic world adrift in a sea of happy tomorrows.