Wondering if it is the right time of the year, or the right season to visit the forests of Kabini, then this is the blog for you. Read on, for our take on the sightings throughout the year, during the varying seasons of the Indian subcontinent, which will help you decide when the best time to go to Kabini is!
So what makes Kabini unique and is there really the best time to go to Kabini?
The forests of Kabini hold a unique distinction among the hoi polloi of Indian National Parks for their lack of seasonality and high success rate of sightings throughout the year. Many of the forests of Central India like Bandhavgarh National Park or Ranthambhore National Park are known for being closed during the months of the monsoon, opening again for the winter while sightings peak in the summer months as Tigers seek out waterholes to beat the unforgiving heat.
Kabini however, is transformed into a resplendent wonderland during the monsoons, attracting tourists by the horde, which is something even the neighbouring Bandipur Tiger Reserve cannot claim to do. So let’s have a look at how Kabini weather transforms and how it reflects in what we see.
Kabini in Summer – A land of plenty, with bountiful opportunities for wildlife lovers
The forests of Kabini have risen to fame as a Big Cat home only in the past decade or so. Before the surge in Big Cat numbers, it was the elephants who were the stars of the backwaters. Inevitably drawn to the eponymous Kabini River, which often served as the leading source of water during the harsh summer, the elephants would traverse hundreds of kilometres from the surrounding forests to make their home along the banks of the Kabini before returning when the rains arrived.
One of Kabini’s most famous sightings is one of the hordes of elephants milling around the banks of the river, in a state of absolute jubilation. An additional treat is to watch the herd take a swim, the playful calves putting their skills to the test while the ever-watchful matriarchs take stock of the surrounding threats. These elephant sightings are one of the biggest attractions of the Kabini boat safari.
While the elephants might be one of Kabini’s most popular summer sightings, the searing summer heat that can hit 38°- 40° C during the months of April and May draws the glorious big cats out of their jungle hideouts to the numerous waterholes that dot the Kabini forest, so they can quench their thirst. Waterholes like Hosakere, the Tiger Tank, the Temple Tank and even the backwaters are rife with big cat activity during these months and there are multiple sightings every week of the majestic Tiger taking a siesta with its rump submerged in the water, or a cautious Tigress bringing her young cubs to the water’s edge to drink.
The dry season also translates into reduced tree cover which means the spotted ghosts of Kabini, the leopards, are often seen peering out at the jungle from the safety of their trees, feasting on their kills, or just snoozing through the heat of the day. Many people believe that the summer is the best time to go to Kabini as wildlife sightings are abundant.
Kabini in Monsoon – A lush Eden, which almost seems to call out to veteran photographers and enthusiasts alike
After the scorching summer, the heat melts away in the months of June and July to give way to the dense carpet of the monsoon that seems to embrace the forest. After months of dry heat, the first clap of thunder feels like a celebration. The forest is decked out like a new bride, while consistent steady drizzles that sometimes last for days on end set the scene for some spectacular sightings and photography.
The river swells, making boat safaris so much more pleasurable, while also making the drive through the forest adjoining the backwaters an exhilarating affair, and nearly every denizen of the jungle looks to make full use of the fresh cover of greenery.
Large congregations of Spotted Deer and Sambar Deer can be seen making merry in the grasslands, feeding to their heart’s content while the gentle giants of the forest rummage through the grasslands too, almost seeming to smile in exultation as the incessant rain smatters against their skin.
Along with the rain, come the shadows. The dense forest now has an aura of eeriness which is a far cry from the wide-open expanses of the summer. The burnished coat of the Tiger is striking against the lush forest cover, which makes for glorious photo opportunities. The dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy casts a ray of light on the gleaming rosettes of the gorgeous Leopard, as their eyes glint in the sunlight at the numerous excited guests straining their eyes through binoculars or their cameras as they attempt to glimpse the elusive cat.
Kabini in monsoon have highs of about 30° C, with overcast skies providing beautiful soft, diffused light that seems to kiss every surface of the jungle. Despite the downpours, the forests are chock full of wildlife lovers looking to make the most of their adventure into the forests.
Kabini in Winter – A pristine wonderland, steeped in mysticism, wonder and surprise
The mercury soon drops with the end of the monsoon, with the thick rains giving way to bracing cold as you race through the forest alleys. A carpet of go seems to descend upon the jungle, through which you will have to peer to spot wildlife. The dense green robe is slowly shed as the forest dries and the floor is littered with foliage.
Contrary to popular belief, there is little to no shortfall in sightings in Kabini during the winter months and the sighting of a majestic Tiger prowling through the jungle as the winter mist settles on his coat is one to behold. Though the forest is a shade darker, there is no dearth of activity, as life in the jungle never stops and every turn brings new surprises, from the shrill shriek of a Spotted Deer, to the rustling chirps of cicadas ringing through the undergrowth.
Winters are extremely pleasant in Kabini, though there is a nip in the morning winds. However, it is the reputation that this forest has garnered for year-long sightings that have tourists flocking to the national park throughout the year, in the hopes that this will be the time they have the sighting of their dreams. For many photographers and frequent visitors, winter is the best time to go to Kabini.
Conclusion – The best time to go to Kabini is
Contrary to popular belief, Kabini is not a seasonal forest at all. In fact, one of the reasons why we at Toehold prefer Kabini over so many other forests is because there is never a downward slope at the forest. The forest is open throughout the year, and we have had gorgeous sightings in every month of the year. To check out our blog on the other reasons why people love Kabini, click here!