KAAV Safari lodge is an aesthetically built property at the edge of the Nagarhole national park which is a quick weekend getaway from Bangalore (Bengaluru) in the southern part of India. The lodge is situated about 10 minutes drive from the government run Jungle Lodges where the safari’s take off from. As indicated by the name, the hotel aims to provide an authentic safari experience which it is more than able to provide.
As we approached the gates we were a bit put off by the wandering bovines and the adjacent farmlands. The relatively small lead up to the property did nothing to help our impression, although to be fair, we were made aware of the smallness of the property beforehand. All that changed the instance we got out of the car and we met up with Pavithra Kumar or PK as he is known as and indeed prefers to be called. With an arm outstretched and a warm smile to greet us, he was indeed just like the reviews had described him, warm and welcoming. The bungalow, if we may call it that has 4 rooms each adorned by small figurines of the beasts they are named after. We were the only guests and were allocated a room facing the forest boundary to give us a better access to alarm calls at night, however we heard or saw nothing remotely interesting so it might be a question of luck. It would however be more private than the rooms facing the pool which we thought had a much more pleasing view.
The rooms were big and spacious, the mattress comfy and soft and even for us coming from the fabulous Tamara, Coorg, we could see the room was very well designed. The bathrooms could have been a bit bigger though to be fair they are divided into the bath and toilet sections which might cause the illusion of smallness. The two wash basins for his & her were definitely a welcome addition as we’ve come to appreciate in some of the better designed hotels we’ve stayed at. The big flowy curtains opening to a patio facing the forest were probably the most beautiful feature of the room. All rooms open to a common sit out area and a bar/kitchenette area which incidentally is also a communal area where the evening wildlife films are shown. A flight of stairs also lead up to the observation deck which provides a great view of the forest. Although the only wildlife we saw were cows munching on some grass. However it can be a nice place to relax given how comfy the sofas seemed to be. The dining area is as pretty as it looks in the photos and that is saying something. A huge log for a table right next to the open kitchen was enough to set our stomachs racing and our cameras clicking.
The pool has a setting like none other, just below a sprawling banyan tree, definitely making it to our lust worthy pools list. The sundecks below the tree, the bamboo screen to keep off prying eyes and the infinity pool makes it a very picturesque scene even if you’re not up for a dip and just lazing around. The staff were diligent enough to keep the pool clean, removing the crawlies and leaves which might be blown onto the pool with sudden gusts of wind. The only thing we think could have been better was the ladder used to get into the pool. There was nothing wrong with it but the design just didn’t give the feeling of being very safe.
The food we had over the duration of our stay was quite simple but good nevertheless. The food we were served was predominantly Indian and were only asked for our preference on the first day for dinner. Being the only guests there we would’ve liked some options to choose from and probably some variety in the cuisines served. The sightings board sits right next to the meal area but wasn’t seemingly updated regularly given that it was blank when we had come in.
The Safari’s leave twice a day, once in the morning at 6 and then in the afternoon at 3.30 for a duration of 2-2.5 hours. We were taken by PK on the first day to the Jungle Lodges where everything was handled by him and all we had to do was park ourselves in the jeep allocated to us. We got seats in a jeep, which according to PK was quite lucky because normally guests from Kaav are allocated seats on the bigger buses given the smaller number (unless they’re running at capacity and have enough guests to fill up a jeep) Quite lucky for us indeed because we happened to catch not one but two tiger sightings and even managed to spot a leopard lurking next to our car.
The safari part was very well managed and it is a wonderful feeling to not worry about the details like payments which can frankly act as a dampener to the enthusiasm.
We were shown two wildlife movies on the two evenings we were at Kaav, both of them wonderful. We would’ve enjoyed a brief discussion on it post the screening but the feeling could be because we were the only ones seeing it. PK did show us his wildlife photography collection, shot over the years during his stint at bandipur and now kabini. If you’re staying there do remember to asking him to show you the pics.
We had gone for a nature walk but our guide had a bit of a language problem and wasn’t as educational an activity as we would’ve wanted it to be. Do request PK to accompany you on the walk if you really want to get something out of it, although it was a nice enough walk around the countryside even on its own.
PK had recommended we take a boat safari on the second day as it would be a nice complement to the land safari we had done and it was a brilliant decision. Chances of sighting the big cat are slim but you will sight enough birds, crocs and herbivores (including elephants at close quarters if you’re lucky) to keep you at the edge of your seat for the entire safari. If nothing else go for the picturesque sunset which alone was gorgeous enough to be the highlight of our boat safari.
The second night for us was in the luxury tent which is by far the better option if you have a choice, although it is a bit more expensive than the rooms but not enough to make you think twice about it. The only limitation is that there’s only 2 of them so are always in demand. The tents are put up on a platform and are in close proximity to the main bungalow which kinds of takes away the feel of roughing it up and instead levels up the glamping quotient, usually associated with such tents. However it also adds in an extra layer of protection from the various visitors from below the ground which may come visiting while we sleep. The wooden floor, the antique lamps, the writing desk and the trunk, the tub which lay sprawling in the middle of the room, the his and hers wash basins everything comes together to create a beautiful fusion, making the room one of the most welcoming ones we’ve stayed at recently. One feature which wowed us was the ability to dim the light as per our requirements through a regulator by the bed, brilliant! We had just one night at the tent before it was time for us to leave but it was well worth the effort required to move rooms especially for such a short stay.
The lodge, is well deserving the reviews we read online or heard from friends who had the pleasure of staying there. The food options could be worked on a bit, but we found nothing wrong with the quality of food served, infact were quite pleased with the non-oily, mildly spicy nature of the food. Add to it the wonderful host PK, the luxurious tents and the beautiful pool setting and you’ve got a wonderful combination. The smallish nature of the property ensures that even at full capacity it will remain a small private gathering, ideal for a safari camp setting that it is. A bit on the expensive side for normal tourists but a wonderful option for those who understand its value.