In this travelogue, Swaran Preet Singh takes us to the banks of Kabini river and shares his experiences of an afternoon spent fishing there.
I was looking forward to an afternoon of fishing on the Kabini river. It was April 2019 and we were staying at a lodge by the river bank, at the edge of Nagarhole Forest Reserve in Karnataka, South India. Our children had tired of our long trip across India, starting in Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple and Jalianwala Bagh, and ending at Kabini. We had already done the customary river safari and spotted a wonderful array of wildlife and flora (no tigers or leopards though). The kids wanted to simply splash in the pool. My wife was engrossed in her book, and since no one else in the family shared my passion for fishing, we decided to spend an afternoon apart, each pursuing a leisure they loved best. My boatman Ajaya was a local fisherman and spoke little English. I know no Kannada, the language of the Karnataka people, so I anticipated pleasurable silence too.
The Kabini river, also known as Kapila, originates in the Wayanad district in Kerala and meanders across a region rich in biodiversity. It is one of the few places in the world where you might see the rare Black Panther or the Melanistic Leopard, also known as the ‘ghost of the forest’, along with a number of endangered and rare species such as the Indian leopard, the Gaur (Indian Bison), mugger or marsh crocodile, sloth bear, pangolins and the Indian Rock Python. There are large populations of sambhar, cheetal (spotted) and barking deer, monkeys, elephants, striped hyenas, wild boar, Ussuri dhole, mongoose, civet, Indian flying giant squirrel, porcupines, slender loris and the jungle and leopard cats. There are over 250 species of birds, with threatened species including white Ibis, darters and red-headed vulture, and endemic species like blue-winged parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Lark, Malabar Trogon and the white-bellied Treepie, perhaps the most beautiful bird of the crow family. Flocks of spoonbill frolic by the riverside. Spread over 55 acres, this part of the forest used to be a royal lodge, a venue for Maharajas and Viceroys to indulge their hunting passions.