Red Earth Kabini – Part 1-an overview

This is an account of my stay at the Red Earth Kabini resort. The narration is in 3 parts because there is much to write (and you know how much I like to talk) 😀
Follow me deep into the heart of rural Karnataka,  as I take you through the overview, the activities and the cuisine of this delightful resort that is Paradisiacal and yet down to Earth !!!

The Kabini region – 
I have never had the opportunity of venturing into the ‘Kabini region’,
despite it being not too far away from Bangalore. Though I use the term
loosely to refer to the location that bears huge expanses of forests and consequently
the wildlife that it shelters, the Kabini (also known as Kapila), is
actually the name of the river that stems from Wayanad in Kerala and flows
through these dense forests, to eventually be received by the river Cauvery.
The Kabini Dam straddles the river, creating a large water body that forms
the Kabini back waters that weave inland through the surrounding villages.
The Kabini wildlife reserve which includes a portion of the Nagarahole
national park, is one of the top wildlife destinations in India and is home
to abundant wildlife, with elephants, leopards and of course the majestic
tiger that stars amongst its diverse fauna.
While the purpose of one’s holiday to this location would most likely be
wildlife tourism, an added bonus would be an escape from the noise and
trauma of city life and undergoing a revitalizing of mind and body in the
verdant and unspoiled environs of wooded rusticity.
Red Earth – 
In my continuing quest for travelling to off beat destinations which have
something out of the ordinary to offer, I was delighted to come across the Red Earth Kabini, one of the popular luxury wildlife stays that one could Resort to (of course pun intended).
This is the 5 year old baby of Rachel and Ravi, who earlier owned coffee
plantations in Papua New Guinea. Rachel is a film maker and you can view her
video of the resort, on the website.
They are also assisted by their elder son Aditya, who is also a safari enthusiast, an accomplished wild life photographer and a writer whose prose borders on the poetic !!!
For a person in his twenties, he has a remarkable ear for retro music and is also a good cook and can whip up a mean Pandi (pork) curry or whatever dish you wish him to conjure up.
This owner driven property strives to provide its traveller with an experience that is charming in its rural simplicity while being skillfully and unobtrusively modern enough
to enable the comforts that city dwellers are accustomed to.
Getting there –
Red Earth can be accessed via road from Mysore and the 60 km takes around an hour to cover. Mysore is well connected by bus and train from many major locations.
Those flying into Bangalore which is around 215 km away, can either book transport directly to the resort or opt to travel to Mysore and then arrange for further transport either privately or through the resort. There are innumerable buses, trains and taxis that will cover the distance from Bangalore to Mysore in not more than 3-4 hours.
If in the mood for a taste of local conveyance, one can hop on to buses heading from Mysore to HD Kote or Sargur and get off at the Hand post from where the resort will arrange for a pick up across the final 15 km.
There are direct buses from Bangalore to HD Kote but they are not frequent and also take an inordinate amount of time and hence are not recommended.
For those driving up in their own vehicles, the website has directions indicating the fairly straightforward route.
Of the resorts in the Kabini belt, Red Earth enjoys the closest proximity to Mysore, the others being nearly twice the distance away.
It is also a mere 7 km from the nearest Safari point.
I travelled in the non stop Volvo bus from Bangalore and I was picked up by the resort vehicle in Mysore. The entire drive was quite comfortable and quick due to the adequately good roads.
The final 5 km however, was a bumpy ride over the village track.
While this could be rather rough for those who cannot tolerate it, the good news is that after many long years, work is finally in progress and a spanking new road leading all the way to the resort, is due to be in place very soon.
Being used to country roads, I chose not to let the jolts bother me and I turned my attention instead, to the vibrant fields of sugarcane, ginger, tur (pigeon pea legume), cotton, corn, paddy and such like, that flanked the path all the way to the gates of the resort.

Wild fruits fencing the paddy fields

The turn off to the village road is also the mouth of the peninsula that
contains the resort and its 5 neighboring villages, surrounded on three
sides by the Kabini backwaters. The resort hugs the shoreline along its
boundary on the left and hence enjoys direct access to the water and at
night, one can view the lights of the dam in the distance.

  

To my fertile imagination, the backwaters appear Dragon like, with the
Kabini dam as its eye and the Red Earth resort perched on its neck. Look
carefully and visualize it with me !!!
 
Overview –
I was met by the soft spoken Rachel who showed me around and explained the
philosophy behind their creation, her calm aura matching the gentleness of
the earth that she nurtured.
In their aim to maintain responsible tourism, they have gone to extreme detail to stay true to the cause. Sustaining the ecology, giving back to the local villagers, training them in improved agricultural techniques and ensuring the survival of dying arts and hand crafted processes, is their prime focus and all their actions are centered around achieving just that. 95% of their staff are from the locality and the village men, women and differently abled are employed in various ways.
The resort also helps by buying the produce from those who grow crops or rear cows.
There are 20 cottages in 2 clusters of 10 each, that encircle 2 water bodies – the Lily lake and the Lotus pond.
 
Red Earth gets its name from the intense hue of the extremely fertile soil
of that area and all their cottages and other buildings are made using that
very soil which is rammed into blocks and baked, resulting in a material
that ensures an insulation from the outside temperatures both in summer and
winter.

The inner layer of the roofs are made from thatched bamboo mats woven by Wayanad tribals and these are covered by elephant grass that is matted into thick layers, by elderly craftsmen from Tamilnadu.
Terracotta tiles and beautiful handmade Athangudi glass tiles are used as flooring.
The furniture is of solid wood and there is a part traditional part colonial touch to the décor.
The cottages have a large bedroom and bathroom and despite the homely old fashioned
touch, modern facilities like bath fittings, intercom, TV, air conditioner, fridge etc blend quite inconspicuously alongside. There is a front and a back porch and also a little yard where every cottage has its private Jacuzzi open to the sky. The bath toiletries are specially hand made using natural ingredients.
3 of the cottages are for Honeymooners and one cottage is devoted to being disabled friendly.
Wi Fi is available only in the business area and not in the cottages. This should work out well for addicts who need a forced separation from their gadgets. Being one myself, I must confess that with so many things to busy myself with, I actually did not find the time to miss my internet 😀 Ok I am lying but then it was just temporary, so I survived.

 

 
Tip – Cottage No. 21 (yes they have skipped number 13 😀 ) is the closest to the restaurant and also has some of the bountiful fruit trees in its vicinity.
Apart from the cottages, there is the main reception building, the conference room Samarya, the gift shop Mukti that sells products made by tribals, Parihasa the children’s play area, Poshini the restaurant, Wetlands the island bar, Zvasthii the spa,   Wonky Monkey the tea time café, the driver accomodation and also the utterly charming cottage where the owners stay.

Wonky Monkey Cafe

Energy conservation and recycling is the name of the game. Nothing goes waste and even the soil that was excavated to create the ponds has been used to build the ‘stage’ where performances take place.
Solar heating takes care of the hot water and sewage treatment plants (STP) ensure that waste water is reused for the land.
The 10 acre property is lush with hundreds of plants and trees bearing flowers, vegetables and fruits, which are organically grown as far as possible. Vermi-compost pits provide the manure and Pinto peanut shrubs grow rampantly, fixing Nitrogen in the soil and deterring the growth of other weeds.

The garden is a veritable playground for several varieties of birds and butterflies and their excited flitting makes for delightful viewing which was unfortunately  too quick for my camera, though I did make an effort !!!

There is no clinical manicuring of the vegetation into obedient shapes and sizes and the landscape is given the freedom to keep nature as … er Natural as possible 😀

What appears initially to be a complex maze amongst the vegetation, soon
becomes comprehensible with the presence of helpful sign boards that guide
you and the pathways become clearer in a very short time, even for one as
directionally challenged as I am 😀
Rescuing and nurturing nature is an ongoing process that requires utmost
dedication. We take so many facilities for granted in our urban lives,
without sometimes stopping to think how we can safeguard our earth.
Signs are put up at frequent locations with a plea not to pluck the fruits, flowers and plants.
The owners are deeply committed to the cause and Rachel’s passion was
evident in every word she uttered.
 
Speaking of passion, the entire place is over grown with Passion fruit vines that drape themselves over roofs, intertwine themselves into trees, hang down from the bushes and pop out from every unexpected space 😀
Their brilliant flowers greatly add to the surrounding colors and of course the fruits are made good use of. You will read more about that in the post on the cuisine.

A large well maintained swimming pool, a library, hammocks that swing from
the ancient mango tree and benches along the shore, complete the laid back
picture.

 

 

A gigantic jackfruit tree spreads itself out in a show of splendor beside the pool and is known to provide hundreds of sweet fruit in the season.
Having been struck by lightning years ago, this tree was nurtured back to life by Ravi and thus became the symbol of all that the resort stands for, namely rejuvenation and endurance. Hence it has been given pride of place on the resort logo.

Logo used from Red Earth’s website

Red Earth – As close to silence as possible, is their tag line and there is an emphasis on making minimal man made noise and listening more to the surrounding sounds of nature, be it the gentle swishing of the lapping waves at the waterfront or the musical chirping of the birds or the lulling drone of the dragon flies that dart self importantly through the air like helicopters on a mission.

Visitor profile – 

Do not come here with expectations of a regular commercial stay.
At first glance, this place may appear simple and minus the fancy trappings of  modern luxury resorts. A closer inspection and introspection will enable the discerning mind to realize the intense amount of detailing that has gone into developing this space … and then one will be filled with a respect for both the creators and their creation.
The place would interest birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, artists, nature lovers and Honeymooners of course would find it delightful here 😀 
The owners being pet lovers, have 3 Rottweilers, a boxer and a spaniel,
apart from the many cats that rule the place. An interesting feature of this
place is that pets are allowed along with their guests … or as they put it,
guests are permitted to accompany  their pets 😀 Hence it a great place for
those who want to holiday along with the furry members of their family.
One can check with the resort for the charges and regulations.

For adults and children who have not had the ‘luxury’ of living in rustic surroundings, this is a great place to soak in the simple village life.
For someone like me who has spent a lot of my childhood in the midst of nature, this was like a welcome homecoming and I returned renewed and refreshed after my 3 day stay.
Read on for the activities available at the Red Earth Kabini and the food and drink.
Nov 8th-10th, 2017
To book a holiday with them please connect with Red Earth Kabini 
Disclosure – This trip was made in collaboration with the Red Earth Kabini. This narration is based on my own observations and experiences.
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