Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review of Orange County, Kabini

It has been a hectic start to the year 2011. Shopping for my brother's wedding and then attending the wedding, falling sick twice after the wedding, hectic work schedule amongst being a homemaker. I had told Pras that I want a luxurious holiday where I can get really good food and just relax. I don't really remember how I got to know about Orange County or Kabini either but I compelled him to take me to Orange County, Kabini for my birthday. Yes, I did find it expensive but I felt we owed ourselves a good, relaxing time.

They had an offer for a 2 night 3 day package with meals starting from lunch on the arrival day and ending with breakfast on the day of departure (basically meals for 2 days) which costed around 39k. I had taken the Friday off so that we could make the best of the money that we had spent and reach the place for lunch ;).
Let's go, Alto! It took us about 5.5 hours to reach the resort. The last 8kms to the resort are miserable. Pras and I took turns driving to our destination. Upon arrival, we were greeted with lime sherbet and were told about the various activities that were available to us in the oh-so-woody open arrival lounge of the resort. The staff were very pleasant, except that Pras and I felt that the "Namaskara"s were excessive.
We then were ushered off for lunch. The lunch was a very impressive spread with a mix of local ethnic cuisine as well as the well known north-indian and italian dishes. Frozen cut fruits, sprouts, fresh garden salad, chicken salad, fish salad were some of the salads available. The local ethnic cuisine confused me a bit as Kabini is a part of Karnataka but the local ethnic cuisine turned out to be more of a kerala affair. We were offered bittergourd poriyal, beetroot poriyal, raw banana curry, bottlegourd curry, pork curry, kerala fish curry along with red boiled rice as part of the local ethnic cuisine spread. The dessert menu did not impress us much though - the items available had a very similar taste. I wished I could've seen more variety there. After all, when you are paying so much mostly for the food, you have to be more than pleased with what is offered.
Post lunch, we were taken to our pool hut. It was impressive. I could not hide my excitement. I have decided that my house will have the same design - minus the pool. We had a pool all to ourselves with a lovely hut. The hut had a dining table, sitting room and the bed room was the only room to be air-conditioned. What turned us off was that the television was not available nor viewable from the bedroom. The sitting room had a reverse osmosis system to provide us with drinking water. The water did taste a bit odd but we had to drink it as they had taken away our plastic water bottles lest we throw them around. Orange county believes in "Responsible Tourism". The refrigerator in the room had soft drinks and drinking water all on the house. Also on the house were cashew nuts, cookies and fresh fruits.
As part of the 39k that we paid, we could go for a 15 minute elephant ride, interact with the elephant for an hour - basically feed and bathe the in-house 43 year old elephant - Meenaxi, go for a nature walk cum bird watching tour as well as take a 15 minute coracle ride. We opted for the nature walk alone. The coracle ride was made comfortable by placing a table in the middle of the coracle on which one could sit - this would never give you a thrill. I had tried the real coracle ride when we had visited Punnamada in Alleppey.
The bird watching tour was worth it. We saw the green bee eater, golden oriole, egrets, ducks,storks, owlette, different types of mynas, different types of bulbuls. We were given Olympus 10x50 binoculars which really made the experience a memorable one. The enthusiasm and passion of the naturalist made it a very rewarding experience.
After the bird walk and a hearty breakfast, we went for a bicycle ride into the village. Manju took us to his village. It was very hot and none of us were able to ride far enough. We headed for Manju's village, had tender coconut, just off the tree and returned back. This was a nice experience too. Manju is one of the employees at Orange County but is a local whose village was relocated when the Kabini dam was constructed in 1974. Manju is not very happy with what the government has done for such locals. Each such family was given 3 acres of farm land but irrigation is tough and left for the locals to organize. Houses which won't last in the rain are being provided and most of them have no access to the basic needs of life.
We also opted for the vehicle safari which costs 1k per head.If you take a video camera, you need to pay an additional 1k to the forest department. This was not as rewarding as we did not get to see the predators! It was very depressing.
As part of the package, one can opt for having dinner at the barbecue restaurant instead of going for the buffet spread. We tried this and the food was excellent. We did miss the tribal dance as we were tired after being tossed around in the vehicle during the safari.
However, we did enjoy the food and the pool. Overable a 7 out of 10 experience.