Kabini where Evolve Back is the way forward.
October 5, 2018
But what does it mean? I just don’t get it… I’ve heard this several times since Orange County Resorts changed their name to Evolve Back.
Not wanting to blow my own trumpet but I got it immediately, to me it made perfect sense. This is possibly because one of my father’s comments regarding anything infuriating about the modern world is; “And they call this progress.” Who can blame him? Traffic and chaos and noise and call centres and pollution and plastic, not to mention an obsession with what is contained within a small brightly lit screen and the narcissism of the selfie is what we have become. In such a world, for me, as with any nature or wildlife lover, I’m sure, it is the peace and tranquillity of the countryside, the remoteness of India’s jungles, that provide the respite we require in order to remain sane. They are the antithesis for all that the modern world inflicts upon us. They provide the opportunity to return to the fascinating, mesmerising, restful and at times, exciting natural environment from which life has allegedly evolved.
One can’t hurry the jungles, one can’t dictate what will happen, plan nor predict, nor interfere with their daily routines. They and the species they home are not malleable to the vagaries of the 21st century, they will not be dictated to nor be organised, they will not dance to anyone’s tune.
This enforced acceptance of resigning oneself to what will be will be, this is escapism. Awaiting the sounds, for jungles are never quiet, listening for clues that a predator may be on the move. Periods of calm, quiet expectation and occasional moments of excitement, that is the jungle experience. Being at one with nature, yielding to its laws and harmonising to its naturally orchestrated splendour. In today’s world, we try and control and enforce and dictate, bend and destroy. We have lost the ability to listen and adhere to the rhythms of nature, the law of the land. This is what Evolve Back understands. The importance of regaining an understanding and a love for the world from which we have allegedly evolved.
It is a long time since I stayed in an Orange County/Evolve Back resort. I do remember, fondly, my first encounter with them 18 years ago. After a 19 day trip during monsoon season in Kerala, having slept, or attempted to, in more damp beds than I care to remember, having tolerated, as it was in those days, mediocre off season service in an array of uninspiring hotels, and having been unable to source more than a warm beer to drink, I walked into Orange County Coorg, exhausted, damp and frustrated. They took one look at me and immediately proffered a gin and tonic! If gin had been hard to come by in recent weeks, tonic had been impossible, it is one of life’s imponderables that Schweppes Indian Tonic Water was impossible to find in India. All of a sudden, the world didn’t seem to be such a bad place to be in.
I didn’t realise it then, but this was an indication of things to come with this small, but excellent hotel group. My recent visit to Evolve Back, Kabini exceeded my expectations on every level. The thought processes and attention to detail have been executed throughout each and every aspect of your stay. And if that wasn’t enough, they have perfected two important aspects of what constitutes a great experience anywhere these days, embracing the local communities and storytelling.
The stories aren’t fabricated here. They keep it real. The wildlife film they show in the evenings is an excellent depiction of both the harsh reality and the magnificence of the wild. It is about survival. Carnivores kill herbivores in what appears to be a cruel slow and tortured death. Man/animal conflicts lead to injured elephants and their calves ultimately succumbing to dehydration and starvation, leopard and wild dogs and jackals and vultures vie for their share of a carcass. This is shown alongside magnificent sightings of predators, the spectacular plumages of vibrant birds, wild boar trotting along with piglets in tow, sunrises and sunsets and the matriarchal societies of the animal kingdom. It is raw and real, not a Disney depiction.
I invariably roll my eyes at the thought of a cultural performance (that word “performance” should put everyone off) or a tribal dance finding them, repetitive, insipid and invariably uninspired and performed with no explanation of what one is witnessing. Not so here. The names of the tribes, their lifestyle past and present was explained. How the dances originated, what they depicted and how the instruments were made from the locally available materials from the jungle. Whilst this was taking place, we were offered snacks of sweet corn with masala and sweet potato, some of the traditional foods of these tribals. It made for an unexpectedly enjoyable pre dinner hour.
The menu at the specialty restaurant which serves a five-course menu, is also devised around the food available locally and recipes from the surrounding villages. Inspired! The main restaurant serves a buffet with the obligatory (these days) organic selection, but the food was good and varied and the staff intuitive. Seeing that I was on my own, I was offered a table in a quiet corner on the veranda, away from the families allowing their kids to run a mock. It was appreciated.
Continuing on this theme, the main infinity pool, is also a child free zone. Understanding that many clients don’t want to be surrounded by screaming kids when trying to relax and enjoy what is a spectacular view, they have built a separate pool and games area for families. Genius! There is also a spacious reading room located on the water’s edge with a library and comfortable chairs and where if not necessarily silence, but shall we say, a degree of quiet, is strongly encouraged. Evolving back indeed!
They also take eco seriously. Water in the room is filtered, little sign of any plastic was seen in the resort. All lighting was made out of “waste” natural materials, all pictures made of the same, collages of nuts and plants and seeds from the forest. Small touches that were appreciated. One small deviation from this was the twin shower in the bathroom, I’ve never seen one of those before, oh why oh why do I always travel alone?
But moving swiftly on……….
The only downside that I could find about the place were things not in the control of the resort. There are two types of people who venture on safari in Kabini. The serious wildlife enthusiasts and photographers all dressed in full khaki and carrying cameras the size of small children and the noisy, domestic weekend trippers in brilliantly coloured clothes, carrying screaming children who one wishes were the size of a small pocket camera. The safaris are operated by Jungle Lodges and Resort and the vehicles, 8-22 seaters are allocated at their whim with no consideration being given putting the wildlife enthusiasts together and therefore not having to put up with the incessant noise and lack of understanding of how to behave in the jungle of many a domestic city dweller out to see a tiger for the first time. Fortunately, it is a characteristic of most wildlife lovers to be imbued with a hefty degree of patience.
The naturalists here have the patience of saints. They are also brilliantly informed and make the best of the vehicle and fellow passenger experience. They give a full briefing on what to expect and how to behave in the jungles as well as carrying bird books and water bottles and binoculars with harnesses no less! Our vehicle’s occupants consisted of me, 3 photographers and 4 girls in hot pants, high heels and more make up than I could apply in a year, whose sole purpose it seemed was to take as many selfies as possible with the jungle as a background, even at the toilet stop, outside the toilet. I could go on, the sarcasm in my digits itching to be unleashed, but I refuse to allow my memories of an excellent two days be marred. They enjoyed themselves, that’s all that matters.
In terms of wildlife Kabini has become famous of late for its black panther but it also has a very healthy tiger, leopard and wild dog population. Sadly, in just the one safari we weren’t fortunate, but I am blessed with the disposition of being appreciative of any opportunity to spend time in an Indian jungle regardless of “big” sightings. It calms me and invigorates me at the same time.
I think that the Evolve Back name is genius, it is a reminder of what we all should do from time to time. However, my verdict of the standards, detailing, services, storytelling and overall experience you will have here, is truly evolved hoteliering. My dad would call it real progress, I call it, a job very well done.
For more details Evolve Back, Kabini: https://www.evolveback.com/kabini/
Reservations: Telephone: +91 (0)80 2512 7000
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