There is an interesting fact about the Orange County Resort on the Kabini River: it is included on the National Geographic’s List of the World’s 25 Best Eco Lodges and it is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. These organizations have stringent but quite different criteria for their hotels and to be included on either of these two lists would be an honour, but to be included on both makes Orange County Kabini one of the most unique places to stay in the world.
Those who would peruse the National Geographic List would probably say that a luxury hotel could not possibly be eco-friendly or provide them with a satisfactory place to see animals and immerse themselves in nature. Equally, those who frequent small and independent luxury hotels around the world would say that an eco-lodge would never be able to meet their expectations in terms of accommodation, food, or service. However, they would both be wrong because Orange County Kabini does all that and more.
We stayed for eight nights, looking for an opportunity to see animals as well as relax and unwind. We were not disappointed in either regard. Each day we went on either a boat or vehicle safari with one of the hotels own naturalists as guide. Orange County Kabini’s team of naturalists was fantastic—they were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and astoundingly good at spotting animals from the largest to the smallest, whether it was an owl tucked inside a hole in a tree or a tiger in the distance, making his way through the morning mist.
We were in a Jacuzzi Hut which was delightful. We had a sitting room, a bedroom, a bathroom, a private courtyard with a jacuzzi pool and an outdoor porch. The rooms were large, scrupulously clean and beautifully decorated, supplied every day with non-alcoholic beverages, fresh fruit and cookies, and a choice of various snacks. All the water at the resort is purified using reverse osmosis filters on the taps, which is just one of the many ways the management has sought to reduce their impact on the environment.
The resort also has a special relationship with the local community, a tribe known as the Kuruba. On alternate evenings, members of the tribe come to perform traditional music and dances before dinner. Guests also have the opportunity to visit one of the nearby villages to learn about their way of life. The resort has made huge efforts to act as partners with their neighbours in preserving both the natural beauty of the area and a unique way of life.
Although our room did not have a view of the river, there were plenty of places we could go to enjoy one. The reading room has an excellent view. It is a delightful, open air hut where you can go for a cappuccino and a quiet read in a comfy chair. The infinity pool for adults also faces the river. Most of the time, we were the only two people using that facility even though the resort was full. If you have children, there is a separate large pool equipped with a wonderful slide and surrounded by game rooms with everything from ping pong to board games available.
If the safaris and tranquil views of the river haven’t provided sufficient opportunity to de-stress, there is also an Ayurvedic Spa on the grounds. They have a full menu of massages and treatments, all at reasonable prices. We tried the basic massage and it was every bit as good as the most luxurious spa in the UK.
No luxury hotel would be complete without exquisite food and attentive service. No eco lodge would be worthy of its name if it did not use food that was fresh and locally sourced. Once again, Orange County Kabini exceeds both of these requirements. The resort has two restaurants—a buffet where vegetarian and non-vegetarian, Western and Indian food is on offer in abundance or a sit down restaurant which serves a five course meal, ordered from a menu earlier in the day.
As this was our first visit to India and having only ever experienced typical UK Indian restaurant fare, the buffet was a real eye-opener. Although, all the dishes were labelled, we were mystified when it came to putting food on our plates. The staff, including the chef, immediately came to our aid and went up and down the tables describing what was in each fragrant dish. The buffet food was always hot, well cooked and delicious. The sit down restaurant served us one delectable course after another at just the right pace to savour every one. On our final night, we booked their special candlelit gazebo overlooking the river. Ordinarily this involves choosing from the same menu as the sit down restaurant, but in this case, our server brought the chef to us and he cooked exactly what we wanted. It was a meal to remember.
Everything said in this review should be enough to tell you this hotel is worth every penny you might spend on it. However, what can never be described adequately is the warmth, generosity and kindness of the people who work at Orange County Kabini. Nothing was too much trouble, every effort was made to make our stay pleasant and enjoyable and it was all done as though we were members of a family and they were simply trying to make us feel at home.
This hotel sets the benchmark for both eco-friendliness and luxury. Hotel accommodation simply doesn’t get better than this.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Orange County’s 'Spirit of the Land' philosophy finds its most intimate expression at Kabini. While you are cradled in the lap of luxury, the resort gives you a wildlife experience like no other, and enjoins you to be part of the vibrant social tapestry of the local Kadu Kuruba tribe. Steeped in local culture, and inspired in design by the Hadis (tribal villages), this picturesque resort is bordered on two sides by Kabini River. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Orange County, Kabini Hotel Nagarhole
- Orange County Kabini Mysore