West of the Kabini River is the 643-sq-km wildlife sanctuary of Nagarhole National Park (pronounced nag-ar-hole-eh). The lush forests here are home to tigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, muntjacs (barking deer), wild dogs, bonnet macaques and common langurs, and 270 species of birds. The park can remain closed for long stretches between July and October, when the rains transform the forests into a giant slush-pit.

The Kabini River empties into the Kabini Reservoir, creating a vast watering hole for Nagarhole's wildlife. Herds of wild elephants and other animals gather on the banks to drink, and the high concentration of wildlife has made this one of the best spotting locations in Karnataka. The traditional inhabitants of the land, the hunter-gatherer Jenu Kuruba people, still live in the park, despite government efforts to relocate them.

Kabini was once a private hunting reserve for the Maharaja of Mysuru, and today it hosts some of the top wildlife lodges in Southern India. The best time to view wildlife is during summer (April to May), though winter (November to February) is more comfortable.