BIRDING, NATURE AND PEOPLE
Bird watching and wildlife, indigenous guides and trekkers, home-cooked food, forests and tea gardens, cardamom plantations, waterfalls, bathing, camping, tribal huts, homestays, toy train at Ooty and more…
Sample birding tour: 18 days/17 nights
Kerala: (Cochin) Kochi, Thattekkad, Munnar, Manavan Shola, Chinnar, Masinagudi
Cost: £3,400 for a couple (not per person) for this birding tour in South India, excluding flights. All our tours are private - you won't be part of a group.
The price quoted is for full board (except at hotels), an English speaking Indian driver, local hosts/guides, other travel costs.
This is a sample birding tour. All our tours are customized to meet your needs. We can mix and match according to the dates, length of stay and places you would like to visit, although we like to base tours around the key community projects we support. Note that we don’t arrange air flights.
Day one and two
Your arrival in the City of Kochi. Set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, Kochi is a city of cultural diversity - winding streets, shady trees, Kathakali dance, modern Indian art, 500-year old Portuguese houses, mosques, a tiny Jewish community with ancient roots - and ferry boats scuttling backwards and forwards.
Once you are settled into your hotel, we can take you on our backstreet tour of the city by foot and three-wheelers, visiting the spice market, the fishing habour and, in the evening, the city's Kathakali dance show.
Overnight: (2 nights), Fort House, Fort Cochin.
Day three, four and five
We will make our way by car to the bird sanctuary at Thattekkad, a lowland forest rich in bird life - over 270 species in a very small area. For those searching for the endemics of the Western Ghats (regarded as one of the most important pristine forest and mountain areas in Asia) - Thattekkad should be rewarding. The rare Indian Pitta, the endemic Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill and the Whitebellied Treepie are common visitors.
Here you can also go lowland forest trek, river kayaking, village walks and look at the rubber plantations.
Overnight: (3 nights). The Hornbill Camp, tented camp (with en-suite toilet) on the banks of the river Periyar. You'll wake to a dawn chorus of birds, and will be cared for a feed by the guide's family and local community members. Large numbers of rare birds and butterflies can be seen just by taking a stroll around the camp.
Day six, seven and eight
From the lowlands, we'll take the spectacular two hour long drive the National Highway 49 - through forests and tea gardens - to the hill station of Munnar, 1524 metres high in the mountains. The combination of crisp mountain air, craggy peaks and tall red wood trees make it a peaceful retreat. Here rare endemic bird species find their home - the White bellied Shortwing, the Broad tailed Grass bird - as well as the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (primitive cousins of true goats).
The area was once a favourite summer resort of the British Government and still has a colonial air. Our stay at the Olive Brook- built in a Cardamom plantation. Here we can explore the plantations and meet the artisans who work the land. We can also make our way to the enclave of the Nilgiri Tahr at Rajamala, explore the grasslands at Munnar, and make our way down the Bodi Ghat to search for the yellow throated babbler.
Here you can visit to the indigenous Muduvan people village, visit a tea factory, visit the local bazaar for tea & spices, visit to the Tea Museum, short treks and visit to one of the local schools.
Overnight: (3 nights). Olive Brook.
Day nine, ten and eleven
After breakfast at Olive Brook, we’ll take the 3 to 4 hour drive across the Tamil Nadu border to the Indira Gandhi national park - a place known for its great swathes of forests and wildlife - birds, butterflies, elephants, sloth bears, leopards, gaurs (Indian Bison), dholes (wild dogs), king cobra and the lion-tailed macaques in their natural habitat - all within an area known as Top Slip. Top Slip is a little hamlet in the Annamalai hills where teak was introduced during the British Raj. In the colonial days, the harvested timber used to be 'slipped' to the plains from the hills through a narrow canal - hence the reason for its name.
We will stay at the farm house of Prabhu, whose 4500 acre farm skirts Top Slip. The farmstead is perfect for birding. We can stroll through the plantations (coconuts, groundnuts, vanilla, gooseberry, sugarcane); visit nearby villages; meet the local people; bath in the waterfalls (if there is water!!); take jeep safaris around the periphery of the park; and take a day visit to Valparai to see the endemic & highly endangered Lion Tailed Macaques which lives in an isolated evergreen forest patch under protection. Your trackers during the safaris will be from the indigenous tribes. At Prabhu’s place you can learn cooking.
Overnight: (3 nights): The Banyan Tree Resort, built as the original home of the landlord of the 4500 acre estate. The house is perfect for relaxing - with its marble floors, small living area and open dining area with covered tiled roof, and traditional Tamilian food.
We will take the long drive to reach Ooty by afternoon. Ooty (Udhagamandalam) - is a hill station, at about 2,200m in the Nilgiri Hills. The Cairnhill Reserved Forest, 3km from town on the Avalanche road will be our main destination, where the endemic Nilgiri Laughing Thrush, White-bellied Shortwing, and Black-and-rufous, Rusty-tailed and Nilgiri Flycatchers all occur.
Overnight: (1 night), Taj – Savoy.
Day thirteen, fourteen and fifteen
We'll make our way by car through the hill town and down through the steep Kallatti Ghat to Masinagudi at the foothills (5 hours) - another area for excellent birding & wildlife. Here we can visit the elephant refuge and training center, take an elephant safari into the forest, and a jeep safari to look out for birds en-route. We will be able to sight elephants, gaurs and an occasional big cat.
Overnight: (3 nights). Jungle Retreat - cottages skirt the forest, with a view of the mountains from your porch.
We'll finish the tour - making our way back to Kochi - with a wonderful train journey. Taking the 'toy' train (trains with narrow-gauge tracks suitable for travelling in the hill county) we'll travel 46 km through forests, tea plantations, sixteen tunnels, and more than 250 bridges, to Mettupalayam in the plains. The slow journey takes four-and-a half to five hours, but is more than compensated by the stunning views en-route. We will then transfer to a larger train and continue our journey to Kochi, where we will arrive by the following morning.
We arrive in Kochi early morning. From the station we’ll make our way to the Tower House and spend the rest of the day relaxing before heading back home.
Overnight: (1 night), Tower House.
We’ll make our way to the airport for your journey back home.
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