SOUTH INDIA SAFARI
"Such a super trip. I loved every moment, excellent guiding from you and SK, a wonderful selection of birds, spectacular countryside, delicious food, comfortable and even beautiful accommodation, a roomy coach with an excellent driver, nothing more could be asked. Thank you so much."...... Mrs S, February 2013
Black-chinned Laughingthrush Savannah Nightjar
click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up - easier to print - no photos
India, and its diverse bird life, is as vivid, colourful and memorable as anywhere on earth. The south has a gentler pace of life and we have planned this tour to show some of the best wildlife of the sub-continent in a relatively small area.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Region is an area of high bird endemism and is of global importance for wildlife generally, yet it is infrequently visited by birdwatchers. This tour takes us to a wide variety of habitats within this zone. We visit impressive stands of giant bamboo, dry scrubland, secret wooded montane valleys (sholas), lush tropical forest and farmland, all with their own special birds. Indian wildlife can be surprisingly approachable and we are aiming for close views of waterbirds, nightjars, exotic forest birds, even ‘difficult’ specialities such as Painted Bush-quail and more. The butterflies are spectacular and animals abundant; we will see Indian Elephants and possibly twenty more mammal species.
There is the fascinating cultural backdrop of the Kingdom of Mysore; a stay in Ooty, the historical ‘Queen of the Hill Stations’; the quiet rural life and pristine protected wilderness. Also, the climate of the uplands is very comfortable at this time of year with warm sunny days and cool nights.
We have been leading tours to south India for many years and agree with the Tatler Travel Guide which rates Kabini as one of the top five wildlife places in the world.
MYSORE, CITY OF PALACES, KARNATAKA
After an overnight flight we will arrive in Bangalore in the morning. We will then drive down to Mysore at a relaxed pace, with lunch and some birding for common species on the way. One stop will be at Kokkare Bellur, the ‘Village of Storks’, as this is the peak time to visit the breeding colony of Spot-billed Pelicans and Painted Storks. When in Mysore there will be the option to see the famous Amba Vilas Palace.
The next day we will take a morning boat ride at nearby Ranganathittu Sanctuary for point blank views of the mixed heronry, Great Thick-knee and Marsh Crocodile. Indian Grey Hornbill, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-cheeked Barbet and the handsome Tickell’s Flycatcher are also drawn to this reserve. The afternoon will be spent nearby looking for Singing and Jerdon’s Bushlarks, Malabar and Rufous-tailed Larks, Ashy-crowned Finch-lark, Indian Roller, Indian Robin, Rose-coloured Starling and other open county birds. After two nights in Mysore we will head west to Nagarhole.
NAGARHOLE NATIONAL PARK, KARNATAKA
Our drive to Nagarhole goes through rural areas which are especially good for raptors. Black-shouldered Kite, Indian Spotted Eagle, Pallid Harrier, and Oriental Honey and White-eyed Buzzards are all possible. We will spend the next three nights at Nagarhole. Our excellent lodge by Kabini Lake often has Taiga Flycatcher wintering in the grounds. Red-naped Ibis, Flame-throated Bulbul, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Great Indian and Malabar Pied Hornbills, Streak-throated and White-bellied Woodpeckers, Indian Nuthatch, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, White-bellied Treepie and Grey-breasted Cuckoo are amongst the wealth of birds in and around here. With over 250 bird species recorded there are plenty for us to find.
Nagarhole is now the best place in south India to see animals. On the boat trips and jeep rides regular sightings include Asian Elephant, Indian Bison, Indian Wild Boar, Chital and Sambar Deer, Barasingha, Asian Wild Dog, Short-clawed Otter and the large, handsome Stripe-necked Mongoose. Bengal Tiger, Leopard and Golden Jackal are also seen but less often, whilst Striped Hyena and Indian Porcupine are mostly nocturnal. If there has been a kill then we have a chance of seeing vultures and Tawny Eagle.
MUDUMALAI, TAMIL NADU
On day seven we will head to Mudumalai. Our journey through rural Karnataka has lots of interest: village scenes; bird-filled marshes; and rocky outcrops; and so will take much of the day, with picnic and birding breaks. We will arrive at Masinagudi on the edge of Mudumalai National Park for a three night stay in a lovely, low-impact lodge run by a local family. The rooms are simple but the atmosphere and surrounding wildlife have made it highly rated by visitors. You can sit by the swimming pool to watch Chital Deer graze the grounds in the evenings, as Jerdon’s Nightjar and Indian Pitta start to call. On the recce, a Sloth Bear came to drink from a pond at the edge of the grounds. Crested Hawk-eagle, Grey Francolin, Jungle Bush-quail, Blue-faced Malkoha, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Bay-backed and Long-tailed Shrikes, White-browed and White-spotted Fantails, Yellow-footed Pigeon, Indian Blue Robin and many other species are present locally. White-rumped Shama can be uncharacteristically showy in the bamboo here and there is also a site for the now rare White-backed Vulture.
There are areas of open woodland and dry savannah-like bush where local guides will aid our search for the associated birds, including Savannah Nightjar, Large Grey and Yellow-billed Babblers, White-naped Flameback, Hume’s Whitethroat, Sykes’s Warbler, Blyth’s Pipit and, with luck, the scarce White-bellied Minivet.
OOTACAMUND (OOTY), TAMIL NADU
Next we will travel by jeep up to this famous hill station using the scenic shortcut, stopping en route at a hill village where the endemic Painted Bush-quail is regularly seen.
We will have two nights at Ooty. Part of the experience here is being in an appropriate hotel so we stay at the Savoy, of course, built by the British in 1841. It is a little faded but has the feel of history especially in the wood panelled dining hall. Log fires warm our bedrooms at night.
At Cairn Hill we will birdwatch in the shola, a wooded valley which is home to the highly localised Nilgiri Blue Robin and Black-chinned Laughingthrush. We hope to see both, as well as the handsome Black-and-orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Square-tailed Black Bulbul, Hill Swallow and other birds restricted to this particular terrain.
From Ooty we travel down to Vythiri for two nights. We will see a change of habitat, in an area of the mid-elevation foothills rarely visited by birdwatchers. Around our fine lodge is some good tropical forest, giving us an opportunity to see another range of birds. Red Spurfowl, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Fairy Bluebird, Malabar Grey HornbillornH, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Forest Wagtail, Black-headed and Indian Golden Orioles, Jungle Owlet, Orange Minivet, Malabar Barbet, Grey-headed Bulbul, Wayanad Laughingthrush and Southern Hill Myna are just some of the species here, along with a host of butterflies.
Our final night will be spent at a tranquil lodge on the back waters, where we expect to see Loten’s Sunbird, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Brahminy Kite, terns, gulls and other common species.
On the morning of day 14 we will drive to Kozhikode Airport for our daytime flight home.
On most days breakfast will be at 7am so that we can go birding quite early and take midday breaks. There will be a couple of optional earlier starts, e.g. for a morning jeep safari. Birding sessions will usually involve short/medium walks, almost all on the flat. Birdwatching at Cairn Hill may entail some gentle uphill walking. There will be some free time too.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided with two nights at the Sandesh The Prince Hotel, Mysore; three nights at Serai Kabini Resort; three nights at Jungle Hut, Masinagudi; two nights at the Taj Savoy Hotel, Ootacamund; two nights at Vythiri Resort, Wayanad and the last night at Kadavu Resort, Calicut. All the accommodation is good quality, with en suite bathrooms. We have chosen hotels known for their service and food which includes international/western dishes. Lunches will be at the hotels or, occasionally, packed.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leaders, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 21st, ending with breakfast on 3rd), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, boat trips, jeep ride, jungle activities, reserve entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Cost of obtaining an Indian visa (approx. £60). Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from London Heathrow, Manchester or Glasgow to Bangalore (Bangaluru) returning from Calicut (Kozhikode) using the scheduled services of Emirates. Outbound flight departs early afternoon, return flight arrives back early evening. Domestic flights from other UK airports are available on this tour. See booking form for details.
Crimson Rose Painted Storks
Blue-capped Rock Thrush outside our chalets Male Crested Hawk Eagle on guard near the nest, watched on the January 2013 tour
Asian elephant family Hanuman Langurs
Brown Fish Owl The famous railway station in Ooty
click here to see the photographs in our South India Safari Album
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