South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu
Bangalore, Thattekad, Periyar, Top Slip, Munnar, Ooty, Mudumalai, Nagarahole, Madikeri, Ranganathittu
14 Days/13 Nights tour by road, train and air
September to April
Endemics of the Western Ghats and globally threatened species like Malabar Trogon, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, White-bellied Shortwing, Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Geographically, South India is characterized by the Western Ghats range that separates the western seaboard from the relatively dry tableland in the interior, known as the Deccan Plateau. Of primary birding interest is the southern part of the Western Ghats and its forests, the center of distribution for 20 of India's endemic species and another 15 shared with Sri Lanka. Bird Life International has recognized the Western Ghats as one of the most important endemic bird areas in Asia. The endemic birds are largely resident, which makes it an excellent place to visit all-year round (barring the monsoons). With its diverse vegetation from grassland to wet evergreen forest, the Western Ghat is home to endemics like Grey Laughing Thrush, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Wynaad Laughing Thrush, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Western Crown Warbler, Malabar Lark, Malabar Pied Hornbill and the rare White-bellied Shortwing.
You begin your tour at Thattekad, which Salim Ali described as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India during his 1930 visit. Even now, new species are being added to the bird checklist, making it very popular among birdwatchers. Thattekad is also a wintering site for the Rusty-tailed Flycatcher and Tytler's Leaf Warbler. After this you head to Periyar, the most visited bird area in South India primarily for the Western Ghats endemics and forest birds. The lake, which forms the epicenter of this reserve with dead trees protruding out of the water, provides a perch for Great Cormorants, Oriental Darters and occasional Wood Swallows. Periyar is also a wintering site for several long-distance migrants such as Tickell's Leaf Warbler, Large-billed Leaf Warbler and the threatened Wood Snipe. The next stopover is the Nilgiri range (Blue Mountains) among the highest in South India and home to some restricted endemic species like Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Nilgiri Laughing Thrush, Nilgiri Flycatcher and White-bellied Shortwing, which inhabit the evergreen sholas. Look out for the Nilgiri Pipit and Painted Bushquail on the grassy peaks of the Cardamom Hills while Munnar is home to a little known endemic, the Yellow-throated Bulbul and the Grey-breasted Laughing Thrush, which has a very restricted range.
Nagarahole, along with Bandipur and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala comprises the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected forest tract in peninsular India. Endowed with a diverse habitat of hills, valleys, ravines, floodplains, watercourses and swamps, Mudumalai supports a rich avian diversity including the threatened White-bellied Minivet, Sirkeer Malkhoa, Indian Pitta, Booted Warbler and the elusive Malabar Lark. After a brief stopover at Bandipur, you head to Nagarahole in the ecological hotspot that's Coorg. Look out for Oriental White-backed Vulture, Loten's Sunbird and Malabar Grey Hornbill. En-route the drive to Bangalore, you stop over at Ranganathittu, a heronry on the banks of the Cauvery river.
Day 1 - ARRIVE DELHI
Arrive at international airport and after being met by our representative, transfer to the hotel for overnight stay.
Day 2 - DELHI
Early morning birdwatching at Okhla Bird Sanctuary on the banks of the Yamuna, followed by sightseeing tour of the city. Overnight at hotel
Day 3 - DELHI to THATTEKKAD
In time transfer to the domestic airport to board the flight for Cochin and the short drive to Thattekad, one of the best birding sites in Western Ghats. The area has good lowland evergreen forest and other forest types of forest spread over a relatively small area, the area is home to a wide variety of forest birds, including many endemics, notable among them the Grey Headed Bulbul, White Bellied Tree-Pie, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Red Spurfowl, White-rumped Needletail. The Nocturnal species of birds include Ceylon Frogmouth, Spot-bellied Eagle owl, Oriental Bay Owl and Mottled Wood Owl
Day 4 - PERIYAR TIGER RESERVE
The best known and one of the biggest Wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala, Periyar supports good wildlife and many endemic bird species. Over 230 species of birds are found in Periyar which include rarities like White-rumped Munia, Blyth's Pipit, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Greater Painted Snipe, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Long-billed Leaf Warbler and winter visitors like the Cinnamon Bittern. Birds of prey like the White-bellied Sea Eagle are a common sight around the lake
Day 05 - MUNNAR
Morning drive from Periyar to Munnar (135 km). A good number of Sholas hills and grassland species of birds are seen in this area like Broadtail Grassbird, Nilgiri Pipit, Black and Orange Flycatcher and Nilgiri Woodpigeon. The area is also good for sighting the much sought after endemic - the Nilgiri Tahr
Day 06 - TOPSLIP
Morning drive from Munnar to Topslip (180 km) or Indira Gandhi National Park. Situated in the Anamalai Hills on the edge of the Kairan Shola, Top Slip (740 m) is an outstanding patch of rainforest and one of the best natural history locations in Southern India. It harbours a good number of South Indian endemic birds such as the Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Wynaad Laughing Thrush and Black-throated Munia.
Day 07 - OOTY
Morning drive from Topslip to Ooty (120 km) and check in at hotel. The scenic hill-station is fantastic any time of the year, as the main species are resident, though migrants such as Kashmir Flycatcher and Tickell's Leaf Warbler are only present in winter. Rest of the day at leisure
Day 08 - OOTY to MUDUMALAI
Early morning birdwatching followed by breakfast and drive to Mudumalai, a project tiger reserve at the scenic foothills of Ooty. Walking trails in the periphery of the park around Masinagudi offer excellent birding opportunities. This quiet edge of the Mudumalai range is great for South Indian endemics such as the Malabar Parakeet, Grey-headed Bulbul and Malabar Whistling Thrush. Drives to the Moyar river are replete with birdwatching opportunities and the odd brush with elephants.
Day 09 - MUDUMALAI to BANDIPUR
Morning elephant safari followed by drive to Bandipur (85 km, 2 hrs), arrive at resort for lunch, followed by evening jeep safari and campfire at night. Your best chances of seeing a tiger or leopard are at Bandipur and Nagarhole
Day 10 - BANDIPUR to NAGARHOLE
After breakfast drive to Nagarahole National Park (160 Km, 4 hrs) and check in at Kabini River Lodge, which is rated among the top five wildlife resorts in the world. Despite its relatively small size, Nagarahole has very good wildlife with high density of tigers, leopards, gaur, chital and large congregations of elephants along the banks of the Kabini river.
Day 11 - NAGARAHOLE
Morning safari, followed by afternoon coracle (local boats) rides. Our focus would be on endemics and globally threatened species such as Broad-tailed Grassbird, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Yellow-throated Bulbul, White-naped Tit, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Rufous Babbler, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Edible nest Swiftlet, Dark-fronted Babbler, Black-throated Munia and the White-bellied Woodpecker, which is usually hard to find.
Day 12 - NAGARHOLE to MADIKERI
A short drive away is a rainforest retreat in the evergreen forests of Coorg, which offers the perfect perch for endemics like Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Trogon and Nilgiri Laughing Thrush.
Day 13 - MADIKERI to RANGANATHITTU
Drive to Bangalore, en-route stopping by Ranganathittu, an excellent site for astonishingly close views of Painted Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills and Black-crowned Night Heron round the year. Great Stone Plovers and River Terns can be found nesting on rocky islets. You also get a chance to compare all three species of cormorants commonly found in the subcontinent. The large colony of Flying Foxes is impossible to overlook.
Day 14 - BANGALORE to DELHI
Early morning depart by surface for Bangalore (6 hrs drive) to board the evening flight for Delhi. Arrive Delhi and transfer to the international airport
Birding in Corbett and Nainital
, Birding in Rajasthan
Birding in Namdapha and Kaziranga
, Birding in Eaglenest