Chennai - Port Blair - Chidiya Tapu - Bangalore - Mysore - Mudumalai - Ooty - Top Slip - Munnar - Thattekad - Cochin
17 Days / 16 Nights
Our birding tour of South India and the Andamans stands out for the many endemic bird species of the region it targets. Seasoned birders know well the thrill of catching sight of the endemics. To scan the woods and wetlands
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Included except arrival and departure city.
Private guide for complete tour.
Airport to Airport.
Our birding tour of South India and the Andamans stands out for the many endemic bird species of the region it targets.
Seasoned birders know well the thrill of catching sight of the endemics. To scan the woods and wetlands for a glimpse of a local winged beauty is perhaps a touch more rewarding than sighting a bird that moves across regions and habitats. It is this very dash of excitement we wish to tap into on our South India and Andamans Birding Tour.
South India is quite big in terms of land area, but its best birding hotspots are found in the hilly forests, grasslands, and sanctuaries of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. The Andaman and Nicobar, on the hand, is an archipelago of hundreds of islands of varying sizes. Being cut off from mainland India by a wide expanse of ocean, the Andamans have become a thriving habitat of many endemic bird species.
In our Andamans birding tour, we target these avian specialties. Some of them are: Andaman Woodpecker, Andaman Bulbul, Andaman Coucal, and Hume’s Hawk-Owl. Four days of birding in Andamans yields many of the region’s 18 endemics. Out of these, two full days are dedicated to birding at Chidiya Tapu (Bird Island).
Birding in South India, by comparison, reveals more diverse species of endemic, resident, and migratory birds. These winged wonders inhabit birding hotspots of South India that are spread out especially across Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Mudumalai National Park in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu is one such preferred haunt of birders. It hosts 350 bird species and numerous wildlife to watch on the side. Likewise, the mountainous woods of Ooty and Anamalai Hills buzz with flutter of endemic birds of South India. In Kerala, the hill station of Munnar is home to some very rare varieties of Indian birds. And the Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary has been hailed as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India.
Our South India bird targets include White-bellied Treepie, Rufous Babbler, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Wayanad and Palani Laughingthrushes, Blue-winged Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Mottled Wood Owl, Sri Lanka Bay Owl, Oriental Scops Owl, Brown Fish Owl, and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, among many more. The other avian attractions in the area are the Red Spurfowl, Grey Junglefowl, Indian Pitta, and the Grey-headed Fish Eagle.
Given the large number of bird species we aim to tick off in the checklist, our South India and Andamans Birding Trip runs for 17 days, which include many back-to-back full days of birding. The itinerary is designed to give you breaks in between periods of busy and intense birding.
The Andamans birding adventure comes at the start of the tour to whet your appetite for busier days of birdwatching in South India. Next, we scour the national parks and hills of Tamil Nadu for some rare bird sightings. Finally, we conclude the tour with a most captivating three-day spell of birdwatching at Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala.
Lodging: We always attempt to provide accommodation that enhances your birding experience. The birding trip of the Andamans and South India is a long expedition and throughout it we put you up at hotels, resorts, villas, forest lodges and jungle huts. Many of these hotels or lodges are located close to birding areas and you may catch some interesting sights even from your window or balcony. All accommodations provide comfortable stay, basic amenities and quality service. Those close to urban centres have internet connectivity.
Meals: Both Indian and Western food is on the menu of the hotels we stay in. Whether you are a vegetarian or not, there is always something for your palate. We usually have breakfast and dinner at the hotel, except when you want to try out some local restaurant. Lunches are short picnics in the field. On the rare occasions when we camp out, our kitchen staff takes charge and rustles up some mouth-watering dishes. Best hygiene practices are followed by our staff and that of the hotels.
Tour Difficulty: There’s no escaping the fact that a birding tour entails long walks in forests, grasslands, countryside, and even hills. You should be able to do the same on our South India and Andamans Birding Tour, and carry your birding equipment such as binoculars, camera, field guide, backpack as well. The terrain is mostly easy except for the Nilgiri and Anamalai Hills of Tamil Nadu and Munnar in Kerala. Even in these parts, a field day won’t put any strenuous demands on your body. Physical stamina to hike up gentle slopes is all we ask of you.
Tour Extension: The Andamans boast some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in Asia with a lot of water sports and adventure. The temptation to lounge around the beaches or go for a scuba dive may be strong enough for you to ask for a tour extension. Be our guest, by all means. Similarly, the spice plantations of South India may inspire you for a visit. Or you may want a boat ride in Kerala’s famed backwaters. These recreational extensions provide a nice break in the monotony that may sometimes creep into a birding tour. We can arrange these tour extensions, provided you inform us in advance.
Climate: The winter season, starting from October and lasting till March, is the best time for the Andamans and South India birding holiday. The monsoon recedes by this time of year and the birds come out in large numbers. The weather is pleasant. It’s neither hot, nor very cold. Summer clothes would do just fine, but you may also pack in a jumper for the early morning or late-night chill. At times, an odd shower may surprise you. So, do carry along a light raincoat as well.
Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is well located to kick off our Andamans and South India birding adventure. You arrive at Chennai. Our staff picks you up from the airport or train station and transfers you to a pre-booked hotel. In the evening, you may visit some of the hotspots of Chennai or relax in the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Early in the morning, we transfer you to the airport for a flight to Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The flight takes about two-and-a-quarter hours and leaves us enough time to do some evening birding in the wetlands and woods around the hotel.
The entire archipelago of Andaman and Nicobar is divided into three parts: North and Middle Andaman on the top, South Andaman below it, and Nicobar at the bottom. The focus of our tour shall be South Andaman where we stand an excellent chance to see many, if not all, of the 18 endemic bird species of the Andamans.
Our targets for the evening birding shall be: Lesser Whistling-Duck, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Sunda Teal Anas, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Brown-backed Needletail, Common Swift, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen, Pintail Snipe, Common Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Little Stint, Red-necked Stint, Long-toed Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden, Grey Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, and Oriental Plover.
There are a lot of birding sites around Port Blair. We start with Shoal Bay, a quiet village with beaches, coconut groves and rubber plantations. After an early breakfast, we take a ferry from Port Blair to Shoal Bay.
The village and its suburbs abound with many interesting bird species, including several endemics. Our targets for the day are: Andaman Serpent-Eagle, Andaman Crake, Brown Coucal, Andaman Woodpecker, Andaman Drongo, Andaman Treepie, Andaman Shama, Andaman Bulbul, Andaman Cuckooshrike, Andaman Flowerpecker, Mangrove Whistler, Black Baza, Andaman Wood Pigeon, Ruddy Kingfisher, Red breasted Parakeet, White-breasted Woodswallow, Spot Breasted Woodpecker and a lot many.
We even take out time for nocturnal birding in late evening. We look out for the likes of Andaman Scops Owl, Hume's Boobook, Andaman Barn-Owl, and Andaman Nightjar. After whole day of birding, we return to our hotel in Port Blair for dinner and overnight.
When a place’s name happens to be Chidiya Tapu, or the Bird Island, you can very well imagine its birding potential. Located just 25 km from Port Blair, an hour’s drive max, Chidiya Tapu is our next stomping ground. It is an island blanketed with thick forests and dense mangroves, which host about 180 species of local and migratory birds.
A day of birding at Chidiya Tapu normally yields the endemic birds such as Andaman Serpent Eagle, Andaman Crake, Andaman Woodpecker, Andaman Shama, Andaman Drongo, and Andaman Treepie. Other avian beauties usually spotted here are Sunbird, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, White-headed Starling, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Oriental Reed Warbler, Black-naped Oriole, Brown Coucal, Red-breasted Parakeet, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Blue eared Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Large Cuckooshrike, White rumped Munia, and Violet Cuckoo. We end our day by lounging around the beautiful beaches of Chidiya Tapu and even taking a stroll to catch a glimpse of the rare Beach Thick-knee before retiring to our hotel in Port Blair for dinner and overnight.
This shall be our schedule for two back-to-back days of birdwatching at Chidiya Tapu.
Time to bring down curtain on the Andamans birding adventure. In the morning, we take a flight to Bangalore, the IT capital of Karnataka in South India. From Bangalore, we drive to the city of palaces, Mysore, which is famous for its heritage monuments. We make the most of our evening by doing a India Short Birding Tours in and around Mysore. At night, we may explore the city’s bazaars for souvenir shopping and even dine at one of the local restaurants. Mysore has a distinct cuisine that merits tasting. Overnight at the hotel.
We hit the road after breakfast and drive about 90 km south to Mudumalai National Park, situated on the north-western flank of Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu. Upon our arrival, we go on an afternoon safari in the park to watch birds and plenty of wildlife.
Mudumalai National Park is a tiger reserve and abounds with a wide range of animals such as Indian leopard, Jungle Cat, Leopard Cat, Dhole, Striped Hyena, Golden Jackal, Sloth Bear, Indian Elephants, Langur, Bonnet Macaque, Gaur, Sambar Deer, Chital Deer, Indian Muntjac, Wild Boar, Red Giant Flying Squirrel, and a lot many.
The park is also home to about 350 bird species from 48 families. A half day isn’t enough to sight such a variety. So, we reserve a full day of birding at Mudumalai National Park on the morrow. Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Mudumalai.
There are a great many avian wonders to watch at Mudumalai National Park. Our daylong birding tour begins in the morning and continues well into the night.
Our targets for Mudumalai are the national bird Peacock, Brown Dove, Spotted Babbler, Green Pigeons, Grey Jungle Fowl, Red Spurfowl, White-cheeked Barbet, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Bulbuls, Mynahs, Grey Goggle-eyed Plower, Partridges, Quails, Large Racket-tailed Drongo, Magpie Robin, and several others. We also keep our eye out for the birds of prey, such as Eagles, Hawks, Buzzards, Harriers, Falcons and King Vulture. And late in the evening, we walk about our jungle huts to look for night jars and owls. Often people prefer to stay longer in these jungle huts and enjoy the evenings lounging around bonfire. Our kitchen staff springs into action and rustles up some tasty dishes cooked on wood and coal fires. Overnight at Mudumalai.
After breakfast we drive to the hill station of Ooty, about 45 km far. This stretch of journey is a thriving avifauna habitat and hosts about 250 species of birds. So, we make several short stops along the way to do local birding in these parts.
We particularly drive through Kalhatty Ghat to seek out Black-and-Orange Flycatchers and White-bellied Shortwings. As the road winds up the hills to Ooty, we may spot a whole host of birds such as Indian Peafowl, Red Vented Bulbuls, White-naped Woodpeckers, Jungle Bush Quail, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Nilgiri Laughingthrush, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Crested Honey Buzzard, Plum-headed and Malabar Parakeets, White-browed Fantail, Bay-backed Shrike, Jerdon’s Bush Lark, Booted Warbler, Indian Nuthatch, Pale-billed Flowerpecker, Jerdon’s Leafbird, Rufous Treepie, Brahminy Starling, Chestnut-headed Bee-Eater, Grey Junglefowl and Bonnet Macaques, among others.
On a fast clip, the whole trip from Mudumalai to Ooty usually takes about 2 hours. But we do this journey at a comfortable pace, stopping now and then to see and photograph the birds we spot on the way, and arrive at Ooty late afternoon. Ooty is a bustling hill station that attracts lots of local tourism. You may want to take in the lively hustle-bustle of its markets in the evening. We overnight at a hotel in Ooty.
We start the day with a bit of birding in and around Ooty, and then drive to Top Slip, a biodiversity hotspot situated in the sprawling rainforests of Anamalai Hills.
Top Slip abounds with 140 species of birds, including several South Indian endemic birds such as Malabar Trogon, White-bellied Treepie, Black-throated Munia, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Waynad Laughingthrush, and Sri Lanka Frogmouth. There’s a short trek in the Karian Shola area here that treats you to the sights of Oriental Bay Owl, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Malabar Parakeet, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Brown-backed Needletail, Indian Swiftlet, Rufous Babbler, Great Hornbills, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Red Spurfowl, Great-eared Nightjar, Grey Junglefowl, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Crimson-backed Sunbird, and Large-billed Warbler.
Birding at Top Slip in Tamil Nadu is particularly special for all the sights of wildlife it throws up. You come across large numbers of the endemic Nilgiri Langur. Rare sightings include that of the Indian Chevrotain and Brown Mongoose. Asian Elephants are common in the area, but the prized sight is that of the world’s rarest primate: Lion-tailed Macaque.
There’s a lot of birding to do from Top Slip to Munnar. We begin with a short warm-up birding trip around our jungle hut in Top Slip. Then we pack up and leave for Munnar. On the way, we stop at Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, our first birding pit-stop in the state of Kerala.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is ideally placed between the Western Ghats and the Deccan Plateau. The montane rain forests and grasslands of this sanctuary are habitat of about 150 species of birds from 40 families. Birds residing here include Forest Eagle Owl, Indian Blue Robin, Fish Owl, White-Rumped Shama, Kerala Laughingthrush, Yellow-throated Bulbul, Nilgiri Thrush, Blue-faced Malkoha, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Grey-headed Bulbul, Black-and-Orange Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Nilgiri Pipit, and Mountain Imperial Pigeon.
We spend almost entire day at the sanctuary and arrive in Munnar by evening. We stay in jungle huts right in the middle of the natural biodiversity that is plentiful in Munnar.
Munnar is a scenic hill station situated at the height of around 1600 meters. What makes it special from the birding point of view is the sightings it promises of rare Indian birds like Nilgiri Pipit, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Scarlet Minivet, Malabar Thrush, Rock Thrush, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Brown-backed Needletail, Pacific Swallow and Loten’s Sunbird.
The whole day is reserved for birding in and around Munnar. There is no shortage of birding and wildlife hotspots to explore nearby. To the north are the Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park. To the south stand the Pampadum Shola National Park and Mathikettan Shola National Park. Thanks to these wildlife reserves, the areas around Munnar teem with about 400 bird species from 69 families. The prized catches among them include the Eurasian Blackbird, Black-lored Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Grey Junglefowl, White-cheeked Barbet, Pacific Swallow, Bonelli and Black Eagles.
After a busy day of birding at the national parks, we retire to our jungle huts in the evening.
We leave Munnar for Thattekkad right after breakfast. It is a 65 km ride through a stunning hilly landscape comprising of tea and spice plantations. The journey usually takes between two to three hours, and we arrive at Thattekkad around noon. We check into a resort, have our lunch and, after a brief spell of rest, we go out for birding around Thattekkad.
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary is one of the best places to do birding in Kerala. Salim Ali, India’s most renowned and tireless ornithologist, described Thattekkad as the richest bird habitat on peninsular India. Its geography comprising of flat forest, grassland, reservoir and the Periyar river makes it a thriving habitat of hundreds of bird species. The half-day birding at Thattekkad we do is just a warm-up to three full days of scouring this bird haven for most interesting avian beauties. Dinner and overnight at the resort.
This is the high point of our South India birding adventure. We do three full days of birding at Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary and cover the birding trails to look for winged specialties such as Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Oriental Bay Owl, Indian Pitta, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Black-headed Oriole, Crested Goshawk, Dark-fronted Babbler, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Dollar Bird, Emerald Dove, Indian Swiftlet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Red-wattled Lapwing, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Scarlet Minivet, Rufous Babbler, Racket-tailed Drongo, Malabar Parakeet, White-bellied Treepie, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Blyth's Starling, and many more.
Close to the reservoir and river, we may spot the likes of Whistling Duck, Red Kingfisher, Water Hen, Yellow Oriole, Little Tern, Orange Minivet, Wagtail, Greytit and White-breasted Woodpecker. Every evening, we also scour the trees around the resort for owls and nightjars.
Dinner and overnight at Thattekkad resort for three consecutive days and nights.
After breakfast, we pack up and drive you to Cochin Airport for your onward journey. The tour ends here.