This tour focuses on the beautiful scenery, unusual wildlife – much of it bearing similarities to the tropical Indo-Malayan region – and endemics of southern India. We begin our holiday in the historic city of Mysore before driving to Nagarhole National Park where we’ll look for Asian Elephant, Gaur and birds of the forest. Next we search for endemic birds of the Nilgiri Hills near the old British hill station of ‘Ooty’, and then visit Annamalai Sanctuary in the Cardamon Hills where we’ll look for its endangered primates, and birds such as the Malabar Pied Hornbill. Next we transfer to Periyar Tiger Reserve, exploring by boat and on foot, before sampling the delights of colourful Kochi and the backwaters of Kerala with a night aboard a houseboat.
- Sloth Bear & Leopard possible, Nagarhole
- Nilgiri Wood Pigeon & White-bellied Shortwing, Nilgiri Hills
- Lion-tailed Macaque & Nilgiri Langur, Annamalai
- White-bellied Treepie, Nilgiri Pipit & White-breasted Laughing-thrush
- Visit tea plantations, Munnar (& look for Nilgiri Tahr)
- Malabar Trogon, Malabar Grey Hornbill &, if lucky, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Periyar
- Stay on a houseboat & explore Kerala’s famous waterways
- Visit historic Kochi, Malabar coast
- Led by expert local naturalist guides
All included in the price.
Comfortable tourist hotels and simple forest lodges, all with private facilities.
Nilgiri Tahr (Dilan Mandanna)
Day 2 Arrive Bangalore; drive Mysore
Day 4/6 Nagarhole National Park
Day 9/10 Annamalai Sanctuary
Day 13/15 Periyar Tiger Reserve
Day 16 Houseboat, Kerala's backwaters
The rich and varied wildlife of this vast and fascinating country presents a challenge to any wildlife enthusiast. Up until now most travellers have concentrated on northern India. This Naturetrek holiday, however, will introduce you to the tropical splendour of the Nilgiri and Cardamon Hills where the wildlife of the subcontinent flourishes in national parks of outstanding beauty and solitude. These hills, together with the Western Ghats which extend northwards to Bombay, bear the brunt of the south-west monsoon. The result is a fertile, tropical land, markedly different from the north. The culture, too, is unique. A different language, Malayalam, is spoken and there is a notably more relaxed attitude to life. Since the beginning of civilisation Kerala has supplied spices to the world, and this trading history has fostered an un-lndian diversity of religions within the state: as early as 52 A.D. Christianity is said to have arrived here.
The flora and fauna of southern India bear many striking similarities to those of the tropical Indo-Malayan realm, despite their separation by thousands of kilometres. Bio-geographers talk of mountain causeways, long since eroded, over which the Indo-Malayan forms spread. The isolated fauna has evolved a number of unique species and subspecies which we will make particular efforts to find during our tour.
Bangalore is our point of entry into India. From here we drive to the historic city of Mysore for an overnight stay and some sightseeing before we drive south to Nagarhole National Park. In this vast landscape we are able to experience the sounds, sights and exhilaration of a south Indian jungle — unchanged since time immemorial. We will stay at the Kabini River Lodge. With its gracious old-world air and splendid lakeside views, it is a truly delightful setting from which to commence our wildlife exploration. We will travel in jeeps out into the surrounding grasslands and forests to watch Elephants and Gaur (the Asian bison) and with luck we may see a Sloth Bear or a Leopard, both of which are quite common. In the large forest compound which surrounds the lodge, we can walk in safety and look for some of the bird specialities.
Our journey now takes us upwards to the old British hill station of Ootacamund at 2,600 metres. It is here that we will search for the endemic birds of the Nilgiri Hills: Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, White-bellied Shortwing, the beautiful Black and Orange Flycatcher and Nilgiri Laughing-thrush. From Ootacamund we continue southwards. We pass through the city of Coimbatore to Annamalai Sanctuary. Set at the foot of the Cardamon Hills, Annamalai inspired many to write enthusiastically of its beauty and splendour. Forests of teak and rosewood give way to rocky precipices and grassy ridges. This is one of the best places to see two endangered primates: Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Langur. We will search for them, and for the bird specialities: Malabar Pied Hornbill and White-bellied Treepie. The high tops are inhabited by the endemic Nilgiri Tahr (a species of wild goat), but as they are hard to see here we will stop at Munnar on the way to Periyar. Above the tea plantations of Munnar is a small reserve where the Tahr are easier to see and where we will hopefully find two more endemic birds, Nilgiri Pipit and White-breasted Laughing-thrush.
Periyar Tiger Reserve is justly one of Asia’s most renowned sanctuaries. Although the construction of a dam in 1895 flooded some of the best forest, it has benefited the sanctuary in helping to protect the surrounding forest and by providing a constant water supply for the large mammals. It has also made Periyar one of the most picturesque sanctuaries in the world. We will explore the sanctuary by boat, but our aim is also to spend time on foot in the heart of the jungle — an exciting conclusion to our wildlife tour of southern India. We will then spend a night aboard a houseboat cruising Kerala’s backwaters, before a final two nights in Kochi (Cochin) to relax and sample the cultural and historical delights of this colourful port.
For those with time to spare we strongly recommend our Andaman Islands extension. These unspoilt tropical islands, over 1,600 kilometres from the Indian coast, hold an outstanding collection of endemic birds and mammals in their dense rainforests, and offer excellent snorkelling from their many coral islands. We will make the most of this tourist-free environment, to relax, swim and enjoy a unique natural history.