Best time to visit

October - May (ideal)
June - September (good)

For Whom

Wildlife and wildlife photography enthusiasts; Bird-watchers

Extended Weekend Tours

Long Breaks

South India Megafauna & Endemics 14 Nights / 15 Days from $2500/-

Summary

South India is among the exciting wildlife destinations of the world, with well protected forests that are rich in megafauna and a number of smaller, endemic mammals. These mountains are also known for their fantastic birdlife - with potential sightings of over 400 species, including all of south India’s endemics. The foothill forests of the Western Ghats of south India, are possibly the best locations to observe and photograph Asian Elephants in wild. These forests also hold healthy populations of two globally endangered big cats – the Tiger and Leopard and of the Indian Wild Dog, another significant peninsular predator. Gaur, among the largest of bovids, are also found in these forests along with several species of deer and antelope making up an impressive list of large mammals that are found within this ecoregion.

The moist forests of the Western Ghats, globally recognized for their unique assemblages of flora and fauna, are home to their share of mammals that are found nowhere else in the world. Notably, the list includes two primates - the Nilgiri Langur and the Lion-tailed Macaque; the Nilgiri Tahr, an endemic mountain goat; and rarities like the Brown Palm Civet, Brown Mongoose and Nilgiri Marten, among several species of squirrels, bats and rodents.

We traverse a significant length of the south India’s Western Ghats on this guided tour - from the Nilgiris in the north to the Cardamom hills in the south, exploring south India’s best wildlife destinations along the way and appreciating its smaller animals, floristic diversity and scenic beauty. In addition, south India’s vibrant and historic culture and friendly people will be a charming addition to your overall travel experience. This tour is ideal for those who want to explore a wildlife-rich ecoregion in a safe, comfortable and friendly environment.

Itinerary Outline

  • Day 1, 2 & 3: Gavi (Periyar Tiger Reserve). Transfer from Cochin, Kerala
  • Day 4 & 5: Munnar (Pampadum Shola & Eravikulam National Parks)
  • Day 6, 7 & 8: Anamalai Tiger Reserve.
  • Day 9, 10 & 11: Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
  • Day 12, 13 & 14: Kabini (Nagarhole National Park).
  • Day 15: Ranganathittoo Bird Sanctuary & Transfer to Bangalore, Karnataka

Facilities

Accommodation: : Quality accommodation in comfortable home-stays, plantation bungalows & quaint resorts.
Food: : Largely local and pan-Indian, with a few international dishes.
Transport: : Road transfers in A/C vehicles.
Difficulty level: : Easy to moderate, with a little hiking in mountainous terrain involved.
Dates : TBA
Please note that we can customise schedule for independent travel
Costs : INR 1,55,000/person  (USD 3250/GBP 2000/EUR 2450)
- based on minimum 2 persons traveling.
INR 1,17,500/person  (USD 2500/GBP 1540/EUR 1960)
- based on 4 persons & above traveling.
INR 20,000/person  (USD 420/GBP 260/EUR 320)
- Single supplement.
Price inclusions : Accommodation / Meals / Travel / Naturalist / Local Guide / Activity Charges / Fees & Taxes

Terms & Conditions

  1. Maximum group size for this tour is 6.
  2. Tour costs are per person based on twin sharing basis ex-Cochin and is all inclusive (transport, accommodation, food, personnel and all taxes and fees). Personnel includes an expert birding guide/a tour leader and resource persons from the local community. Alcoholic beverages, porter charges, laundry and room service are extra. Please check with us on specific items to make sure if it is included in the published tour costs.
  3. Our preferred mode of payment is through electronic transfers into our bank account. Relevant details will be provided to you once you are ready to make the payment. Alternatively we accept demand drafts/cheques in the currency of your choice.
  4. If you are paying in foreign currency, we might have apply a currency surcharge on the published rates, if the INR appreciates against your currency at the time of payment.
  5. In the unlikely event in which we are forced to cancel the tour we will refund you the entire booking amount. In case we are unable to conduct the tour due to circumstances beyond our control (for e.g. forces of nature, political conditions), we will make every effort to refund as much of the booking amount as possible.
  6. In case you to cancel your booking more than one month in advance from the tour date, we will refund at least 50% of the tour cost (assuming tour costs are fully paid). The precise refund beyond this will be dependent on the refund policies of our travel partners that we use on tour. In case you cancel your booking less than 1 month from the start of the tour, we will refund 10% of your booking amount

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1, 2 & 3 Thattekad :

We leave Cochin, Kerala mid-morning and reach Thattekad (Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary) by noon on Day 1. We spend three days exploring the small sanctuary for a significant chunk of south India’s bird specialities.

The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is located on the banks of the Periyar River on the foothills of the Western Ghats of Kerala. The habitat matrix of the location, which includes riverine, lowland evergreen and plantation forests, contain an amazing density of birds and offers excellent photographic opportunities for several Western Ghats bird specialities among an impressive bird-list of over 300 species. Renowned ornithologist, the late Dr. Salim Ali, suggested that Thattekad contains among the highest species density of birds in India outside of the Eastern Himalaya. Some of the south Indian endemic birds found here include the Grey-headed Bulbul, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, White-bellied Treepie, Wynaad Laughing Thrush (rare), White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and White-cheeked Barbet. Sightings of rarities such as the Black Baza, Crested Goshawk, Red Spurfowl, Malabar Trogon and the Sri Lanka Frogmouth are not uncommon. Winter is interesting for several migrant flycatchers and warblers

Elephants are regularly seen in and around the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, along with several other mammals including rare sightings of top predators such as Indian wild dogs and leopards. The wet, humid habitats of the location also contain an exciting diversity of plants, herpetofauna and invertebrates.

Day 4 & 5, Rajamalai & Pampadum Shola :

We depart from Thattekad after morning activity and breakfast and drive through an scenic ghat road to Munnar. We reach Munnar in the afternoon on Day 4 and spend the 2 days exploring the high altitude habitats around Munnar for two noteworthy endemic mammals of the Western Ghats - the Nilgiri Tahr and and the rarely seen small carnivore, the Nilgiri marten - as well as a number of high altitude bird specialities of the Western Ghats.

Munnar is a small hill station town (1500m) nestled among tea plantations and wet montane forests (sholas) in of the Western Ghats of Kerala. Significantly, a short drive from Munnar will take us to Rajamalai (2000m), within the scenic, high altitude Eravikulam National Park, where the Nilgiri Tahr, an endemic mountain goat, are regularly sighted. Rajamalai is an excellent place to observe and photograph these normally shy animals. We will also visit a beautiful montane elfin forest within the Pampadam Shola National Park (1900m) on Day 4. Here we will make a special effort to find the extremely rare Nilgiri Marten - an endemic Mustelid, typically restricted to higher moist forests of the Western Ghats. While the sightings of the elusive marten is far from assured, we can expect see Malabar Giant Squirrel, Gaur and Sambar, in this scenic location.

Munnar and surroundings are also excellent for high altitude bird specialities of south India and the bird list includes several endemics - Black and Orange Flycatcher, White-bellied Shortwing (White-bellied Blue Robin), Broad-tailed Grassbird, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Grey-breasted Laughing Thrush (Kerala Laughing Thrush) - and other specialities among winter migrants (warblers, thrushes), and rarities such as Yellow-throated Bulbul and Painted Bushquail. The unique montane forests and grasslands in the upper reaches around Munnar are interesting for their floristic diversity as well.

Day 6, 7 & 8, Top Slip :

After morning wildlife/bird-watching activity and breakfast, we leave Munnar on a scenic ghat road downhill through the deciduous forests of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, towards Top Slip. As we drive through Chinnar, we will make a special effort to find the Giant Grizzled Squirrel - an endangered animal with a highly restricted distribution in the Western Ghats. Potential for Elephant, Gaur and other smaller mammals as we pass through the sanctuary. We reach Top Slip by the evening on Day 6. We spend the next two days in and around Top Slip exploring the tropical moist forests for bird & mammalian specialities of the Western Ghats.

Top Slip is a scenically located tourism zone within the Indira Gandhi Tiger Reserve - a major protected area within Anamalai Hills of Tamil Nadu. The Anamalais are among the the most interesting natural history locations in south India for their biodiversity rich, extensive midelevation and montane evergreen forests. Here we will make a special effort to look for endemic primates including the Nilgiri Langur and Lion-tailed Macaque and could come across other typically elusive mammals including the Brown Palm Civet and Brown Mongoose, that are restricted to the moist forests of the Western Ghats. Megafauna such as Elephant and Gaur and several other herbivorous mammals are regularly sighted around Top Slip. Tiger and Leopard are found here, but are difficult to see in the area.

Top slip has fantastic birdlife and a good proportion of south Indian and sub-continental endemics and its forests are excellent habitat for nesting populations of Great-Pied Hornbill among other species that require large tracts of mature forest. Sri Lanka Frogmouth are regularly sighted here, and other endemics include White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Rufous Babbler, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Barbet and Wynaad Laughing Thrush (rare) among others. The moist forests here typically engross naturalists with their fascinating diversity of herpetofauna, invertebrates, flora and forest scape.

Day 9, 10 & 11 Bandipur :

We leave Top Slip after breakfast and drive through the Palghat Gap towards the Nilgiris - another large, distinct hill range of the Western Ghats. We climb the southern slopes of the Nilgiris, towards Ooty, passing through progressively montane habitat and descend the northern slopes towards the wildlife rich Masinagudi Plateau and Bandipur National Park & Tiger Reserve. En-route, we have a chance to see the endemic Nilgiri Blue Robin in high altitude shola patches along the road. As we descend, we drive through the scrub habitat of the hill slopes and the plateau with good chance of sighting Gaur and Elephant and several dry habitat birds. The habitat becomes progressively wetter and deciduous as we drive towards Bandipur. We reach Bandipur by evening on Day 9 and spend the next two days exploring the deciduous and scrub forests of Bandipur for a variety of large mammal specialities of south India.

The wildlife in Bandipur is largely similar to that found in Kabini (please see below). However Bandipur’s hillier terrain, and adjacent scrub habitats not only provide a contrasting setting for wildlife, but also enhances chances of sighting species such as the shy four-horned antelope and striped hyena, which are very difficult in Kabini. The panoramic moutainscape of the Nilgiri hills, visible from Bandipur, adds to the charming scenery of the location.

Day 12, 13 & 14, Kabini :

We leave Bandipur after breakfast and drive to Kabini through charming countryside of rolling hills and farmland. We reach Kabini in the afternoon on day 12 and spend three days exploring the lowland deciduous forests here primarily for a variety of large mammal specialities of south India.

Named after the Kabini river, the area forms the eastern fringes of the Nagarhole National Park. The Kabini river, which forms a reservoir here, defines the eastern boundary of Nagarhole with Bandipur National Park, two of south India’s finest wildlife destinations and contiguous with several other protected areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR). Kabini is especially interesting within this large protected area network of the NBR, when hundreds of Asian elephants and much other wildlife, congregates around the reservoir during the dry season. Kabini’s flat terrain and the relatively open deciduous forests are very good for wildlife viewing and photography and megafauna, including Asian Elephant, Tiger, Leopard and Gaur are regularly sighted, all year round. Other notable wildlife that are often seen in Kabini include the pack hunting Indian Wild Dog, Sloth Bear and several species of deer, primates and small mammals.

Both Bandipur and Kabini are excellent for birds with over 250 species recorded from deciduous, riverine and scrub forests of these location. Notable species include Malabar Lark, Sirkeer Malkoha, Malabar Pied Hornbill, White-bellied Minivet, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Rufous-bellied Eagle and Malabar Grey Hornbill. Mugger crocodiles are regularly sighted basking on the banks of the Kabini reservoir and otters are occasionally seen in the river.

Day 15, Ranganathittu / Bangalore :

After some early morning activity and breakfast, we head towards Bangalore, a major city well connected by road, air and rail networks. En-route we stop at the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary - a famous heronry on islands in the Cauvery River. The sanctuary is excellent for close views, especially of Eurasian Spoonbills and Night Herons among several species of terns, cormorants, herons and storks. We reach Bangalore in the evening, from where you can transfer to onward destinations.

 

 

FYI and Guidelines

  1. South India is politically stable and is a very safe and tourist friendly region. While petty crimes occur sporadically, crimes rates, are generally low in the region.
  2. Climate in south India is generally tropical and constant. However, due to broad elevational range that we cover during the tour, weather conditions can be quite variable based on where you are and when you travel. We will advice you on weather conditions, clothing etc dependent on when you choose to travel.
  3. Please bring your binoculars or spotting scope.
  4. Please note that wildlife sightings are often a matter of chance. Please be assured that the destinations and personnel have been chosen to maximise chances of wildlife sightings on this tour.
  5. Wildlife viewing will be both from safaris in vehicles as well as on foot. We recommend you wear comfortable walking/trekking for walks in mountainous terrain.
  6. A hat and sunblock are highly recommended and sunglasses will be useful.
  7. Please bring essential medication with you, since the local outlets will not always carry what you are looking for. Do check with your doctor on medication and medical safety before you travel to the region.