Backpackers guide to Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
I am in love with the countries birdlife, and it is second to none in my opinion. I have decided to write this blog as there does not seem to be a Backpackers guide to Thattekad Bird Sanctuary anywhere? For the life of me, I can’t work out why? Even if you just want to break up the bus journey, this place is sure to captivate you. It is bursting with life everywhere you look, and you can walk as much as you like alone in the serenity of the Keralan countryside. It’s so peaceful here, and there is a sense of tropical calm at every step.
What’s even better for the budget backpacker is it does not cost very much at all, and you can easily reach there by public transport. This is an off the beaten track destination, and it is also a global birding hotspot Even if you have never been into birds, you can not fail to be impressed by the sheer diversity of the wildlife here. The tiny park is only 25 square kilometres but, is home to a whopping 320 bird species, and many are extremely rare to find.
Kerala’s hidden gem.
The area is set along a river with forests on each side and surrounded by some stunning countryside. You don’t have to pay to enter these parts, so you can walk at your leisure for a little extra birding. To be honest, there were many species that I saw in the farmlands that I didn’t see in the forests, and it is all free! I was lucky enough to see the white-breasted treepie in some numbers here, and apparently, that’s very lucky.
The real hotspot is far away from the park, and you will need to pay for transportation but it is not very much. The numbers are staggering, and as you meander over the ancient lava flows, you will find your head is continually craned upwards as you marvel at the riot of colour that flutters above you.
I was with a couple of very hardcore birders, and they said it really does not get any better than this. On my short walk, I saw some seriously rare wildlife. When I saw how beautiful they were and discovered there is nearly none left on earth, it made me quite sad if I am honest.
I was lucky enough to see such delights as the Dwarf Kingfisher, Trogans and the Indian bay owl. When we saw this, I thought the couple I was with might burst into flames with excitement as they were looking for this for years and we were super close. I also saw the rarest of them all. The Ceylon frogmouth is a member of the nightingale family, and there are only a small handful of pairs left in the world.
The star of the show for me ironically was the heart spotted woodpecker. I loved the tiny little bugger, but they are not endangered at all. I thought come on guys it has spots shaped like a heart on its head. How nice is that? It is not really possible to make your own way there as there are no busses and its a long way from the sanctuary entrance. Even if you don’t like birds, this is well worth the effort of coming here as it is incredibly scenic and there is an excellent chance it will spark that interest.
Inside the sanctuary, it is all woodland that follows clearly marked paths that loop back on themselves. It is quite dense so it can be hard to find the wildlife but, I was lucky enough to see the beautiful paradise flycatcher many times and a pair of enormous eagle owls. There are some small lakes, and this is an excellent place to spot birds. The river is beautiful, but the birds on the other side are way too far away to see let alone photograph.
Around the hotel, there are many Malabar Parakeets and Hornbills, and if they don’t impress you, nothing will. Look at me. I sound like a real birdwatcher? I have to say it is so lovely to see the animals in their natural environment and I recommend this place wholeheartedly. For more of the beaten adventures like this check out my post five intrepid destinations in India and let me know what you think.
Getting a nights rest.
I stayed in the jungle bird homestay that’s actually inside the park although you don’t have to pay if you don’t go inside the forest. This delightful homestay is owned by a very knowledgable family and can arrange guided tours, and it pays to have one.
My advice is to take at least one in the forest for their local knowledge, and you will definitely need one to get to the ancient lava flows. Then take many by yourself and soak in the beauty and calm of the place in your own time. This will be kind to your budget and maximise your time.
The traditional Keralan food is fantastic, and there is lots of it. It is hard to get this stuff in restaurants as its good wholesome home-cooked food. I found it all so Moorish I kept eating till I felt like I was going to burst. To find out where to get the best food when you are on the road, have a look at my post on that. After all, let’s face it travelling our tastebuds is one of the real joys of backpacking isn’t it?
You pay an all-inclusive 1300 rupees, and the rooms are very comfortable indeed. The building overlooks a lake so you can see many bird species right from your porch and the giant Malabar squirrels are a delight to watch as you eat your food. A trip here is so worthwhile for any nature lover as the western ghats are one of the most biodiverse places on earth and this is a prime hotspot. For further information on staying here, check out www.junglebirdhomestay.blogspot.com.au.
Getting a bite to eat.
Well, this will be a short section as you are fresh out of options quite frankly. There are other homestays in the area, but they are all-inclusive deals. What you can do to save a little money is to pay for a package that is just breakfast and dinner at the hotel and get chai and samosas from one of the tiny shops outside the entrance. They are there for the domestic day-trippers that frequent the park. The meals at the hotel are so big you won’t need much food anyway, and this will save you a couple of hundred rupees a day.
Getting there and away.
To access the park is straight forward, it is on the main Ernakulam to Munnar highway. Get off at Kothamangalam and wait for a local bus to take you the rest of the way. The bus stops right outside the sanctuary, so it would be pretty hard to miss where to go. Just walk in the main gate and continue along the path for a couple of hundred metres and you will see the guesthouse on the left.
The local bus only runs once an hour, so make sure you secure your bags somewhere convenient as it is hard to get off when you arrive. It is even harder to get on when you return. Just wait at the chai shop outside the gate and hide from the blistering tropical sunshine. It makes the ideal stopover on your way to Mannur where you can easily continue your birding extravaganza.
In summary of my Backpackers guide to Thattekad Bird Sanctuary.
Well, I just hope this post plants the seed of curiosity for my readers to come and check this tiny sanctuary out for themselves. You don’t have to be bird mad to enjoy this place. If you are then don’t miss out as this is one of the most accessible birding hotspots in South Asia. It is just off the main highway after all. I can’t believe this is the only guide for backpackers that I have seen?
The Surrounding countryside is well worth checking out as well so budget a few days in the area. In all fairness, it is so comfortable it is hard to leave and why would you want to when you’re surrounded by such natural beauty.
The Western Ghats is an undeniable draw for any nature lover, and here in this tiny park, you can immerse yourself in all of its splendour without breaking the bank. That is unusual for this state as it is one of the more wealthy states in the country. It usually can cost a small fortune to get your teeth into such places. So take my advice and capitalise on this hidden gem as it is positively dripping with natural treasures.
If you do decide to come, it may be prudent to get a field guide as the birds are so damn colourful you will probably want to know what you are looking at. I personally recommend Helms Field Guide to the Birds Of The Indian Subcontinent. It is lightweight and easy to use. You can get it on Kindle if you wish, but that would be tiresome to keep swiping to where you want to be. Paperback is definitely less stressful to use although you will have to carry it.
So that about wraps up my post and if you have any more questions on this incredible little place just let me know and as you know if you have read any of my other posts, I am always happy to help. Just leave your thoughts in the comments box at the bottom of the page, and I will get back to you. So until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy birding.
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