2014 Tours‎ > ‎

Kerala and South India

December 4 - 17, 2014

Tour Leader:  Kelly Sekhon assisted by local birding experts

Tour Highlights

Led by Kelly Sekhon on his 9th India nature tour, this 15 days repeat of our popular South India tour starts in cosmopolitan Cochin and then visits the Periyar Tiger Reserve with its herds of wild elephant and rich birdlife. You also spend time in the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary protecting what has been described as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, the tea growing highlands of the Western Ghat mountains, do an overnight cruise on the famous Kerala ‘backwaters’ and finally tour historic Mysore and Bangalore. The variety of bird and animal life in addition to cultural sites that you will see will truly be amazing.

  • Kochi – a palm-fringed, lagoon-studded town
  • Periyar Tiger Reserve – 266 species of birds positively recorded, approximately 67% of them residents
  • Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary,Thattekkad – one of the richest bird habitats in peninsular India
  • Eravikulam National Park at an altitude of 6500 ft established to protect the rare Nilgiri Tahr
  • Pre-tour extension to DelhiAgra (Taj Mahal), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Bharatpur Sanctuary - world famous birding hot spot.


Cochin or Kochi is a cosmopolitan city located in the southern state of Kerala, called the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'. It is a palm-fringed, lagoon-studded town where the red of the earth contrasts with the green of the vegetation. Kochi sprang into being in 1341 when a flood created a natural safe port. The local royal family relocated here in 1405 after which the city grew rapidly attracting Christian, Arab and Jewish traders from the Middle East.

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Set amidst the foothills of the Western Ghats of Kerala, India’s southern most state, is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. A scenic lake that lies at the heart of the sanctuary was formed with the building of a small dam in 1895. The lake meanders around the contours of wooded hills providing a permanent source of water for local wildlife.

Periyar is well located as a centre for seeing most of the specialities of the Western Ghats, as well as large numbers of other resident hill species and migrants. 266 species of birds have been positively recorded, approximately 67% of them are residents, known to breed or suspected of breeding here. Its attraction for birdwatchers is enhanced by the proximity of low plains on three sides. There is considerable local migration, often in dry weather, of lowland species up to the foothills.

Apart from herds of the Asiatic elephants, other animals to be seen in the Periyar sanctuary are the wild bison (gaur), wild boar, sambar, barking and mouse deer, dole or Indian wild dog and maybe the tiger – as there are an estimated 40 tigers here. Four species of primates are found in Periyar - the rare lion-tailed macaque, the nilgiri langur, common langur and the bonnet macaque. Monitor lizards can be spotted basking in the sun on the rocks along the lakeshore and visitors who hike into the park often see pythons.

Thatekkad Bird Sanctuary

One of the most popular National Parks of Kerala, this sanctuary is situated in dense tropical evergreen and deciduous forests with grassland patches. The renowned ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali designed the sanctuary which was created in 1983 based on his recommendation made many years previously. Ali described Thattekad in the 1930's as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, comparable only with the eastern Himalayas. Since then much of the forest has been diverted to cultivation and teak and mahogany plantations but what survives gives a glimpse of the phenomenal bird diversity of the once widespread lowland forests of Kerala. The sanctuary is spread over an area of 25 sq. km. covered with deciduous forests and plantations of rosewood, teak and mahogany. Rare birds like the Crimson-Throated Barbet, Bee-eater, Sunbird, Shrike, Black winged Kite, and the Night Heron are commonly sighted here. The Bombay Natural History Society has identified 253 species here.

Eravikulam National Park and Munnar 

Munar is a hill town 125 kms east of Cochin.  The altitude of Munnar at over 5000 ft means a pleasant climate throughout the year though in Dec-January the temperatures can fall to single digits. The shola-grassland eco-system typical of Munnar is home to a large numbers of birds, many of them endemic.  Sightings of endemics like the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Nilgiri Pipit, Greyheaded Bulbul, Black & Orange Flycatchers,  Broadtailed Grassbird,  Crimsonbacked  Sunbird,  Greybreasted Laughing Thrush, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Indian Rufous Babbler, Whitebellied Blue Flycatcher, Whitebellied Shortwing, Whitebellied Tree-pie & the Wyanad Laughing Thrush  are the highlights of a birding trip to the area.

Eravikulam National Park is a plateau at an average altitude of 6500 feet, about 30 kms from Munnar in the Western Ghat mountains. This park was originally established to protect the Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius), which is in the endangered list of Indian mammals. It was declared as a sanctuary in 1975 and considering the  ecological, faunal, floral and zoological significance, it was declared as a National park in 1978. It covers an area of 97 sq. kms of rolling grasslands and high elevation ‘sholas’.

 Tour Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive in Kochi (Cochin)

You will be met and transferred to your hotel. Overnight Cochin Riviera Suites Hotel. Dinner.

Day 2 - Kochi – Thattekkad

Morning drive tour of Kochi and then drive to Thattekkad. Evening birding excursion. Overnight Birds Lagoon Village Resort, ThattekkadBreakfast and Dinner. 

Day 3 - Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary

Full day birding in the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Overnight  Birds Lagoon Village Resort, Thattekkad Breakfast and Dinner. 

Day 4 - Thattekkad – Munnar

Drive to Munnar in the Western  Ghats. Afternoon birding. Overnight Olive Brooks, MunnarBreakfast and Dinner. 

Days 5 and 6 - Munnar

Two days birding in Eravikulam and in Munnar amidst the tea growing slopes of the Western Ghat mountains. Overnight Olive Brooks, MunnarBreakfast and Dinner. 

Day 7 - Munnar – Thekkady (Periyar)

Drive to Periyar Tiger Reserve. Overnight Periyar Aranya Niwas within the Park boundary. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

Day 8 - Thekkady (Periyar)

Full day in Periyar Tiger Reserve. Overnight Periyar Aranya Niwas within the Park boundary. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

Day 9 - Thekkady - Alleppey

After breakfast we drive through the lush Kerala countryside to Alleppey. Alleppey is located on the edge of Vembanad Lake, an area known for its azure backwaters, swaying coconut palms and houseboats. The scenic drive takes you through typical Kerala villages and rice paddies. Overnight Kayaloram Resort, AlleppeyBreakfast and Dinner. 

Day 10 - Houseboat on the Kerala backwaters

Transfer this morning to a comfortable Kettuvallam houseboat on the inland channels (backwaters) of Kerala. Cruise through Kerala countryside. Overnight on a Kettuvallam (houseboat). Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

Day 11 - Houseboat – Cochin - Bangalore - Mysore

Morning disembark from the houseboat and drive to Kochi airport for our connecting flight to Bangalore. Drive to Mysore. Overnight Hotel Green, Mysore. Breakfast and Lunch. 

Day 12 - Mysore - Nagarhole 

Short drive to Nagarhole. Check into the Kabini River Lodge nestled in the southern fringes of the Nagarahole National Park rated by the British Tatter’s Travel Guide as one of the top 5 wildlife resorts in the world.  Full day in Nagarhole. Once the hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore and the British, Nagarhole is home of herds of elephants, gaur bison, chital, sambar and barking deer, sloth bears and langur monkeys. Crocodiles, over a hundred species of birds and the elusive leopard and tiger are also found in the park. Overight  Kabini River Lodge, NagarholeBreakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

Day 13 - Nagarhole - Mysore

In Nagarhole viewing wildlife and birds until lunchtime after which when we  drive to Mysore.   Evening brief brief tour of Mysore. Overnight Hotel Green, MysoreBreakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

Day 14 - Mysore - Bangalore - Departure

At Ranganthitu Sanctuary near Mysore, we bird watch along the banks of the Cauvery river. Later drive to Bangalore for a quick drive tour of Bangalore city followed by a transfer to the international airport  your return flight back home. Breakfast.

Tour Leader 

Kelly Sekhon has several years of experience both as tour organizer and field trip leader. He has successfully led eight natural history tours to India and Nepal - to the remote Kinnaur region of the western Himalaya in 1996; to Assam and Sikkim in eastern India in 1999 and 2000; to the National Wildlife Parks of North, South and Eastern India including Rajasthan in 2003, 2006 and 2008, a nature trek to the alpine Valley of the Gods in the Indian Himalaya in 2004 and finally, a nature hike through the foothills of the Annapurna mountains in Nepal in 2011.

Tour Price

C$ 3150 for the land part of the tour (including within India airfares and meals mentioned in the itinerary). Price does not include international airfare. The expected low season return airfare from Vancouver to Delhi is $1600. Fares change often and a precise figure will be available 2 months prior to travel. Airline and airport taxes and fees are extra.

Tour Booking Info

Tour will be limited to a maximum of 12 participants to ensure close interaction with the accompanying naturalists and have the benefits of a close knit small group. Early booking is essential. 

The last date for booking your place on these tours will be September 15, 2014. A completed Booking Form together with your Tour Deposit must be received by us prior to this date. Please contact us for more information.

Click HERE to send us an e-mail or Phone Kelly at 604-526-9091

Click HERE to download a PDF copy of the Booking Form

Tour Extensions 

North India Nature & Culture November 25 - December 4, 2014 (Click HERE for itinerary)

Rajasthan and Gujarat - November 11 – 25, 2013 (Click HERE for itinerary)