Kerala and the Magic of India's Malabar Coast, 2023
Holidays for Birders
The Natural World
Kerala and the Magic of India's Malabar Coast, 2023
Explore fragrant-scented forests, lush green tea plantations, palm lined beaches and soothing waterways. Enjoy the finest of sustainable luxury at award winning eco resorts.
A coastal strip on India's tropical Malabar Coast, Kerala is a place of palm-lined beaches, languid backwaters dotted with magnificent houseboats, mountains carpeted with richly- scented coffee, tea and spice plantations, national parks home to elephants, langur monkeys and tigers, historic cities and vivid traditions.
Discover the magic on this 15 day/13 night tour.
You will be visiting and staying in Kochi (Cochin), Munnar, Periyar, Kumarakom and Marari
Kerala is a nature-lover’s paradise. Come with us to Kochi, one of the finest natural harbours in the world; the quiet resort of Munnar nestled in the green and serene Kannan Devan Hills; Periyar, South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary and famous for its elephants and the Eravikulam National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (mountain goat), as well as leopards, Indian Bison, 120 beautiful bird species and the beautiful Palni Fourwing butterfly.
Kerala has a rich and fascinating history. Discover the stories of the spice trade in Kochi, visit the ancient harbour of Muzuris, home to the first Jewish, Christian and Islamic settlements in India and take a heritage walk through Old Kottayam to learn about its time as a flourishing Royal capital.
Learning more about the culture of the places you visit is a key part of any holiday with us. From the elaborate dance form Kathakali and the intricate hand looms of Chendamangalam, to the spice farmers of Periyar and fishing community of Village Rubble in Maraikulam, Kerala offers a wealth of opportunities to feed curious minds. Even the fabulous CHG Earth hotels you will stay in put local ethos centre stage.
What we love
- The amazing eco and green credentials of CGH Earth hotels whose ethos is focused on responsible travel experiences, engaging with nature and the local community.
- Expert and attentive local guides whose local knowledge and passion for sharing hidden treasures along the way will make your time in Kerala extra special
- A menu of optional experiences so you can tailor your holiday to your interests
- Staying in fabulous hotels and resorts where tranquillity, nature and wellbeing come first
- Breakfast and dinners included with your stay at all hotels and 11 additional lunches, plus a special High Tea
- Finding out about Forest Gardens from a local agrarian farmer
- Private transfers throughout
Experiences you will treasure
- Taking a harbour cruise across Kochi harbour
- Visiting a sustainable house and having lunch with its owners
- Watching a traditional Kathakali dance in the precincts of a temple as dusk falls
- Discovering the ancient Landscape of Muzuris, an ancient harbour nearly 3000 years old that’s also known as the ‘Jerusalem of the East’
- Visiting the Chendamangalam weaving centre, one of Kerala’s four main traditional handloom weaving centres
- Discovering the history of tea in Munnar, famous for having one of the most beautiful tea plantations in the world and taking a traditional High Tea
- Exploring the Eravikulam National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along the crest of the Western Ghats in Idukki that is home to the largest population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr (mountain goat) and 120 beautiful species of birds, including Nilgiri Pipit, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Kerala Laughing Thrush, and Nilgiri Verditer Flycatcher.
- Meeting spice farmers in Periyar and learning how they strive to achieve a balance between being an agrarian community and conserving nature
- Visiting a farmer’s market and tea shop in the lowland plains of Valley Zest and having lunch with a local family
- Having lunch with Mr. Jose Dominic, a pioneer of sustainability, at Madukkakunnu homestay
- Discovering the rich heritage of Kumarakom, a picturesque village on the shores of Vembanad Lake famous for being the erstwhile administrative capital of the Thekkumkoor kingdom and the ‘rice bowl’ of Kerala.
- Pampering yourself with Ayurveda treatments at the luxurious hotels
- Learning the secrets of traditional Kerala vegetarian and seafood cooking
- A day-long cruise along the mirror-still lagoons, palm-fringed canals, and shimmering rivulets of `God's Own Country' on board a traditional houseboat
- Seeing a live fish auction and having lunch with a local fishing family in a typical coastal village
- Trying your hand at fishing the Kerala way
What people say
God’s own country or heaven on earth. Place full of mountains, greenery and streams. Oh Kerala! God created you with utmost care.
Rekha Menon, Indian film actor
How much is it?
Specially curated visits and experiences - you decide!
For a more immersive holiday, we have created a flexible programme so you can 'pick and mix' from a selection of specially curated excursions and activities in each destination.
Kochi – Day Four
- Boating on the backwaters of Muzuris. This hour and half cruise takes you through interior canals past sites such as the Kottappuram fort, built by the Portuguese in 1523, and the area’s oldest church. You will also get the chance to see the traditional Chinese fishing nets used by the local fishermen. The cruise departs at 14:30 and returns at16:00.
Munnar – Day Six
- 07:30-11:30: Bird Watching in Eravikulam National Park with an expert guide. Home to 120 different species of birds, this UNESCO World Heritage Site along the Western Ghats in Idukki is an ornithologist's paradise. Look out for Nilgiri Pipit, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Kerala Laughing Thrush and Nilgiri Verditer Flycatcher.
- 07:30-11:30: Field Photography in Eravikulam National Park with an expert guide. This UNESCO World Heritage National Park offers treats galore for photographers. Mammals, including 700-800 Nilgiri tahr (wild mountain goat), tigers, leopards, and bison live alongside 120 species of birds, while the sharp escarpments and cliffs of the Anamudi mountain bloom with rare orchids and wild balsams.
- 11:30-19:30: Visit to Chinnar wildlife Sanctuary, a unique protected area in the rain shadow region in the eastern slope of Western Ghats, adjoining Tamilnadu. The area is a well-known repository of medicinal plants and supports a healthy population of grizzled giant squirrel, star tortoise, tufted grey langur, gaur, spotted deer, slender loris, wild elephant, crocodile, tiger, leopard and many a birds, insects and plants. On your way to the sanctuary, you will also see the making of the Marayoor Jagger and pass through Marayoor sandalwood forests..
- 15:00-18:00: ‘Click and Capture’ photography session amid the tea plantations with Sebinster Francis, a wildlife and landscape photographer featured in books by Kerala Tourism and social media platforms of National Geography India and more. Highlights include a technical photography session, a walk through plantations and local market for landscape and portrait shots and a cup of tea. You will need a camera, or phone, cap, trainers and sunscreen.
- 15:00-18:00: ‘Story Trail – Life of Eleanor’. Eleanor is Eleanor Isabel, wife of the early manager of Kannan Devan Hills, Henry Mansfield Knight. The couple came to Munnar in 1894 and, amazed at the beauty of the hills, Eleanor playfully asked her husband to bury her on the hilltop in old Munnar. When she died of cholera later than same year, he did as she wished. Her tomb is still decorated to this day and visited by her family and people who hear the story of this young wife. Starting at the church that was built in her memory, this tour takes you back to the Munnar of 1894. through the eyes of Eleanor, who was amazed at the beauty of this mysterious land.
Periyar - Day Eight
- Watch a Kalaripayattu Performance. Also known as 'Kalari', this Keralan martial art and fighting style is believed to be the oldest surviving martial art in India.
Periyar – Day Nine
- A guided nature walk though the Periyar national park. Departing early at 06:30 returning at 10:00: You will follow the winding trail through this incredible landscape of moist deciduous and evergreen forests interspersed with marshy grasslands and enjoy a rare opportunity to witness the many splendours of nature. The group will be divided into three groups, based on different interests:
- Explore the park with Naturalist guide (standard tour option)
- Bird watching with an expert guide (supplement cost applicable).
- Field photography with an expert guide (supplement cost applicable)
Please note, before entering the reserve, each person will need to fill in a questionnaire provided by the forest authorities to procure basic information. You will be provided with socks to protect yourself from leaches. You will also be given information about the animals, birds and other habitats, along with information about precautions to take during any emergency inside the reserve.
Kumarakom - Day 11
- Visit to Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, an ornithologist's paradise and a favourite haunt of migratory birds. The main attractions are local birds such as the waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron and the water duck, as well as the migratory Siberian cranes. Parrots, teal, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, and other birds are seen here during their respective migratory seasons.Timings: 06:30-07:30:
Aleppy – Day 13
- ‘Alleppey Magic’ heritage tour. On this magical journey around the paddy fields of Kuttanad you will get to know how coconuts, rice and fish sustains the livelihood of thousands of families in this region and gain an insight into the history of how, over the millennia, the backwaters of Alleppey were systematically turned into paddy fields and how networks of canals were created to irrigate, collect silts and connect these fields. Timings: 07:45-11:45
- Alleppey Heritage tour. Learn about this historic town with a guide from the Preserve Alleppey Society, which was started by the Lion Ladies Club of Alleppey in 2000 to preserve the character of the town. Beginning with a presentation about the town’s history and ending at the Society's gallery where light refreshments will be served, the tour is partly by car and partly on foot and will take you through the Gujarati quarter, past the canal banks and to an old wholesale market. You will have lunch at a local house at the end of the tour. Timings: 09:30-14:00:
Prices for these experiences range from £3 to £159pp. Please email us for more details
A Deeper Dive
There are four main centres for weaving the traditional handlooms of Kerala – Balaramapuram, Chendamangalam, Kuthampully, Kannur and Kasaragod. The array of handloom fabrics woven in Chendamangalam are similar to what one finds in Balaramapuram, but with less emphasis on kasavu patterns. Instead, the typical Chendamangalam mundu or settu mundu has coloured borders with a matching colour stripe, and only small amounts of kasavu for ornamentation.
Like in other parts of Kerala, weavers in Chendamangalam were under the official patronage of the feudal family of Paliam, who served as chief ministers for the Rajas of Cochin. In terms of the actual process, Chendamangalam textiles are woven on frame looms, and their texture is slightly heavier than similar fabrics from Balaramapuram
Snuggling in the green and serene Kannan Devan Hills lays the quiet and restful resort of Munnar.
Panoramic views of low-flying clouds and mist-filled valleys make it a little heaven with a cool bracing climate. It was opened up out of virgin forests a century ago by pioneering planters. Beyond lays Anaimudi, South India's highest peak
Munnar is known to have one of the most beautiful tea plantations in the world. It all started with Lt Benjamin Swayne Ward, who in the early 1800s, is believed to have surveyed the terrain and figured out its richness. This led planter John Daniel Munro, to think of setting up tea plantations as part of revenue – earning projects. Slowly, the hill station of Munnar became the popular summer resort for the British who enjoyed the pleasant weather, away from home. Interestingly, they even established a freemason group, traces on which can be found even now.
All this can be seen in the houses that back to the British Era, in the machineries that are still in use, the dams and bungalows which were left behind to trace back the history of this beautiful land. On this tour, we get to explore and see these places which show that Munnar had a history of her own. We end this special tour with a High tea, the way it was done, centuries ago
Regarded as one of India's best National Parks, Periyar covers over 350square miles and is a natural habitat to many endangered species of floral and fauna.
The forests contain deciduous and semi-evergreen trees like teak, rosewoods, terminalias, sandalwoods, jacarandas, mangoes, jamun, tamarind, banyans, sacred fig, plumerias, royal poinciana, kino tree, bamboos and the only south Indian conifer, nageian wallichiana.
Over 265 bird species have been identified in Periyar, those you may see include black kites, blue-winged parakeets, hornbill, white-bellied treepies, laughing thrushes, flycatchers. darters, cormorants, barbets, junglefowl, and plover.
There are 35 species of mammals in the park, including many that are threatened. Periyar is an important tiger and elephant reserve, with a total of 40 Bengal tigers and a small population of Asian elephants, however, it is difficult spotting the elephants and tigers as they keep deeply hidden in the forest jungle, away from the nature paths. Animals you are most likely to see are the gaur, sambar, wild pig, Indian giant squirrel, Travancore flying squirrel Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur
On this tour, you will have a guided tour with a local Naturalist.
As an optional supplement, you can choose to go birdwatching with an expert guide or take a field photograph excursion with a local photographer.
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