Kerala birdwatching holidays, Western Ghats

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Kerala birdwatching holidays, Western Ghats

All parks in this region have Eco Development Committees and Forest Protection Teams employed in tourism related work and arranging all wildlife programmes for tourists. So when one enters the park & takes part in safaris or treks in the park, the proceeds of such activities go to the local communities directly and almost in full.

By employing local birding guides at Thattekkad and by staying at environmentally low impact accommodation like the Hornbill Camp, we hope to bring in awareness about Responsible Tourism among the general public. Hornbill Camp is made of locally available materials and constructed exclusively by using locally available expertise in reed leaf thatching . There is very little concrete used, instead tents are used and more importantly only maximum of 2 kva electricity is used in the camp. The water is heated using solar heaters and the kitchen refuse is recycled for use in the spice plantations nearby.

We always employ local drivers during all our tours. Our supplies like vegetables and poultry are always sourced from villagers residing near the camp & we promote local businesses by using local jeeps and locally owned wooden canoes for moving on the river, whenever possible.

We always believe in small groups of maximum 6 persons to reduce impacting on the ‘carrying capacity’ of the region they are passing through. Our strict policy of Leave No Trace helps protect the environment and is an example to the locals by removing all waste from place to place.

Reviews of Kerala birdwatching holidays, Western Ghats

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 30 Mar 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Many memorable parts - wonderful bird watching trips, cycling in the backwaters, relaxing and enjoying the Keralan food and scenery.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?




3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, at several of the places where we stayed it was clear that the owners were active in sustaining the environment and supporting the livelihood of local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent. We would thoroughly recommend the tour company, both for the planning and organization and for the expertise, enthusiasm and patience of our driver/bird guide Peter.

Reviewed on 09 Mar 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The trip has fulfilled my expectations. It was a trip focused on endemic birds from Western Ghats and I got 17 from a total of 18 possible species. It's a big success. The total list raised to 214 species, a high number to an 8 days trip.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


It's a highly recommendable trip. Excellent birding and other wildlife, scenic landscapes, very nice accommodation and an excellent guiding.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, all the organizational aspects are linked to local people and resoruces, and very concerned about conservation

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It has been one of the best birding holidays I haver ever been on. I'm seriously thinking to come back to India with the same company. I'd like to remark the excellent work of Peter as a guide, he's a fine birding guide and a very
concerned tour leader about well-being of the clients.

Reviewed on 12 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


A magnificent tally of endemic birds! This was a birdwatching tour so we hoped and expected to see a number of new birds but our excellent guide provided an enormous list.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Make sure you take with you or buy at Duty Free a good supply of alcohol -
Kerala is trying to go 'dry' and despite advice from our tour operator that there would be 'hundreds' of government liquor stores en route, our time in this state was bugged by a national strike, a mysterious public holiday (not realised by our guide or driver) and yet another closed day for the govt liquor stores being the 1st of the month! Only 5-star hotels still have liquor licences/bars and the others which cannot afford the licences but do sell beer bump up the costs by 350% to cover their costs/profits BUT tourists staying in these accommodations are only permitted to drink alcohol behind the closed doors of their rooms. Not a pleasant holiday experience. When crossing to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, privately owned liquor stores were available selling at greatly reduced prices - eg local Indian Elite red wine cost Rs 500 to Rs 800 in Kerala but only Rs 200 in Karnataka and Rs 1900 in a hotel!! No wonder so many tourists are cancelling holidays to southern India - we met many dissatisfied clients along the way including Brits, Canadians, Swedes, Americans etc.


3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes by providing jobs in home-stays and hotels. In two areas the local parks were closed - one was permanently closed to tourists and the second was shut for months for the wild goat breeding period. Not what we expected.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Some accommodation provided on the tour was way below expectations - in fact, rather reminiscent of hotels in Africa during the 70s! Abad Green Forest in Thekkady was by far the best room (and everything in the room actually worked) and also for food and service. Also of a very high standard was the Jungle Hut at Masinagudi - professional, attentive owners, very clean, fantastic food and surrounded by wildlife. Positively the worst was The Monarch in Ooty - dreadful room, dirty towels, plugs which fell off the walls and simply awful food. The remainder all had loads of items which didn't work and which hadn't been repaired in years. Come on India ...

Read the operator's response here:

Many thanks for your Review. We are happy that you had a wonderful birding tour with our company.

The other point you raised about alcohol regrettably are purely within the administrative control of the state Government of Kerala and as such we are helpless in sorting those out. We do hope that you write to the Government of Kerala to review this policy for tourists.

Similarly, we feel that the comments on hotels are rather subjective and do hope that you put the comments about these hotels on sites such as Trip Advisor which would help future travellers.

Reviewed on 29 May 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Getting away from cities to the real Southern India in Kerala & Tamil Nadu. Seeing lots of birds and other wild fauna & flora, and having such knowledgeable people as our guide Jijo and driver who could name anything we wanted to identify and tell us about life, work and cultural practices in the region.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Thomas, our agent thoroughly understood our needs and what was really wanted out of a trip. He suggested a last minute adjustment to our accommodation in one region due to the unseasonably hot weather conditions and that proved to be excellent advice. He did this by text message a week before we arrived and whilst we were travelling in Sri Lanka. Be sure to let the operator know your circumstances and your needs.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We used the expertise of many local guides and stayed in many small family run accommodation settings.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was a wonderful, enjoyable experience that we have recommended to many others.

Reviewed on 01 Dec 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The National Parks in the Western Ghats - Munnar and Periyar.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The smaller the group the better - no more than 4 people. We were just two and found we had much better opportunities to see the birds than the larger groups we encountered.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, all of the above.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was really an excellent experience despite some change of plans due to a strike (which I believe are common in Kerala). We were well looked after by a great driver/guide, Peter. He was ever cheerful and patient when one of us was a bit slow and tried hard to meet the high expectations of the other. We had some really good sightings of rare species.

Reviewed on 07 Nov 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing birds, some at close range and the beautiful scenery of Munnar and Thattekad. At Hornbill Camp being joined by staff members with binoculars and cameras whenever a birding opportunity arose. A great chance to share our enjoyment with local people.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Climate can vary dramatically between Thattekad and Munnar so bring clothes for hot and sweaty as well as cold at night and in misty highland conditions. Walking boots useful as are leech socks if you have them! Otherwise relax and enjoy as everything is very well organised.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Hornbill Camp was comfortable but had minimum negative impact on the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Excellent holiday mainly thanks to our guide Peter, who was always professional, punctual, knowledgable and best of all, very enthusiastic and determined to find all the birds possible. We could never have spotted so many without him. Peter always went at our pace and took good care of us.

Reviewed on 20 Feb 2010 by

We loved Kerala and hope very much to visit again. Everyone we met were friendly and welcoming, and all arrangements made by the tour operator went very smoothly. We were very well looked after by our driver and guide, and had some excellent walks seeing many endemic and other bird species. Food delicious. We were very comfortable at the Hornbill Camp although, be warned, the beds are very firm. Olive Brook - lovely small hotel, wonderful views, very comfortable rooms, personal service and very good food.

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