Although the IHG Pointsbreaks have been less inspiring in recent years, there are usually a few that can be used for eco-tourism and birding. At 5000 IHG Rewards per night, these are a great bargain if you can use them. Use your airline miles to get you to the country and the only thing left to pay is the rental car or taxi hire!
The lucrative BOGO award night that comes with the Club Carlson Visa will be gone in 6 hours. However there is an overlap with a new promo to save 25% on Latin American hotels that you can take advantage of if you are quick. Two nights at the Radisson Summit for 11,250 points!
Most Club Carlson hotels in India went down as of 1 June so there is a small window of opportunity for a BOGO award there too!
Murphy’s Law – a great new guidebook always comes out right after you finished your trip there. If you’ve been inspired my my birding in South India, then this would be a great guidebook to bring with you!
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The new IHG Pointbreaks list is due to go live soon and bookable on their website. In the meanwhile, another blogger – Points to be Made has kindly published a preview of the complete list. I did a quick scan through to see if anything stood out as possible value to eco-tourists & bird watchers.
India (could be useful if you are flying into or out of Mumbai, nice hotel in great location)
The Alexandrine Parakeet or Alexandrian Parrot (Psittacula eupatria) is a member of the psittaciformes order and of the Psittaculidae family. The species is named after Alexander the Great, who is credited (blamed) with the exporting of numerous specimens of this bird from Punjab into various European and Mediterranean countries and regions, where they were considered prized possessions for the nobles and royalty.
The Alexandrine Parakeet is the largest species of all Parakeet (small Parrot with long tail) species, thus often being the largest Parrot in their native range. This species measures 58 cm (23 in) in total length with a wing length averaging 18.9–21.5 cm (7.5–8.5 in) and a tail length of 21.5–35.5 cm (8.5–14.0 in).
The following sub-species, many of them allopatric are recognised based on geographical distribution:
Psittacula eupatria eupatria, Nominate Alexandrine Parakeet – East India to Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in the South, Sri Lanka.
Psittacula eupatria avensis, Indo-Burmese Alexandrine Parakeet – Northeast India to Amherst in Myanmar
Psittacula eupatria nipalensis, Nepalese Alexandrine Parakeet – Eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan, North and central India, Nepal, Bhutan to Assam in Northeast India.
Psittacula eupatria siamensis, Laos’ or Siamese Alexandrine Parakeet – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, north and east Thailand
Of these, I have seen the nominate and the Nepalese subspecies.
Because they have such a large range, you can plan birding trips to Central and South-east Asia and have a good chance to spot them. I have seen them in Chitwan National Park, Nepal & Kithulgala & Sinharaja in Sri Lanka.
The White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) also known as the White-breasted Kingfisher or Smyrna Kingfisher, is a tree kingfisher, widely distributed in Eurasia from Bulgaria, Turkey, West Asia east through the Indian Subcontinent to the Philippines. This kingfisher is a resident over much of its range, although some populations may make short distance movements. It can often be found well away from water where it feeds on a wide range of prey that includes small reptiles, amphibians, crabs, small rodents and even birds. During the breeding season they call loudly in the mornings from prominent perches including the tops of buildings in urban areas or on wires.
They are fun to watch and I saw several in Kithulgala. They were easily seen by their bright blue backs and seemed keen to pose for photos! This one wanted to make sure I got his best side – both of them!
He’s got a beakful!
White-throated Kingfishers have a huge range throughout Central and South-east Asia so it shouldn’t be hard to find an award ticket to get to one of their many habitats.
If you have enjoyed this series about birding in Southern India, I hope this well-made documentary about the birds of India will further entice you to make a visit. There is some superb footage of a breeding pair of Paradise Flycatchers and their chicks!
I had originally planned this adventure for sometime in 2015 at which time Sri Lankan Airlines would have been a One World member so I could have gotten the Bangalore – Colombo route for 4500 Avios. Since I brought the trip forward, I would have to buy tickets since I couldn’t use miles for this route.
After checking all the local airlines, SpiceJet came in the cheapest but we would have to transfer in Chennai.
You can easily book this ticket online and pay with a foreign credit card – unlike buses & trains which require you to jump through hoops!
The YQ is way more than the base fare but I couldn’t find a way to fuel dump it!
Since the entire ticket only comes to around $85 I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it!
The one drawback was a 5 hour layover in Chennai from 7pm – 1am and there is nothing near the airport to do at that time of night. The aircraft is a smaller one and our carry-on backpacks barely fit in the overheads which was annoying but no one challenged us or made us gate check them.
The one advantage was that the seats were 2 x 2 so we didn’t have to share a bank of 3 with a stranger. The crew were very friendly and a snack and soft drink were offered to everyone. Of course you can’t compare to Singapore or Cathay Pacific but for a low-cost carrier, I thought they were pretty good! Both legs departed and arrived right on time.
Laying over in Chennai was a pita. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. I did have some Kindle books on my netbook, my husband people-watched and dozed off. They won’t let you check in until 3 hours before the flight. Chennai does have some nice artwork in the terminal.
These little shuttle carts will take you from the arrivals terminal to international departures for free but they do expect a tip.
For once I was hoping for a delay as I really didn’t like arriving in Colombo at 2:20am but the flight was right on time! Since we had only carry-ons we were off the plane in no time waving goodbye to the friendly crew!
The Times of India reports that India will be implementing a new Visa-on-arrival system which will be a great asset to tourism. Although some countries like the USA can visas valid for 10 years once you go through the procedures, others like Australia have visas that expire after 6 months and you have to go through the procedure every time you travel.
“We have decided to extend visa-on-arrival to tourists from 180 nations. It will take 5-6 months to put the infrastructure in place. We hope to implement this from the next tourist session beginning October,” planning minister Rajiv Shukla said.
The facility will be implemented at 9 airports initially (although only 8 airports are named). Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum. I am surprised not to see Bangalore on the list since this is a major airport in India.
Tourists will also have the option of applying for an electronic visa (ETA) which is similar to an ESTA for the USA, ETA for Australia and India’s neighbor Sri Lanka. For my recent trip, I had to go to the Indian visa processing facility in Brisbane which was a pita given there is very little parking nearby and is very expensive. By contrast our Sri Lankan visas were done online in a matter of minutes!
I have to admit, ease of obtaining a visa plays a huge part in my decision making as to which country I choose if I am targeting a bird species that is present in more than one country. All else being equal, I will choose the country I can get a visa on arrival or do an ETA.
This is a great move on behalf of the Indian government and should greatly boost tourism in the country and increase job opportunities for people working in tourism!