Lodge Review: Grassroots Wayanad, Kalpetta

When I was researching this trip, I fell in love with the lush grounds and tents with a deck overlooking the garden.  It looked very birdy and the reviews on Trip Advisor were excellent.  Although you can book directly with Grassroots on their website, I had a $50 Expedia voucher I needed to burn so used them to make the booking.

IMG_2653After some confusion, the rickshaw driver we hired in Kalpetta found the gate which is not well-marked.  We knocked on the gate and Aditya, the manager let us in and showed us to our tent which was the first one going up the hill.

IMG_2815 IMG_2814 IMG_2654The tents are beautifully furnished, very clean and comfortable.  I would have preferred that the tv not be there, the only sounds I wanted to hear were the songs of the local birds!

IMG_2655 IMG_2656 IMG_2657The deck was fantastic and we could indulge in some lazy birding complete with room service!

IMG_2658 IMG_2659The peace and quiet didn’t last long.  About an hour after we checked in, a family with several adults and small kids showed up.  My heart sank as the kids started running up and down the paths shrieking.  Why someone would bring kids to a peaceful nature retreat like this one is beyond me!  They didn’t seem interested in birds or wildlife and just wanted to play as kids usually do…………….they should have booked a beach resort in Goa.

I wanted to escape the noise so I walked across the street and down the hill a bit, then noticed the Vernal Hanging Parrot in the tree.  There were a few other birds around and I stayed to watch them until sunset.

Vernal Hanging Parrot shows where they get their name

Vernal Hanging Parrot shows where they get their name

The food was pretty good and we had requested food that wasn’t too spicy.  Breakfast is included in the rate.  There is supposed to be a resident birding guide, Lingesh but he wasn’t there.  Aditiya offered to book a jeep to take us to a good place for birding the next morning so I accepted the offer.

Kalpetta is pretty much right in the middle between Bangalore and Kochi so if you were taking an international flight , you would need a Central Asian award, then take a bus to Kalpetta.  If there is no direct bus, you can take one to Ooty, then change buses.

In my next post, I will show you the birds of Wayanad!

Traveling From Coorg To Wayanad

There really isn’t much difference to the eco-tourist/birder between Coorg & Wayanad. The bird species you will see are pretty much the same.  The two regions adjoin each other but Coorg is in the state of Karnataka and Wayanad is in the state of Kerala. In the map below, the grey shaded area is the Western Ghats, the red outline is roughly Coorg (Kodagu), the blue outline is Wayanad and the black outline is Mudumalai in the state of Tamil Nadu which also shares the same bird species.  I thought for the purpose of this trip, we should try to sample them all!

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We got Mr Muthanna to book us a taxi leaving from the guesthouse and dropping us off in Kalpetta, it turned out to be around $40-ish.  We could have saved a bit of money by taking the bus from Kutta to Kalpetta but not enough to be worth the inconvenience.  My back was still sore from the bumpy bus ride between Mysore and Coorg and I was dying for a massage.

On the map below, the 1st red dot represents Jungle Side Homestay, A = T Shettigeri, B = Kalpetta and the final red dot represents Grassroots, our home base in Wayanad.

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SCENERY BETWEEN KUTTA AND KALPETTA

IMG_2629 IMG_2630 IMG_2631 IMG_2632 IMG_2633 IMG_2634 IMG_2635 IMG_2636 IMG_2637 IMG_2638 IMG_2639 IMG_2640 IMG_2641 IMG_2642 IMG_2643 IMG_2644 IMG_2645 IMG_2646 IMG_2647 IMG_2648Once we were in Kalpetta, the taxi driver asked around for a massage place and was directed to Haritagiri Hotel & Ayurvedic Village.  We both went for the ayurvedic massage which was only 1000 rupees – a bargain!  The massage tables were pretty cool looking!

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There was a small cage with some Budgies & Lovebirds near the restaurant.  We had chicken biriyani for lunch after the massage which was pretty good!

 

 

 

IMG_2650Feeling refreshed, we went back to the main street to find a taxi to Grassroots.  A friendly local who spoke English came to our rescue and helped us hire an auto-rickshaw for the 7 km trip.

 

Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella)

The Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella) is a medium-sized, arboreal passerine bird. This fairy-bluebird is found in forests across tropical southern Asia from the Himalayan foothills, India and Sri Lanka east through Indochina, the Greater Sundas and Palawan (Philippines). Two or three eggs are laid in a small cup nest in a tree. It was described by British ornithologist John Latham in 1790. The only other member of the genus and family is the Philippine Fairy-bluebird, I. cyanogastra, which replaces the Asian Fairy-bluebird in most of the Philippines.

Thattekad Asian Fairy-bluebird3

I saw this one in Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala, India.  It’s quite easy to get there using airline miles as you can see by my detailed blog post on “Getting to Central Asia“.

Asian Fairy-bluebird range with red dot indicating Thattekad Bird Sanctuary

Thankfully this beautiful bird is not endangered as it is quite widespread.  This also makes it more likely you will be lucky enough to see one in the wild.  Places to visit include Sri Lanka; the western coast of India from Travancore up to the latitude of Belgaum and Sawantwadi; Sikkim and the lower ranges of the Himalayas to Dibrugarh in Assam; the Khasi Hills; Cachar; Manipur; Arrakan; Bago and Taninthayi Division in Burma; the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In southeast Asia it occurs throughout most of Indochina (including Peninsular Malaysia), Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Palawan, and on smaller nearby islands. In the Indian part of its range this species is confined to the evergreen forests of the hills and plains, but elsewhere it is regular in various types of humid and deciduous forests from lowlands up to about 1,600 metres (5,200 ft).

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS BIRD

Birdlife

Wikipedia

VIDEO

 

Lodge Review: Hornbill Camp, Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, Kerala

With a stunning location just across the river from Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, you can’t go wrong!

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary Across the River

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary Across the River

I absolutely LOVED this place and I would come back here in a heartbeat but next time not during monsoon! The safari tents are charming and the location is stunning on the banks of the Periyar River. The staff are very friendly and made way too much food considering we were the only 2 tourists there, I kept urging them to join us but they wouldn’t. The service was excellent.

I had 2 birding guides, both of whom were very knowledgeable and good at spotting birds. The first one, Danesh was also the camp manager and he also organized the transport in either rickshaws or a hired private car for one day. He found the Malabar parakeets that were my target bird! The 2nd guide, Abhilesh lives at the actual Salim Ali Sanctuary which is currently closed to visitors due to some politcal issues but he did take me to the buffer zone just outside the boundaries and luckily birds don’t know the borders!  You can see more on their website and book direct from there or book this place in advance through Lemongrass Eco-lodges for great service and they were running a special at the time we booked in 2011.

 

At Hornbill Camp, we provide an unusual stay, which is in tent houses. We have total 10 deluxe tents (Single fly living tent), 7 of which are water front.
Accommodation here is simple and harmless to the nature. Here we are redefining luxury. Each tent house has its own private bathroom and an exclusive balcony. You can simply laze on the cane chairs in the balcony in front of the tent and enjoy the true colors of nature along with the humming of a 1000 birds.

Among the specialties of this camp are the comfortable beds, en-suite attached European style closet, shower and hot running water. We also provide limited power supply available for lights and fans as well as charging facilities for laptops and mobiles (the camp is on the fringe areas with limited mobile reception)

Our Gazebo is a huge water front restaurant and relaxing place. It would indeed be the ultimate experience to watch the rain forest from the gazebo on the banks of the gently flowing river Periyar and loosen up in the calm atmosphere provided by the evergreen forest.

Tariff

USD 110 per day  for 2 persons on full board

(Kayaking, cycling & spice plantation visit included)

Birding tour with guide on special request.

Birding Guide Charges: Rupees 1500 per day

(This does not include park entry fees)

It’s about 900 rupees in prepaid taxi from the airport to here. The roads were very muddy and bumpy due to monsoon season.

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Meals are served on your deck

Meals are served on your deck

Way too much food for just 2 people!

Way too much food for just 2 people!

Tara with Danesh

Tara with Danesh

 

 

 

Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides)

The Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides) is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful of all the parrots in the world!  They are the highlight of a trip to Kerala and and I can vouch that they are easily seen in Thattekad Sanctuary.

Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides)

Malabar Parakeet (Psittacula columboides)

Here’s a link to a much better photo of a Malabar Parakeet by Devaraja N.  It’s truly amazing so please click on it!

The green shading here shows their natural habitat in the wild – Western Ghats, India from lat. 19N south to S Kerala.  For more information on how to see them, see my series on how to get to Kerala.

Malabar Parakeet Distribution

Thankfully they are not endangered and we hope they stay that way!   They are found from 450-1000m (1476-3280 ft) in upland evergreen rainforest, both primary and secondary. Also found in deciduous forest with bamboo and abandoned coffee and rubber plantations.  Here’s some more information.

Finally to finish up this profile, here’s a video clip which shows a pair feeding in the wild.

 

Getting Around Kerala

I have already blogged about how to get to the Kochi airport and how to use your miles to get to India.     Getting from the airport to the sanctuary is economical and very easy.  As you come out, you will notice a kiosk for prepaid taxis.  They are safe and reliable.  The one thing you may want to do is get directions from your accommodation in Malayalam as it is easy to get lost getting to the lodges.  To get back to the airport, your lodge manager will be able to arrange another taxi.  The region is pretty spread out and you will need transport to get to the birding areas so you may want to consider hiring the driver for a few days.  This can be negotiated at the kiosk.  Otherwise, the lodge manager will organize a driver for you.

Kochi Prepaid Taxi

TRAIN

You can also get  to Thattekkad by train.  The nearest station is Aluva which is close to the airport or Ernakalum if you are coming from the south.  You can see the relative distances on this map.  “A” is the airport and “B” is the train station.  If you can’t get a prepaid taxi from the train station you can always take a taxi to the airport and use the prepaid taxi kiosk.