Five Best Places In Kerala For Birds And Wildlife
If you are a nature lover, birdwatcher, or wildlife photographer, no place like Kerala can offer you a wide variety of wildlife in south India. Kerala, India’s southernmost state, has abundant habitats, nature hotspots at various elevations, and climatic conditions that directly contribute to the availability of rich flora and fauna.
Kerala is home to 12 national parks and nine wildlife preserves. Unfortunately, many are not suitable for birding or wildlife viewing. Because the forest here is almost evergreen and the rainforest kind and undergrowth are dense, it is difficult to see elusive mammals such as leopards, tigers, and wild dogs.
Mammals of Kerala
Forests and national parks in Kerala are blessed with various animals and endemic and endangered primates. Key mammal species reported are Tigers, Leopards, Asiatic elephants, Indian Gaur, Wild Dogs, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer, Spotted Dear, Barking Deer, Slender Lories, Nigiri Martin, Nilgiri Thar, Bonett Macaque, Nilgiri Langoor, Lion Tailed macaque etc.
Birds of Kerala
Kerala is an Important Bird Area( IBA). There are about 500 birds are recorded in Kerala, including endemics, residents and winter migrants Out of the Western Ghats’ endemics, sixteen are seen here regularly. There are White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Wood-shrike, Rufous Babbler Wynaad Laughingthrush, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Nilgiri Blue Robin, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Grey-headed Bulbul, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Nilgiri Pipit, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Nilgiri Flowerpecker, Black-and-orange Flycatcher, Malabar grey hornbill and White-bellied Shortwing.
Butterflies of Kerala
Kerala’s emerald forests and pristine countrysides are also rich in various butterfly species. According to some recent studies, Kerala is home to about 325 species of butterflies. Some of them are endemic to Kerala. The endemic list includes Malabar Banded Peacock, Malabar Raven, Malabar Rose, and the Travancore Evening Brown.
Here, I present Kerala’s top five birding and wildlife tour destinations for you.
Elevation: 80 M (260 Ft)
Athirappilly is a reserve forest area near Kerala’s Cochin International Airport.
It is a bio-diversity hotspot as well as a popular tourist destination. Most visitors come to see the “Athirappilly Waterfall,” a picturesque waterfall about 80 feet high and the largest and most beautiful in Kerala. The tribal communities living in these forests are a great source of traditional “bush wisdom”, and they also teach us how to live in harmony with nature and its wonders. To protect their way of living and wisdom of knowledge, UNESCO has designated it as a heritage area and is actively involved in preserving the ecosystem as well.
Asiatic elephants, Indian Gaur, Lion-tailed Macaque, Great Indian Hornbill, and Malabar Trogon are regularly seen in Athirappilly forests. It is an excellent location for both herping and butterfly-watching.
2. Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
Elevation: 43 M (141 ft)
Thattakkad Bird Sanctuary, also known as Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, is the most important birding destination in South India. It is located on the western ghats’ foothills and is easily accessible from Cochin. Because of the work of Dr Salim Ali, considered the father of Indian ornithology, Thattekkad has become popular among birdwatchers all over the world. He once described Thattekkad as the most critical bird area in peninsular India.
If you are a birder, I recommend avoiding spending too much time in the highly touristy and designated “Bird Sanctuary” area. Instead, you should hire knowledgeable local bird guides who can take you to at least three birding hotspots in the area, including Ourulanthanni, Charupara, and Cheekkodu. These forests contain 12 Western ghats endemics. Thattekkad forests have been home to over 290 different bird species.
Thattekkad is an excellent location for night birding. Please ensure that your guide is capable of doing night birding. During night expeditions, you may see mammals such as Palm Civets, Slender Loris, and many nocturnal birds.
3. Periyar Tiger Reserve
Elevation: 1341 M (4399 ft)
Periyar is a premier tiger reserve in Kerala and a popular wildlife viewing destination. It is a dense forest zone with many flora and fauna. The boat safari through Periyar Lake is the best way to see wildlife. The boat safari on a government boat will let you see elephants, Indian gaur, sambar, and spotted deer, among other animals. However, if you are a wildlife photographer, this mass boat safari may not be the ideal option for your purpose.
However, the ” Nature walks” led by the forest department under the supervision of specially trained forest guards can produce good results, particularly for birders and wildlife photographers. On the walk, you will likely see many western ghat forest birds and primates. In addition, encountering elephants and Indian Bisons (Indian Gaur) are common on these walks. More information and a reservation for a nature walk can be found here.
You will unlikely see a Tiger or Leopard during your Periyar expedition.
4. Munnar Hills
Elevation: 1532 M (5026 ft)
Munnar, the most preferred hill station tourist spot in Kerala, is also excellent for viewing wildlife, especially endangered endemics such as Nigiri Thar and Nilgiri Martin. The sholas and the two nature reserves near Munnar, Eravikulam National Park and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, are home to many endemic bird species, butterflies and reptiles. The deciduous and scrub forests of Chinnar are probably the best palace to see Indian start tortoise and yellow-throated bulbul, among others.
Eravikaulam national park is a protected area for Nilgiri Thar, and Feb-April is their breeding time. Therefore, the park will be closed to visitors during this period.
The Munnar region is also becoming popular among Herpers and stargazers.
Elevation: 2240 M (7349 Ft)
Wayanad is located in northern Kerala, and the region’s life and wildlife are linked to the Western Ghats and their forests. In addition, many tribal communities and ethnic groups live in Wayanad’s forests. Paintings discovered in the famous Edakakl cave date back to 8000 BC, and experts believe the drawings are similar to those found in the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilisations.
Wayanad’s forests are linked to sanctuaries in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary), Naharhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, and Silent Valley National Park are among the national parks accessible from Wayanad.
Wayanad’s forests are teeming with wildlife. Because they are heavily vegetated, seeing elusive cats and small mammals in these forests is generally a matter of luck. Nonetheless, the Asiatic elephant, Indian Gaur, and various deer species can be easily seen here. The rare “Wayanad Laughing Thrush” and Lion-tailed Macaque can also be found in Wayanad.