Discover India’s unspoilt south on a trip that explores Periyar National Park, the backwaters of Kerala and its amazing bird life, elephants at Nagarhole National Park, and guided walks, game drives and boat tours in Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.
Less travelled than northern India as tigers are more elusive and difficult to spot in the south, this region is nevertheless a true gem when it comes to natural wonders and wildlife that you get to experience away from the crowd. Elephants and birds are the key focus with numerous mammal species such as Indian bison, sloth bear, chital, leopard, wild boar, giant flying squirrel, lion-tailed macaque and occasionally tiger. You travel through six different national parks and reserves on foot, by boat and vehicle safari - a complete wildlife immersion!
Day1: Overnight flight from UK to Bangalore
Day2: Arrive Bangalore and overnight
On arrival in Bangalore, you will met and transferred to your overnight hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel Taj West End, 1-night
Days3-4: Nagarhole National Park: vehicle safaris and nature walks
The morning transfer from Bangalore to Nagarhole National Park takes around five hours and you should arrive in time for lunch. In the afternoon enjoy your first vehicle safari, returning to your lodge at around sunset. You stay here two nights with sunrise and sundowner vehicle safaris, plus nature walks to fully explore the beauty of Nagarhole.
Days5-6: Bandipur National Park: vehicle safaris and nature walks
After a dawn vehicle safari in Nagarhole you head for Bandipur National Park, well known as one of the Project Tiger Reserves established in the mid-1970s. It is a great conservation area and hosts a good population of Asian elephants.
You stay here for two nights and will have plenty of time to also explore this world renowned reserve on morning and afternoon vehicle safaris. Nagarhole is home to Asian elephant, Bengal tiger, sloth bear, wild dog, hyena, wild boar, barking deer and mouse deer and is also the place where ‘black panther’ were spotted (leopard with melanistic black colour, due to recessive allele) and characterised by its forest of sandalwood trees.
Accommodation: The Windflower Resort & Spa, 2-nights
Day7: Fly to Kochi
After a final early morning vehicle safari in Bandipur, transfer (approximately five hours' drive) to Bangalore airport for your flight to Kochi where you spend the night. You have some free time if you wish to visit Fort Cochin area.
Accommodation: The Malabar House, 1-night
Days8-9: Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary, Munnar and Eravikulam National Park
Today you drive to Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary and spend a few hours exploring this magical place, home to various endemic species, and the delightful Sri Lankan frogmouth. The sanctuary is considered one of the richest bird habitats in India, with fascinating forest and water bird species such as the Malabar grey hornbill, orange-headed thrush and collared scops owl.
After lunch you continue to Munnar, your base for the next two nights. Munnar is a beautiful town nested in the middle of tea plantations, with fantastic views over the valleys and mountains. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
The next day you spend the day exploring the stunning Eravikulam National Park on foot, returning to Munnar in the evening.
Days10-12: Periyar National Park: nature walks and boat ride
This morning you transfer to Periyar National Park. Arriving at lunch time you visit the spice gardens and will notice the lovely aroma of cardamom and pepper in the air. Walking is the best way to explore Periyar, as this gives you the best chances to see the smaller animals, insects and monkeys. On one evening you are welcome to join the jungle night patrol which is a unique experience only available in this reserve.
On your last day in the park you have the opportunity to experience a unique approach to the nature and wildlife here by spendnig the full day around the Periyar River on a guided bamboo rafting and walking tour.
Days13-14: Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: boat ride and bird walk
The drive to Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary will take around four hours. After a relaxing lunch and afternoon, explore the scenic backwaters of Kerala by way of an evening cruise on a houseboat (also known as ‘Kettuvalloms’) to Alappuzha (Alleppey). The next day is dedicated to visiting Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary with its flocks of herons and egrets.
In the morning, transfer to Kochi for your last night, with time to explore the town.
Day16: Fly back to the UK
You should note: New regulations in India’s national parks mean that safaris must be booked and paid in advance on a first-come, first-served basis. As places are limited, we recommend you book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 16 daysfrom £4,595 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 15 daysfrom £3,995 pp
Single supplement: From £1,780
When to go: Oct-Apr
Nagarhole is a mixture forests and rolling hills criss-crossed by streams, waterfalls and swamps. Formerly a Maharaja’s hunting reserve, it is now dedicated to saving wildlife, and is considered one of the best places in India to see elephant. In the summer months they congregate in large herds along the river.
Ideal for viewing: Asian elephant, striped hyena, Indian pangolin, brown mongoose, mouse deer
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris
Bandipur National Park, located about 80 kilometres from Mysore and, like many of the other reserves in India, was once a maharaja’s private hunting area. It is a reasonably large park and protects a number of India’s more interesting species, such as Asian elephant, sloth bear and striped hyena.
Ideal for viewing: Asian elephant, leopard, brown mongoose, nilgiri langur, sloth bear
High in the Cardamom Hills in southern India, Periyar has a diverse range of flora and fauna, with 1,800 species of flowering plant, 44 reptiles, 112 butterflies, and a wide range of birds and mammals. A popular activity is a boat trip on the lake to see herds of wild elephants frolicking in the water.
Ideal for viewing: African elephant, lion-tailed macaque, sloth bear, tiger, Asian elephant
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Vehicle safaris
This park stands in an elevated position in the Kannan Devan Hills of Kerala. Established to protect an endangered wild mountain goat, the Nilgiri tahr, the area is known for its stark beauty. Anamudi Peak (2,695 metres) stands at the centre of the park, its hillsides covered in rare orchids and wild balsams.
Ideal for viewing: leopard, nilgiri langur, nilgiri tahr, tiger, sambar
Excellent for: Vehicle safaris
From the colourful white-bellied blue flycatcher and Malabar parakeet to the Siberian stork, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a paradise for bird lovers. Located on the banks of Vembanad Lake along Kavanar River, it is spread over five hectares and provides temporary home to many migrant birds.
Ideal for viewing: Siberian crane, malabar parakeet, white-bellied blue flycatcher, spot-bellied eagle owl, Brahminy kite
Excellent for: Walking safaris, River safaris, Birdwatching
The Backwaters are an ecosystem with 900km of canals and lakes created by 44 rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. These waterways provide access to many villages surrounded by coconut palms and paddy fields, whose rural ways of life are best observed from overnight houseboat excursions.
Ideal for viewing: lion-tailed macaque, sloth bear, lesser frigatebird, Bonelli’s eagle, Asian elephant
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Kaav Safari Lodge is a small, luxury accommodation situated on the edge of Nagarhole National Park - known for its large population of Asiatic elephant. It has just six well-appointed rooms/tents and boasts picturesque views of the jungle, where over 300 bird species have been recorded.
This distinguished and sophisticated heritage resort lies on the bank of the beautiful Vembanad.Lake. Its luxury rooms, villas and suites reflect traditional Keralan architecture, with modern, open-roofed bathrooms set in small courtyards. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, infinity pool and Ayurveda spa.
High up in the Periyar wilderness, Spice Village Hotel offers an authentic flavour of the nature, culture and traditions of the region. Accommodation consists of a single cottage combining simplicity with elegance, and a stay here will also introduce you to some fabulous aromotic cuisine.
Located on the Western Ghats, perched on a hilltop of cardamom and tea plantations, the Windermere Estate is a family run retreat with incredible views over Munnar estate. Its proximity to Eravikulam National Park makes it a perfect location for nature walks and wildlife viewing.