The Birdwatcher ’s Haven
Text by: Shalini Binu
Photographs: Nobi Paulose Sudheesh Thattekkad
“Thattekkad is the richest bird habitat in peninsular India I have known, comparable only with Eastern Himalaya. “ - Dr. Salim Ali
A picturesque ride of 65 km away from Kochi is this green haven of Thattekad or the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. ‘Flat forest’ as the etymological meaning of Thattekad is, rings true to the geographical make up of this place which is an evergreen forest situated along the Western Ghats. Typical of the Western Ghats, the sanctuary is known for its undulating terrain with an altitude ranging between 35m and 523 m above MSL and the highest peak being Njayapili Mudi.
The cool waters of Periyaar and Kuttampuzha have lent its magic to the place with small waterfalls springing forth in the forest ranges of Urulanthanni and Pooyamkutty making it a paradise of sorts for nature lovers. The sanctuary lies spread out over an area of 25.16 sq km. The tranquil greenery and bountiful biodiversity of Thattekad is a feast for the eyes, not to mention the awe-inspiring rich repository of diverse flora and fauna that add to the beauty of this hidden gem. The distinct forest terrain, open rocky cliffs and an artificial reservoir offers various habitats for a wide range of species, many of which are now known to be rare and endemic.
Thattekkad is a beauty to behold in the monsoon months of June to September.
Come monsoon and Thattekad comes to life with its gushing streams and waterfalls calling out to adventurous trekkers and nature lovers. Thennokki mala, Chelamala, Bhoothathankettu are all good options for trekking while the check-dam reservoir area makes a good option for a day out with the family. The chirp of birds and the cool breeze beckons one to linger on for a day longer while staying at the watch tower situated inside the sanctuary premises.
Nature and Wildlife team, a travel and tour group at Thattekkad, conducts monsoon camps every year named ‘Mazhayaam’, aimed at hosting campers who come looking to soak in the beauty of the little explored side of monsoons in the forest range. Every year a 40-member camper team explores Thattekkad, Sahyaputhri, Thennokki mala and Bhoothathankettu, taking home unforgettable memories of the sweet fresh raindrops and the nostalgia of the smell of wet earth.
Birding at Thattekkad needs no special mention as it is well-known to be the abode of many endemic species seen in the Western Ghats. Named after one of India’s ornithologist and naturalist Dr Salim Ali, also known as the ‘birdman of India’, this place is marked as the prime spot for birding in south India. One can indulge in a bit of birding within and in the nearby places of Thattekkad with the permission of forest officials.
Thennokki mala, situated 10 km away from the sanctuary is a good place for a mild trek. The three-hour trek is worth every bit the effort as once you reach the top, the panorama opens up to give one an aerial view of Thattekkad. The Sahyaputhri waterfall inside the forest can be a tougher trekking spot for those looking for something beyond the regular wherein an expert guide can help you with the trek.
The reservoir area turns into a lush green lawn during the months of monsoon with the river Periyaar flowing on one side banked by the thick green of the forest on the other reminding one of the postcard beauty of countries far, far away. It is an ideal place for one to pitch a tent and camp the night to enjoy a starry night.
During summer bamboo rafting is also available when the waters of the reservoir are full. Kayakking and a ride on the house boats are also options for tourists visiting this place. Bhoothankettu Dam and Edamalayaar are other tourist spots in the vicinity where one can spot wildlife while driving past. Munnar and Mankkulam are two other tourist spots which can be linked along with the tour plan with Thattekkad.
To stay in a property surrounded by the forest on one side and the river Periyaar on the other side is akin to heaven on earth. Stay at Thattekkad is reasonable and one can surely hope to grab a decent say within the price range of Rs 800 to Rs 8000 for a day depending on each one’s preference - basic birding stay or a cosy royal stay with family! Packages at the Nature and Wildlife team includes a tented stay, daily renting house, home stay, mud house and Royal Naalukettu stay at Thattekkad.
Pictures speak a thousand words and this is very true for Thattekad where vistas of the monsoon calls out to the avid birder as well as the nature enthusiasts.
The speciality of Nature and wild life campsite is that the property is a rare gem where one can get a glimpse of leopard cat, jungle cat, common palm civet, travancore flying squirrel,
The Three Pillars of Nature & Wildlife Team
Sudeesh Thattekkad is a well-known naturalist with over 20 years of experience in leading birding trips around South India. Sudheesh is an enthusiastic individual with deep knowledge of the endemic species of birds in the Western Ghats.
Nobi Paulose is a passionate wildlife photographer and a nature lover who busies himself coordinating nature camps and groups and is also involved in volunteering against forest fire.
Shalini Binu is a passionate macro photographer who prides herself on her excellent PR skills.
giant flying squirrel, mouse deer, porcupine all at one place. We respect their presence making us more responsible about maintaining our property without any external disturbance ensuring night time is peaceful around the property avoiding campfires and music.
How to reach Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary is located on the northern banks of river Periyar in Kothamangalam Taluk, Ernakulam District, Kerala. If travelling from Kochi one can go via Aluva to Perumbavoor and then to Kothamangalam and Thattekkkad. Alternatively, one can also take the Moovattupuzha route reaching Kothamangalam and follow on through to Thattekkad
Places to Stay
Nature and Wild Life Team Campsite,
Dr Salm Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekkad.
Contact: +91 8281406451, +91 9497244940