Walks and Wildlife in the Western Ghats ~ Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are India at its greenest – peaceful, rural states with excellent walking and wildlife (including tigers, elephants and many endemic birds, plants and butterflies) in the Biosphere reserves of the Western Ghats and the spice-growing Cardamom Hills; historic Cochin with its early churches and synagogues; verdant tea plantations; and a coastline of golden beaches backed by coconut palms.

The famous narrow-gauge Blue Mountain train takes us up to ‘Ooty’ to catch an echo of the Raj era; a converted rice barge takes us gently bird watching through the Backwaters; we visit Tippu Sultan’s Palace and bargain for silks in Mysore; explore a British East India Company fort, built to protect the pepper trade, in Thalassery; and visit exotic temples, botanical gardens and Maharajah’s palaces.

During our 2 week journey we explore these diverse facets at a leisurely pace, guided by an expert naturalist (assisted by trackers from the indigenous tribes up in the Ghats), whilst based in a selection of historic hotels and special lodges which blend harmoniously with the natural environment.

HIGHLIGHTS of our India wildlife tour include: 

  • Excellent walking with a leading naturalist to see wildlife (including tigers, elephants and many endemic birds, plants and butterflies) in the Biosphere reserves of the Western Ghats
  • Travelling on the narrow gauge Blue Train up to “Ooty”
  • Visits to Maharajah’s palaces, temples and British East India Company forts
  • Exploring historic Cochin with its associations with Vasco da Gama and St. Thomas
  • Bargaining for silks in Mysore and relaxing on coconut palm-backed beaches
  • Birdwatching from a converted rice barge on the Kerala Backwaters


Guests’ comments on this trip:

'Very enjoyable! I especially enjoyed the variety of experiences - tracking a black leopard, oxcart ride accompanied by fireflies beneath a starry sky, the train ride to Ooty, amazing birds, baby otters at play, palaces, impressive scenery - and for someone who doesn’t usually like ‘Indian’, the food was a delightful discovery.’

‘This was a fantastic introduction to India.’

‘Superb food and amazing wildlife and birdwatching.’

Backwaters boat trip
Fish eagle
Kerala - fishing nets
Tea picking
Mysore Palace
Colour dyes

DAY 1  
L, D included
We meet in the morning at Cochin airport and have a 1.5 hour road transfer to our eco luxury beach hotel, individual thatched villas in beautiful grounds leading onto the beach. The hotel has won many awards for environmental standards and is the perfect place to unwind, with its huge coconut palm tree-edged pool, an Ayurvedic spa, and an excellent restaurant serving Keralan specialities, particularly fresh seafood.

DAY 2 
B, L, D included 
A relaxing morning – swimming, walking on the white sand beach, reading in a hammock – before a short transfer to board an elegantly converted rice boat and have lunch on the rattan canopied deck. A 4 hour cruise takes us quietly through the canals and lakes of the Backwaters, bird watching as we drift past herons, kingfishers, Brahminy kites and colourful Indian rollers, and observing village life on the waterways.

B, L, D included
Heading inland (in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle) a scenic morning’s drive takes us up into the Western Ghats and over the Palakkad Gap. Crossing the state boundary into Tamil Nadu, our destination for the next 2 nights is a welcoming heritage home set on a 4,500 acre private estate growing vanilla, cardamom and coconuts. After a late lunch we have a butterfly and bird watching walk on the estate, looking for Paradise flycatchers and blue-winged parakeets moving through the forest.

B, L, D included
This morning we visit the Anamalai Tiger Reserve and have a guided walk through the forest to spot wildlife - leopards, tigers and gaur (Indian bison) all occur here and the birdwatching is very good. A relaxing afternoon follows, with the option of a visit to a nearby Tamil village, with its blue painted houses, to observe the rural way of life; or reading on the verandah.

DAY 5 
B, L, D included
After an early start for the drive to Coonoor, we board the Blue Mountain Railway train for the spectacular ride (almost 2,000 m up) to the celebrated hill station at Ooty (properly called Udhagamandalam), once the summer residence of the entire Madras Presidency. We have tea in our historic hotel (the 5 star Savoy Taj), then set off on foot to see the local Botanical gardens and the beautifully kept English Church, with its commemorative plaques redolent of the colonial era.

B, L, D included
A day’s drive to Mysore (6 hours) is punctuated by lunch and a bird watching walk near the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, a tropical dry forest where we hope to find rufous tree-pie and Ceylon frogmouth. We settle into our Sustainable Tourism award winning hotel in Mysore (a converted Princess’s palace where profits go to charity and staff are recruited from less advantaged groups), then have an evening walk round the nearby Kukkerly Lake.

B, L, D included
Mysore has the reputation of being India’s cleanest and most ecologically aware city and has a good share of pre-Independence buildings. The Maharaja’s Palace, designed by British architect Henry Irwin in 1912, is a huge, walled, eclectic building, full of memorabilia which provide a fascinating insight into a grandiose Indian dynasty. There is time to visit the Devaraja produce market (mountains of marigolds and jasmine) and then shop for the silks and scented sandalwood for which Mysore is a noted centre. In the afternoon we travel east to visit Tipu Sultan’s fort (the site where he was finally defeated by Col. Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington) and his charmingly decorated summer palace, dating from 1784.

B, L, D included
Travelling west into the Ghats once more, a scenic 2 hour drive brings us to Nagarhole National Park, former hunting reserve of the Maharajahs of Mysore, where deciduous forest along the Kabini river harbours wildcats, sloth bears, leopards, elephants and monkeys, as well as the rare Malabar trogon and Indian pitta. We have time to swim before lunch and settle into our very comfortable private jungle lodge, recently awarded the title of Top Wildlife Resort in India. An optional birdwatching walk precedes a 3 hour early evening boat trip on the lake in search of wildlife.

B, L, D included
We have the choice of a jeep safari before breakfast, with the Park naturalists guiding us, or a relaxing start to the day, watching butterflies from our hammocks and perhaps visiting the local village before lunch. In the late afternoon we again walk in search of wildlife and take a second boat trip on the lake (an ideal way to approach game quietly as they come down to drink, providing excellent photo opportunities).

DAY 10
B, L, D included
Setting off around 9, we have a long, bumpy, but extremely picturesque drive down from the edge of the Western Ghats (the road suffers monsoon damage annually), pausing for lunch en route. In the small town of Thalassery (Telicherry) on the Malabar coast we spend 2 nights in a delightful, colonial style, heritage hotel, famous for its food and with a temple pond pool and panoramic views from the terraces.

DAY 11
B, L, D included
We accompany our host on a shopping expedition to the lively fish market by the harbour, then walk to the fort, built by the British East India Company in 1683 to protect their trade in pepper. After lunch we relax on a beautiful palm tree-backed beach and hope to catch a performance of Thayyam, an ancient Dravidian ritual dance drama special to Malabar, before dining under the stars.

DAY 12
B, L, D included
We catch the express train which travels the coastal route south to Cochin (airconditioned carriages, with luggage transported separately by road), reaching our historic hotel, a beautifully restored 300 year-old Dutch mansion (a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World) on the island of Fort Kochi, in time for a late lunch and a swim in the courtyard pool. This afternoon we can visit the charming 16th century Pardesi Synagogue, investigate the intriguing antique shops near our hotel or make some last minute shopping forays.

DAY 13
B, L, D included
We walk along the shore by the famous cantilevered Chinese fishing nets and watch the morning bustle around the fish market. Exploring the atmospheric lanes we glimpse warehouses dealing in cardamom, chillies, ginger and pepper, and visit the Mattancherry Palace with its murals depicting stories from the Ramayana, and St Francis, the earliest church built by Europeans and original burial place of Vasco da Gama. After a leisurely lunch overlooking the water there is time for an Ayurvedic massage in the hotel spa before our farewell seafood dinner, accompanied by Indian classical music.

DAY 14
B included
We depart after breakfast for the airport and flights home.

TBA per person sharing 
TBA deposit per person 
single room supplement

Please note that a limited number of single (mainly double for single use) rooms are available on this trip. The single room supplement is imposed by the hotels and not by Kudu Travel. If you are willing to share but no other suitable guest, books on the trip, we regret that the supplement will be payable.

Price includes
  • All accommodation for Days 1 through 14, on a twin shared basis
  • All meals with local beer at lunch and dinner (wine occasionally) as listed (cold beer is far more appropriate with Indian food and the tropical climate, and wine is often spoiled by inadequate storage) – please note that some restaurants in India are strictly alcohol-free – bring some duty free!
  • All land transportation in private airconditioned vehicles, and the trains as described, except during free periods
  • Jeep safari and trips on watercraft as described
  • All entrance, National Park and sightseeing fees except during free periods
  • Tips for porters, restaurant & hotel staff and driver (appreciation for tour leaders is entirely at your discretion)
  • Services of an expert local naturalist guide and a driver throughout (plus our Kudu Travel tour leader)
  • Services of specialist trackers and guides in National Parks & reserves
Price does not include
  • International transportation to and from Kochi (Cochin)
  • Trip cancellation, medical or other insurance
  • Immunisations, prescriptions or other medical requirements
  • Passport, visa and health documentation
  • Personal expenses (laundry, alcohol besides beer & occasional wine with group meals, free time activities, etc.)
  • Meals noted as excepted in the daily notation
  • Transport and transfer of excess baggage
  • Indian departure tax, if any


On Kudu trips you will only need money for postcards, presents to take home, the odd G & T or an irresistible ice cream. Festival and opera tickets, museum and gallery entrances, National Park fees, all meals (with a very few exceptions specified in individual itineraries), wine with lunch and dinner, access to specialist books carried by the guides, gratuities for porters and hotel and restaurant staff, boat rides, train trips, internal flights, wine tastings, 4WDs with drivers, the services of skilled local guides and trackers etc are ALL INCLUDED in the cost of your holiday. 

We are confident that, like previous very satisfied guests, you will discover that our tours give you excellent value for money.

  • 2 nights in a eco luxury beach hotel with individual thatched villas in beautiful grounds leading onto the beach

  • 2 nights in a welcoming heritage home set on a 4,500 acre private estate

  • 1 night in the historic 5 star hotel Savoy Taj in Ooty

  • 2 nights in an award-winning hotel in Mysore, a carefully converted Princess’s palace where profits go to charity and staff are recruited from less advantaged groups

  • 2 nights in Nagarhole National Park, in a very comfortable private jungle lodge, recently awarded the title of Top Wildlife Resort in India

  • 2 nights in a delightful, colonial style, heritage hotel, famous for its food and with a temple pond pool and panoramic views from the terraces

  • 2 nights in a historic hotel in Cochin (Member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World), a beautifully restored 300 year-old Dutch mansion on the island of Fort Kochi

Specialist Guides
Benny Kurian
is considered one of India’s leading naturalists, with decades of experience exploring the Western Ghats – amongst his achievements, he has documented sightings of two mammal species thought to have become extinct in the 19th century. This trip is led jointly by Benny and Frances Fedden, Kudu’s most experienced and highly regarded tour leader.

Please email us for the bird and mammal list from previous tours.

Off the beaten track
Please be aware that electricity and water supplies may occasionally be erratic, travel arrangements can be disrupted and standards of driving and vehicle maintenance etc. are not set by Brussels. Kudu Travel will endeavour to do everything possible to ensure a smooth-running tour, but please be ready with your sense of humour and tolerance when travelling in the tropics.

Visa and Health Requirements
All visitors require a visa for entry to India. Visa applications are processed by Indian Visa Application Centres - (in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh). The costs start from £ 109.44. All applicants must have an appointment before submitting their application in person.
Alternatively, a visa can be obtained (for a fee) using visa agencies such as (0870 240 2526, or Travcour (, 020 8543 1846).

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is not required when arriving from Europe or the USA. Immunisation/boosters against Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio are recommended – please consult your doctor in good time about this (at least 6 weeks before departure) and also the latest situation on malaria prophylaxis and anything else they recommend. You may also wish to check the advice given to travellers by the
Department of Health and the FCO.

It is essential, and a condition of booking, that you protect yourself with a suitable travel insurance policy as soon as you book a trip. Follow this link for a quote for a policy available to UK residents.

If you are already insured or a non-UK resident, please inform us of your policy at the time of booking.

Size of party 
This trip will run with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 14 guests.