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Thattekad - Birder Paradise, Kerala

posted Sep 14, 2014, 8:23 AM by sandip mishra   [ updated Mar 3, 2015, 1:57 AM by Sandip Mishra ]

During our last trip to Kerala, we decided to go to Thattekad famous for the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.  It is a short drive of 45 - 60  mins from Kochi (Airport) or 45 Kms from the closet railway station at Aluva. This place has one of the richest bird habitat in India compared close to the Himalayas and bird species of ~250-270 can be seen here. One of the most sought after ones is the Ceylon Frogmouth.

We  checked-in at the Hornbill Camp a nice resort amongst coconut groove and other plantations. It is nicely located at the banks of the river Periyar, overlooking the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Nice place to stay and there are a few other places around - Soma Bird Lagoon, some Home Stays(Gireesh Chandran) and if you go around 50 Kms a few more places to stay.
We did couple of Birding trips from the resort to the nearby Urulanthanni Reserved Forest and there it was the sight of the Ceylonese Frogmouth and the Malabar giant Squirrel.
Kayaking in the serene waters of Periyar river and cycling around the plantations & nearby areas are good options.
For the bird lovers this is one of the places in India to visit definitely and you can plan up-to three days here.
Periyar River
Two resorts at Thattekad

Oravakallu (Mini Grand Canyon), Kurnool AP, India

posted Apr 5, 2012, 9:10 PM by sandip mishra   [ updated Mar 3, 2015, 1:59 AM by Sandip Mishra ]

During one of our trips to Kurnool, the manager at APTDC asked us whether we had visited Oravakallu (Mini-Grand Canyon). Really a place comparable to Grand Canyon of USA existed in India, was the first question from all of us. What does the name mean was the next question. After lot of fumbling, the manager answered that it probably means "Rock formations"/hilly area" 

We started our journey on NH 40 towards Chennur from Kurnool and after about 25 KMs spotted an APTDC Sign board. (You can visit Google maps here for directions). Since it was lunch time we grabbed the decent meal provided by APDTC and were eager to explore this place in the hot summer heat.   

The government has built walkways throughout and once we entered the rock formations really amazed us. Not sure if it is comparable to the Grand Canyon, but there were canyon & ravine like structures. The rock formations were beautiful and one could clearly see heads of human beings formed by rocks. Also, far off we could see the water body which I am told fills-up most part of this place during the Monsoon season. After an hour of exploration, in nature’s lap we came back to restaurant to have a refreshing drink and headed back to Kurnool.

Definitely worth a visit if you are around in Kurnool.
      Human Face- Rock formation
      The waterbody seen far off.

Butterfly Park- Ovalekar Wadi, Thane

posted Dec 13, 2011, 9:40 AM by Jayashree Mishra   [ updated Mar 3, 2015, 2:03 AM by Sandip Mishra ]

Hidden in a quiet lane off Ghodbunder Road in Thane is a butterfly park called Ovalekar Wadi. A friend told me about this park. I had never visited a butterfly park and the images that came to my mind was of enclosed netted spaces.

Five of us set out on an early morning in August. The Park is open only on Sundays from 8 AM onwards. We were in for a surprise. Rajendra Ovalekar the owner of this park has taken pains to maintain natural surroundings for the butterflies. There are a wide variety of fruit and flower bearing trees. Care is taken in rearing the larvae of butterflies in containers. This ensures that the larvae survive the difficult phase of their life. 

Rajendra Ovalekar told us about how he started the park- 5 years back he attended a program on butterflies by BNHS - Bombay Natural Historic society . He was so inspired that he decided to convert the agricultural land that he had into a butterfly park. His parents stay in a house within the park and he visits over the weekends. During the set up and for the first couple of years he got a lot of support from Isaac Kehimkar an avid naturalist and butterfly expert.

Mr Ovalekar was there to take us for a tour around the park explaining the life cycle phases of butterflies- we saw pupa, cocoons and catterpillars. The park is home to more than 100 species of butterflies.  We spotted quite a few varieties of butterflies. These included
  • Striped tiger
  • Plain tiger
  • Blue tiger
  • Common Jezebel
  • Common sailor
  • Common crow
  • Great Eggfly
  • Common rose
  • Peacock Pansy
  • Common baron , to name a few

The light was just perfect. The previous day there were rains and we were quite apprehensive. We spent a few hours  photographing. Realized that photographing butterflies needs loads of patience and quiet. A little sound and off they go. It was a very refreshing experience. If you want to photograph then its a good idea to go as early as possible. Butterflies tend to get more active as the day progresses.

A wonderfully refreshing place that feels completely out of the world. We spent some time sitting on the grass and observing. There are also arrangements in the park to have home made breakfast made by Mr Ovalekars family.

A highly recommended place. It is located at Owla village , Ghodbunder Road, Close to Suraj Water Park.  Dont be deterred by the dusty potholed filled road off Ghodbunder road- that lasts for a short while. The park has a car park. You can find more details about the park in their facebook page.

      Blue Tigers 
      Striped Tiger
      Common Crow
      Caterpillar taking a walk !
      Baron eating rotten fruits

Horsely Hills, Andhra Pradesh

posted Sep 17, 2011, 11:16 PM by sandip mishra   [ updated Sep 17, 2011, 11:34 PM ]

Horsely Hills is a hill station (around 1200 m above MSL) in the south of Andhra Pradesh, rather closer to Bangalore. This was a destination that we somehow did not try to venture in the last 15 years of stay at Hyderabad. Finally, decided to beat the scorching heat of Hyderabad and planned a 2 days stay at Horsely hills.

The drive to Horsely hills from Hyderabad was a good one – along the Bangalore highway. The roads were beautiful and we reached Anantapur in 5 hours.  Had lunch at a “Reliance A-One” Dhaba near Anantapur and headed off to Madanepalle on the NH 205. The road changed from the 4 lane to a two lane with a lot of incoming heavy vehicles. The progress was slow and we started seeing the “Haritha Hill Resorts” signage boards. Suddenly at one point about 20 kms before Madnapalle there was a signage to take a right U turn to Horsely hills.

We paid a toll tax at the foot of the hills and ascended the ghat roads. It was a good drive with a lot of greenery – spotted some langoors waiting for the passengers of vehicles to feed them. We reached the Haritha Hills Resorts and checked into the Windfalls cottages. It was already evening and we decided to retire to the bed after having dinner at the Haritha Restaurant where the food was average and limited.  The next morning we explored the Horsely hills – primarily it housed the Haritha Hills Resorts, Lake Gangotri, Highview seeing place, Gaalibanda, Forest Department’s Environmental park (with a small zoo) and Governor’s bungalow, one private resort(small one though) Horsley Hills Museum, BSNL office, a police outpost, residential quarters for the staff and a few stalls for tea/milk/general groceries.

The high view seeing place was good with a very panoramic view of the surrounding hills and the constant sound of the winds. However the place was littered with broken glasses (from the wine and liquor bottles thrown by tourists) and one had to be very careful. We spent couple of hours and then decided to drive down to Madanepalle to buy some mangoes and see the place. On the way to Madanepalle, I noticed a board showing “Rishi Valley School” and recalled a conversation with my friend about a bird sanctuary in the same place. Thanks to internet, did a quick search and got the contact of the school. Called them up and enquired about the bird sanctuary and were asked to come and meet the administrative officer. We took a detour and went to Rishi Valley School, its located in pristine surrounding amidst the rural back drop. There I was directed to speak to Mr Shantaram who runs the Institute for Bird studies. He agreed to take us around the campus the next day morning and I was very excited. The rest of the day was spent both at Madanepalle buying mangoes and at Horsely hills enjoying the cool breeze during the hot summer, exploring the place again. The disappointment was that the museum was not open during all these days.

The last day of our stay at Horsely Hills, I woke up in the morning ready to go to Rishi Valley school. My family members decided to stay back and get ready for the long journey back to Hyderabad. Mr Shantaram was there waiting for me and he took me around the campus – a 2 hour journey showing the farms, water conservation, dairy farms, water treatment, and also some birding. Apparently this place is a bird sanctuary and Mr Shantaram also runs a distance education program on bird studies.  It was too cloudy and we spotted around 20 types of birds and the count here was around 200. Satisfied, I thanked Mr Shantaram and agreed to visit again later in the year.

Rushed back to Horsely Hills and after having the breakfast & taking bath we departed for Hyderabad. The return journey was good except for a small hold-up at Anantpur where there was a crowd gathering due to a political leaders visit.

Overall our first trip to Horsely hills was a good one.

View of the hills
Fusion tree
Crested Serpent Eagle
Blue winged Chlorpsis
Oriental White Eye

Belum Caves, Kurnool Andhra Pradesh

posted Jan 13, 2011, 8:06 AM by sandip mishra   [ updated Jul 22, 2011, 8:01 PM ]

After deliberations through many years and having been in Hyderabad for more than 11 years we decided that it was time to move away from visiting only nature and explore a bit more of Andhra Pradesh.
So, we decided to make a trip to Kurnool district i.e. 200 Kms from Hyderabad and supposed to have a lot of touring sites nearby i.e. Mantralayam, Mahanandi, Yganti temple, Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Belum Caves etc.Thanks to the AP Tourism, there is good accommodation at Kurnool and we managed to book a room the previous day.
We started off from Hyderabad on 26th December on NH7 that leads to Bangalore and further on to Kanyakumari. The 4 laning work was in progress and the drive was smooth - we crossed the Krishna and the Tungabhadra rivers before reaching Kurnool town. We checked into the APTDC hotel and quickly had our lunch. The Asst Manager, Mr. Rajeshekhar cautioned us that if we do not start quickly, we will miss our entry to the Belum Caves.

Belum Caves probably one of the most beautiful cave structures I have seen after the Borra Caves near Vishakhapatnam, AP India. The trip was 110 kms from Kurnool, going on NH-18 and taking a right after Kalvabugga, crossing Betamcherla village. Betamcherla has zillions of stone quarries and being closer to Kadapa (you must have heard about Kadapa/Cuddapah stones) stone mining industry was was a pity to see the destruction of nature at the hands of mankind. As we were running out of time, could not click the photos to show how destructive this looks! Having crossed Betamcherla we moved towards Banganpalle...till such time the roads were good and the last stretch of 25+ kms was horrible with virtually no roads. The complete drive took us 3 hrs and we finally reached Belum Caves just in time to make the entry... It was awe-inspiring looking at this million year old water carved cave structure and my daughter Shreya enjoyed the 1+ hrs walk inside thouroghly.
To read more about our experiences please click here
To view more pictures click here

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