Saturday, December 14, 2013


On arrival in Mysore we headed for our hotel, The Green Hotel, and were shown to our room.  It was odd, really odd.  I wrote the following review on Trip Advisor, which I think covers our experience there:

'The Green Hotel looks popular and it's not one we chose to stay in advance but was booked for us as part of our tour of this part of India, and principally as the start point of our train trip to Chennai. The hotel itself looks splendid. The room we were given, a 'suite', consisted of a reception room, with double doors with see-in gap, a small hallway to bathroom, with overlooking flats and a bedroom with frosted glass that didn't cover the window. Both the reception room and bedroom are adjoining the hallway and wooden stairwell. I asked to look at other rooms and, were we not in a rush, should have forced this point. Instead I asked they hang something over the window so we'd at least have some privacy in the bedroom. In the bathroom the only way to be truly private was to keep the lights off. The airy nature of the hotel (ill-fitting doors, no a/c, vents and open windows), meant mosquitoes (no nets), noise (hotel is adjacent to a main road) and smoke (other people's chain smoking permeated the air in our room). We had an awful night's sleep here, yet it looked a popular hotel, though the clientele were all very 'white'. The food was ok, the service ok too but I was shocked when heading downstairs a little ahead of breakfast to find staff sleeping on mats in the hotel lobby. At work they looked tired and I really wonder at that ethics of the people who own and run this hotel'

Anyway that afternoon we went to the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary and were taken on a row boat trip around the sanctuary, seeing a good number of birds.  Apparently in peak season (mid-December onwards) the number of birds soars and it's an amazing wildlife spectacle.

Anyway, there was one Eurasian Spoonbill:

A few Great Thick-knee:

Indian Cormorant:

River Tern:

The swallows were already hard at work nest-building:

A lovely bird was this Grey-bellied Cuckoo, really quite confiding in nature and a delight to see:

A Spot-breasted Fantail, fanning its tail:

Finally an Indian Grey Hornbill:

After said horrible night's sleep we decided to take it easy in the morning ahead of our 7.5 hour train trip from Mysore to Chennai.  The station itself felt safe though we did have a bottle of mineral water lifted, and we were hustled by a group of red-shirted chaps who basically grab your luggage, insist on putting it on and then charge a huge fee for doing so.  Being grumpy at this stage helped avoid both a fight and an over exorbitant payment.

I took a couple of snaps with my smallest camera at the station:

This was our train, before we were allowed to board.  The carriage was air-conditioned and apart from one appallingly loud American family (who thankfully got off at Bangalore) very quiet though full.  The service is excellent.  We were in the Executive car on the Shatabdi Express and had paid £16.67 each for the trip.  We had 2 litres of mineral water each, snack, two meals, a separate soup, two rounds of tea and coffee and another snack, it was great!

We had a hectic experience arriving in Chennai with a no show from our hotel driver, but the details of that too are on Trip Advisor.  We then spent the following day with a former work colleague exploring some of the sights of Chennai including a fabulous lunch together, before a brief sleep and the flight home, direct from Chennai to London.

We already have a really good idea of where we want to go next in India...

Labels: ,

The Jungle Hut - out and about

We set out first thing on a misty morning, though the sun soon burned through the cloud:

Leaving a clear, sunny and warm morning, it was lovely weather and with a great view too:

Some interesting geology underfoot here for any rock-fondlers, looks like some layers of rock turned on their sides in some ancient upheaval and being eroded over time:

The area of forest-edge we were walking in really was quite stunning:

As well as the views we enjoyed seeing a lot of birds including the Ashy Prinia:

Black-headed Ibis:

Our shared target species for the whole holiday, Blue-bearded Bee-eater:

On one walk we encountered a group of wild buffalo, who seemed quite aggressive, but it turns out they weren't at all and turned tail as soon as we approached.  They'd been taking advantage of a muddy pool in the shade:

Indian Spotted Eagle:

We enjoyed watching a Jerdon's Bush-lark doing display flights and then singing its socks off on a high perch:

Jungle Babbler, all the babblers are great birds to watch as they more around in their babbling groups:

Long-tailed Shrike:

Paddyfield Pipit:

Plum-headed Parakeet, a wonderfully colourful bird:

A Spotted Owlet, trying to stay hidden:

One particularly memorable species was the White-belled Minivet.  We walked for a good hour in the afternoon sun searching for this bird (having done more than that the same morning), they have an extremely limited range in this part of India and are good candidates for being split as a species and then immediately getting protected status due to the small numbers in the overall area.  A local guide located a pair foraging, which then led to a forced march.  We found and tracked the birds for a few minutes, grabbing a snap here of the female:

However we were (a) very close to the spot where a tourist had been killed by forest elephants and (b) in close proximity to a group of forest elephants.  Once satisfied we'd seen the birds it was another forced march, this time in silence, with the guard arming himself with good sized rocks (also know as deterrents).  We knew the danger had passed when he reduced his ammo to a single hand... we were sweating profusely but had enjoyed seeing such an elusive species!

White-eared Barbet:

Walking back to the car to head back to Jungle Hut for dinner a Grey Francolin was calling from under a tree:

On another walk we were taken to the roost of a Brown Wood Owl, who seemed unperturbed by our being there:

All-in-all we really enjoyed our stay at the Jungle Hut and were sad to have to move on by way of a drive to Mysore.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Jungle Hut

The Jungle Hut feels quite austere in terms of accommodation, especially when your previous night was spent in a former palace.  That said, while basic, it is in a lovely spot, has friendly, approachable staff, great food, cheap beer and is actually a place I'd choose to stay again quite readily.

There are a couple of ponds, a small river, grasslands, various trees,etc., within the grounds of the lodge, which actually serves to entice a lot of birdlife and wildlife, which really does bring the place to life.

We enjoyed seeing a number of different species including Brahminy Starling:

Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, these a life-species and in trees very close to our room:

Bronzed Drongo:

A Langur monkey:

Scaly-breasted Munia:

Small Minivet:

A herd of Spotted Deer, that were in the grounds every morning and I think a real vote of confidence in the staff, guests and management of The Jungle Hut:

White-bellied Drongo:

We did some birding in the grounds after lunch and then outside, but I'll cover that in my next post...

Labels: ,

Ooty and then on to the Jungle Hut

We headed out first thing in search of Painted Bushquail, which involved a 30-minute car trip and then a walk through a village (feels quite rude wandering through their streets as they are so close together and open) but it's clearly rich agricultural land:

After listening to calls and wandering around we did indeed find what we were looking for, a male Painted Bushquail:

In an adjacent plot we were lucky to add Malabar Lark:

We then headed back up to the second highest point in Southern India, this time after the crowds had gone, and as hoped for, the Nilgiri Laughingthrush was much easier to spot:

splendid bird and with a really very small geography in which to find, we had to get it this morning or probably miss it for good...

The Cinerous Tit is a recent split form the Great Tit, which is good as it looks nothing like the parus major:

We finished our birding, headed back to breakfast (by now feeling the effect of the salt poisoning) and then headed on our next lodgings at The Jungle Hut.