Thattekad Bird Sanctuary or Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is the first ever bird sanctuary of Kerala. It has been deemed as the ‘richest bird habitat of peninsular India.’ About 44km from Cochin International Airport, it’s a must visit for bird-watching enthusiasts.

Located on the northern banks of Periyar River, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary is spread over an area of about 25km. Usually, people club it with a visit to Munnar, but even if you want to pay it a visit exclusively, you will not regret it. The bird sanctuary is a legitimate paradise for bird lovers; you get to see a huge variety of rare species of birds that you may never have seen anywhere else.

The best way to experience this place is on foot. Though sighting rare species might take a long time, being patient will eventually pay off. There are home-stays available near the sanctuary for those who are willing to stay the night.

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It’s an experience walking amidst the low land forest area of the sanctuary with continuous tropical evergreen, semi-evergreen forests and deciduous forests. Though it’s home to over 500 species of birds, on an average, travellers get to spot 50-60 varieties of birds on the walk. The moderate climate through the year, makes the 3 hour walk in the park quite pleasant.

Taking a guide along is recommended; they make sure you spot as many species as possible. Local migratory birds are mostly seen after September, whereas birds from the Himalayas migrate to this place during winter. So the best season for bird-watching is between October and March.

A ride in the canoe along the canal makes it possible to watch birds from close proximity; the most commonly sighted ones being: Ceylon frogmouth, Malabar woodpecker, stork beaked kingfisher, emerald dove and dwarf kingfisher. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot some elephants and porcupines. The Butterfly Garden inside the sanctuary is also a must-visit.