Photography - Destination

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: A Perfect Date with Birds for Photography!

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Home to the Great Hornbills, the state bird of Kerala, the 14 acres of wooded wetlands of Vembanad Bird Sanctuary or Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a safe abode to around 500 species of birds, both native and migratory as well as a number of mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary - The Details you'll Need

Needless to say, this mangrove habitat sprawling along the Vembanad Lake is one of the most sought-after bird sanctuaries in India. On a backwater trip to Kerala, any bird photographer would jump at the idea of exploring the sanctuary in the first place. Now, while many of us are aware of the backwaters of Vembanad, the sanctuary, being a less-explored one remains a mystery.

Let’s have a look at the sanctuary, what you can explore and how.

kumarakom bird sanctuary
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary - The heaven for birds

History – How it came into being

What you see now as a popular Kerala Backwater Tourism destination or a birding paradise, was a rubber plantation run by the Englishman, Alfred George Baker.

It was known as Baker’s Estate back then until he took an initiative in laying the foundation of a bird sanctuary in 500 acres of wetland ecosystem favoured by the Vembanad Lake at Kumarakom village during the 1840s. What he started was further developed by his descendant Henry Baker and the sanctuary thus came into being.

Since then it has been acting as a safe abode to the breeding migratory birds.

Location

The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is nestled in the Kuttanad region on the southern bank of the river Kavanar in Kumarakom in the district of Kottayam in Kerala. It is part of the Vembanad – Kole Ramsar site and the rich mangrove ecosystem is home to a plethora of medicinal plants as well as eight species out of ten Mangrove species recorded in Kerala.

The map of Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
The map of Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

How to Reach

To access the sanctuary you can take the following routes –

The nearest rail station is Kottayam (13km) with regular local and express train service from New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Pune.  

Nearest Airport is Cochin International Airport (78km) and Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (166km)

Nearby cities to access on road are Kochi (48.5km), and Thiruvananthapuram (160km). Through State and National, Highways Kumarakom is connected to the major cities of India.

Climate – When to Visit

Being located along the western coastline, this is one of the bird sanctuaries in India that is blessed with a comfortable tropical climate all over the year. The temperature increases up to 40 degree Celsius during March to May and monsoon sets in during June to September.

May to September is not a birding season due to heat and heavy shower afterward.  

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary birding season
Check the climate before you visit

However, the best time to visit the sanctuary is during the months of November to March end as the migratory birds flock here during these months for wintering and also breeding before setting off for their course.

Check out Photographing Birds in Flight: Learn How to Shoot Perfectly

During the months of June to August, you can enjoy sighting the native birds of Kerala!

How to explore

The best way to explore the habitats is by a boat tour or houseboats or motorboat run by Vembanad Cruise service.

 Boating detail Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
 Boating details (Source)

With Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary boating, you can enjoy sighting the birds without bothering them and also get some fantastic shots of the close encounter.

Read: How to Choose the Best Lens for Bird Photography

You can also avail the 2 km trail that is sometimes paved and at times, unpaved. Country-style narrow bridges are also around the bird sanctuary.

After traversing 2km, you will find two watchtowers, that offers a birdseye view of the whole area and you will also be able to catch sight of nesting birds on the top branches of the trees.  

Why visit Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Known as the “Land of Night Herons”, the sanctuary of Kumarakom boasts of being the largest Heronry that is the largest waterbird breeding area in the state of Kerala. Moreover, the bird sanctuary is home to two globally near-threatened species – Oriental Darter and Black Headed Ibis.

Why visit Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Enough reasons to visit Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Birds of Kumarakom

The common birds of Kerala include Waterfowls, Peafowls, Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Indian Shag, Lesser and Greater Cormorant, Night Herons, Lesser Golden Flameback Woodpeckers, Rose-ringed Parrots, Wood Beetles, Birds of prey like the Brahminy Kite, Black Winged Kites and so on.   

Birds at Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Birds at Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

11 waterbird species belonging to five families breed around the lake. The resident wetland birds that breed here are White Ibis, Lesser Cormorant, Indian Darter, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Cattle Egrets, Pond Herons etc.

The state bird of Kerala, Great Hornbill, is a threatened species and is the highlight of this sanctuary along with Malabar Hornbills and Grey Hornbills.

horn birds
Horn-birds is a highlight at Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Migratory Birds from Himalayas, Siberia and beyond

More than 60 species of Migratory birds including Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Siberian Cranes, Cuckoo Shrike, Jacobean Cuckoo, Purple Heron, Teals, Larks, Bee-eaters, Oriental Darter, Wood Beetles, Swallows, and Larks are found in the bird sanctuary.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary migratory birds
Migratory birds at Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

The elusive Crimson Throated Barbets, Asian Fairy Bluebirds, Grey-headed Fishing Eagles can be sighted in the respective seasons.  

Mammals

Seventeen species of Mammals are found in Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. The mangrove wetland is a favourable breeding site for the Smooth-coated Otters. You can have some great habitat shots of them with juveniles –you just need to be patient and oblivious to them. You will have a great opportunity to capture the bats hanging from the branches. There are five species of bats found here.

Smooth-coated Otters
Smooth-coated Otters at the Sanctuary

Sloth bears, Asiatic Elephants, Lion-tailed Macaque, Spotted Deer, Palm Civet, Nilgiri Tahr, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Wild Boar sightings will give the wildlife photographers some fantastic shots of the animals in the habitat. If you are lucky, you can also encounter Tigers and Leopards.

Amphibians

Among the 53 species of minor vertebrae, five amphibians are recorded here. Along the boat ride, you can capture amphibians like Crabs, Turtles, and Mudskippers.

Reptiles

Fourteen reptile species can be sighted and photographed if you are cautious and attentive enough. Snakes like Python, Rat Snake, Cobra, Kraits, and Vipers are found here along with Monitor Lizards and Iguana.  

Insects

If you love capturing Odonates, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary will offer you around forty species of damselflies and dragonflies. From the Heronry, you can photograph around 45 species of colourful fluttering butterflies.

You can check out the “Butterfly Garden” that is located on the trail from the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary ticket counter and Interpretation Center.

Butterfly at Kumarakom
The Butterfly garden at Kumarakom

What to Carry

  • Pick the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary map from the Interpretation Center to have a clear insight of the sanctuary
  • Carry umbrella and spare shoes

Where to Stay and Eat

  • Stay at Kumarakom Lake Resort in the sanctuary complex. The Manor backwater Resort, Coconut Lagoon, Whispering Palms and Paradise Resorts are some of the other options you can consider for accommodation.
  • Eat at the local Toddy shops or at Kumarakom Lake Resort (Ettukettu and the Vembanad Seafood Bar).
  • Other options include Cordon Bleu or the multi-cuisine restaurant of Abad Whispering Palms Lake Resort. Check out Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary reviews for more options of eateries and accommodation.

Opening hours, Contact details and Tariff

  • Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary contact number is +91 481 2525864
  • Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) operates all the tours in the sanctuary.
  • Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary entrance fee is INR 50 for Indian citizens and for foreign tourists INR 100.  
  • Parking charge for four-wheelers is INR 25
  • The park remains open from 6 am to 6 pm

Things to see around

After spending a day at the bird sanctuary, why not take a little break from wildlife and bird photography and utilize rest of the day exploring around?

Almost on every journal or website, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary photos depict only the wildlife.

kumarakom bird sanctuary in kerala
Take a walk through Kumarakom village!

Let’s have a look around.

  1. Take a walk through Kumarakom village to capture the raw essence of the area –the handicraft industry. The Khadi Weaving Centre offers a glimpse of the production of the pottery items, straw mats from pineapple leaves, coir ropes from coconut husks, hand-spun clothes from cotton, silk and wool and many more.
  2. Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls (2km) cascading from a height of around 100 ft and creating a number of creeks
  3. Take a boat ride to Pathiramanlal island that is also rich in migratory birds

Don’t miss out this little spot with an abundance of fauna on your trip to Kerala Backwaters.

Located along the Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom backwaters tourism now includes a visit to the bird sanctuary too. Thanks to its mangrove wetlands and the dense woods that are home to a plethora of native birds that frolic around throughout the year and the Migratory birds that come from as far as the Himalayas and the cold regions of Siberia, the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a paradise for bird watchers and photographers.

Seasoned bird and wildlife photographers might have once or so traversed this place and their photographed images have been able to positively promote this bird abode, attracting more and more nature lovers and photographers each year.

Also, check out the Bird Sanctuaries in India: Dream Destinations for Bird Photography!

It is our duty to keep it as pristine as it is and enjoy capturing the rich biodiversity without disturbing the ecology. Feathers friends and animals are waiting for you at Kumarakom!

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