This journey takes you into the heart of Nagarhole National Forest, known for the highest density of herbivores in Asia. See the island fortress in the Kaveri River, once the sight of legendary battles between the British and Tipu Sultan, known as the “Tiger of Mysore.” A sunset cruise along Cochin’s coastline takes you to see famous cantilever Chinese fishing nets against the backdrop of sunset. Explore the backwaters of Kerala as your houseboat travels the labyrinth of waterways to discover a rural landscape seemingly cut off from the outside world. Visit a rural farm that grows coconut, spices and fruit for a delightful cooking lesson to learn to prepare Syrian Christian cuisine. Discover a less-traveled India.
Price starts at 800 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.
Day 1: Arrive Bangalore
Upon arrival at Bangalore Airport, you are welcomed by a Big Five representative who will escort to your hotel in a private vehicle. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Your hotel is conveniently located in the commercial heart of Bangalore, close to the business districts and IT hubs of Bangalore. ITC Gardenia – Luxury Room
Day 2: Bangalore / Kabini
This morning, you have an early morning departure for a five-hour transfer by road to Kabini, arriving in time for lunch. Your lodge sit in the heart of Nagarhole National Forest, known for supporting the highest density of herbivores in Asia as well as three major predators. Surrounded by the Kabini River on three sides, the lodge offers a range of activities including boat safaris that allow close viewing of marsh birds and crocodiles as well as the other wildlife.
This afternoon, you set out on a jungle safari into Nagarahole National Park, a rich forest cover of hills, valleys, streams and waterfalls. This is the 37th Tiger Reserve in India, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with three parks nearby – Bandipur, Mudumalai and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Bengal tigers, Indian leopard, sloth bear, striped hyena are among the predators that can be spotted in the park along with elephants, chital, sambar deer, and barking deer is also spotted around the park. The park also hosts more than 270 bird species, notably the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vulture, the lesser adjutant, the greater spotted eagle and the Nilgiri wood-pigeon. Return to your palm-thatched hut built in authentic Kuruba village style, featuring a luxurious large living room, bedroom, en-suite bathroom and a private open-air inner courtyard with its own plunge pool or Jacuzzi. Evolve Back Kabini – Pool Hut (B,L,D)
Day 3: Kabini
Today enjoy morning safari by shared vehicle in terrain that is often ravaged by forest fires, and the Nagarhole wildlife is testimony to the resilience of nature. Your safari takes you along broad roads that offer opportunities for wildlife viewing. Other options include a guided nature walk along the banks of the Kabini River and then through the scrub and fields along the village roads; or take a ride on the river in a traditional round-shaped boat called a coracle, designed for the rivers of southern India, and drifts slowly as it hugs the shoreline. Explore nature around the resort at night with a naturalist and encounter the fascinating nocturnal world of beetles, spiders, owls, moths and lizards. On alternate evenings, witness a troupe of Kuruba tribal dancers performing a traditional dance around a campfire, accompanied by two wooden drums and a wind instrument. This dance is usually performed during festivals or times of strife. It is an invitation to their gods to join them and bless the occasion. Evolve Back Kabini – Pool Hut (B,L,D)
Day 4: Kabini / Mysore
This morning, you are driven two and a half hours to Mysore, and check in to your hotel. This evening you enjoy a guided walk in the heart of the city, passing grand old structures as your guide reveals the unfolding story of Mysore. Learn about the opulent lives of the maharajas and how one of the world’s richest men lived. Explore a century old market with is vibrancy and color. Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel – Business Class Room (B)
Day 5: Mysore
This morning, visit Srirangapattana, an island fortress in the Kaveri River, once the sight of the battles between the British and Tipu Sultan, the “Tiger of Mysore”. Visit Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and the Jumma Masjid Mosque before stopping for lunch at a local restaurant specializing in authentic regional cuisine.
In the afternoon, visit Mysore City Palace, designed by an English architect and completed in 1912. A part of the Palace is still occupied by the former Maharaja from the Wodeyar family. Built in Indo- Sacracenic style with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades, the palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. The collection of stained glass, mirrors and intricately carved rosewood doors inlaid with ivory is magnificent. Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel (B,L)
Day 6: Mysore / Cochin
This morning you are transferred to the Mysore Airport to board your flight for Cochin. Upon arrival at Cochin Airport, a Big Five representative welcomes you and escorts you to hotel in a private vehicle.
In the evening you can set out on a Sunset Harbor Cruise along Cochin’s coastline. Take in the sights of a city that thrives on a port economy. Barges and boats bring ashore goods from far and wide. The Cochin lagoon opens into the Arabian Sea. Enjoy the sight of the quaint cantilever Chinese fishing nets against the backdrop of a splendid sunset. Your hotel is moored on a historic stretch of Cochin’s famed harbor, just a short walk away from Fort Cochin. The Brunton Boatyard Hotel was resurrected from the remains of a Victorian shipyard. It retains the charm from its busy shipbuilding days in the 1800s. Vintage Dutch maps, small navigation devices and an ancient anchor decorate the premises. The Brunton Boatyard Hotel – Deluxe Sea View Room (B)
Day 7: Cochin
A true melting pot, Cochin, or Kochi, is one of the most dynamic, vibrant and energetic cities in South India. One of the most important trading posts on the fabled Spice Route, Cochin sports several vestiges of its multi-cultural past from traditional Chinese fishing nets to Dutch palaces, Sephardic synagogues to Portuguese forts along the shores of the Arabian Sea. Today, Cochin has a thriving arts and cultural scene and hosts the Cochin Biennale – a major art event in Asia, every winter. Several galleries, boutiques, and artisanal restaurants stand cluster in the area, especially near Fort Cochin area. Spice, fish and antique markets continue to flourish side by side.
Today, explore Fort Cochin on a leisurely stroll with your guide through the by-lanes of Fort Cochin, which bears a marked European influence from Cochin’s British and Dutch colonial eras. Fort Cochin is known for its long line of distinctive Chinese fishing nets. According to local legend, the unique nets were introduced on the Malabar Coast by the emissaries of Kubla Khan’s court. Stroll down to St. Francis Church, originally built by the Portuguese as a Catholic Church, it later became a Protestant church under the Dutch and later still, Anglican under the British. It finally became a part of the Church of South India in the post-Independence era.
The Church’s colonial past is evident still today. Men still operate the church’s enormous punkha fans by pulling on their ropes by hand. Continue past the Durbar Hall and the Dutch cemetery, where Dutch traders were laid to rest far from home, and the Jewish synagogue, the one monument to the family of Jews in Cochin who can trace their origins to King Solomon. Walk down to Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese as a gift of tribute to the Raja of Cochin. The Palace was later renovated by the Dutch and became known as Dutch Palace. Today it houses a small but exquisite museum of royal artefacts, some of which are extremely unusual. Then stop at the Mattancherry Spice Market and the Kochi International Pepper Exchange, a riotous warehouse where traders stake bids at the daily pepper auction. There is also a dry ginger depot that sells a product that finds good use in the Ayurveda industry.
This evening a special treat awaits you – discover the strength and vigor of a traditional Kathakali dance drama as it reenacts episodes from great Indian epics. The extremely stylized gestures, the elaborate make-up, the masks and the splendid costumes of the all-male dancers creates an unrivalled pageantry. The Brunton Boatyard Hotel – Deluxe Sea View Room (B)
Day 8: Cochin / Munnar
This morning you set out on a four-and-a-half hour journey to Munnar. Upon arrival, check into your accommodation, Spice Tree, a natural mountain retreat. The picturesque little town of Munnar, nestled amidst acres of sprawling tea estates and verdant forests, was once the summer retreat of the British government in South India. Still with colonial charm, its name means “three rivers,” for its location at the confluence of three mountain streams. Besides tea, Munnar is also known for spices like cardamom and pepper. Munnar’s rugged landscape offers opportunities for walks and treks through the town and nearby villages.
This afternoon, experience the tea trail with the lush, verdant slopes of a tea estate where you glimpse a centuries-old industry. Follow this with a visit to the Tea Museum, which houses curios, colonial furniture, photographs and vintage machinery representing a turning point for the tea industry at the time. Explore teas of the area during a tea-tasting demonstration, with infusions of tea varieties. Spice Tree – Classic Room with Jacuzzi (B)
Day 9: Munnar
Begin the day with a visit of Srishti, a crafts center specializing in handmade paper, employing the differently abled. See how the paper is made from a variety of materials like the leaves of eucalyptus, lemongrass, lantana and pineapple, and is then crafted into delightful objects from notepads to containers. The center is a unique venture of a corporate giant, Tata, for the rehabilitation of the physically challenged dependents of its employees. The remainder of the day at leisure to enjoy the facilities at your hotel. Spice Tree – Classic Room with Jacuzzi (B)
Day 10: Munnar / Alleppey
This morning after a leisurely breakfast, drive to Alleppey to explore the backwaters of Kerala during an overnight houseboat trip. This bewildering labyrinth of shimmering waterways, composed of lakes and canals, lined with dense vegetation preserves. Rural Kerala is completely cut off from the outside world. While on the cruise, you witness the authentic culture and lifestyle in the Kerala countryside. The boats come with air-conditioned en-suite bedrooms. Spice Coast Cruises – Deluxe Cabin (B,L,D)
Day 11: Alleppey / Kumarakom
After leisurely breakfast, disembark from houseboat and commence your drive to Kumarakom. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Coconut Lagoon is a charming resort in a century-old mansion, offering heritage rooms, bungalows and private pool villas, with a swimming pool, Ayurvedic facilities, yoga and meditation center and recreation area. Coconut Lagoon offers insight into traditional Keralan life, offering Kalari (Keralan martial art) training; cooking lessons, highlighting the uses of traditional spices; Kathakali (Kerala’s classical dance) performances and traditional music concerts. Coconut Lagoon – Heritage Bungalow (B)
Day 12: Kumarakom
Drive out to Vechoor village and visit the charming Phillip Kutty Farm. Beautifully situated along the backwaters, the farm grows coconut, spices, fruit, and much more. The farm is run by the family who owns it and today you will enjoy a delightful interactive session on Syrian Christian cuisine and learn how to cook some of these delicious dishes. The backwaters add their influence on the food at the farm with fish, duck, and poultry featuring prominently alongside farm fruit and vegetables. Coconut Lagoon – Heritage Bungalow (B,L)
Day 13: Kumarakom / Cochin
At the appointed time you are transferred about an hour and a half to Cochin Airport to board your onward flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price from US$800 per person per day.