Distant Frontiers – great holiday ideas

We recently had a visit from a young man who researches tours for Kuoni, the holiday tour company. We spent a very nice two days together, and he has now featured us in this months magazine which is sent to their business contacts and tour companies. It is really exciting to get a great recommendation from such a prestigious company.

If you want to see the newsletter please click here, choose your language, then click newsletter at the bottom left and choose current issue (for the month of December 2013).

In the meantime you may like to read one of the three articles about us here.

6 things we liked about Lakeside

View at Lakeside, Tammil Nadu

1. Amazing View: Visit Lakeside and you realise what made Dorinda and Pete leave behind their old lives, to become the proud owners of this beautiful guesthouse. It is surprising to find a guest-house here, yet even more unexpected is the fact that it is run by an English couple. As soon as you check into the property, bougainvillea’s in full bloom greet you and beyond the periphery is a  beautiful lake surrounded by coconut plantations.

2. Wonderful hosts: The hands-on approach of Dorinda and Pete makes your stay memorable. Lakeside guarantees a warm welcome and comfortable stay with the couple working hard to provide unique experiences and opportunities, particularly for foreign guests to experience, real life in rural Tamil Nadu, which is something they don’t find on the average tour. Kennedy, the caretaker and the other locals who have been trained to look after the guests, always have a smile on their face and are helpful without being obtrusive.

Sari weaving as a cottage industry

3. Village Tour: One of the highlights of my Tamil Nadu trip was the Village Tour I did at the Lakeside Guesthouse.  I have done a lot of tours like this before. But the tour with Dorinda was excellent. I could see that a lot of time had gone into planning the tour and identifying the experiences that would interest clients. While on the tour, you visit a local brick making factory, a village school, a weaver’s family, a potter, a coconut de-husking unit and few other interesting people. Since the local community also benefits from these tours, everyone is very happy to see us. It is an unhurried experience where you decide how much you want to spend interacting at the various places. At the school the children recited poems for us that they had been learning which was wonderful. Dorinda and Kennedy, both accompany the guests on the tour and are excellent at explaining all that we see. The tour starts around nine o’clock in the morning and it is almost lunch time by the time we come back.

4. Accessibility:  Lakeside is hidden away in a remote valley, just a two hour drive from Madurai and around a three hour drive from Chettinad. Its excellent location makes it an ideal way to end a hectic Tamil Nadu itinerary or rest for a few days before entering Kerala.

Brahminy kite with turtle for breakfast

Brahminy kite with turtle for breakfast

5. Peace and Relaxation: To mirror Dorinda’s words, Lakeside provides you the opportunity to unwind close to nature. You will love the early mornings, watching the sunrise and nature come to life. It is especially enjoyable to do a morning walk down by the lakeside, with the chance of seeing deer or wild-boar and with the ever present birdlife for company. Or sitting on the veranda in the early evening, watching the sun go down over the mountains, sipping a cold beer as you watch the goats and water buffalo make their slow way homewards. The well-stocked library entices you to pick up a book that you have been meaning to read, but never got around to because of all the distraction of everyday life.

Guests enjoying a dip in our pool!6. The Room and Pool:  Lakeside does not provide ultra-luxurious accommodation, but you can be sure of a very comfortable stay. The main bungalow has four rooms (2 air-conditioned) with magnificent views of the lake. The rooms are ample in size although smaller than those of the individual cottages. The six individual cottages are spread around the property and are very spacious with an extra bed for the third person (2 air-conditioned). You also have the option to choose air-conditioning just for the night ( 8pm to 8am) – Ideal if you are a budget traveller but still want your comfort. The buildings are spread out in the landscaped gardens in a way that offers space for people to ‘do their own thing’ whilst enjoying the fantastic views. I don’t know why, but I was not accepting to find a pool here. But the presence of a beautiful clean pool was like the icing on the cake.

I hope you enjoyed reading – and maybe it has whet your appetite for a visit to Lakeside.

Sunrise at Lakeside

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Birdwatching in South India

Painted Stork

Painted Stork

Travel and Tour World have had a great article this week about migratory birds in Tamil Nadu, but there is one mistake in it – they seem to have missed out Lakeside!

Seriously though, although our valley may not be a bird sanctuary and does not have the huge flocks of birds that you will see elsewhere, what we do have is variety.

A few years ago students from the nearby Gandhigram University came to the valley each weekend for a whole year to catalogue the species which they could see.  Some birds were obviously local residents and here all the time, whilst others were migratory and changed with the changing seasons.  All in all, they identified over 200 species!

What makes our valley so unique is the variety of habitats within a small area.  Behind our property are steeply rising hills which create perfect thermals for raptors.  The hills are Reserve Forest which means that they are protected and so we have many forest birds in the area.  Moving down we have more open brush/woodland; then there are our gardens which attract even more species.  There is, of course, the lake with the types of birds that attracts, and as water levels fall we get the waders which like a more marshy environment.  To add to that there are the cultivated areas of coconut, mango, paddy fields etc.  If that is not enough we can take a short drive up into the hills and see more birds which like a slightly higher altitude and cooler environment.

If you are thinking of doing a ‘birdwatching’ holiday in South India then you must visit the sanctuaries in Tamil Nadu, but don’t forget the unique environment of Lakeside as well!

And if you are not a confirmed birdwatcher?  The majority of our guests say that they enjoy seeing the amazing variety, colours and sounds of the local birdlife, creating many memories to take home at the end of a relaxing stay in a unique, secluded rural environment.

Why not come and stay to see for yourself!

Life-saving camouflage for ground-nesting birds

I recently read an article in The Hindu newspaper about threats to ground nesting birds from a variety of causes ranging from shrinking habitat to feral dogs and grazing animals. Over the last few years we have had red-wattled lapwing and Indian nightjar nesting at Lakeside so I found the article very interesting. I agree with the article that we need to plan how to preserve the habitat of such birds whilst also fulfilling the needs of the human population – not an easy task!

If you would like to read the article you can find it here.

The following photos of ground nesting birds were all taken at Lakeside.

red-wattled lapwing eggs

red-wattled lapwing eggs

Young red-wattled lapwing

Young red-wattled lapwing

Indian Nightjar eggs

Indian Nightjar eggs

Indian Nightjar on nest - great camouflage!

Indian Nightjar on nest – great camouflage!

Indian nightjar chick within minutes of hatching

Indian nightjar chick within minutes of hatching

Fishing birds of south India

Fishing the Kerala Backwaters is not confined too humans.  These are some of the birds I photographed in just one afternoon whilst leading a tour earlier this year.

Darter Kerala backwaters

The Darter is a beautiful bird, a little like a cormorant but with a longer neck which gives it its common name of ‘snake bird’ as the darter sits very low in the water so that its long neck looks like a water snake.

snakebird India

There are, of course, plenty of kingfishers on the Backwaters.

kingfisher Kerala

Stork billed Kingfisher

Stork billed kingfisher Kerala backwaters

Another common bird seen all over the continent is the Indian pond heron.

Indian pond heron Kerala

Egrets are also very common fishing birds in southern India.

egret South India

As the Backwaters run parallel with the sea coast there also plenty of gulls fishing in the area.

gull, Kerala

bird Kerala backwaters

Cormorants can be see throughout Kerala and Tamil Nadu as they are very partial to a nice piece of fish!

cormorant and fish Kerala

fishing cormorant Kerala backwaters

One of my favourite birds is the brahminy kite which can be seen fishing both fresh and salt waters of the Indian sub-continent.

Brahminy kite Kerala

Kite with fish

Brahminy kite in flight

Hopefully some of you may one day book a holiday with us and I can show you these beautiful creatures live and in their natural habitat!

The Brahminy Kite

In Hindu mythology all gods have their special vehicles. Vishnu is carried by Garuda, the white headed Brahminy Kite.  It is considered to be very auspicious to see one of these birds so we are incredibly lucky that they are frequent visitors to the lake and we, and our guests, can sit on the veranda and watch the kites riding the thermals or wheeling and diving when they find something to eat.

This kite has discovered a dead turtle which he is enjoying for breakfast!

Brahminy kite with turtle for breakfast

How green is my valley?

At Lakeside we take our environmental responsibilities seriously.  We live in a beautiful place and want to keep it that way for ourselves, for our guests, for the locals and for the next generation.

Soma Basu of the prestigious Hindu newspaper recognises the work done by ourselves and the other ex-pats who live in the valley in a recent article.  She also describes beautifully just what a wonderful place this is.  I hope her words inspire you to take a holiday at Lakeside sometime!

Flocks of fledglings

Everywhere you look at the moment you can see birds which have recently fledged and which are beginning to make their way in the world.  With 7.5 acres of trees and shrubs Lakeside is a haven for nesting birds.  We currently have young babblers, bulbuls, parakeets, francolins, red-wattled lapwings and many others in the gardens.  We also have nests of nightjars, coppersmith barbets, Indian robins – and no doubt many more that I’m unaware of!

 I couple of weeks ago I was ‘divebombed’ by red-wattled lapwings as I walked in the garden.  It was obvious that they were trying to lead me away from their nest.

 

They lay their eggs on the ground, and they are so stone like that you can walk within inches of them and not see them.  It is such good camouflage that some must get trodden on at times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the babies hatch they already have a fine set of feathers (more like young chickens than young robins which are born naked).  As the nest is in the open the chicks are up and running almost immediately and you would have to be very lucky to see them leaving the nest.

 

 

They will hide in the bushes until mum and dad come to feed them.  If you walk to close to the hidden chicks you get dive bombed yet again!

 

Parakeets and drum sticks

We have trees in our garden at Lakeside which grow long thin seedpods known locally as drum sticks.

These are a common ingredient in curries and our staff avail themselves of many of our drumsticks.  We do, however, like to allow a few to remain on the trees and ripen, they are then very dry and inedible for humans – but the Rose-ringed parakeets love them!

It is now the season for ripe drumsticks!

Fish for breakfast

Guests at Lakeside enjoy their breakfast on the veranda of the main building.  As they eat they are able to watch some of the local bird life who come to feed.  There are usually a number of peacocks (who are fed by us); guests can also occasionally see a local kingfisher who likes to take his breakfast from our pond.  The clay pot makes a very good vantage point!

This dove also enjoys breakfast on the verandah steps.

Watching the birds feeding is a great way to start the day!

 

Yellow browed bulbul at her nest

I love the spring with its promise of new life. This female yellow browed bulbul is sitting at her nest awaiting the birth of a new generation. The picture was taken just outside Thekkady whilst I was accompanying some guests on one of our tours.

The bird is about 7 cm long and is found in the hills and mountains of the Western Ghats, just below the forest canopy where it feeds mainly on insects and berries. She will probably have a clutch of 3 eggs in her nest which would have taken about a week to build. The eggs, which will be pale pink or white and speckled with reddish brown, will be incubated for about 13 days. The babies will then be fed on soft insects, berries and caterpillars for a further 13 days before they fledge and leave the nest.