A look at the East: Tyda park in Araku Valley

As soon as my niece announced her wedding location, Vishakapatnam, with the dates towards the end of our summer holidays, we decided to use the opportunity and extend it for a vacation. When we asked people for places to visit around the city, Tyda and Araku Valley were prominently mentioned. After some Internet research, we booked at Tyda Jungle Bells Resort run by Andhra Pradesh Tourism. You can book the rooms online at their site.

After the wedding, we left for Araku Monday morning about 11am. The road out of Vishakapatnam is busy for about 10 kms from NAD Junction. After that it is quite a nice drive and can be enjoyed by going at a leisurely pace. We stopped to pick up some "Nungu" (Ice apple in English). 12 for 10rs. 25% of what it costs in Bangalore!

The Ghat section starts about 60 kms from Vizhag. 15 kms later after just a gentle climb into the Eastern Ghats, we reached Jungle Bells which is right on the Roadside. On the way you do cross a town, Kothavalasa, where you can stock up on biscuits, drinks etc. Tyda Jungle Bells has no shops and you can only buy Mineral Water from the restaurant. 4kms further north is a small village or 10kms more you get Ananthagiri. Araku itself is another 35 kms or so from Tyda.

The resort is actually done well, surrounded by lush green forest cover. Each cottage is quite isolated to give privacy. Ours was the New Bridge Cottage shown in the photo here. No TV or cell phone coverage means family has to entertain each other which can be a good thing once a while! :). Resort service though is quite lacking. They have a shortage of staff and those who are there do try but don't expect anything close to even a 3 star accommodation. Lack of Intercom facilities adds to the guests woes. One has to climb up and down steep steps to get anything. Restaurant is run more like a Dhabha and food served is similar. Tasty, not very clean and choice limited to what they can sell! That is, dont except soup even though it is on the menu. My review along with others can be read at Holiday IQ.

We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days. It rained heavily in the afternoon of day 2 and stayed cool for the night. Other times it was quite hot. For the kids they had some adventure stuff like rope climbing, Burma bridge etc., which we did not try. They also organize a trek in the morning which is mostly a walk in the jungle, that we did take. We spent rest of the time in the room playing some games or reading books.

Around the resort, you need to be a birdwatcher or nature lover to appreciate the place. Both mornings the place was alive with calls. However, we are still novices with calls and could not ID using just that. The physical activity though was quite less compared with Western Ghats, in my observation. In Muthodi, mornings brought many Scarlet Minivets and Sunbirds out into the open. I like to think it could be because of the heat here. We certainly did not feel like wandering around too much after 8am and the birds probably felt the same.

Even though bird activity was much less that we had hoped for, there were still plenty for us to be excited about. A pair of Black-crested Bulbuls were residents and could be seen flying around most of the time. There was also a pair of Black-naped Monarch that were active inside the resort. White-rumped Shama was another resident. Catching sight of this skulker off and on was quite exciting. Sounds were plenty in the morning, the main caller being Puff-throated Babbler. At one time, we could make out the 2 of them calling to each other from either side of our Cottage.

The morning trek is a walk in the forest just adjacent to the resort. Once I got to know the path, I chose to walk alone on both mornings. We were rewarded with close up sightings of Brown-headed Barbet and Rufous Woodpecker. The Woodpecker later visited us during our breakfast at the resort and spent more than 10 minutes pecking away on a nearby tree. The highlight during the walk was sighting of 3 Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds. They were highly active, wagging their tail up and down, hopping about on a far away tree. It was truly exciting to see this colorful bird in pristine conditions.

Day 2, just me and my daughter visited Borra caves. It is about 15 kms from Tyda. Easy drive. The cave itself is enormous and awe inspiring. However, the formations inside are not that great or have been lost due to poor maintenance. A large crowd was there on a weekday itself and they do not mind walking over or touching/scratching all the delicate stalagmites and stalactites that takes 1000's of years to form. Sad really.

On day 3, we checked out early and drove up to Araku town. It took about 1.5 hrs but the views were very nice. In Araku, we visited the Tribal Musuem and the close by Coffee museum where you can get some really nice drinks like Ice-Choclate along with the usual Latte's. Both also host handicraft shops. We did not have time to explore anything else and heading back to Vizhag around 1pm and made it back before 5pm.

Overall, we enjoyed the 2 days. The greenery is similar to Western Ghats though not as dense. Tyda is not too deep into Eastern Ghats and so the bio-diversity may be a little less that what can be expected.

Some of the notable Birds we spotted around the resort:

  1. Red-whiskered Bulbul

  2. Red-Vented Bulbul

  3. White-browed Bulbul

  4. Black-crested Bulbul

  5. Black-naped Monarch

  6. White-rumped Shama

  7. Oriental White-eye

  8. Purple Sunbird (one looked like Loten's also)

  9. Purple Rumped Sunbird

  10. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird

  11. Gold-fronted Leafbird

  12. Common Iora

  13. Puff-throated Babbler

  14. Rufous Woodpecker

  15. Brown-headed Barbet

  16. Copper-smith Barbet (call)

  17. Black Drongo

  18. Green Bee-eater

  19. Greater Coucal

  20. Spotted Dove

Some more images can be seen here: https://picasaweb.google.com/naturerambles/TydaNatureCampInArakuValley#