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#


Anonymous said...

did u drive to vizag??
Sad to see the huge crowd at the caves :(

Nanda said...

No... we went by train. Prashanthi Express... and back by flight. Actually, I feel huge crowd is fine. It means people are interested in the place. The way they are managed is what was lacking. With the amount they are collecting, they can certainly post 10-15 people inside to ensure that people dont abuse the formations. More informative boards(how they get formed) and free guides will make the experience rewarding for all.

vidya said...

we are planning to visit arakku in the month of dec and have booked bridge cottages in tyda.y'day came across a few reviews which suggest that the place is not maintained properly.would like ur feedback and is it true that u even find giant lizards in the cottage,As far enjoying wildlife from a distance iam pretty excited but spending time with them as roommates...need to think.ur feedback will b appreciated.

Nanda said...

Vidya, I am not sure if I can add much more than what I said in my post and the review I did for HolidayIQ. It is true that the place was not well maintained when we visited. There were some lizards but nothing big or scary to bother us(2A and kids 10,6) much. I am sure the staff will help chase them out if it is too much of a bother. Like I said, if you are a bird-watcher or nature lover then it balances out. If you are looking for good service and a resort like amenities then...jungle bells is not for you.

vidya said...

thanks a lot Nanda,we did visit tyda.We enjoyed every moment of our stay there,kids had a great time.I regret cancelling one day's stay,it was supposed to be for 2days.Now Iam busy recommending the place to everyone.

Nanda said...

Vidya, Happy to hear that. It is indeed a special place. The key is to go with the right expectations and then one can enjoy.. :)

ParthaMX said...

I am planning to visit Tyda this month. What about cell phone coverage in that area?

Nanda said...

I remember there was no coverage when we were there, 2 yrs back. I think you had to go about 4km to get a signal. Mine was Airtel. Not sure about other carriers. You could call them up and ask if the situation is different now.
Actually, they did not even have landline connection to the actual resort! All bookings were done with their office in Vishakapatnam.

Nanda Ramesh said...

Happy to say here that our sighting of Ruby-cheeked Sunbird was published as a note in News Letter for Bird watchers. NLBW. It can be accessed online at: http://www.nlbw.cu.cc/ Click on the Sept/Oct 2011 issue and go to Pg 77.

Unknown said...

Nice Trip dude. In August me and my friends are going to my friends marriage occasion. So we are planning to see the places around vizag for 3 days. Can u tell me how to plan and How To Reach my Trip for 3 days?

Unknown said...

Nice information. :) Araku valley is perhaps the most beautiful hill station in the south because it still remains unspoiled by commercialism of tourism. The beauty of the valley has been showcased in the Tollywood films as well. For accommodation, check out these hotels in Araku offering comfortable services.

Unknown said...

Really helpful Nanda, i tried googling to know the birds around TYDA as i am going to that place tomorrow for a 2day trip.

Now i have the idea on list of birds which could see over there, though i am not sure which can be seen in this season or not.

Appreciate the details on the same.


Nanda said...

Welcome Naidu. Hope you had a good time and caught sight of some nice birds. If you can share any special sighting here.

BTW, just wanted to mention in reference to my comment above on the sighting of Ruby-cheeked Sunbird reported in Newsletter for Bird Watchers, the site for the archives of that magazine has moved to: https://sites.google.com/site/nlbw2011/

Sumeet said...

You have a wonderful blog, how come i never came across this blog before, when I'm so active in birding since last 2 years or so. But great post ... keep traveling and keep posting the pics of birds. Enjoyed every bit.

Nanda said...

Thanks much! Will try to travel and keep posting as I see you also love to do. :)

Nanda said...

Just realized that the issue was not mentioned where the sunbird article is. Got to: https://sites.google.com/site/nlbw2011/ and click on the Sept-Oct 2011 issue. Or directly to: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3FJoJNii3LpWW92ekxZbExueTA/view pg 77.