BIRDING TOURS IN SONANADI WILDLIFE RESERVE
The Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary is situated near to the Corbett National Park, which was founded in 1936 and is the oldest national park in India. Sonanadi itself was made a protected area in 1987. It lies in the Nainatal district of Uttrakhand, partly along a valley between the Lesser Himalaya to the north and the Shivaliks in the south. The climate ranges from tropical to relatively temperate compared to other protected zones in India, rarely rising above 40 degrees in summer or 30 in winter, though guides recommend November to April as the best period for a visit. It is open from October 15th through June 15th.
Short birding tours in north India, Himalayan region, are available from Asian Adventures which offers one night/two day packages as well as two nights/three days. Resorts in the Jim Corbett National Park offer luxury accommodation, but in the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary the only accommodation available is Forest Rest Houses. The Magpie Cottage near the Sonanadi Sanctuary is a cozy cottage of three rooms. The cottage is pet friendly and one needs to carry your own provisions if you wish to prepare your own meals. The magpie cottage, has been described by visitors as an cosy and best place to stay when visiting Sonandai or Lansdowne. The Cottage does have an experienced care taker to prepare you delicious meals.
For transport, the nearest rail station is at Ramnagar and the closest airport is Pant Nagar Airport, which is 50km away.
The geology of the region, with a sub-Himalayan belt structure, allows for both breathtaking landscapes and considerable biodiversity. Sonanadi is home to some 600 resident or migratory bird types, which represents around six percent of all bird varieties globally. Hence the obvious attraction for those on birding tours.
In even a short visit tourists may well see 150 species, which include falcon, flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, changeable hawk eagles, Himalayan bearded vultures, brown fish owl, emerald doves, hornbill, pheasant and wall creepers. However, the experts recommend a seven-day trip as being necessary to explore the reserve’s glories in any meaningful way. Possession of a jeep is essential, as is an expert tour guide. Both can be arranged by Asian adventures.
There are jeep safaris available which last around four hours. Several of these are offered each day. While Sonanadi zone allows people to use their own cars, visitors strongly recommend hiring a jeep, which can be achieved with the help of staff at Vatanvasa Gate. Prior booking is needed for jeep safaris. As an alternative, bird watchers can take a forest trek accompanied by armed guard, which can be an extraordinary experience.
The remoteness of the sanctuary and its lack of resorts means that tourist numbers are relatively small, making it a haven of peace and tranquillity, which is enhanced by the lack of villages within its boundaries. It is a perfect example of the tropical forests of north India. Because it only opened for tourism relatively recently the trails and roads are not well developed, but visitors report that this isn’t a problem because of the fairly small number of tourists. This, in turn, improves the quality of the bird watching.