Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

During my recent visit to Kumarakam, I visited the bird sanctuary, which is one of the most admired tourist attractions in Kumarakam. Read further to learn our experience at the bird sanctuary and also get information like visiting hours, admission fee and some travel tips.

Visiting the bird sanctuary at Kumarakom was not really in our itinerary. However, our house boat cruise was along the boundaries of the bird sanctuary and our boat driver suggested we should visit the place. He warned us about the rains and lack of shelters in case of rain. After thinking for a few minutes, we decided to carry our umbrellas and decided to spend some time with nature and the birds! Also see A houseboat experience in Kumarakom by Kerala Houseboat Retreat

The Kumarakam Bird Sanctuary is operated and managed by KTDC. They have the KTDC Hotel inside the sanctuary. Inside the sanctuary, up to the gate of the KTDC hotel, the place looks very nice and well maintained. After passing the hotel gate, you will see no development or maintenance, which is good in one way - the natural beauty is preserved or undisturbed.

See Also: Kumarakom or Alappuzha - which is better for houseboat cruises?

Bird Sancturary

The entrance of the bird sanctuary is covered with the boards for the hotel and we were confused for a moment whether we are in the right place. The board for the bird sanctuary is sort of hidden behind the boards of the hotel. It seems they want to promote only the hotel! The security officer at the gate confirmed we are in the right place. However, everywhere people were asking if we want a boat ride, which was private services outside the sanctuary. I believe these staff get a commission from the private boat operators for arranging guests.
All you need to do to enjoy a wonderful trip in Kumarakom is to book one of the top lake resorts in Kumarakom that can provide easy access to the major highlights of this place including the bird sanctuary.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary - Welcome board

Admission fee and parking

Once you enter through the main gate, you will see the parking space and then the buildings that include a small coffee shop, offices, picture gallery, small hall etc.

There is a parking fee for all the vehicles parked on the premises. If you want to save some money, you may very well park outside the main gate. We chose to pay the parking fee and parked our car in the designated parking area.

Parking fee details: Parking is not free within the premises. However, if you like to save a few bucks, you may park your vehicle along the roadside. Considering the traffic and narrow width of the road, I would recommend you pay the parking fee and park your car safely in front of the office in the sanctuary.

Admission fee: The admission fee is Rs 50 per person, which is quite reasonable. Usually, tourist attractions are an expensive affair. Parking fee for four-wheelers is Rs 25.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

When we paid the admission fee, the lady at the counter gave us a 30-second explanation of what we are going to experience. Her tone was more like a warning than encouraging us to go and experience. She warned us that we have to walk 2 km one way and 2 km return. There are no shelters and the walking trails are muddy. Rains and wind can cause small branches of the trees to fall down. And so on... for a moment, we asked ourselves whether the need to take the risk and go all the way. Finally, we decided to accept the challenge.

NOTE: Don't get scared hearing the warnings from the staff. It is worth the visit and there are thousands of birds at the end of the long walk. The only challenge would be the rains during monsoon. We visited in June during the peak of summer!

Interpretation centre

The interpretation centre offers videos and photo gallery of various birds visiting the sanctuary at various months every year. The interpretation centre is located at the building in the entrance, along with the small coffee shop and ticket counter.
Interpretation centre - bird sanctuary

Butteryfly Garden

The trails start from the ticket office/interpretation centre near the main entrance. We started walking through the trails. After passing the main building, we saw a small garden with the board "Butterfly Garden". There were a few butterflies but nothing very exciting. We spent a few minutes there and continued our walk.

Walking trails - 2 km each way!

It's a pretty long walk of about 2 km to reach the end of the trails. And don't expect to see an exit gate at the end. You have to walk all the way back through the same trails, which is another 2 km to come back to the main gate.

After passing the Butterfly Garden, we walked through the trails and in about 200 meters, we reached the gate of the KTDC Hotel located inside the bird sanctuary. There were few security men who asked us whether we are carrying any plastic bottles. He explained that people are throwing plastic bottles everywhere and now they want to promote responsible tourism and discourage people from throwing plastic bottles in the forest. They would count the bottles we carry, take a deposit amount from us, give us a receipt and we can get a refund when we come back with the same number of plastic bottles. We didn't have any bottles, so we continued our walk.

Throughout the way, we saw many trash cans to collect plastic bottles. Looks like the campaign works pretty well. We didn't see any bottles anywhere on the trails but the trash cans had them all.

Old boat jetty inside the bird sanctuary

After walking around 1 km through small bridges and jumping over all puddles, we reached an end where we had to take a 90-degree turn to go further. At this place, there was a signboard pointing to various places and it was meant for the boat service, which was stopped long ago. The signboard was still remaining there as a symbol of KTDC's poor maintenance of the property or to remind visitors about the boat service that used to exist in the past. The signboard gives a good idea about the distance to Kumarakom bird sanctuary from various other places like Alappuzha, Kochi and Kottayam.

See this image to see the distance from various places to Kumarakom by boat service.

We saw a man with a country boat who was (illegally) offering his boat service to the visitors who are returning from the sanctuary to save the walking distance to the main gate. We asked the man about the signboard and boat service and he said it was meant for the boat service that was stopped years ago.

This area looks like this is almost the end of the visiting area. Many people were going back at this point without seeing any birds and without realizing all the birds are at the far end of the place.

We continued our journey. On the way, we saw one abandoned watchtower. We skipped that and kept walking for about 1.5 km. There were no signs of any birds anywhere, except some common birds in Kerala. Towards the end of the place, we saw the next watchtower (which is officially the Watch Tower# 1). We climbed to the top of the tower, which gives a pretty good view of the area. It was pretty nice to watch a beautiful place but still, there were no birds anywhere!

Watch towers in Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

We were highly disappointed and decided to go back. But then someone told us to go further and see the surprise there. We walked another 200 meters and saw the last watchtower. What was waiting for us really surprised all of us? We reached the top of the tower and saw hundreds of white and blackbirds, which include pelicans, cranes and Indian cormorant. There were hundreds of nests and birds. The birds were flying everywhere and a lot of them were on the trees in that area. It was surprising to see that all the birds were in about 500 meters radius and none of them was moving out of that location.

Types of birds in the Bird Sanctuary

We saw pelicans, different types of cranes and hundreds of Indian cormorant. The Indian cormorants are the most commonly found birds around all backwaters in Kerala. These birds are also known as "Indian shag" and is a member of cormorant family of birds. Casual visitors like me may not notice many other birds but I was told by a visitor from Germany that he could identify more than 10 species of birds. The manager of Kerala Backwater Retreat, the resort in which we stayed, told us that one of their guests was able to identify nearly thirty birds during his stay 3 weeks there. So, if you are a bird watcher, you would be able to see a lot more than casual tourists like me.

Types of birds in Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Is it worth the visit?

The walk through the bird sanctuary, jumping over the puddles and walking through the small bridges itself is a great experience. The view of birds at the last point will really make your heart full and give a treat to your eyes. We spent nearly an hour watching the birds and taking pictures. I think this is one of the places were I have taken the highest number of photos in a single place.

Tips for visitors

  • For the best experience, visit early morning.

  • Be prepared to walk 2 km one way and 2 km return.

  • Carry an umbrella if you are expecting some rains. There are no shelters anywhere.

  • Do not carry plastic bottles.

  • There are no shops and you won't get any food including water anywhere once you enter the bird sanctuary. There is a small coffee house near the ticket counter, which serves just coffee and ice creams.

  • All the birds are at the end of the place. So, don't return in the middle.

  • We saw one security staff while coming back. But other than that, there are no security staff or guides anywhere. If you are not comfortable walking alone in isolated places, better go in a group or follow some other groups.

  • Photos


    Guest Author: Tom Peter04 Aug 2015

    Can you suggest some budget hotels near the bird sanctuary? I am planning to visit with my wife and 2 children. No need of any fancy facilities. Just a basic hotel will be fine. I don't want to stay in any resorts in Kumarakom since they are very expensive.

    Author: Tony John04 Aug 2015 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7


    I stayed in a small homestay cum resort called "Kerala Backwater retreat". It is a pretty nice place and is affordable. You will get a nice accommodation facing a river. But it is about 45 minutes drive from the bird sanctuary. If you are looking for budget hotels near the resort, you may try TripAdviser. I usually go without any reservation and stop in front of the hotels checking for availability. I never faced any issues so far and that way, I will get the best prices.

    Read my review of Kerala backwater retreat.

    Guest Author: Raghuvir Kaul12 Jul 2016

    Looks like a good place to be while on my Munnar-Kochi-Kumarakom circuit visit that we hope to do this fall. Is it like the place will be really humid during that time?

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