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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

India: Forest Owlet in Maharashtra

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to India: the South. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

TRAVEL TO INDIA: This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird, and starts and ends in Mumbai, India. 

ENTERING INDIA: All U.S. citizens need a passport, valid at the date of entry and with at least one blank page for a visa, and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. U.S. citizens seeking to enter India solely for tourist purposes, and who plan to stay no longer than 60 days, may apply for an electronic travel authorization in lieu of applying for a tourist visa at an Indian embassy or consulate. 

Without the electronic travel authorization visas are not available upon arrival for U.S. citizens. For additional information regarding the eligibilities and requirements for this type of visa, please visit the Indian government’s website for electronic travel authorization: 

Citizens of other nations should contact the nearest Indian Consulate for entry requirements. 

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on India here.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid, the latter being particularly important because of the presence in this region of S. typhi  strains resistant to multiple antibiotics. 

Malaria:  There is a malaria risk in India (lower elevations). Please consult your physician. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website here

Water: Tap water is not safe to drink and should be avoided at all times. Bottled water (which the leader provides at mealtimes), soft drinks and beer are widely available. Do not eat any salads or unpeeled fruit. 

Mild upset stomachs, often brought on simply by a change of diet, can be hard to avoid in India. We suggest bringing anti-diarrhea medicine such as Imodium. Gatorade or other electrolyte-replacement drinks in powder form are also worth bringing as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhea. 

Insects: Biting insects are not numerous but may occur locally particularly along the streams. 

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

CLIMATE: The areas that we will visit in Maharashtra will be hot. Mid-day temperatures between November and the end of February are frequently range from about 18-31°C (64-88°F). Rain during this season is rare. Any rain that does fall is usually as a brief convectional thunderstorm lasting only a few minutes. Rainwear is not necessary on this tour. Night-time temperatures hardly ever drop below a comfortable 18°C (65°F). Arabian Sea temperatures are similar to those of the Mediterranean in summer. All our hotel rooms have ceiling fans and can be kept comfortably cool. With the temperatures and near-coastal location Maharashtra is also fairly humid. Away from the coast, particularly around Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, night-time temperatures are a few degrees cooler than it will be in Mumbai. That said it will still be quite hot there much of the day.

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: We will start early every day as birds are most active in the early morning. That said, sunrise in late November isn’t until just before 07h00 and sunset will be around 18h00 and, while there will be some optional night-birding, the days will not be unbearably long. The aim of this short trip will be to see Forest Owlet, and as playback for this endangered species is forbidden, we will not see it during the night and instead will confine ourselves to searching for it during the morning and later afternoon/early evening. There are quite a number of other species that we would like to see at Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary and these include Indian Jungle Nightjar, Mottled Wood Owl, and Sulphur-bellied Warbler, but we will focus first on seeing Forest Owlet. We will not have any breakfasts at our hotel preferring instead to head off birding for a few hours before having a simple picnic breakfast in the field. Our morning excursions often mean leaving the hotel between 05h00 and 05h30 and not having breakfast until 09h30.

We do not anticipate returning to the hotel for lunch or a break during the heat of the day, and instead will ask some forest park staff to cook a simple, vegetarian Indian meal for us. This will probably consist of boiled white rice, dal, chapatis, and some subji (cooked, mixed vegetables). Most days we’ll aim to be back at our hotel shortly after dusk. We usually manage to have about a one-hour break before dinner. We will have dinner together each evening and complete our checklist at that time.

Despite the relatively short days this is not a particularly easy-going tour. It will be hot and while we do not anticipate doing very much walking (perhaps not more than five kilometers, or about three miles, in an entire day) the heat will make it feel tiring. None of the walks are particularly strenuous and some of them will involve birdwatching from poorly used, paved roads. Our other walks will be on trails through dry deciduous and rather open forest. While most of our walks will be of one or two hours in duration, some might last three hours or more. Most of these walks will be flat and over good terrain; we don’t anticipate doing any strenuous uphill walking.

ACCOMMODATION: We stay at just one place during the tour: a small, privately owned guest house near Atgaon in Maharashtra. The guest house is about an hour’s drive from where we expect to look for Forest Owlet. All the rooms have electricity and air-conditioning unit as well as a ceiling fan. All the rooms are clean but simply appointed – all have en suite bathrooms with a wash basin, western toilet, and shower. Hot water is only supplied to the shower, and not to the wash basin, and is heated by a combination of solar power and a small hot water geyser or heater. The guest house has its own restaurant where Indian food (and only Indian food) is served. It will be a buffet.

FOOD: Throughout the tour we’re served a wide variety of good quality Indian food. Salads or salad garnishes are frequently offered but these should always be declined or left on the edge of your plate. The food we are served always includes a good selection of vegetarian dishes. We will eat all of our evening meals in our hotel where it is likely to be a buffet. We expect to have picnic breakfasts in the field and, on one or two days, a sit-down lunch cooked for us by the Forest Department staff.

We appreciate that not everyone likes to eat Indian food (which can occasionally be a little bit spicy) every day or even at all but once away from Mumbai, Indian food will be all that is available.

WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip.

TRANSPORTATION: We’ll use a fleet of up to four comfortable small vehicles – such as a Toyota Innova or similar. Three people plus the driver will ride in each of these vehicles and there’s room for their carry-on luggage at the rear and checked luggage on the roof rack. The leader will arrange a seating rotation. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles. During the longer drives, bottled water will be provided in the tour vehicles.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS AND SUNBIRD TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours portion of our website. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

Created: 22 March 2019