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India Nov (2020 - postponed) (2021 - postponed again) 2022: First time (for Alex), mostly birding (for all)


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That is one trip report that has all chances not to be written at all! But let me start at the beginning, and beginning was back in summer of 2019 when Martin came to a brilliant idea to organise a birding trip to India for Safaritalk members. I am sure he was thinking of Safaritalk birders mainly but hey, I am happy to join any group of people just to be able to travel more :D.


After a few rounds of messages and emails, there was an itinerary prepared (Goa & Kabini) and there was a group of birders ( @Soukouswith wife, @xelaswith wife, @Treepol, @ElaineAust and @Galago) with their flight tickets in hand ready to embark on an excellent birding & wildlife expedition.


And then COVID hits the world, for the first time. And a year later for the second time. All sort of travel restrictions and related problems for members living in different countries, thus in 2022 only two couples remained. For that reason also the itinerary was changed. Instead of visiting Kabini in Karnataka Martin put Tadoba in Maharashtra on the updated itinerary. In essence, there was a week of (hardcore) birding around Goa and a week of (leisure) game drives in Tadoba Tiger Reserve ... if the global health situation would allow it. 


Anyway, being a stubborn optimist (and not wanting to lost deposit) I have bought flights for 2022 and after securing the mandatory e-visa for India (a quick on-line process of less than 24 hrs!!!) Zvezda and I were ready to see what India's wildlife has on offer for us.




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Zvezda and I have started this trip from LJU airport who is just 30 min away by car from our home. Our carrier was flydubai for the leg from Ljubljana to Dubai, a comfortable 6 hrs flight. Nevertheless I was a bit nervous since our last trip was almost 3 years ago, and with COVID still present, one does not know exactly what to expect. 













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Next leg was from Dubai to Mumbai, with Emirates. A quick 3 1/2 hrs flight with about 3 hrs connecting time at Mumbai airport. Plenty of time to collect the bags, clear the immigration and security, walk up to the Domestic departure area, check-in and board ... or not? 




We have arrived at BOM almost on time and got our luggage quickly. Then we approached the immigration area ... and it was choked full! I still have high hopes as first line of counters were dedicated to Indian passport holders. However also Foreign passport holders area was filled with not so foreign looking folks. Luckily I was able to find an empty row ... at least that was me hoping for the best. It did got us to the front of the counters only to realise we have skipped them all! What to do now? Easy decision, I have engaged my "No habla Espanol" and "Ne čujem dobro" mode and within a few minutes we have presented our passports and e-visas to the immigration officer. After passing through the first "obstacle" there was already a second one waiting: the security check. Same amount of people waiting to be checked; men and women in separate lines. No jumping to the front of the line here. 


The unplanned stunt at the Immigration allowed us to be at the Vistara check-in counter in time for our third and last leg Mumbai - Goa.



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Also Vistara flight was on time and finally I was able to experience the dreaded chaotic driving on Indian roads ... but where is the chaos I was told time and time again?! Driving in Sri Lanka must have lowered my sense of danger driving. Or it was because I was only a passenger now. 


The first week we have stayed at Wildflowers Villa Resort - https://wildflowergoa.com/ , about 45 minutes from the airport in Candolim, Goa. The resort's location is up the hill and thus not that humid or hot as it would be down by the coast.

It is a very calm, almost secluded property covered with trees and bushes. The cottage is comfortable with all amenities modern and clean. Ours was Desert Marigold cottage, close to the dining area and the pool.









The pool area was a pleasant surprise although little did I know that it will not be much used in the next days :(.






On arrival day we were the only guests but since our sleeping time was heavily overdue, only a quick and brief exploration of the premises was done before hitting the "clouds". With a camera, always have a camera with you!


What else should be the first bird that greeted us (me) in India than a lovely Red-whiskered Bulbul. Very first photo taken:




and a better one




The rumour of Alex The ABB has arrived must have spread around quickly as there was one more Bulbul to say Hi! This time a Red-vented Bulbul:




Just to prove that I do not took photos of only Bulbuls, here is a colourful Asian Green Bee-eater:




After walking around the property for about 1 hour, and not being adapted to such high temperatures and humidity, I could easily pass as Red-Faced Alex (no photo or scientific name here ^_^). To cool the body and the mind another "bird" came to rescue ;)




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After a good night sleep it was time for my very first Indian breakfast. Delicious! But as with the pool same goes also for the breakfast; sadly it was our only at the Wildflower Villas :(. But also Martin and Rena were missing as they should arrive early in the morning.









After the breakfast it was time for photography training. The gardens were quite busy not only with birds. And the light was great.


Three-striped Palm Squirrel



Vigor's Sunbird



Purple-rumped Sunbird




Zvezda's approach was different to mine; she took a strategic position and has waited for the birds to present themselves. And they did!




Common Tailorbird



Thirsty Asian Paradise Flycatcher










After the birds have had their refreshing bath it was time for me to follow their example. 




Pool birding ... almost as good as Balcony birding :)!



Edited by xelas
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Yes, that breakfast does look very tasty. Sadly I never got to taste the Wildflower breakfast as we always set out too early.

I also really love that first photo of the Asian Paradise Flycatcher. 


I should have been there, for the breakfast and the poolside birding, but my run of bad luck was nowhere near finished yet.

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Refreshed I have continued to search for the birds and other photographic subjects of flora and fauna. There were more birds, in total I have counted 21 species. 


Asian Koel



Black-naped Monarch



Female Purple-rumped Sunbird




Face-recognition software has improved and there are many apps and websites that helps with identifying almost everything. Like these two butterflies.


Sahyadri Birdwing - Troides minos (aka Southern Birdwing)



Oriental Comon Mime - Papilio clytia clytia




These flowers can also be identified ... so try it yourself!








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Same as breakfast also dinner was very delicious. I was a bit afraid that I will not like Indian food ... too spicy and not enough meat. But I was wrong! Not about meat however at the end of our trip I preferred vegetable dishes to meat (chicken) curries. Sadly still no sight of Martin or Rena?!










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15 minutes ago, Soukous said:

I should have been there, for the breakfast and the poolside birding, but my run of bad luck was nowhere near finished yet.


Please tell us more about it!

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20 minutes ago, xelas said:

Please tell us more about it!


You asked


While Alex and Zvezda’s journey to Goa was long but uneventful mine was rather different.

It should have been much quicker and trouble free, but ….


At some point Indian government decided that UK passport holders could no longer get an eVisa. When I was initially told this I did not worry as I already had a visa in my passport, multiple entry valid until 2023. I’d already used the visa in 2019 so I knew it was valid.

Just to be on the safe side I contacted the Indian High Commission and asked for clarification and was told that because my visa had been issued as an eVisa it was now cancelled.

So, still bemused by the news as Indians I know were able to enter UK on previously issued eVisas, I went online and filled out the form for a 'paper' visa. That was the easy bit. As it was still seven weeks before my departure I thought I had loads of time.
Not so. Having filled out the form and submitted it, I then had to get an appointment. There were none available.

I logged on again at 7am the next morning and found they had opened up 3 more days for appointments. I grabbed the earliest I could, on 28th October. My flight was on 7 November.

While I was engaged in fun & games with the Indian High Commission, Rena was facing challenges of her own. Being a German passport holder she got her eVisa very quickly and felt very smug.
Shortly before our trip to India she flew to Germany for her mother’s birthday. A few days after she arrived her sister-in-law tested positive for Covid-19. Yes, it is still out there.

In rapid succession, her nephew, his wife and her brother all tested positive as well. So in additon to looking after her mother, Rena was also cooking and caring for most of the other members of her family.
I suppose it was inevitable, but after a couple more days both she and her mother tested positive too.

What was meant to be a quick visit to Germany dragged on for over 3 weeks and she arrived back in the UK a week before we were due to fly to India. The poor girl was exhausted and did not feel at all like packing her bags again and flying to India. Reluctantly, she decided not to come along.

So now there would be just 3 of us


On 28 Nov I took the train down to London and went to the visa office, expecting to collect my visa. Of course it wasn't going to be that easy.

This was not an appointment to collect my visa, it was just an appointment to check that I had completed the form correctly. I then had to hand over my passport which would be sent to the Indian High Commission and then couriered back to me.

To be fair it was a quick turnaround; my passport was delivered back to me on Friday 4th Nov. The last possible day.

So I had my passport and a visa, but fate had not finished with me yet.

On Monday 7th Nov there was a rail strike. No problem, I booked a National Express bus from Stansted to Heathrow. A mere 1.5 hours drive that would get me there 4 hours before my flight time.

No sooner had I got on the coach than the driver announced that the junction where the M11 joins the M25 was blocked. He was going to take an alternate route.

Long story short; it was not just that junction that was blocked, a group called 'Just Stop Oil' were holding protests and had climbed the motorway gantries at 4 or 5 points on the M25 and the whole motorway was grid locked. 

Then the driver informed us that because he had been driving for almost 4 hours (from his start point) he would have to stop and take a 45 minute break. You can imagine how that was received by a coach full of people with flights to catch.


The journey took 6 hours and 15 minutes. Instead of arriving 4 hours before my flight I arrived after it had departed.

Air India confirmed that because I had missed the outbound flight, the inbound flight would automatically be cancelled. I had to book another return flight.
Luckily there was a flight that evening that would take me via Mumbai to Goa. Unluckily it would take 19 hours instead of the original 9 (my original flight was direct), and involved a 9 hour layover in Mumbai.


I have to say I was very impressed with Mumbai airport. Alex had warned me about long queues at immigration but when I arrived there was only 1 person ahead of me. 

This provoked mixed emotions; happy as I was to not be stuck in a queue I had expected that I would be able to while away some of my 9 hours in Mumbai airport stuck in immigration.

I had ample time to change money and get an Indian SIM card for my phone.

Instead of reaching Goa at 01:30 0n 8th Nov and having a full day to settle in and enjoy poolside birding, I arrived at 23:00.

Alex has asked me to let him know when I arrived. So I asked for 3 beers and knocked on his door.

While we drank our wonderfully cold Kingfishers I met my travelling companions for the first time.


We started birding at 6 am the next morning. And so it continued; Savio worked us hard, setting out in the dark and getting back to the lodge at about 8 pm.
It was only on the third day that I saw the lodge in daylight for the first time and I never did get to taste the Wildflower Villas breakfast.


Edited by Soukous
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A great start to the report - I am looking forward to the rest!

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1 hour ago, wilddog said:

Glorious photos!

Thanks! Once the true birding started the light became worse and so also the photos.

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43 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

A great start to the report - I am looking forward to the rest!

I will try my best to keep your interest, Tony. And Martin will help me.

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@Soukous, what a stressful and interrupted arrival, oh dear!  The birds, Kingfisher beer, flowers, butterflies, food look exquisite.  The writing on the airline maps sets the tone for an exotic adventure.  I'm sure it will be one.

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oh dear how stressful for @Soukous!  But at least you got there and I presume with luggage!


Definitely looking forward to more...we head to South India in February!


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2 hours ago, janzin said:


Definitely looking forward to more...we head to South India in February!

Where to, @janzin?

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31 minutes ago, xelas said:

Where to, @janzin?

Further south! Kabini and the Western Ghats for birding.

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Dave Williams

Interesting beginning, poor Martin!

Your Loten's Sunbird looks more like a female Vigors's Sunbird. The bill isn't as curved as Loten's and the red breast is more like Vigor's. Never seen the latter and that would be a great tick for me!

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1 hour ago, Dave Williams said:

looks more like a female Vigors's Sunbird

I would respectfully suggest it looks more like an immature male Vigor's.

Nevertheless our ABB fanatic has made a brilliant start here and there are some superb photos giving a hint of what is to come. Commiserations to Martin for the hardships gone through just to get there. Tip. Avoid LHR even if you live in Hounslow. Even the bloody coach driver was bolshy.

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@Dave Williamsand @Galana thanks for correcting my typing mistake. I've got both and was 2F2F when posting :unsure:. As a reward here is Loten's Sunbird from the same garden:



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@Soukous so sorry to hear about your travails just to get to India but relieved you got there in the end. 


@xelas ahh the life of a pool birder. It's mind boggling to see an Indian paradise flycatcher casually flitting around at a swimming pool, and here we trip all over each other to get a shot of this beauty!!

Just one day and you've got a good haul of birds. this is going to bump up your BY!!

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7 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

this is going to bump up your BY!!

It will. Just don't know when I will be able to post them on BY :wacko:

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I'll leave you to judge for yourselves how to react to this.


It has been decided that UK passport holders can now apply for e-Visa again. This was announced on 5 December.


As I am planning a trip to India in March 2023 it is much simpler for me to apply for an e-Visa that to schlep down to London for a 'regular' visa. Not to mention the cost.

An e-Visa, multiple entry costs USD80

A single entry 'regular' visa costs GBP110, plus the cost of getting to London and the cost of the courier to return my passport. 


Anyhow, I submitted an application for e-Visa.

I got an email the next day telling me my application had been rejected. 


Of course I had to ask why.

I got an email this morning telling me my application was redundant because I already had a valid e-Visa in my passport.  They quoted the reference number of the e-Visa that I had been told was 'cancelled' in October.


So, my cancelled e-Visa appears to have been re-instated. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. :blink:

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1 hour ago, Soukous said:

So, my cancelled e-Visa appears to have been re-instated. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. :blink:

Buy yourself a good brand of whisky for those saved 80 GBP! We can drink it together (but not in India ... mostly "dry country").

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