Goa & the Magical Monsoon


Sunset at Uttorda Beach

Goa is known as the most popular beachfront state in India lying along the Arabian Sea bounded by Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the east and south. Its biggest draw is undoubtedly its virtually uninterrupted string of white-sand beaches each beach having its own personality from tropical retreat to backpacker haven to hippie bliss.

Over 450 years of Portuguese rule and the influence of the Portuguese culture presents visitors to Goa a cultural environment that is not found elsewhere in India. Goa is often described as a fusion between Eastern and Western culture with Portuguese culture having a dominant position in the state be it in its architectural, cultural or social settings.

Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each winter season given its top world ranking nightlife and beaches. But I chose to visit Goa in the monsoon season (July through September) when the foliage turns lush green from the rains. Beauty abounds while the tourist population recedes.


I stayed for four wonderful days at the new Planet Hollywood. Well-appointed and comfortable along clean and quiet Utorda Beach with a most welcoming and hospitable staff. So many surprises awaited from day one, including a beautiful and very tasty greeting cake, an upgraded luxurious suite room and a handwritten personal welcome note from the GM. Each room is individually designed according to a Hollywood theme featuring creature comforts like massage chair, mood lighting, goose down pillows, plush towels, satin sheets, and designer toiletries. Rooms either overlook the Arabian Sea or feature a lush garden view.

As to meals while in residence, I was offered a menu but instead asked that the chef select all my meals choosing from local favorites like pork vindaloo, chicken xacuti, balchão, pomfret curry… all prepared to my taste using a mouth-watering array of Goan spices. I was never disappointed.  What a fantastic culinary experience!


Welcome assortment and brownie topped with Serene Journeys


Welcome note from GM Anand jee


one of the walls at the lounge bar


executive suite


Prawn Kismur


Pork Vindaloo


Pomfret Recheado


MargaFeni – Feni Margarita

The second day I enjoyed a bicycle breakfast picnic to Three Kings Church, a famous ‘haunted church’ once attended by three Portuguese kings… one poisoned the other two and then committed suicide. Dicey heritage, cool place for enjoying a picturesque view in a most serene setting. I dined on fresh fruit, fresh baked breads and muffins, an omelet, some Indian delicacies and of course all washed down with delightful local coffee and tea.

On the way back, we detoured through local rice fields, small villages and took a long photo-stop, as I was excitedly prepared to ‘shoot’ every unique beauty coming my way from ruined churches among the coconut trees, to the farmers in the field and the butterflies. I spent the day at leisure along the beach watching beachgoers and cricket matches along the Sea as fisherman brought in their ‘treasures of the deep’.  My day ended still at the beach embraced by the patina of a golden sunset through the clouds and into the Arabian Sea.


Wallance & I getting ready for the adventure


the road to three kings church


the spots decided


we have a picnic butler 🙂



under the tree on a beautiful morning


beautiful moth


this tree is beautifully creepy LOL!


The ruins at Three Kings Church


Picturesque view from Three Kings Church


Three Kings Church



The caretaker makes sure this fire does not go off


another abandoned church on the way back


The third day we toured many of Goa’s famous historical religious sites. Goa has a rich spiritual history where east meet west, Hindu meets Christianity.  First stop was the Basilica de Bom Jesus housing the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, a UNESCO world heritage site. Dating to 1605, the basilica is an outstanding example of baroque architecture… one of the most important destinations for Christian pilgrims from all over the world. Then on to the Se Cathedral which is the cathedral of the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Goa and Daman as well as the seat of the Patriarch of the East Indies. Next, I visited the church of St. Francis of Assisi built in 1660 by the Portuguese as a chapel later gaining status as a church. Then on to the church of St. Augustine completed in 1602 and now a famous ruin with the only remaining structure being a 46-meter bell tower constructed of laterite.   Last but not least on the list was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church built in 1541 and featuring the second largest bell in Goa. I enjoyed a fish fry thali for lunch at the famous Ritz Classic.


Basilica de Bom Jesus



the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier



Se Cathedral



The ruin around the church of St. Francis of Assisi


The ruin around the church of St. Francis of Assisi


the church of St. Augustine


the church of St. Augustine


the church of St. Augustine


the church of St. Augustine


Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church


View from Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church


Blue building is Singbal’s Book House, Church Square


Given my diverse religious background (a prodigy of both Hinduism and Chritianity) I visited several Hindu temples each surrounded by flower vendors stringing garlands and making beautiful floral arrangements to place in the temples. I visited Shantadurga Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess who served as a messenger between Shiva and Vishnu. Formerly a small laterite mud shrine with a small idol during Portuguese times it is now converted into a beautiful full-scale place of spiritual enlightenment featuring a blend of Indian and Portuguese design. Next was the 400-year-old Mangeshi Temple founded during 16thcentury dedicated to Bhagavan Manguesh a incarnation of Lord Shiva.


Shantadurga Temple



Wallance & Chauffeur Rakesh ended up doing their own little shopping



the 400-year-old Mangeshi Temple


Stay tuned for Part 2 of ‘Serene Journey’s Excellent Goa Adventure with Planet Hollywood


Robindro Saikhom

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a gay travel company based in Delhi and a freelance travel photographer, exploring the beauty of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Southeast Asia.
Check us out on Instagram Facebook Twitter Youtube 

Lights & Colours & Fairs… Oh My! Check our package!

An introduction to the festivals of India.

16Nights|17Days touring
Group size: 2-6 travellers, guaranteed departure

The sound, the colour, the fragrant air, the press of humanity… get ready for daunting yet enchanting experiences back to back as you embark upon a once in a life time adventure of two most famous festivals of India–Diwali and the Pushkar Camel Fair. Come join us as we celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights commemorating the triumph of good over evil. Witness the pale brown sandy dunes of Pushkar as they erupt into a colourful frenzy during the camel fair. Arrive in style as we receive you as you come off your flight, escort you through immigration and customs, retrieve your baggage and travel by luxury ground transport to your hotel. Explore the Taj Mahal – an enduring masterpiece, stay at unique hospitality venues known only to the most discerning, knowledgeable travellers – the best kept secret royal homes, see Bengal tigers and leopards in their natural habitat, alongside local villages and much much more…….


Tourist enjoying Pushkar Fair (Photo courtesy to the photographer & google)



16th Oct         Mumbai arrival

Kindly advise your flight details 

Upon arrival, our representative will receive you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel. VIP welcome, kindly look out for ‘Serene Journeys Placard with your name on it’ as you walk out aerobridge.

Overnight at hotel.

17th Oct         Mumbai

After a morning at leisure, explore the city’s classic sites, including the Gateway of India, an 85-foot-high arch with a design that reflects India’s Muslim and Hindu traditions. Visit the Prince of Wales Museum and Mani Bhawan, a museum dedicated to the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi. Next, see the Dhobi Ghat, the largest open-air laundry in the world and a wonderfully colorful spectacle to behold.

Evening around 7PM, enjoy a welcome dinner alongside fellow guests.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast & Dinner)

18th Oct         Mumbai – Delhi – Agra

By Vistara UK970, departure Mumbai @0845hrs, arrival Delhi @1100hrs

Early breakfast and we drive to Mumbai airport to board your flight to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, we receive you at the airport and drive to Agra. Upon arrival in Agra, check in to the hotel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

19th Oct         Agra

Pay your first visit to the masterpiece this sunrise, when the rising sun lends a warm orange tint to its marble face. Flawless in its proportions and breathtaking in its beauty, the Taj Mahal looks as though it were painted onto the sky itself — a vision of unrivalled magnificence.

Later come back for breakfast and brief rest.

Around 10am, we then go on a guided sightseeing of the impressive Agra Fort, built of red sandstone and marble, Agra Fort presents a formidable exterior and a graceful interior. Visit Itmad-ud-Daulah, nicknamed the Baby Taj, the exquisite tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg. Visit the local market, watch the locals shopping as they prepare to celebrate the festival of lights.

Evening go out with our guide to celebrate Diwali with an Indian family, watch the fireworks & the streets become lively. Get ready to be fed with lots of India sweets.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast) 

20th Oct         Agra – Jaipur via Fatehpur Sikri

After breakfast and around 9.30AM we drive to Jaipur en-route visiting Fatehpur Sikri. Built by Emperor Akbar as his palace in the 16th century and then later abandoned, “ruined” Fatehpur Sikri is a fairy-tale ghost city of delicately carved red sandstone.

Later continue to drive to Jaipur. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel.

Rest of the day is at leisure

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

21st Oct         Jaipur

After breakfast around 8AM, we go on a guided sightseeing of Jaipur.  We will visit Amber Fort, the former capital of royal Jaipur. Set on the dry wrinkled Aravali Hills and surrounded by fortified battlements, the palace straddles two sepia-hued tundra hills overlooking Maota Lake and its sprawling crenellated walls lattice the surrounding hills. We shall visit the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a five-storied structure of pink sandstone with semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows overlooking the main street of the old city. Also, we visit the Solar Observatory – an astronomical treasure house.

Later visit the local market selling fabrics to jewellery and lots more, get ready to bargain the Indian way 🙂

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

22nd Oct        Jaipur – Shahpura

After breakfast around 9AM, drive to Shahpura Bagh, an authentic royal home stay experience in Rajasthan. Life is unhurried here. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Later visit Dhikhola Fort, a short 30 minute drive from the Bagh brings you to village Dhikhola, a quaint and rustic village where time has stood still. Visitors can explore the village and the fort owned by the family. Then enjoy a sundowner with one of the royal family overlooking the village from the fort.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)


Sundowner at Dhikhola Fort

23rd Oct        Shahpura – Udaipur

After breakfast, we drive to Udaipur. Upon arrival check in to your hotel.

Following an afternoon at leisure, enjoy a private cruise to Jag Mandir, a palace of splendidly carved marble on an island in Lake Pichola.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

24th Oct         Udaipur

After breakfast, around 9AM visit the City Palace, a marble complex of palaces and galleries that offers unforgettable views of the lake and its surroundings. Take a private tour of the Crystal Gallery in Fateh Prakesh Palace, and stroll through Sahelion Ki Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honor). Also visit the Vintage and classic car collection museum.

Rest of the day is at leisure / own activities

Evening, we visit Bagore Ki Haveli at Gangaur Ghat, the 17th century old historic mansion. Enjoy Dharohar a cultural event held inside Bagore ki haveli. This event is a musical concert combining 7 traditional Rajasthani folk dances performed.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

25th Oct         Udaipur – Narlai via Kumbhalgarh

After breakfast, around 9AM we drive to Narlai en-route visiting Kumbhalgarh. One of the many forts built by Rana Kumbha (r 1433–68), under whom Mewar reached its greatest extents, this isolated fort is perched 1100m above sea level, with endless views melting into blue distance. The journey to the fort, along twisting roads through the Aravalli Hills, is a highlight in itself.

Later continue to drive to Narlai. Upon arrival check in to the hotel.

Hidden away in the heart of Aravalli Hills, at the foot of a mammoth granite rock, surrounded by forested hills and rocky outcrops, Rawla Narlai is a beautifully maintained heritage resort, which was once a hunting lodge of Jodhpur’s Royal family. Still owned by members of the Jodhpur family, the resort is now transformed from a mere hunting lodge into a stunning, stylish boutique hotel albeit with all its original character and structure retained.

Evening we go for dinner at the step well. Taste the flavor of true Rajasthani royal hospitality at the 16th Century old Baori (Step-well) of Rawla Narlai. The journey that begins when you gather at the courtyard, sip a welcome drink with the resident royal who will regale you with stories & history of the locals while you get adorned with the turbans & scarf and transportation by bullock carts are arranged for you. Guided by a local into the dusk, swaying to the movement of the cart, watching the village slowly going to sleep and the starlit sky unfolding above you, passing the yogi who meditates by the blazing fire, you reach your destination that is lit by hundreds of lamps. Following this experience is the culinary journey that ignites your taste buds with elaborate fare offered over the next couple of hours while being entertained by the local jogi singing the devotional folk songs in his rich melodious voice. This culinary experience ends with the return to the hotel courtyard by our jeeps and a welcome cup of calming herbal tea.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast & Dinner)

26th Oct         Narlai

OPTIONAL: Morning go on a village walk with one of the locals and visit to cave temple.

Enjoy a half day trip on the meter gauge train that still runs through beautiful countryside, especially after the rain as the waterfalls can be experienced. A journey by the train along with local villagers and then pick up at the end station by car / jeep followed by a drive back to Hotel. It is the best way to enjoy the rugged and beautiful countryside!!!

Evening tea by lake side.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

27th Oct         Narlai – Rohet via Jodhpur

Leisurely breakfast, and around 9AM, we drive to Rohet en-route visiting Jodhpur.

We go on a guided sightseeing of Mehrangarh Fort, the massive fort which in olden days must have been impregnable since its rocky base is scraped straight down making it nearly impossible to ascend. Once inside, royal palaces abound with fascinating history and priceless jewels. We then proceed to the armoury and Jaswant Thada – the Royal Crematorium.  Visit the clock tower and walk around the town.

Later continue to drive to Rohet. Upon arrival, check in to the hotel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

28th Oct         Rohet

Leisurely breakfast and around 11AM we go on a village jeep safari visiting the Bishnoi tribes, the Brahmins and the potters. Also try your hand on the opium tea.

Rest of the day is at leisure / indulge with several activities available at the hotel.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)


Just relax by the pool sipping your favourite cocktail

29th Oct         Rohet – Pushkar

After breakfast around 8.00AM, we drive to Pushkar to witness India’s ultimate rural festival.

Pushkar festival has religious origins which draws pilgrims from far and wide to this festival to bathe in the holy waters of Pushkar’s lake and pray to Lord Brahma. The sand dunes of Pushkar appear in the carnival mood. There is a huge inflow of pilgrims, camel traders, and tourists. It is a fascinating sight, and a great opportunity to witness the colors, aromas and mood of an old traditional style Indian festival. A huge carnival is held. There are musicians, dancers, acrobats, magicians, snake charmers, rides and food stalls to entertain the guests.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast & Dinner)


Pushkar festival, photo courtesy to the photographer & google

30th Oct         Pushkar – Delhi

By Ajmer Shatabdi train 12016, departure Ajmer @1545hrs, arrival Delhi @2240hrs, on 1st AC

Today morning, we will attend Pushkar fair.

Afternoon, we drive to Ajmer railway station to board Shatabdi Express train for Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, we will receive you at the station and drive you to the hotel and check in.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)


Pushkar fair, photo courtesy to the photographer & google

31st Oct         Delhi

After breakfast around 10.00AM, we go on a guided sightseeing of Old Delhi. Visit the great Jama Masjid, the most important mosque in India. Then set off on an exciting rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, inching your way through a maze of ox carts, cars and the occasional wandering cow, explore the spice markets, jewellery market & the clothes market. We visit the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh house of worship in Delhi, visit Gandhi Smriti (Birla House). Later on to Humayun’s Tomb, a Mughal complex that prefigured the Taj Mahal. Visit Qutub Minar, the second tallest minar in India.

At 5PM, with our compliments, indulge in a 60MIN complete relaxation and rejuvenation massage treatment and ease stressed muscles from your travels, by a male therapist.

Overnight at hotel (Breakfast)

01st Nov        Delhi departure

Kindly advise your flight details

Today we transfer you to the airport to board your onward flight.

Hotels envisaged / similar
*Rooms are based on standard rooms



Number of person Cost per person
Minimum 02 Paying Pax US $5350 approx
SGL Room Supplement US $1400 approx



  • 16 nights hotel accommodation. Stay in hotels on room & breakfast basis unless specified in the itinerary.
  • Arrival & departure assistance at airport.
  • VIP welcome on arrival in Mumbai as you walk out the aerobridge
  • Transportation using an air conditioned AC Innova car (SUV type)
  • Services of English speaking local guides as per the program
  • Services of a full time tour leader
  • Entrance fee to the monuments as per the program (01 time visit)
  • A relaxing massage treatment in Delhi with our compliments
  • Welcome dinner in Mumbai
  • Visit to Taj Mahal at Sunrise
  • Celebrate Diwali with an Indian family
  • Celebrate Pushkar festival
  • Holi celebration in Jaipur
  • Private boat cruise to Jag Mandir on Lake Pichola
  • Romantic step well dinner in Rawla Narlai
  • Half day trip on metre gauge train experience with the locals
  • Evening tea by lake side, watch the sunset in Narlai
  • Morning village walk / cave temple visit (optional)
  • Train ticket for the sector Ajmer – Delhi on 1st AC
  • Domestic flight tickets for the sector Mumbai – Delhi
  • All presently applicable taxes


  • Any International Airfare | travel insurance | visa fees
  • Any item of personal nature such as table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, mineral water etc.
  • Any other meals (except those mentioned above).
  • Camera fee at the monuments
  • Tipping, etc.

Cancellation & Refund Policy:

We advise all customers to purchase traveller’s insurance in case of interruption, accidents, illness, or anything else that may come up.

Unless stated differently on the tour, cancellations received 120 days prior to departure date will be refunded in full less a 10% handling fee. Thereafter, cancellation fees are as follows: 

  • 119 to 90 days prior to departure = 25% of tour cost
  • 89 to 60 days prior to departure = 50% of tour cost
  • 59 to 30 days prior to departure = 75% of tour cost
  • 29 days prior to departure forfeits full tour price, including no shows. 

If the tour is cancelled by Serene Journeys, a full refund of all deposits and/or payments will be given. 


We advise all customers to purchase traveller’s insurance in case of interruption, accidents or illness 

Here is a list of precautions which will help you to enjoy your holidays in India fully. You need to be very attentive and careful about your documents, luggage and health during your India travel.

  • On streets keep all money in zipped pockets.
  • Keep all your important documents like passport, health certificate and international driving permit with you always.
  • Most of the diseases in India are water born there for always keep a flask of boiled water with you and never eat anything from shops or stalls which serve uncovered eatables.
  • Always keep a medical kit with you when you travel to India and stock up on aspirins, diarrhea tablets, insect cream, salt tablets and other first-aid essentials.
  • Always buy beverages and juices of good brand and check the seal and expiry date before buying.
  • Always peel your own fruit and vegetables, stay clear of raw vegetables salads, raw sugarcane or (a big cause of amoebic dysentery) iced cane-juice.
  • While traveling in dry climate you need to have a lots of fluids and to soak up all the excess liquid you might want to pick some solid eatables like biscuit, bread etc.
  • While traveling in dry places like Rajasthan have lots of water in-store with u.
  • If you wish to over stay, you are advised to contact the nearest Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office.
  • For personal side trips in the city, try to use pre-paid taxis/auto-rickshaws or pay by meter or ask for fare chart when you travel within India. Lots of reliable app based taxis like Uber, Ola etc are available as well.


For reservation query, please email us at robin@serenejourneys.co
steve@serenejourneys.co (for UK and Ireland ONLY)

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a boutique travel company in India and a freelance travel photographer, birder and rural explorer.  Follow him on Instagram @ serenejourneys or Facebook @ Serene Journeys or  tweet @serenejourneys1



The Wonders of Rajasthan

Indian Potpourri: The History, Mystery & Diversity.
A once in a lifetime journey exploring Rajasthan’s colourful history, culture & traditions. Join me on the journey through my lens.


Sundowner by the Dam in Khempur


Candid moment: Serenian Peter


Candid moment: Serenian Nacho


Candid moment: Serenian Chris


Outdoor kitchen, a common sight in Khempur


A woman washing utensils the rural way. They use ash and Like soap, ash is also a disinfecting agent (alkaline).


Another rural outdoor cooking. Every morning the woman makes chapati (Indian bread) for their husband to carry them to work.


She was a real picture perfect


Peter enjoying a dip at the golden hour. The infinity pool at Mihir Garh, Relais & Châteaux‎


I have never met a sunset I do not like… infinity pool at Mihir Garh, Relais & Châteaux‎


Panditji Harman Bharati, the priest at Mihir Garh, Fortress of the Sun


Lavish breakfast, everything clicked perfectly


Around Mihir Garh


The sunset lawn


Our personal butler Om


Work station while the Serenians are out exploring Jodhpur


The Tent from the House of Rohet where Madonna & her family stayed during their rural vacation


The beauty of Rajasthani women


Namaste…. the happy man at the Tent


The innocence in her eyes says it all


The famous lady of the Bishnoi village


A woman with ghoonghat veil. A ghoonghat is a veil or headscarf worn by some married Hindu women in the rural to cover their head, and often their face.


Out exploring the Brahmin’s village


The Head of the family at Bishnoi village


A Bishnoi woman


Bishnoi Woman


Kids in rural are very friendly and they will pose for you anytime


Peter enjoying the sun on the charpoy.  A charpoy is a bedstead used in India consisting of a web of rope or tape netting.


She is beautiful, I could’t stop photographing her.


An another one. Every angle she had different expressions.




Exploring the way of living in rural


Peter & Chris at their best 🙂


The Brahmin ready to perform the Opium Tea Ceremony


Nacho taking part in tasting the opium tea cermeony


Peter tasting the opium tea


Chris enjoying the opium tea


Peter tried the Bidi, a local cigarette made of unprocessed tobacco wrapped in leaves.


Nacho and his pottery talent


Spices of India


Nacho and the master chef at Rohet


Learning the secret of Royal recipe


Celebrating Deepawali in style


Ready to release the lanterns instead of crackers 🙂


Fly high


A sunset cruise in Shahpura Bagh lake


Village safari with Sat, our host from the Royal family


There is something about the expression


The perfect smile behind the veil


Rural photography,


Simply beautiful


Look closely, you will see the ear ring


They are so photogenic, those beautiful turban and his white moustache


His face says it all


The look of innocence


They sure do know how to pose


Another elderly man, the beauty of their look gives me chills


Ready for sundowner at Dhikhola Fort, Shahpura


The village at Bhainsrorgarh


A woman in Bhainsrorgarh


They are so cute


They were all ready to pose

Please leave a comment and share if you enjoyed the photographic journey with Serene Journeys. Don’t forget to like our page or follow us on instagram. Your support is our blessing.

Any questions? Write to us at robin@serenejourneys.co or steve@serenejourneys.co (For UK & Ireland)
Visit our website at www.serenejourneys.co

Robindro Saikhom
Founder, Serene Journeys

Robindro is the owner of Serene Journeys, a bespoke travel specialist for LGBT & communities based in New Delhi and a freelance travel photographer.  Follow him on Instagram @serenejourneys or Facebook @Serene Journeys.


The Hidden Sanctuary of Northern Kerala

The Refuge of Peace

To most travellers, a trip to Kerala conjures an image of an idyllic cruise on the backwaters of Alappuzha. Indeed, there are now over 500 houseboats on the backwaters of Alappuzha alone. But there is much more to South India’s most serenely beautiful State than cruising in the increasingly busy backwaters.


Theyyam dance make-up

In search for serenity, I headed to Northern Kerala and arrived at Neeleshwar Hermitage, a cloistered tropical paradise set in a secluded palm grove beside the Arabian Sea. I was overwhelmed by this boutique sanctuary: it took my breath away and could truly be described as a haven of perfection. Eighteen beautiful cottages, each named after a traditional yogic virtue, come with a garden or pool view and private pool. The beach is just 20 steps away from the retreat where you can enjoy breakfast to the sound of the waves watching the fishermen returning from the sea.


Isn’t it rare to see a crowdless beach?

After a wonderful 3-night stay at this refuge of peace and tranquillity, we drove to a small jetty a ten minute drive south from Neeleshwar Hermitage situated on the banks of the Tejaswini river. I boarded The Lotus, a two bedroom rice barge offering total comfort in tasteful style and elegance.


The Lotus Houseboat




The cruise covers about 25kms of the Valiyaparamba backwater, a large inland lake several miles due east of the Hermitage. As you sail further south, the only sound is the lapping of water or the occasional jumping of huge red snappers. The cruise also takes you on a short walk through the sleepy village to the monkey island. A taxi ride to Shri Mutthappan temple, a highly atmospheric shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in his form as a local tribal hunter offers the opportunity to witness the evening ritual involving the priest acting as a trance-medium for Shiva and serving as an oracle for worshippers.


Where the river & sea meets


A perfect sunset from the deck

To appreciate the joys of this part of ‘God’s Own Country’ aim to spend at least 4 days and enjoy the remote peacefulness where days can easily and slowly turn into weeks.


Sunset and wine goes quite well together

Nearest Airport: Calicut or Mangalore

Need help? Write to us at robin@serenejourneys.co or steve@serenejourneys.co (For UK & Ireland)
Visit our website at Serene Journeys

Robindro Saikhom (Robin)
Founder, Serene Journeys

Robin is the owner of Serene Journeys, a bespoke travel specialist for LGBT & communities based in New Delhi and a freelance travel photographer.  Follow him on Instagram @serenejourneys or Facebook @Serene Journeys.


Thattekad: Gone Birding in Fairyland


I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the tress. – Henry David Thoreau

Also known as Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad is indeed a heaven for aviary aficionados.

This birdman, interested in all things feathered and winged, spent 3 full days exploring various areas of the sanctuary with Vinod, my own personal ornithologist.

The First day took flight at 6am at a picturesque spot with flowering trees and bushes perfect for many of my feathered friends including Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Ioras, Orioles, Minivets, Leafbirds, Thrushes, Parrots, Hornbills and Woodpeckers to name a few.  It was an exciting morning watching them feed as the morning sun gave a glistening hue to their colourful feathers. The first spotting was magnificent – the Ceylon Frogmouth.


Ceylon Frogmouth ( Batrachostomus moniliger)

After breakfast, we went looking for the Asian Paradise Flycatcher (PFC) adult male.  I refer to the male PFC as a gothic angel because of its combination of black head and beautiful white body with a marvellous long tail.  Instead we were greeted by a Malabar Trogan who struck a regal pose for us.  As we continued on our search, Brown Breasted Flycatcher, Monarch, Rusty Tailed Flycatcher joined us but no sign of the PFC.  After lunch, we followed another trail where we were greeted by the Black Baza for a few moments.  The Black Baza is not indigenous to the western Ghats and visits for only 3 months.  It’s not easily spotted, so perhaps I got lucky.  I was then called by this melodious shining bird, the Malabar Whistling Thrush.   Oh my, what an incredible combination of sight and sound!

The next two days was well spent spotting Indian Pitta, Nightjar, Black Baza, and at last my Gothic Angel.  Enjoy the pictures as I reflect and rejuvenate after my all-time favourite Avian experience!

By Robindro Saikhom
Email: robin@serenejourneys.co
           steve@serenejourneys.co (enquiries from UK and Ireland)

Robin is the founder of Serene Journeys, a boutique travel company in India and a freelance travel photographer, birder and rural explorer.  Follow him on Instagram @ serenejourneys or Facebook @ Serene Journeys or tweet @serenejourneys1

Steve is Director (UK & Ireland) with Serene Journeys and a freelance travel writer and photographer.

How to reach Thattekad:  From Kochi airport, it is an hour and half drive.  Most hotels will arrange airport pickup and drop.
Where to stay in Thattekad:  Seventh Heaven Resort  http://www.7thheavenresort.in (upmarket) or Thattekad Birds Song Homestay http://www.thattekadhomestay.com (Budget)
Naturalist to contact in Thattekad:  Vinod, Mobile +91 9746 248274, +91 8943 894087, email at thattekkadhomestay@gmail.com

Jungle Nightjar


Plum-headed Parakeet


White-cheeked Barbet or Small Green Barbet


Rusty-tailed Flycatcher or Rufous-tailed Flycatcher


Bronzed Drongo


Golden-fronted Leafbird


White-bellied Woodpecker


Black Baza


Asian Paradise Flycatcher (male) – Gothic Angel


White-bellied Treepie or Southern Treepie


Asian Paradise Flycatcher (female)

DSC_0089 (2)

Malabar Grey Hornbill


Malabar Giant Squirrel


Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher (female)


Malabar Trogon (male)


White-headed Starling


Common or River Kingfisher


Indian Pitta


White-headed Starling


Grey Junglefowl or Sonnerat’s Junglefowl


Black-headed or Black-fronted Babbler


White-headed Starling


Greater Racket-tailed Drongo


Black-naped Monarch


Black-naped Monarch


Malabar or Blue-winged Parakeet


Common Flameback or Goldenback


Black-naped Monarch


Malabar Whistling Thrush


Oriental or Asian Scops Owl


Yellow-browed Bulbul


Flame-throated Bulbul


Dollarbird or Broad-billed Roller


Malabar Trogon


Rusty-tailed Flycatcher


Malabar Grey Hornbill


Orange-headed Thrush


Jungle Nightjar

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Lesser Whistling or Lesser Tree Duck


Asian Paradise Flycatcher


Scarlet Minivet or Orange Minivet (female))


White-headed Starling


Scarlet Minivet (male)


Green Imperial Pigeon


Flame-throated Bulbul


White-bellied Woodpecker


Malabar Jungle Owlet


Common Flameback or Goldenback


Scarlet Minivet or Orange Minivet (female))


Flame-throated Bulbul


Malabar Grey Hornbill


Malabar Grey Hornbill


Scarlet Minivet (male)


Shikra or Little Banded Goshawk


Grey Junglefowl or Sonnerat’s Junglefowl


Bronzed Drongo


Grey Junglefowl or Sonnerat’s Junglefowl (female)


Heart-spotted Woodpecker