Birdwatching in Pangot

Pangot is a small village located in Kosiyakutoli tehsil of Nainital district in Uttarakhand on the way to Kilbury wildlife sanctuary. It is rarely visited by general tourist but is very popular with wildlife and birding enthusiasts. The village itself is popular scenic destination for breathtaking views and for the variety of birds found around this region. Situated at a height of 6510 feet, the temperature remains cool all year around and even cooler during the winter months.

We visited Pangot in November 2020 for a short duration of 2 days, it was an ideal time to visit, weather-vise. It was cold but not freezing.

We stayed at Jungle Lore Birding Lodge. When we arrived, we could hear peaceful sounds of birds and the views were spectacular as we could see the beautiful valley and surrounding mountain range. My first impression was never to leave this place.

Entrance to Jungle Lore Birding Lodge

As we approached the entrance to the place, we saw many Streaked Laughing Thrush, Grey backed Shrike and Eurasian Tree Sparrows.

Streaked Laughing Thrush
Eurasian Tree Sparrows

The Jungle lore birding lodge, nestled in the laps of nature, is extremely warm and welcoming. Our host/caretaker, Bhuvan and the chef were very welcoming. We were introduced to our bird guide Mahesh Rajpoot for the trip. We quickly checked in to our rooms and took a tour around the property. It was a bit after lunch time when we arrived and we were all hungry from the 3 hour journey from Jim Corbett. The chef had prepared a simple yet delicious spread of mouth watering dishes and I’m not exaggerating!

A group photo of us with the staff at Jungle Lore Birding Lodge.

Soon after lunch, Mahesh took us to their in-house bird hide where we waited for a while patiently. We saw more than fifty White Throated Laughing Thrushes not more than 20 feet away from us. It was an amazing moment as this was the first time I had been to a hide.

White Throated Laughing Thrushes
At the hide patiently waiting to see what nature has to offer.

After spending a decent amount of time there, we decided to check out some other parts of the lodge. Another hide, a bit above where we were was more in the open, and gave us a chance to see Oriental White Eyes and Black Chinned Babblers playing in the small pond of water. We tried to get as many photos of these birds as quickly as possible as the sun was setting fast. This moment was simply beautiful.

Oriental White Eyes playing in the small water pond of their own.
Black Chinned Babblers

The sun had set and it was time for dinner. As we feasted on delicious food, our guide Mahesh decided on keeping a look out for nocturnal birds like the Nightjars and Owls. Later, after dinner – we followed him on the torch lit road on the outskirts of the village. We hopped to spot an Oriental Scops Owl, but the darkness and silence was overwhelming and slowly hope was being replaced by fear of the unknown. We thought it was near to impossible to spot anything here.

Enjoying the beautiful sunset in the background as we sit at the hide looking at the birds.

We reached the end of the road and stood silently as Mahesh tried to listen to the sounds of the Owl calling from far away. After a few minutes he heard the sound too, but very faint and distant. The only way we could see this bird was by calling it closer to us, so we did. As the owl came closer, we could hear it clearly responding to the calls.

With his keen sense of hearing, Mahesh spotted it right above us on a branch. He asked us to get ready with our cameras as he would point the torch at the direction of the bird just for a moment so we could get a shot, yet not to blind it. He flashed the torch light and there it was. We saw it!

Oriental Scops Owl

Capturing this tiny little owl on camera had its own challenges. Firstly we had to point our cameras vertically up, which was a strain on our neck and back as we didn’t carry a tripod (duh!). Secondly, focusing on this tiny bird alongside leaves of a similar size needs patience. Thirdly, we got a very small amount of time to get our camera settings right, focusing on the subject and capturing it (lucky for us, it did not move) within the time the torch light was on. But in spite of all the challenges, the experience and the joy that came with it was totally worth it.

Next morning, we were up early as we were filled with hope for many interesting bird sightings like the Hill Partridge, the Koklass Pheasant, and the Cheer Pheasant.

Although roads are fine in the sanctuary, its recommended to take a local taxi to drive you in. Jungle lore had arranged a taxi beforehand for us and all of us left in the wee hours for our birding adventure!

We were taken to different spots and had to really wait patiently and quietly to hear these birds. The taxi driver would drop us at ccertain points and we would do birding on foot for a while, just to be picked again by him some distance away.

Pangot Mountain Range

Luck was running low most of the morning when it came to seeing some new birds or pheasants. But we saw a lot of small birds like the Black Lored Tit, Black Throated Tit, Green Backed Tit and Oriental White Eyes.

Black Lored Tit
Black Throated Tit
Green Backed Tit

Along the trail, we also spotted many kinds of woodpeckers like the Himalayan, Brown Fronted and the Rufous Bellied too.

Brown Fronted Woodpecker
Himalayan Woodpecker
Rufous Bellied Woodpecker

We had reached the top of the hill and from here we could see such amazing views of the mountain range and the valley below. It was a perfect time for a tea break and some snacking.

Tea break with a breath taking view!

Returning back to Jungle Lore, we did stop at a few points to try our luck spotting the Cheer Pheasant, as we couldn’t see it early in the morning. No luck this time as well. But we did see some new birds we had not seen before like the beautiful Mistle Thrush.

Mistle Thrush

This region is also home to many birds of prey like the Himalayan Vulture, Steppe Eagles, Himalayan Buzzards, Brown Wood Owls and many others.

Himalayan Vulture
Himalayan Buzzards

Morning seemed slow and after lunch Mahesh suggested we go downhill to the village for some bush birds.

Bob in the taxi

On our way, we stopped at a point where we saw a huge Brown Wood Owl roosting up in a thicket of creepers and tree leaves a bit off the road. Mahesh informed us that this was it’s usual roosting spot. It was certainly a good one, as it was practically impossible to get my eye (and lens) focused enough to spot it’s beautiful feather design while it slept peacefully behind the dense leaves.

Brown Wood Owl perfectly hidden behind the branches and leaves.

On reaching the lower grounds near the village we saw some other usual lower Himalayan birds like the Red Billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan Bulbul, Black Headed Jays, White Throated Laughing Thrush , White Capped Redstart and many more.

Red Billed Blue Magpie
Himalayan Bulbul
Black Headed Jay
White Capped Redstart

We also saw a new bird especially found only here, the Golden Bush Robin (female).

Golden Bush Robin (female)

The sun had set and we decided to come back to the Brown Wood Owl spot, hoping to get a better view. And yes we did. The owl moved from its original branch and landed on an open branch. It was almost dark so Mahesh had to point his torch towards the owl position so we could photograph it. It was one of the highlight moment of this trip!

Brown Wood Owl at night

With this we had completed our day’s birding at Pangot. It was time for us to get back to our stay at Jungle Lore, enjoy a lovely meal and relax.

Next day was bright and clear and we were as usual full of hope to spot the celebrities of the sanctuary – Koklass and Cheer Pheasants. We were not so successful the day before and had our fingers (and toes!) crossed for this day.

Hill Partridge, a lucky spotting!

This time we left half an hour earlier to reach their usual spots sooner. We waited patiently as our guide mimicked the call of the Koklass Pheasant. Pressure was high and even a simple rustle of the moving leaves added to the anxiety of the climax.

The Wait!

This time around we all were extremely silent. Even a slight footstep sound or a rub against a dry leaf would alarm these ground birds. We could hear it approaching closer, climbing up towards the road. We knew it would run across the road any minute. We were ready with our cameras. It came out in the sunlight just for a brief moment and disappeared on the other side. We did manage to get a few shots in action.

Koklass Pheasant

We were thankful to Mahesh, for showing us so many birds around the place.

I am not sure if I was comfortable birdwatching from a vehicle at Pangot, as the birds here are very shy (I guess due to hunting). The view from the vehicle is restrictive, the sound from it is a negative factor and getting off and on the vehicle created a big distraction in my opinion. That was the only set back of this trip. On the hind-side, the sanctuary and noted birding spots are a bit far and the terrain needs a four wheel drive.

In any case, I love nature, and being here on the hills of Pangot and walking along the different trails alongside rivers and small villages was exactly the kind of vacation Varnica and I love the most. This will surely be one of the most memorable trips we have ever taken.

Coming from a metro city like Mumbai, I never thought I would ‘like’ to be stuck in a traffic jam!

I hope Pangot has now made it to your list of places to go ‘When (you are) on a Break!’
Subscribe to get regular updates on this blog & checkout our Instagram page for more of our clicks during the trip

Also please check our the list of birds we spotted on this trip on my eBird page

Coastal Suites | Benaulim | South Goa

Visited : October 2018 & February 2021 . Stayed for a week each.

Goa is permanent resident in every beach lovers holiday destination ‘go to’ list. The amalgam of culinary, wilderness and culture is well balanced here. There is something for every visitor. While vibrant North Goa is more popular among visitors we usually prefer the quaint south. We prefer quiet, affordable and well maintained lodgings and therefore we chose (twice!) to stay in Coastal suits apart-hotel, Benaulim for our long trips to South Goa. It never fails to satisfy our requirements.

Coastal Suites Apart-hotel Location

Coastal Suites is located in a quiet town of Benaulim in between Benaulim and Serbatinum beaches, and is 10 mins walk away from both, It’s about 4o mins drive from the airport and 15 mins from Madgaon train junction and local transport is readily available.

Check exact location here

In our opinion, the location is quite convenient, as it is within a town full of little shops and cafes, and most of cultural/wilderness/historical attractions of the state are in 1 hour radius.

Yes, although there are a million hotels, homestay, guesthouses where ever you go in the state, but hardly any can match this location and the offered amenities. Their amenities/facilities were a major plus-plus for us!

A bit of distance from the beaches makes sure that you have your quiet, even in the evenings when weekender tourists and locals rush to these beaches. Walking to Benaulim beach is jazzy with restaurants and cafes lining the streets but the road to Sernabatim gives a little peep into lives of the locals in their vibrantly coloured houses.

The old banyan trees and wetlands along the way are great spots for birdwatching!

Coastal Suites Apart-hotel Property

Coastal Suites in itself is a set of two humble, unassuming white multistory (one is double floored and the other triple floored) buildings surrounded by tall coconut and date trees. The tasteful décor reveals itself as you enter the gates.

A common swimming pool in the center acts like a sparkling blue center piece and is very well maintained. We have ourselves observed Brian, the owner fuss about it’s cleanliness and checking every aspect of it himself. That’s good! and is the best part of privately owned stays compared to fancy hotel chains. The owner takes personal interest in the on-goings of the property. Lounge and garden chairs are spread across the common area around the pool for some casual hangout.

Across the pool is the reception area where Rachel, property manager, greets everyone with a wide smile, always ready to help and guide all guests. Reception is a plain area, nothing fancy – yet welcoming. It has a couple of sofas and a tiny library, stocked with books left by earlier visitors and open to all guests for swaps or borrowing.

Parking is available right outside the property gates for cars as well as bikes.

Brian has made sure that Coastal Suites can support work from home staycations and have high speed WiFi. Which was really a plus for us. I could peacefully keep working on upcoming blogs for ‘When on a break’. Goa vibe really gets your creative juices flowing.

Power backup for regional electric power failures is up and running within seconds. They have a UPS for WiFi routers too, so you don’t loose the internet connectivity as soon as there is power cut.

We let them know about our requirement for a scooter during our stay and Brian readily recommended a neighbor who provided this service.

Coastal Suites Apart-hotel Rooms

We stayed in a 1bhk suite with a long balcony on the 2nd floor in ‘B’ building.

Kitchenette was fully equipped and convenient to use with all the appliances clean an maintained – working perfectly. Ample amount of utensils (and more on request) were available.

The living room had a pull-out couch and bedroom has a good sized comfortable bed. The two of us enjoyed the abundant walking space in the room and balcony unlike hotel rooms where spending a week can be daunting, continuously coming in each other’s way.

Large size bed placed in the spacious bedroom is very comfortable and study table here makes it a great place to catch up on some work.

Bathroom, although was spacious and had the regular amenities (solar heating system – economical and environment friendly!), it is designed in a way that it looks very luxurious and fancy.

Air-conditioning in bedroom and television in living room was included. Other furniture included was a dinning and study set and a wardrobe. Balcony had a sleek cloths drying stand and lounging chairs.

Best of all, the whole facility is kept spick and span and interior decoration is done very tastefully and in good proportions with a lot of thought given to fine details, anticipating what a holidaying guest might require. Nowhere did we feel that corner are cut or cheap materials/appliances/fittings have been used. This property is made with a lot of love and passion and it shows in every aspect.

Unusual for us was the personal washing machine in the room. No more post holiday dirty laundry or sandy beach clothes!

Coastal Suites Apart-hotel Food options

As the name suggests Coastal suites is a set of service apartments. Hence, there is no inhouse restaurant or cafe.

These serviced apartments are a 5 min walk from grocery stores and a plethora of restaurants and eateries serving very delicious Goan food as well as various western/asian/indian cuisines. We were spoilt for choices and when not in a mood to spend too much money, we headed to the store and cooked in using induction and microwave and their compatible utensils. When we felt too lazy, and only wanted to move a finger, we ordered from the two Coastal suites recommended restaurants Yashodna and Viva Goa. Needed more variety, got food delivered via Zomato/Swiggy.

Most eateries/beach shacks serve alcohol around the property. We could easily buy alcohol from the liquor stores on Benaulim beach road and refrigerate them in the apartment for private fiesta.

Water filtration system is installed in each building from where we could fill our bottles with drinking/cooking water. (This economical and environment friendly option is much appreciable!)

Coastal Suite Apart – hotel Staff

We’d like to take this opportunity and say a special Thank you to some of the Coastal Suits staff who made our vacation so enjoyable.

Rachel : Super-helpful and extremely attentive. She always greets all the guests, is very informative and made us feel welcomed. Thank you!

Chatur : Ever smiling and always ready to help in whatever way he can. Thank you for housekeeping our room and the property. He dedicatedly maintained cleanliness and hygiene of the property.

Special Note for Brian: Your personal efforts to maintain the property is very much visible and appreciated. For us, that is what sets this property apart. It’s a perfect blend of comfort and luxury but with a personal touch. Thank you for hiring and retaining the best staff. It is not always the rooms nor the amenities that make a stay a wonderful one or a horrible one – it is how your people care for guests’ needs. I am extremely grateful that you have an amazing team at your property! kudos!

Coastal Suite Apart – hotel Bookings & costs

Along with 1BHK suites, Coastal Suites offers many other options too. Check out Coastal Suites Apart-hotel website for more property photos, amenities and tariff information.

They take bookings through online portals, but feel free to give Brian a call (on the website) and he will be more than happy to hear your requirements and suggest the best room available to satisfy them and also guide you with the booking process.

Final verdict : The accommodation is very economical, and you get SO much for it. It’s totally worth it! our stay proved to be an excellent choice (every time!) !!

After a wonderful day in Goa, we usually would walk up to Sernabatim beach to watch the sunset. With no fancy resorts around, this beach remains a quiet getaway most of the days.