Five Best: Hotels for Twitchers

From Himalayan hideaway to island idyll, wake up to hear the sweet sound of birdsong in these stylish retreats

Rhiannon Batten
Saturday 24 March 2007 01:00
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Silky Oaks Lodge, Australia

Overlooking the Mossman River around 80km north of Cairns, Silky Oaks promises true Aussie wilderness with plenty of comfort. The 50 chic rooms - either river houses or tree houses - come with balconies, day-beds and hammocks. There's also a spa. Most visitors want to get even closer to nature, though. The 430 bird species within the surrounding Daintree Rainforest National Park include the rare cassowary and the lodge organises birdwatching cruises.

Silky Oaks Lodge, nr Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia (00 612 8296 8010; www.silkyoakslodge.com.au). Doubles start at AUS$590 (£238), including breakfast and guided walks.

Bird Island Lodge, Seychelles

The only hotel on Bird Island, this lodge has 24 comfortable chalets scattered among what was once a coconut plantation. Set 60 miles from the capital island of Mahé, this coral cay has oodles of soft, white sand and its own barrier reef. It's a barefoot kind of place, without TVs or air-conditioning, but thanks to careful management, it has excellent birdlife (including fairy terns, sooty terns, brown noddies, wedge-tailed shearwaters and white-tailed tropicbirds) as well as both green and hawksbill turtles.

Bird Island Lodge, Seychelles (00 248 224925; www.birdislandseychelles.com). Chalets start at €375 (£254), full board. Aardvark Safaris (01980 849160; www.aardvarksafaris.com) offers three nights' full board at Bird Island, four nights' B&B on Praslin Island and international flights from £2,075 per person.

Kalmatia Sangam, India

The Indian state of Uttaranchal once seemed firmly off the tourist track, but not any more. This spectacular region - at the foothills of the Himalayas - is drawing a growing following among independent, nature-minded travellers. Peppered with small, individual places to stay, one of the best of these is Kalmatia Sangam. A nine-roomed resort with a restaurant that specialises in local, organic produce and smart, understated décor, it also provides easy access to the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, with its pretty villages and cedar-covered mountains.

Kalmatia Sangam, Kalimat Estate, Almora, Uttaranchal, India (00 91 59 62 231 572; www.kalmatia-sangam.com). Doubles start at €77 (£55), including breakfast.

A Stone's Throw Away, Bahamas

A Stone's Throw Away is a 10-room boutique hotel set at the quieter, west end of New Providence (the country's main island), and offers gingerbread architecture and an atmospheric wrap-around terrace. More importantly for birdwatchers, it's also handy for getting out to the island's best bird-viewing spots. If you're not sure where to start, contact Carolyn Wardle, (www.bahamasoutdoors.com)who runs excellent birding tours. Species include stripe-headed tanagers, Caribbean doves, Bahama woodstars, Cuban grassquits and Antillean nighthawks.

A Stone's Throw Away, Gambier, near Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas (001 242 327 7030; www.astonesthrowaway.com).Doubles start at US$175 (£97), including breakfast.

Cavens Country House Hotel, Scotland

This small hotel sits by the Solway coast, not far from Dumfries. Known for its food (its restaurant makes good use of local produce, including delicious cheeses from Loch Arthur creamery), the hotel also gives guests easy access to birding sites, including Mersehead Nature Reserve, the Caerlaverock Centre and the Galloway Kite Trail. For those who'd like guidance, the hotel organises dedicated bird weekends; the next one runs on 10 and 11 November.

Cavens Country House Hotel, Kirkbean, by Dumfries, Scotland (01387 880234; www.cavens.com). Doubles start at £125, half board. Two-night bird weekends cost £485 per couple, including breakfast, packed lunch, RSPB-led excursions and dinner with wine.

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