Wednesday 16 May 2012

Fairstay Holiday Resort, Ooty - Review

Fairstay Holiday Resort, Ooty – Review
Last month I was in Ooty and stayed in the Fairstay Resorts which is about 1.5 km before the main Ooty town. I did not know anyone there, just looked up the reviews in tripadvisor and other sites and decided to pick this place based on the very good reviews that the customers had given.
Here is my review on the resort based on my experience here.
The place:
When they say resort, do not imagine anything big like a beach resort you would see in Chennai or any other city, but you can expect a decent hotel kind of a place.
The resort itself is situated about 1.5 km before the main Ooty town. Which means you are out of the hustle-bustle of the crowded holiday town, but the same time the access to all the major tourist places are easily accessible through car / taxi.
The resort only entertains people coming as a family and do not hesitate to turn down guys coming as a group so that they could maintain a good atmosphere.
The rooms are quite spacious and maintained very well and clean. One cannot have too many complaints about the facility.
A couple of nagging things about the place is that the approach road to the hotel from the main road is not paved well. It is quite bumpy, but that is only a stretch of few meters. This is a non-issue for me. Another problem that people may find is that you do not get mobile signal in the hotel rooms and there is no landline in any of the rooms if you want to make any urgent calls outside.
They have a very clean kitchen and dining room. Though not very big, it is very well maintained. They provide only vegetarian food. If you insist on having non-vegetarian then they can buy it from outside. No preparation is done in the kitchen. The kitchen itself is very well maintained and they even encourage the guests to visit the kitchen if they want to, so that they can be sure about the hygiene of the food.
The food as such is very good, like home-made food. In the package that I took, the breakfast was complementary and they had about 5 varieties of food every morning to choose from.
They also provide dinner and change the variety everyday with rice and rasam as standard menu. The food was really tasty and hygienic!
They do not provide lunch, which makes sense. After all you are not visiting Ooty to just sit back at the hotel room and eat and sleep. You will be going out to visit place, so manage the lunch outside!
Off late, I have not seen this kind of excellent service from a common man’s hotel / resort. There is no surprise in a star hotel giving an excellent service, but I have not seen this kind of courteous and prompt service from a common hotel.
Starting from the room service to attending to the guests needs, the service had been excellent throughout and I had absolutely no complaints about the service provided in any way
Last, but the most important. It is the people who actually make excellent service. It is no surprise that the service was excellent as the people who work here know what they are supposed to be doing and are real professionals, though I doubt if they would have any professional qualification in hospitality institutes.
Right from the director Mr. Anbumani to every staff of the hotel, everyone were polite, courteous and well behaved. And the same time very helpful and lively.
I have to give special mention to Mr. Sathish who was our taxi driver right from the time we landed in Mettupalayam railway station. He picked us up from the station and guided us throughout the entire tour of 3 days giving loads of information about the place, people, culture, plants, trees, flowers and everything that you can imagine there. He definitely is an asset to any employer.
He has the right kind of knowledge and contacts to get us to places which may normally need some prior bookings or permission.

Overall it was a very good family vacation for me after a long time and the time was spent really well.
To sum up, here are the pros and cons of the place.
Excellent service
Well maintained rooms, dining hall and kitchen
Very good food.
Courteous, polite and well informed people
At Rs.2500 per night during the season time is a reasonable rate for this place.
Only family is allowed.
Located just outside the main town which makes the place calm and beautiful!
No mobile signal inside the hotel
Bad approach roads.
Would I recommend this place to my friends? ABSOLUTELY! If you are planning to go with family, look no further. Fairstay is the place to stay!

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Ooty Landscapes in HDR

Ooty Landscapes in HDR

I recently visited Ooty and managed to take some landscape shots with the Olympus 11-22mm wide angle lens. I have never really given it any good work-out since I bought it sometime back.
Given the weather and the beautiful landscape, I thought it would do justice to the beautiful place if I make it an HDR instead of just having a plain landscape photo which may not bring out the beauty always.

So, here are the photos!

 Botanical Garden with some good rain clouds forming over it. In fact it had actually started drizzling while I took this photograph. So I was fortunate to not have any moving people in the scene.

A view from the Kamaraja Sagar Dam. The colour of the sky and the water was so good that I wanted to bring out the spectrum of colours and the contrast it offered. So went for the HDR.

This above view has the Kamarajar Sagar dam itself.

A view on the way to Pykara Falls. Once again had the resort to HDR here to bring out the contrast in the sky, water and the foliage. There were some people moving, so had to clone them out.

Pykara Falls

Another view of the pykara falls, before it turned to a falls. Given the unpredictable weather of Ooty, though it was bright and sunny, it could change completely within minutes. This photograph was taken only a few minutes after taking the previous one.

The pykara lake - this is a nature mountain spring and the water level will raise quite a bit during the monsoon. It had started raining by the time we finished boating. The weather changed completely from being sunny to rainy in a matter of few minutes.

The winch at Glen Morgon, used to reach the hydro-power station. If one travels through the road it would take about half day to reach the place, in case of any repair required. But through the winch it would take only about an hour. This beauty was built during the British rule and is being used it now. The angle at which the winch travels is 45 degrees. This is one of the steepest winch climbs anywhere in the world!

A view at the 9th mile. This is one of the most famous shooting spots in entire South India. Number of scenes shot in this place is just countless.

Tree Park - This one is near the Ooty lake but almost never visited by any tourist. This place is very small when compared to the Botanical Garden, but very neatly maintained and beautiful. This place has trees from many parts of the world.

Another view in the Botanical garden. This pond can be seen as one enters the botanical garden in Ooty.

This is the first time I have tried so many landscapes, that too in HDR. I had deliberately left behind my Sigma 50-500mm lens as I might restrict myself too much on bird photos. I wanted to try some landscape shot and these are some of the ones I came up with. Your feedback and comment on this would be a great help.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Bird Watching trip to Ranganathittu and Masinagudi

Bird Watching trip to Ranganathittu and Masinagudi

Yet another bird watching trip organized by Connect with Nature. This time the trip was to Ranganathittu and Masinagudi. Both these places are new to me and had been in my list for sometime. Thanks to Kesavamurthy for extending the invite and also adjusting the dates to accommodate me. Personlly, the best part of the trip was that I was able to spot quite a few birds for the first time and also was able to photograph them. Most of them in close quarters!

Though I knew that Ranganathittu was a bird sanctuary, I was under the impression that it is going be like Vedanthangal Sanctuary in Chennai which I frequent. But this one was quite different. The sanctuary is formed by the backwaters of Cauvery river and we can take a boat ride in the lake to visit the birds in real close up!

As planned, I reached Bangalore from Chennai on the early morning of Saturday and from there we proceeded to the sanctuary in 2 cars. We reached the sanctuary around 7:45 AM and took a boat ride in the lake to visit the birds. Though I have seen almost all those birds earlier, this was the first time I ever got an opportunity to see it this close and take some real close up photographs. We spent time till 10:00 AM and then returned back. Had our breakfast in the canteen at the sanctuary and proceeded on our journey to Masinagudi.

On the way, after entering the Bandipur forest, the first bird that we spotted was the Changeable Hawk Eagle. We immediately stopped the car and took a couple of photographs, but were informed by other vehicles that we were not supposed to stop there and hence we left the place. We reached our resort around 12:30 PM and spent sometime in watching the small birds there. We decided to venture into the forest trail with the help of the local tribal guides to spot some mammals. We had not gone too far and had to return back as one of the members in the team were unable to proceed further.

During the time we spent there on the evening we spotted some spotted deers and bisons. We did hear a very loud panic call from deers at about 100 meters from where we were. So we knew for sure that there is a leopard or tiger. We also some some fresh pug marks which confirmed the same. But were not able to locate any.

In the night Ullas and Srikanth decided to do some star trailing. I accompanied them, and we spotted some rabbits, spotted deers and a palm civet while we were waiting outside our cottage.

The next day we set out around 6 in the morning to look for some birds. We were helped by a very well informed, Maasi, who is a localite there. His knowledge of the birds, it behavior and their location was just amazing.

The first bird we spotted was the endemic Malabar crested Lark, which was found in abundance there. We also saw the colourful Plum-headed Parakeet. We ventured around in the forest till 10:00 AM and spotted some beautiful birds and locations. We returned back to the resort around 11:00 AM to have our breakfast and started back to the city around 12:00 noon.

Overall, for me, this has been a wonderful trip with some good learning and some very good bird spotting and photographs.

Following is the list of birds that we spotted. I request friends to update me if I have missed anything from the list.

Jungle Babbler
Fruit Bat
Green  Bee Eater
Red-vented Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Pied  Bushchat
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Indian  Cormorant
Little  Cormorant
Greater  Coucal
Spotted  Dove
Black  Drongo
White-bellied Drongo
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Crested Serpant eagle
Cattle  Egret
Great  Egret
Little  Egret
White-browed Fantail
Pale-billed Flowerpecker
Asian paradise Flycatcher
Asian-brown Flycatcher
Tickell's blue Flycatcher
Night  Heron
Pond  Heron
Purple  Heron
Common  Hoopoe
Black-headed Ibis
Common  Iora
Common  Kingfisher
Pied  Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Black  Kite
Brahminy Kite
Red-wattled Lapwing
Malabar-crested Lark
Scarlet  Minivet
Small Minivet
Jungle  Myna
Indian  Nuthatch
Common  Oriole
Bown-fish Owl
Spotted  Owl
Malabar Parakeet
Plum-headed Parakeet
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Indian  Peafowl
Spot-billed Pelican
Yellow-throated Petronia
Indian  Robin
Oriental Magpie Robin
Grey-backed Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
House  Sparrow
Eurasian Spoonbill
Open-billed Stork
Painted  Stork
Purple  Sunbird
Purple-rumped Sunbird
Red-rumped Swallow
River  Tern
Great  Thicknee
Great  Tit
Forest  Wagtail
Grey  Wagtail
White-browed Wagtail
Booted Warbler
White-breasted Waterhen
Flameback Woodpecker

I know that is an exhaustive list and that is the reason I am quite happy about the trip. I would love the explore Masinagudi again with a longer stay.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Sunrise @ Besant Nagar

Sunrise @ Besant Nagar

Sunrise and Sunset have always been a favorite subject of photography for me. Not sure if it is because of the light or colours or the landscape that comes with it, I just like it. Recently myself and couple of friends visited the Besant Nagar Beach to take some sunrise photographs. Here are the photos. This is the first time I extensively used the 11-22mm lens which I acquired a few months back.
Since it was cloudy on that day, we were not able to get a glimpse of the sun till it raised quite a bit.

Friends photographing the sunrise

This was interesting to see and perceive.  There were 4 girls standing at the shore and enjoying the early morning warmth. When one of the girls started walking away, it looked as if there was a mood of separation.

This gentleman should be a regular morning walker in the beach. He stood for a minute to admire the sunrise and the reflection of the sun. I really didnt know why I wanted this in B&W, but I liked it this way.

Now photographing the sunrise as well as the reflection it creates in the sea.

I also had some good use for the ZD 50mm f2.0 lens

Do we see similar expressions from everyone? :)

I was amazed by the sharpness of this lens when stopped down to f4.5.

Fishermen starting their day. They rise along with the sun and return back only when it sets!

Hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I do!

Thursday 19 January 2012

Backyard Visitors

Backyard Visitors

Off late, I have got some new visitors in my backyard. A few of them have become regular visitors and friends as well. All of them are very interesting in their own ways. Here are their photos.

All these photos were shot from inside my house. Never stepped out to photograph these fellows.

Shikra - (Accipiter badius)  -  A common urban raptor. It can be found hunting squirrels and other rodents.

Common Tailorbird - (Orthotomus sutorius)  -  This is a new member of our neighborhood.

House Crow - This one needs no introduction. A regular visitor and a friend, so close that it will demand food in the morning and afternoon. We can even get quite close to fellow and he wont mind it.

Yet another Shikra. Looks like a sun adult female.

Squirrel with its breakfast. This fellow was happily nibbling away the mango. My Sigma 50-500mm lens did the job for me.

Curious Friend. This one is a new friend. He would sit in a branch which is a bit further than this from my window. On hearing the clicking sound of the camera, he came closer to have a look. He did that every day on hearing the camera sound. And I got a real close shot!

Not just the birds and squirrels. There were some critters as well. Beautiful and scary in their own right.

Jumping Spider

Not sure what bug this is. Found it in my house one day.

Caterpillar. Found this fellow among the vegetables. Took a few photographs before leaving him out.

Crimson Rose Butterfly. Beauty written all over it!

Monday 9 January 2012

Bird Watching at Vedanthangal

Bird Watching @ Vedanthangal

Here are some photos taken during this trip and the past

I visited the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary with friends this weekend to check out the feathered friends that may have come from various parts of the country.

I somehow had a feeling that the number of birds has reduced this year as compared to last year. But I am really not sure and will leave that to the professional bird watchers to determine.

Personally, I was able to spot more birds than what I spotted last year. That probably is an improvement. And that Greater Coucal which has been eluding me for quite a while was not able to do so this year. I not only spotted but also photographed the bird, finally!!

And of course, there are lots of excellent opportunities for macros as well. Never miss those.

So here goes the list of birds that I had spotted.

Red-vented Bulbul
Pied Bushchat
Little Cormorant
Greater Coucal
Oriental Darter
Black Drongo
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Indian Pond Heron
Night Heron
Purple Heron
Black-headed Ibis
Glossy Ibis
White-throated Kingfisher
Common Moorhen
Common Myna
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Spotted Owlet
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Spot-billed Pelican
Oriental Magpie Robin
Asian Spoonbill
Open-billed Stork
Painted Stork
Purple Sunbird
Rufous Treepie
White-browed Wagtail

So, when are you guys planning your visit?