Nature & Wildlife

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Explore the natural beauty and magnificent wildlife of Kerala

1. Poovar Island

By the Neyyar River, close to the Arabian Sea and numerous canals flanked by mangroves and coconut trees, is the Island of Poovar with its floating cottages. A sand bed separates the sea and river here which makes it a favoured beach destination for a dreamy weekend stay in Kerala. A coastal village on the Vizhinjam Port in Thiruvananthapuram, Poovar is roughly an hour’s drive from the capital city. One can also take an unhurried boat ride that lasts for a couple of hours; it could be a charming ruse to enjoy the lingering breeze and green foliage on the canals. The Poovar Island Resorts on the island has as many as 86 cottages, out of which 16 are floating. A walk on the shores, bird-watching along the lush green trees on the canal borders or getting an Ayurvedic spa will revitalize you. A sumptuous Kerala meal is all it takes to complete the experience.

 

2. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

Be it an adventure trek, breezy safari or romantic campfire, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is the ‘get, set, go!’ destination,100 km away from Palakkad. Spanning 285 sq.km and sandwiched between Nelliyampathy Hills and Anamala, this land of bounty is also a surging wave of rare wildlife with crouching tigers, feisty leopards and majestic tuskers. For the adventurous, there’s the tiger trail and sloth bear trail amid thickets of teak and bamboo groves. You may even spot the 460-year-old Kannimara teak, dubbed as the world’s oldest one. There is an array of cottage facilities within the woodlands, from romantic tree top huts to bamboo cottages. A 30-minute rafting will take you to a cosy bamboo hut on Perivaripallam dam. Or, stock up on food and bamboo raft across the Parambikulam Lake to the dreamy island of Veettikunnufor a night’s stay, where you’ll spot herds of elephants swimming up to the island in the hazy moonlight.

 

3. Elephant park (Experiences)

A pachyderm roaming in the green pasturesis not an uncommon sight in Kerala, thanks to the many wildlife sanctuaries. Elephants are so closely connected to Kerala and its prevalent culture that it’s safe to say they are included in most festivals in the state. If you’re only able to see a herd from a distance, but long to spend a day in the company of tuskers, caressing the bristly skin of an endearingly naughty baby elephant, there are sure shot ways to do that, too.The State has elephant reserves where those that are injured or lost are rescued and looked after. Konni Elephant Reserve is 11 km from Pathanamthitta town where baby elephants that are separated from their mothers or herds are trained. The mahouts also tame wild elephants, for which the already trained elephants help them. Ananthavalam Kaveri Park, close to Kollam district, is another place where you can meet, greet and feed these highly intelligent yet gentle giants.

 

4. Vembanad Backwaters

Around 16 km from Kottayam lies Kumarakom, the backwater paradise of Kerala, on the shores of Vembanad Lake that leaves tourists dazed by its beauty. Vembanad Lake, the largest in Kerala spanning several districts and the longest in India, is a highly popular tourist destination. Kumarakom has plenty of houseboats that promise a scenic cruise, a night’s stay and sumptuous seafood. The small town has stocked up an old-world charm with antique shops strewn around everywhere. It also has a museum that collects driftwood from the coasts of Andaman. Nifty upscale resorts collect memories of a vibrant land and its exquisite food culture, offering a peaceful holiday by the lake. A bird sanctuary with a 2 km bird watching trail is the perfect way to break away from the busy world. Pathiramanal Island, renowned for its picturesque locales and migratory birds, can be accessed by boat from Kumarakom.

 

5. Thattekad

Thattekad came into being in 1983, shortly after Dr Salim Ali, the legendary ornithologist, surveyed the region and declared it the richest bird habitat he have seen. Located 12 km from Kothamangalam, the sanctuary covers an area of 25 km. An evergreen low-land forest near Periyar River, it is home to both forest and water birds with over 300 avian species. One may spot the Sri Lankan Frogmouth, Bronzed Drongo, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Rufous Babbler, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill and many more in these parts. There are nature camps held, where students will get to know more about the natural environs they are inhabiting. A bird monitoring cell and a social outreach programme are in place to learn as well as protect the precious avian species in the sanctuary. The Edamalayar forest, with its own exotic bird species, is 15 km away from Thattekad and is worth a visit for its beautiful landscape.

 

6. Vagamon

A quaint hill station in Idukki district, Vagamon stands 1200 meters above sea level. The air is always nippy and refreshing here, and it’s likely that your balcony will open out to a mountain just an arm’s distance away. The ride up to Vagamon, flanked by hills and tea plantations, is a way to unwind in itself. A lovely pine grove makes for an ideal morning trek. There’s also a chain of three hills in Vagamon thriving in spiritual co-existence. Thangal Hills is an 800-year-old abode believed to be that of a Muslim ascetic; Kurisumala is a church built in early 1900s and Murugan Hills is a small rock-cut Hindu temple. Take paddle boat-rides for two in Vagamon Lake on a balmy afternoon or ‘paraglide’ your way through the scenic mountains. The high ranges also offer hearty food, zesty tea and the perfect setting to enjoy it.

 

7. Thekkady

A quaint town in Idukki district along the Western Ghats, Thekkady instantly brings to mind the Periyar Lake and sanctuary. Not to forget the plantations of exotic spices that the region takes pride in. Countless hill stations and a world of green thats untouched by urbanisation, a trip to Thekkady is the wildlife fix you need. Taking a boat cruise on the lake is a unique way to spot elephants, deers and wild hogs that get to the edge of the water. A destination for bird-watchers, it is the best spot to find the Western Ghat endemics in one place. Chellarkovil Viewpoint is famous for a stunning view of the hilly terrains adorned by a waterfall. The place also has a watchtower with a telescope installed allowing tourists to get a bird’s eye view of the picturesque location. Peermede, Pandikuzhi and Ramakalmedu are other smaller villages and hill stations to visit. Mountain biking, trekking, jungle camping and bamboo rafting are some of the activities one can take up here.

 

8. Athirappilly & Vazhachal Falls

This is a story best told during monsoon seasons, the cold drizzle of Kerala’s largest waterfalls descending the rocks leaves you in complete awe. Athirappilly Falls is a mesmerizing experience. Located in the Chalakkudy town in Thrissur, it originates from the upper reaches of the Western Ghats. Dubbed the ‘Niagara of India’, it stands tall at 80 ft. The Vazhachal Falls is a short drive from Athirappally and both these falls are contained by the Chalakkudy River. Vazhachal has a dense riparian forest cover, with exotic flaura and fauna. The only place where four kinds of the Great hornbill co-exist, it is also home to the Asiatic elephant, wild bison and many more forest dwellers. The Sholayar dam and Thumboormuzhi dam are not very far, and offer splendid views of quiet streams flowing against the lush green setting. Illithode, a serene spot with a gentle stream and tangled trees can be a place to relax and take a dip.

 

9. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

The ecologically spectacular Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary is 17 km from the historical village of Marayoor in Idukki district. Marayoor is famous for its natural thicket of sandalwood that can’t be missed while en route to Chinnar. Nature stages its best show along this belt with creeks, rivers and waterfalls colluding with the vast expanse of rare flora and fauna. You could also visit the dolems or the ancient burial grounds said to have been built in the Iron Age. Called ‘Muniyaras’ in the local tongue, they hold clues to a prehistoric life. Chinnar is a rain-shadow forest home to a large number of wildlife species; it has the second largest population of the giant grizzled squirrels in the world. If trekking is on your mind, ask for a guide at the forest office at the check-post. You could also book a log house for the night stay, where animal visitors offer non-intrusive company.

 

10. Pathiramanal Island

An island nestled in the Vembanad lake, Pathiramanal, which in local tongue translates to, “Sands of the midnight” makes for a fascinating pit stop while you’re on a boat/cruise ride on the spectacular backwaters. Pathiramanal has no roads connecting it to the land. It will take a motor boat or a speedboat ride to the island that hosts 91 species of birds and over 50 migratory birds, like sea gulls, different kinds of egrets, herons, jacanas, terns and so on. A haven for bird-watchers, this island is an idyllic picnic-spot. After getting down on the island, you will find a pathway that leads to the forest, with mangroves and swamps on either side. You’ll also find the legendary ‘Ezhilampala’ (devil’s tree), the blooms of which have an alluring fragrance. A pair of binoculars and a great spot on the island is all you need to enjoy an afternoon watching hoards of bird-visitors and butterflies. 

 

11. Gavi

The verdant forests of Gavi, an eco-tourism village in Pathanamthitta district, is 14 km away from the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Nature displays some of her rarest wildlife here. The Sabarimala viewpoint trek shows off the bountiful hills of Sabarimala. One can even get to the pilgrim spot where the “makara jyoti” is said to appear. The pristine waters of Kochupampa Lake promises a lovely boating experience. There are jungle lodges that offer accommodation and tour packages. For an early morning expedition, choose the plantations of cardamom and eucalyptus. Jungle vehicle safari lasts for a couple of hours through the forests where one can spot the macaques and elephants among other animals. For the more adventurous who want to spend the night in the woods, there’s jungle camping facility as well.

 

12. Thoovanam and Attukad Falls

Flock to the edge of Idukki-Munnar during the monsoon season to get your fill of Kerala’s magnificent waterfalls. Thoovanam falls, located 8 km from the Marayoor-Udumalpet state highway is inside Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. One has to embark on a trek that starts from the Alampetty check post. With the Chinnar River on one side, it takes close to three hours to get to this enchanting waterfalls. One can spot an assortment of birds and butterflies on their way. Pushing itself from a height of 84 ft, the Thoovanam Falls is a spectacle worth every step of the trek. There is a stay-in facility at Alampetty if you wish to take in the wilderness for a little longer. Travel a couple of hours and you can get to Attukad Falls in Pallivasal famous for its multiple cascades, infinite trails and panoramic trekking routes is every vagabonds dream destination.

 

13. Neyyar wildlife sanctuary

A 32 km travel from Thiruvananthapuram will get you to an eco-tourism spot in Kerala’s Neyyar. The place gives you a wholesome experience. The Neyyar dam, known for its beautiful gardens, the Neyyar River and its tributaries, and the sanctuary itself is a sprawling land of 12,000 hectares with exotic flora and fauna. With the Agasthyakoodam Mountain set against the backdrop, Neyyar plays the perfect host to the wildlife aficionado in you. You can go trekking into the sylvan forests or go boating in the warm, blue waters of the Neyyar river. The highlight is the Lion safari park on a peninsula accessible by road and water, where lions roam free on a 10 acre land. There’s a deer park with hundreds of the spotted beauties and a crocodile park, too. Fun fact: The crocodile park is the world’s first known memorial honoring the late Australian naturalist Steve Irwin, known as ‘The Crocodile Hunter.’

 

14. Ashtamudi Lake

Known as the gateway to Kerala’s backwaters, this ancient trade port in Kollam has a unique wetland ecosystem. An aerial view of this palm-shaped water-body is breathtakingly beautiful. Celebrated as a monsoon destination, it is an ideal setting to enjoy the rains in their full glory. Boat ride is the go-to activity here, with cruises and boats wading through narrow waterways laced with houses and mangroves. At the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and Kallada River lies an archipelago, the Munroe Islands is a cluster of eight islands. One can get to the Island villages and watch the native folks going about their daily activities of coir retting, coir weaving, fishing and so on. At the Chavara South Island within the lake, you could visit a 1000-year-old Durga temple and listen to the legend behind it. Be there for the famous Kallada Boat Race, held during the festival of Onam, to witness an electrifying water sport beloved in Kerala.

 

15. Ilaveezhapoonchira

A little over 50 km from Kottayam, 3200 metres above sea-level, is the valley of Ilaveezhapoonchira, quickly gaining momentum as an option for one-day trekking. With an interesting tale behind its name that translates to ‘the lake of flowers where leaves don’t fall’, Ilaveezhapoonchira is a haven for nature lovers. The air is forever misty, with luscious green carpeting on the ground and a clear sky to go with it. Expect light drizzling during the winters, but it only makes the trekking more fun. There’s a dolem on the way called Muniyara cave believed to be from the pre-historic times. The gush of a stream reaches your ears from inside even though it’s difficult to get in. Once at the highest point, the view is arresting; you can spot five adjacent districts of Kerala and the Malankara reservoir flowing calmly. Wait around and close the day with a spectacular sunset, while getting a bite from the refreshment stall stationed atop the valley.

 

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