Visiting Wildlife Sanctuaries In Kerala

Visiting wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala is becoming a popular alternatives to floating on the backwaters or chilling on the beaches. Not only do you get a chance to see the wild Indian elephant (if you're lucky), you also are helping to improve wildlife conservation in India by raising awareness of the importance of natural habitats for Kerala's fauna.

The list that follows details fifteen wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala from the small, secluded and remote to the larger and more accessible reserves that are now firmly established tourist attractions. This list covers (as accurately as I could manage!) north to south.

Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary Permitting authority tel: 0490-2413160

35 kms east from the quiet beaches of coastal Thalassery in the Kannur district of north Kerala, the Aralam Wildlife Reserve covers 55 sq kms and is home to sloth, mouse deer, sambar deer, elephants and more. Activities of the park include rafting, trekking and tree house stays at Pariputhodu and Bhoothamkallu.

Wayanad Wildlife Santuary

The two wildlife sanctuaries in Wayanad contain lush forests, sub-tropical savannahs and are surrounded by the tea-growing hills of the Wayanad district. There is easy access to the wildlife sanctuaries from Sulthan Bathery and Mananthavady which are towns lying near to the reserves. Visitors to the parks must book a jeep to take them inside.

Other attractions of the beautiful Wayanad district are easily accesible from Sulthan Bathery/Mananthavady, though some people choose to stay in Kalpetta, a little further from the reserves, but nearer to the Vythiri hill station and its attractions.

Wayanad has avoided massive tourism developments, and has a quiet, friendly atmosphere and a landscape that is as green and pleasant as anyone could ever dream of. Whether the forests are shrouded in morning mist or emitting heady aromas of eucalyptus in the warm, midday sun, Wayanad is always enchanting. The wildlife sanctuaries here give visitors one of their best chances to see the Indian elephant in the wild.

Kadalundy Bird Sanctuary

25 kms south from Kozhikode/Calicut (and 41 kms south of Kappad Beach) the Kadalundy estuary is a haven for migratory birds that include herons, sandpipers, terns, gulls, whimbrels, as well over 100 species of native birds. The mangroves also are home to otters, jackals, mussels and crabs.

Silent Valley National Park

In Palakkad district of Kerala, 40 kms from Mannarkad and 80 kms from Palakkad town, Silent Valley contains one of India's last remaining areas of tropical evergreens. Transport by vehicle is only possible until Mukkali, some 24 kms from the park, so visitors would be advised to contact the permitting authority before making plans to discuss options for staying in the reserve and various other practicalities.

Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Santuary

20 kms to the east of Thrissur this reserve was established in 1958, making it one of Kerala's oldest wildlife sanctuaries. The park is especially well known for its rare herbs and medicinal plants and its numerous orchids. The santuary is formed around the reservoirs of Peechi and Vazhani and as well as its flora is home to 176 species of bird, as well as the usual Indian fauna.

The Forest Department offers overnight stays, bamboo rafting, butterfly safaris, trekking and bird watching for groups of four or more, and serve traditional Keralan food as part of their packages.

Chimmini Wildlife Sanctuary

37 kms from Thrissur near the village of Varandarapilly the dense forests of the sanctuary host a wide variety of birds and butterflies. The santuary is a two hour drive from Kochi.

The Forest Department can arrange treks and bamboo rafting. There is even an option to for moonlight rafting when nocturnal animals might be seen.

Parambikulam Wildlife Santuary

This sanctuary is to the far south of the Palakkad district of Kerala and is spread out over 285 sq kms near the Tamil Nadu border. The sanctuary can be approached via Pollachi in Tamil Nadu, 39 kms away. Pollachi is best accessed by bus from Coimbatore, though you may need to book treks and stays through the Ecocare Centre (tel. 04253-245025) in Palakkad, 100 kms to the north of the reserve.

The goverment has declared Parambikulam to be the second tiger reserve of Kerala after Periyar, and the emphasis here is on promoting eco-tourism with the involvement of local tribal people. Activities at the park include tented stays, treetop stays, island stays, night walks including censuses, rafting, safari, boating and eco-meditation courses. Visitors are expected to maintain a code of conduct that will not harm the wildlife or disturb the peace of this highly protected enviroment.

The sanctuary is in a valley surrounded by 3 dams, and is a landscape full of winding streams, waterfalls, giant teak trees and rolling hills. Elephant, bison, panthers, guar, sloths, sambar, bison and the occasional tiger live here. Monsoonal travel to the reserve is not advised.

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is right on the Kerala/Tamil Nadu border, and is just 60 kms from the hill station of Munnar in the Idukki disrict. The sanctuary's nearest town is Marayur, 16 kms away, though visitors can easily arange transport and stays in the park from the Wildlife Warden's Office in Munnar.

Ecotourism activities in the sanctuary are organised by the Forest Department and the Eco-Development Committees of local tribal people. These activities include nature walks, trekking, log house stays, machan (tree house) stays and safaris. Since this sanctuary is not a tourist hotspot, guests are likely to enjoy a more peaceful stay.

The area is rich in flora and fauna with deciduous forests, hills and grasslands defining the landscape. There are over 1000 species of flowering plants, reptilian fauna including the Mugger Crocodile, 225 species of birds, and animals that include elephant, tiger, leopard, grizzled giant squirrel, spotted deer, macaques, the Nilgiri tahr, langurs and the rare white bison. There are butterfly migrations between the two monsoons.

Eravikulam National Park

15 kms from Munnar in the Idukki district, Eravikulam contains south India's highest peak, Anamudi, that stands at 2695 metres above sea level. The park is well known for being home to the largest population of Nilgiri Tahr in the world, and because of this is a National Park. The presence of the blooming Neelakurinji flower gives this place a blue carpet once every 12 years.

Trekking is possible but during a day visit, tourists are only allowed into the tourist area, to protect the inhabiting species. Panther, elephant, tigers, giant Malabar squirrels, barking deer live in the reserve, as well as the tahr.

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary

A must for bird enthusiasts, the sanctuary is set among evergreen forests. The nearest town is Thattekkad which is 12 kms (25 mins by bus) away from the town of Kothamangalam in the Ernakulam district of Kerala (on the border with Idukki state). It is worth mentioning that if you are travelling between Kochi and Munnar by road you will more than likely go through Kothamangalam, and buses run from both destinations to the town.

The park is home to more than 270 species of bird that include the Malabar grey hornbill, grey drongos, jungle nightjars, darters and the rare Sri Lankan frogmouth. Private guides into the sanctuary will charge about R.150, and a canteen inside serves refreshments. Visitors can arrange a stay in tree top huts in the sanctuary at Kothamangalam with the wildlife warden (tel. 0485-2588302) oe alternatively find rooms in Thattekad or Kothamangalam area.

Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary

Just north of the Periyar Reserve (see below) by the Idukki Reservoir, this sanctuary is surrounded on three sides by lakes. Vegetation is evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous, and forms a thick canopy. Fauna spotted here include elephant, bison, wild boar, jungle cats and sambar deer. Cobras, vipers and krait also live here, as do kingfishers, jungle fowl, laughing thrush, peacocks, bulbuls and more. The town of Thodupuzha is 55 kms away.

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Four kilometres from the town of Thekkady in Idukki district, Periyar is the best known reserve in Kerala, and home (at the time we were there) to 46 tigers. Thekkady has numerous accommodation options, and trips into the reserve are easy to arrange, if a little expensive. Only a small section of the park is open to visitors (a blessing, perhaps) and boating, guided treks, night walks and safaris can be arranged. Many visitors see elephants (though not all). Other commonly spotted species are sambar deer, macaques, giant squirrels and hornbills. Read more about Periyar and Thekkady...

Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary / Thenmala

This sanctuary is 66 kms east of Kollam and houses the remains of a Stone Age culture. The dense forests of the reserve surround the Shenduruney Reservoir.

Thenmala (meaning, 'the hills that flow with honey) is an ecotourism development near the sanctuary, and organised events that take place amid the forests and tea and rubber plantations of this area include trekking, mountain biking, rock climbing, river crossing and bird watching. In Thenmala there is a Deer Rehabilitation Centre, a sway bridge and sculpture garden, a culture zone and tree nurseries.

Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary

This santuary is 50 kms from the capital of Trivandrum and can be reached via Vithurai on the road between Trivandrum and the Ponmudi hill station. The landscape largely consists of forest, hills and eucalyptus plantations.

Neyyar Dam Sanctuary

This is of the wildlife sanctuarieds in Kerala to the state's capital, Trivandrum, being 32km north of the city. Guars, lion-tailed macaques, sambar deer, elephant and a handfull of tigers live in the 12,000 hectare reserve that surrounds the Neyyar Dam. Entrance is Tuesday - Sunday, 9am-4pm and visitors can arrange safaris or quieter guided treks on foot. A crocodile protection centre can also be visited nearby.

Reach the park from Trivandrum's KSRTC Bus Stand. The journey is frequent, inexpensive and lasts about 1.5 to 2 hours. Taxis or rickshaws in the city or from nearby Kovalam Beach are usually familiar with the route.

Want to see more of Kerala's unique and beautiful landscape? Have a look at the pages on hill stations to climb higher into the hills and mountains of the Western Ghats.


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