The beauty of staying in Kerala is that it gives you many varied options of vacationing. It has something for everyone. Beaches, mountains, wildlife, backwaters, city life, country side, history, religious places, you name it.
Most of our extended holidays are well utilized where we try to get away from city madness; bundle up some sweet memories, laugh like there was no tomorrow, rejoice in each others company and get back totally rejuvenated.
The latest trip we did was to the Parambikulam Wild Life Sanctuary. It’s a Tiger Reserve on the Tamil Nadu – Kerala border. Having lawyers in our group helped us in getting a guest house in the heart of the jungle. However, there are various stay options including tree-houses and tents, which might not be in the middle of jungles but close enough. The cost for these accommodations range between 3000-5000INR.
About 4hrs drive from Kochi, we started off about 10am and reached Parambikulam by about 3:30 in the afternoon. We took a long lunch break at Nenmara at Tiny Family restaurant which we all will highly recommend as the food & ambiance inside their AC room was excellent.
After staying in luxurious and nice looking resorts, where you have all the modern amenities, bed coffee & food just a phone call away through room service; the guest house at Parambikulam was surely to build character not just for the kids but us adults too. Though the rooms are bare and acceptable one can expect all kinds of creepy crawlies; shabby walls and bedspreads …etc. For people who are sticker for cleanliness like me and the other ladies in the group (am sure Men wouldn’t have even noticed any of these ); carrying bed sheets is advisable. Toiletries (soap, towels,… etc) are not provided for, hence that should be on your checklist as well.
There are 2-3 check-posts within the sanctuary where you need to stop for various reasons – paying a fee for your vehicle / for your camera …etc. No liquor is allowed inside the wild life reserve and all cars & vans are thoroughly checked for this. Similarly no food in plastic packages is allowed in. The last check-post is where you get assigned a guide. It is compulsory, for you are not allowed to loiter around the jungle on your own. At all times, you must be accompanied by a guide. We set off for an evening safari followed by a much needed hot tea, right after we settled our baggage in the guest house. You are allowed to take you own vehicles, which is what we did. Vehicle safari (mini-buses) is available for big groups at 150INR per person that last for about 3 hours and takes you around to view Thunakadavu Dam, Kannimara Teak, Tribal Heritage Centre, Valley View Point,… etc.
Spotted deer, Sambar deer, Wild boars, Bisons and various colorful birds made our safari exciting. But the thrill was to watch the elephants in the wild. We were in two cars, the guide being in the pilot one. We slowed down and had to move without making noise and disturbing the elephants. I had my camera ready (like always), but as my friend rightly said, it definitely was the first time my subject reacted so violently. As one of the elephants came charging in our direction trumpeting, I was sitting there in the car, frozen with terror. Now that point has a name, yeh you got it – ‘The Priya Point’; courtesy: my very creative friends.
Another incident worth mentioning is our encounter with a huge Bison-larger than our sedans. It was getting darker and we were on our way back to the guest house when we saw a Bison walking like a king in the middle of the road. There was a gorge on one side with hardly any space on the other side, so there was no way we could have sped past it. We stopped and sat for what seemed like eternity waiting for a clear road. Had the Bison thought that we were cornering it, I might not have been sitting here recounting my experience! We reached our guest house safe and sound. For security issues, people are not allowed to go out after 6 / 6:30 pm. So it might be a good idea to carry games, books etc to keep yourself occupied for the rest of the evening.
There are quite a few Dams inside this reserve forest & on one afternoon we explored the bottom of the main Parambikulam Dam (its lowest point). There are about 300 steps you need to climb down inside a tunnel made in the dam wall and suddenly there is knee deep water. More than kids we were excited to wade through it. After the heat the feel of cool water was so much appreciated. Climbing back was another back breaking exercise for all of us, so caution must be taken before getting on this trip.
For food you have two options –you travel to the restaurant in the main bus stand area for it or pick it up yourself from a home run by locals and get to your room (you need to return the vessel yourself, no one will collect it from you!) In either case you need to inform the restaurant the quantities you need. And in both cases you have to travel 3-5km from the guest house to reach there!!..:)
Though there are signage’s “Plastic free zone” around, but if you have kids in your group like we had, it’s next to impossible. But yes, as responsible visitors we collected all plastics in one place with plans to carry it back. But later we learnt that the local tribals could recycle the plastics to make keychains which are available for sale at an Eco shop. Hence, we left our plastics in the designated area.
Bamboo rafting in the dams water reservoir is a must. The rafts are sturdy and can take upto 8 adults and 2 kids. If you are lucky you might even spot a few wild animals quenching their thirst. We saw couple of peacocks and peahens!!There is an accommodation available on Veettikkunnu Island, a remote island with no electricity & food facilities at 5000INR per night accommodating maximum 5 people. We got talking with our oarsmen and they told us about it. They are also in-charge of the food for anybody who stays on that island. One motor boat is kept for such uses and also emergency needs. The fare is 100INR per head but it’s a nice gesture to tip the oarsmen.
Half of us also did a morning trek that didn’t necessarily help them site any more number of animals than us, but nevertheless the morning chill (14 degrees), the silence of the jungles interrupted by the crushing of leaves of twigs under your feet and various birds was worth an experience. (Our team missed sighting a Wild Bear by minutes).
Inside the reserve forest don’t miss the opportunity to see the oldest / biggest teak tree ever. While I was relaxing with my little one at the guest house, my friends were making a human chain trying to cover the girth of the Kannimara Teak. With a girth of 6.48m and a crown height of 48.75m, it is believed to be around 400 years old. The legend says that that when this tree was tried to cut down, blood spurted out. The Kannimara Teak has been worshiped by the local Tribals ever since.
I have been to various different wild life sanctuaries and each time the Tiger missed me. Hope s/he isn’t unlucky the next time around. Another thing I missed was the sight of thousands of fire flies lighting up the trees as if set up for a celebration. Apparently, fire-fly season is sometime in April/May.
No liquor, no French fries or wedges, no sausages, no tea or coffee, no aerated drinks on demand – the experience was different and surprisingly not all that challenging too. You learn to make do with what is available….
For those who want to go on this adventure, do book your tents/tree houses in advance as their availability is always tight. Further details are at – Parambikulam Accomodation