There’s nothing more exciting than embarking on a wildlife tour, mainly because, despite all that planning, you’ll never know what’s going to stare you in the face. It is this element of surprise that makes the trip more special especially on a maiden visit to a wildlife reserve. Kerala’s lush natural terrain and the densely forested Western Ghats is a natural habitat for several native wildlife species and winged visitors as well. Several tour operators offer exclusive Kerala Wildlife Travel Packages, but visitors can always directly signup for a guided safari at any of the sanctuaries here. Travellers must include at least one Wildlife Sanctuary or National Park in their tour plan, practically the one closest to their preferred destination.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary surrounding the Periyar Lake in Thekkady is the stronghold of the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant. A boat ride across the 26 sq. Km lake is a great way to observe the lush natural settings flanked by the slopes of Pandalam and Cardamom hills. Tourists can spot several species of birds and the native Malabar Giant Squirrel and flying squirrels in this beautiful reserve.
Silent Valley National Park
Yet another spectacular package of adventure and scenic settings, the Silent Valley spanning nearly 90 sq km of rain forests, is located in Palakkad district. Home to the Lion-tailed Macaque and a few species of carnivores, this park is a great destination to catch a glimpse of several endangered birds such as Malabar Pied Hornbill, Grey-headed Bulbul and the Malabar Parakeet to name just a few! With birds for company, the valley may not that silent after all.
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
Spread across 285 sq km of diverse terrain, this sanctuary too in the Palakkad district is a collage of grasslands, shoal, deciduous and evergreen forests. Home to the largest population of Gaurs (Indian Bison) apart from tigers and jungle cats, these surroundings also support a healthy population of Deer, Elephants and Macaques. Three dams set within its premises – Parambikulam, Peruvaripallam and Thunakadavu make ideal destination for spotting Fishing Eagles apart from other birds such as the Peninsular Bay Owl.
EraviKulam National Park
Vast grasslands interspersed with dense vegetation in the park at EraviKulam in Idukki district, is home to the rare mountain goat species, Nilgiri Tahr. The 100 sq km of lush greenery along the Western Ghats also houses a variety of wildlife such as Leopard, Tiger, Golden Jackal and Nilgiri Langur among other native species. Over 100 birds share this environment, adding a tad of colour and action to this lively landscape.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
Located in Ernakulam district the Bird Sanctuary at Thattekad has the distinction of being Kerala’s first ever sanctuary for avifauna. Occupying an area of 25 sq. km alongside the Periyar River, this habitat is home to over 500 species of exotic birds, both native and migrants. The Night Heron and Falcon Grey are commonly sighted here, apart from Black winged Kite and Ceylon Frogmoth.
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary
This is indeed pristine territory where over 10 native tribal groups share the terrain with Tigers, Panthers, Elephants, Deer, Langur and Lion-tailed Macaque. The lush landscape of this sanctuary, Just off Thirvananthapuram, is set in the catchment area of the Peppara Dam on the Karamana River.
Interestingly the topography spans different altitudes, each of which supports different vegetation. Thick forests interspersed with Eucalyptus plantations and clear streams, also visited by several varieties of birds prove a visual treat.
The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is yet another paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers alike. The thorny scrub vegetation enables clear bird and animal sightings. Grizzled Giant Squirrels are the main attractions here, apart from a decent population of Tigers, Wild Bison and Elephants and reptiles as well. Dedicated watch towers to watch the animals from a safe distance, guided nature trails, trekking and camping inside the premises offer a great opportunity observe fauna in their natural setting.
Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary home to Rehab centres for Deer and Elephants and Crocodile farm plus facilities for Lion and Tiger Safaris prove equally exciting for tourists.
These are but a handful of sanctuaries that dot the verdant and lush landscape of the Western Ghats, that play host to several species of plants, birds, animals and of course the native tribal people. Each and every one of them is beautiful in their own way, which makes comparisons difficult and futile as well!