Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Declared a sanctuary as early as in 1958, the lack of sustained conservation efforts hampered Neyyar’s growth until 1985, when renewed efforts under a wildlife wing transformed it into a haven for exotic flora and fauna.
With 12,000 hectars of natural vegetation spread across an undulating terrain and the 1,868-m Agasthyamala Peak as its highest point, the sanctuary is interspersed with rushing brooks, flat meadows and gentle slopes, making it an ideal trekking destination. The Neyyar River, which originates from the Agasthya Peak, has an irrigation dam built across it here.
The Agasthyamala region supports a wide variety of plant species, and the variety of its flora and forest types make it an ideal gene pool reserve. Elephants, gaur, sambar, barking deer and the endangered Nilgiri Tahr are found here, apart from retiles such as the cobra, python, viper, rat snake and flying snake. The sanctuary is also a popular spot for watching birds.
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary
The Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary was set up primarily to augment the water supply of Thiruvananthapuram. When a dam was built across the Karamana River in 1983 to meet the increased water supply needs of the city, the Paruthipally range became the catchment area for the dam reservoir. The entire area making up the sanctuary drains into the Peppara Dam reservoir that spreads across nearly 5.82 sq.km.
Nestled in the Western Ghats, about 50 km from the city, it lies on the way to Ponmudi. The sanctuary actually consists of part of the Palode reserve and part of the Kottoor reserve. Apart from the dam and reservoir, forests, eucalyptus plantations and streams spread across 53 sq.km.
Tigers, panthers elephants, sambar and gaur can be seen here. The barking deer, mouse deer and the wild boar are also found. The lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri langur represent the simian species, whereas the king cobra and python represent the reptiles.
Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary
Part of the Agasthyamala biosphere reserve, this sanctuary, located in the southern western Ghats, derives its name from an endemic tree species, locally known as Chenkurinji. Declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1984, the region is unique for its bio-diversity, remains of a stone age culture, and an important ecotourism resource, Thenmala.
Located on the north of Kulathupuzha valley, and bounded by the Western Ghats on the east, the sanctuary, spread over 100 sq.km, encompasses large tracts of tropical evergreen forests. The area is generally hilly, and at 1,550 m. Alvarkurichi is the highest peak. The long list of species found here includes the lion-tailed, macaque, bonnet macaque, mouse deer, elephant, wild boar, sambar, gaur, Nilgiri Langur, sloth bear, barking deer, black-naped hare, Malabar giant squirrel, slender loris, brown palm civet and the pangolin. Big cats were comparatively rare. Trekking and boating are allowed within the tourist zone of the sanctuary.
Periyar Tiger Reserve
Located in the Periyar valley at Thekkady, this is the oldest and largest tiger reserve in Kerala. Spread across the foothills of the southern Western Ghats, this 777 sq.km forestland is also home to the Asiatic elephant. A respiratory of rare and endangered flora and fauna, the valley is a major watershed for two important rivers – the Periyar and the Pamba. The famous Sabarimala shrine and the Mangala Devi Temple are also situated in the region.
At the centre of the reserve is the vast artificial lake created by a dam built by the British in 1895. Declared a sanctuary in 1950, the Periyar Reserve became part of Project Tiger, a Central Government initiative to protect the animal.
Ion of tropical, deciduous and evergreen forests and grasslands make this an ideal home for 62 species of mammals. 320 species of birds and 45 species of reptiles. There are numerous varieties of flowers and butterflies as well. A boat ride on the lake is a delightful way of spotting elephants and avifauna, for which the park is well known. If you are fortunate, you might even spot the pride of the sanctuary, the tiger. Although tiger sightings are not very common, there are enough of these magnificent felines around. Trackers routinely spot pugmarks.
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
Located at an altitude between 450 and 748 m above sea level, this sanctuary covers a total area of 105 sq.km. Spread over the Thodupzuha and Udumbanchola taluks, it includes a 33 sq.km scenic lake formed by the three dams – Cheruthoni, Idukki and Kulamavu. A charming canopy of dense tropical evergreen forests, tropical semi-evergreen forests and moist deciduous forests fringe the lake that surrounds this protected area on three sides.
Wildlife found here include herds of elephants, tiger, barking deer, bear, wild boar, sambar, wild dogs, jungle cats, and a large concentration of various species of snakes including cobra, viper, python, krait, and numerous non-poisonous ones. The sanctuary is home to a variety of bird species and the extensive reservoir here attracts a lot of aquatic birds, such as ducks and cormorants. Small groups of tribals, the Adivasis, dwell in the higher areas of the sanctuary. Visitors are taken around in boats. The best time to visit is from November to March.
Eravikulam National Park
This 97 sq-km park of verdant grasslands and wooded valleys is wedged between the picturesque Kannan Devan Hills and Anamudi, South India’s highest peak. It is also home to nearly a thord of the world’s population of the endangered Nilgiri tahr, and the spectacular neelakurinji flower that blooms once every 12 years.
Located 13 km from Munanr, the aprk effectively protects local biodiversity. Stretching over 97 sq.km in the tea-growing region of the Western Ghats, it is located on a high rolling plateau next to the Anamudi Peak that soars to a height of 2.695m.
Eravikulam’s treasure is undoubtedly the endangered Nilgiri tahr that thrives here. The small-clawed otter, ruddy mongoose, the dusky striped squirrel, and the small Indian civet are the other animals found. There are also elephants, sambar, gaur, macaque and the occasional tiger or leopard. The sanctuary is home to about 120 species of birds, including species such as the black and orange flycatcher, Nilgiri pipit, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Nilgiri Verditer flycatcher and the Kerala laughing thrush.
Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary
The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is considered unique in the whole of the Western Ghats due to its ecological, geological and cultural importance. The grizzly giant squirrel is the star attraction here, as is the white bison, although to a lesser extent. Chinanr also has the richest reptilian fauna, in addition to a treasure trove of medicinal plants and an entire forest of sandalwood.
Continguous to the Eravikulam National Park and the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, the terrain of this park is highlyundulating,w ith varying altitudes. Although it is located in the rain shadow area, nearly 1,000 species of flowering plants are found here.
Chinnar is also rich in avian diversity and the calls of 225 species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary. Other animals found here include the spotted deer, rusty spotted cat, wild dog, barking deer, bonnet macaque, porcupine and the wild boar. Larger mammals include the sambar, gaur and the elephant. Trekking options abound.
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
Sandwiched between the two branches of the Periyar River and surrounded by the serenity of the Anamalai hills, this pristine 25 sq.km region is a heaven for avid birdwatchers. Also known as Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, it was the first to be officially recognized as a bird sanctuary in Kerala.
This one-time rubber plantation wad declared a sanctuary in 1984, with the help of the late Dr. Salim Ali, renowned ornithologist. Nearly 320 species of birds thrive here. Scores of crow pheasants, nightjars, drongos, woodpeckers, robins, habblers and darters colonise the towering trees. Rare birds such as the crimson-throated barbet, bee-eater, fairy blue bird, grey-headed fishing eagle, peninsular hay owl, night hereon and the Malabar gtrey hornbill are also found.
Sprawled over an undulating area, this sanctuary has tropical evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests, interspersed with plantations of teak and mahogany. The wildlife found here includes elephants, leopards, sloth bears, mangoose, slender loris, porcupines, pythons and king cobras.
Chimmini Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1984, this sanctuary covers an area of 85 sq.km on the western slopes of Nelliyampathy. With its dense forests, varieties of birds and butterflies, innumerable trekking trails and extensive lake, it is a nature lover’s delight.
The park shares a border with the Peechi-Vazhani and Parambikulam wildlife sanctuaries. The dense foliage and rivers provide an ideal habitat for a vast variety of epiphytes and flowering plants.
Wildlife here includes the endangered lion-tailed macaque, tiger, and leopard, besides other species such as the mongoose, wild dog, jackal, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, barking deer, wild boar, porcupine, bonnet macaque, Nilgiri langur, slender loris and elephant.
Altitudes range from 40m at the dam site to 1.116 m atop he highest peak, Pundimudi. With more than 160 species, it is a haven for bird and butterfly watchers. The forest Department organizes trekking and bamboo rafting trips, the highlight being the Moonlight Sonata – rafting on full moon nights.
Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary
Known to be aone of the oldest wildlife reserves in Kerala, this 125 sq.km sanctuary was established in 1958. Located 20 km east of Thrissur, it is continguous with the forest areas of Nelliyampathy and Palappilly reserves, and shares a common boundary with the Chimmini Sanctuary. The undulating terrain varies from 45 to 900 m.
Most of the sanctuary is covered by deciduous forests, but it also has some evergreen and semi-evergreen trees. There are endangered herbs and shrubs, rare medicinal plants and innumerable varieties of orchids. Bird colonies too, are many.
Here, you can expect to spot the bonnet macaque, Nilgiri langur, tiger, leopard, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, Malabar giant squirrel, porcupine, small Indian civet, common palm civet, elephant gaur, wild boar, sloth bear, and the wild dog.
The Forest Department organizes outdoor activities that include overnight stays in tents, bamboo rafting, bird watching, butterfly safaris and trekking.
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary, deep in the valley and stretching over 258 sq km, boasts of the first ever scientifically managed teak plantation in the world as well as the world’s tallest and oldest teak tree. Besides the astounding array of flora and fauna, it offers chaallengiing treks in the hills and vast lakes for boating. Parambikulam is also a haven for bird watching, and was once the favourite haunt of the legendary ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali.
The Chalakudy River, coursing through the sanctuary, has been dammed at three places, creating vast reservoirs ideal for viewing wildlife and birds.
Habitat types are very diverse and support a variety of wildlife. While deer, sambar and gaur largely inhabit the forest fringes, the lion-tailed macaque, king cobra, tiger, leopard civet cat, pangolin, porcupine, jungle cat, cane turtle and the Ceylon frogmouth roam freely in the interiors. The Parambikulam frog (Rana parambikulamana) is exclusive to the sanctuary. There are plenty of trekking options here. The tribals from the area are usually well-informed guides.
Silent Valley National Park
Environmentalists call this sanctuary an ecological island, one that contains immense biological and genetic wealth. Today, Silent Valley National Park, located on the western corner of the Nilgiris, is one of the last remnants of an undisturbed tropical evergreen rain forest. With an unbroken ecological history, which has been continuously evolving for millions of years, it is truly a unique region.
The park pwes its name to the relative absence of the noisy cicada insects. Covering an area of over 90 sq.km, the evergreen forests consist of different kidns of vegetation. The Kuntipuzha River traverses the entire length of the national park’s valley.
Orchids and 960 species of other flowers bloom here, Apart from this, there are 25 species of mammals, 35 species of reptiles, 95 species of butterflies, and a number of rare birds. The valley’s most famous inhabitant however, is the elusive lion-tailed macaque.
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses an area of 344.44 sq.km and is made up of two discontinuous pockets – Muttanga in the south and Tholpetty in the north. Located 18 km west of Sulthan Bathery, Muthanga is part of the Nilgiri biosphere region, made up of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and the Mudumalai Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
The terrain of this sanctuary is undulating and dotted with scattered hillocks. At 1,158 m above mean sea level. Karottimala is the highest peak. One-third of the total area, nearly 110 sq.km, is covered in teak, sliver oak, rosewood and eucalyptus plantations. The rest consist of deciduous forests, with a few patches of semi-evergreen trees. Bamboo groves are also abundant. There are different varieties of flora, shrubs and creepers in the forest. According to the 2004 census, elephants number a total of 216 in the Muthanga sanctuary alone, there are also four tigers and six leopards. The spotted deer, sambar an bison are the herbivores found here.
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
This is the northernmost sanctuary in Kerala, and at 55 sq km, is also one of its smallest. Located on the western slopes of the Western Ghats, it is next to the State farm at Aralam.
Established in 1984, the sanctuary is administered by the Wayanad division and headquarterd at Iritty, a small town that lies 10 km to the east. The topography varies from 50 m at the foothills to the highest peak, Katti Betta, at 1.145 m. Copious rainfall, about 3,000 mm annually, keeps the forested areas predominantly evergreen. There are vast tracts of teak and eucalyptus plantations as well. Not far from the sanctuary flows the Aralam River.