IDUKKI – The Upland of Sanctuaries and Spices
Nestled up in the mountains, Idukki extends an invitation to identify oneself with Nature. Here, where the mist plays hide and seek with the green mountains, the melody is set to the whistle of the crickets and the chirp of wild birds. Dark and deep forests with springs trickling down rocky crevices, falling steep into unfathomed chasms and rivulets flowing past rare flora and fauna, is indeed an idyllic setting to set oneself free of all fetters, understand, feel and perhaps realise, the beauty, power and glory of life.
Other than places like Valara, Thommankuthu, Palkulamedu and Munnar which are of indescribable natural beauty, there are five wild life sanctuarties in Idukki district which need special mention.
Eravikulam Wild Life Sanctuary
Eravikulam is another wild life sanctuary proclaimed as a National Park since it supports the largest population of Nilgiri Tahr existing in the world now. Anamudi peak (2695 Metres), the highest point south of the Himalays falls in the southern part of this park. The park is 135 k.m. from Kochi and is accessible by road.
Most of the park is either grassland or part of the shola ecosystem and the average altitude is 2000 metres above m.s.l. The temperature varies from (-)3 degrees celsius in winter to 29 degrees celsius in summer. Severe frost occurs between the months of December and January and the average rain fall is 4800 m.m. During the monsoon, lashing rains, high velocity winds and poor visibility makes the area practically inaccessible.
A wide variety of plant life is present here. The famous Strobilanthus Kunthianus, popularly known as Neelakurinji is one of the rare and threatened species that grows here.
The Nilgiri Tahr is seen in the highlands and rocky regions of this national park. Sambar, barking deer, gaur, giant Malabar squirrel, tiger, panther, wild dogs, civet cat, jungle cat, Nilgiri langur, giant squirrel, grass owl, black winged kite, wood pigeon, black bird, Euraian kestrel, jungle crow etc. are seen here.
Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary
Chinnar is a wild life sanctuary with an area of 90 sq.Km. The terrain here is undulating and rocky through out at an elevation ranging from 500 to 2400 metres above sea level. The thorny scrub jungle is the unique phenomenon of this sanctuary. The flora in this region consists of thorny scrub jungle, dry deciduous forests, sholas and grass lands.
A wide range of wild life is housed in its sanctuary. Elephant, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, lion tailed macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, tiger, panther, wild dog etc. inhabit in this sanctuary. The aviary includes jungle fowl, spotted dove, pea fowl, jungle crow, Kerala laughing thrush, red vented bulbul, Indian hornbill, small green bee eater, blue throated barbet and a host of other small birds.
This sanctuary is situated on either side of the Marayoor – Udumalpet road and is hence accessible by road.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
Thattekkad bird sanctuary in Devicolam Taluk of Idukki lies on the northern bank of the Periyar river. The area of the sanctuary is 25 sq.Km. The presence of more than 200 varieties of birds in this area attracted the renowned ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali and his efforts are also behind the formation of this sanctuary. This sanctuary is 80 Kms. from Cochin and 60 to 450 metres above sea level.
Important birds found here include large falcon, gray jungle fowl, white breasted water hen, hornbill, jungle bush-quail, etc. A study conducted by Bombay Natural History Society during 1985 indentifies 253 species here.
The vegetation in this area consists of tropical evergreen, semi evergreen, moist deciduous forests and plantations of teak, rosewood, mahogony etc. Further, more than 28 varieties of animals and nine varieties of reptiles have accepted this area as their natural habitat.
With its matchless scenic beauty and the facilities offered by the Periyar lake, Thekkady attracts a large number of tourists. The sanctuary spreads over an area of 673 sq.km and is situated at a height of 900 to 1800 metres above mean sea level. Facilities are available for cruising in this lake.
Wild animals seen here include elephants, bisons, sambar, monkeys and wild bear. Fortunate visitors can have a glimpse of the tigers foragaing in this area. However on sunny summer days one can see herds of wild elephants bathing in the lake. Bisons are a wary and hardy lot and usually never allow any intruder to approach them and the sound of the motor boats scare them away. But a keen animal lover can stay in one of the few observation towers for a couple of days and luck will surely come his way.
Some of the famous tea gardens are located around this place. Further Peermede, 43 k.m. below Thekkady, has a golf course and offers excellent facilities for stay.
Idukki Wild Sanctuary
Idukki wild sanctuary is quite near the District Head Quarters at Kuyilimala near Painavu. The great reservior formed by the construction of the Idukki Arch Dam and dams at Cheruthoni and Kulamavu offers beautiful sight to the casual visitor. Further the pristine forests and green hills around the area provide ample scope for trekking. In windy and rainy days elephants can be seen even on the road from Thodupuzha to the District Head Quarters. Unless offended these pachyderms wait on the road for a few minutes and give way to the vehicles. The Arch dam at Idukki, the highest of its kind in Asia, attracts a lot of tourists. Further, the area is easily accessible by road, by being just about 100 k.m. from Eranakulam.
Thommankuthu is another centre of attraction in Idukki, and is just half an hour’s drive from Thodupuzha, the nearest town where accommodation is available. Here the brook gushing out of a crevice in the rocky cliff gives the illusion to the visitor that it is not water but milk that is gushing out.
Blessed with natural beauty and salubrious climate Kulamavu is a colony of the K.S.E. Board employees. Kulamavu Dam is situated here.
The underground powerhouse of the Idukki Hydroelectric Project is located here. It is at the foot of the Nadukani hills
Munnar was the summer resort of the British Government in the south. The town is situated on the confluence of three mountain streams, Muthirappuzha ( Kannimalayar), Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar has some of the biggest tea plantations in the world. This hill station more than 5000 feet above sea level with its mist and flowers, has very good potential to be developed into a tourist spot.
This remote village on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats is in the outskrits of Munnar. The relics of new stone-age civilization has been unearthed here. The stone cabins, called ‘Muniyaras’, attract a lot of research scholars. It is the only place in Kerala having natural growth of sandal wood trees.
Peermade, another centre of tourist attraction has a history of its own. The summer palace of the erstwhile Rajas of Travancore is an important monument here.