Kerala is a state in southwestern India that is popular among nature enthusiasts. It features the Western Ghats mountain range, beaches on the Arabian Sea, and backwaters. The terrain contains a wide range of plants and animals; hence it is a good place to explore for nature and wildlife lovers in South India.
Kerala has a diverse range of forests, each with its own distinct features. It includes evergreen, tropical rainforests, deciduous, and mangrove forests. These multiple-type forests are home to many plant and animal species, making them an ideal destination for all kinds of nature expeditions.
The natural history of Kerala is a remarkable account of evolution and ecological importance. Western Ghat mountain ranges, which stand like a wall on the eastern borders of Kerala, are older than the Himalayas. Through millions of years, geological activities, climatic conditions, and being geographically isolated have moulded the state’s abundant biodiversity.
Periyar National Park, situated in Thekkady, is known for its verdant evergreen forests and the Periyar Lake. A three-hour-long boat ride through the lake is the prime means of wildlife viewing here. You can expect to see Indian Gaur, Sambar deer, and a variety of bird species, with elephants being a common sight. Sightings of tigers are rare. You can also join one of the nature walks organized by the forest department here. It includes overnight camping in a tree house in the forest as well.Additional information is available by following the attached link.
Silent Valley National Park: Situated in the Nilgiri Hills, Silent Valley National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity. It is home to rare and endangered lion-tailed macaque and a good place to see Nilgiri langur, Asiatic elephants, Indian Gaur, Indian hornbill, etc. The park is accessible via Mukkali or Palakkad, and November to March is the ideal time for a productive visit.
The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Wayanad district and is home to a diverse landscape of dense forests, grasslands, and streams. It is a good place to Asian see elephants, leopards, gaur, Sambar deer, spotted deer and various bird species. Even though tiger sightings are rare, the sanctuary is still worth a visit. Plan your visit from June to October. You can reach the sanctuary via Sulthan Bathery.
Eravikulam National Park near Munnar is a well-known destination for its endangered Nilgiri tahr population. The national park boasts picturesque landscapes adorned with various flora, providing visitors with a good experience. The park closes for a month during the breeding season of Nilgiri tahrs.
The Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, or Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, is a must-visit destination for bird enthusiasts. I “use Must-Visit” rarely in my blogs. But Thattekkad is indeed a Must-Visit Place if you are a serious birder. I must also caution you here that you must seek the help of a good local guide if you want to see the area’s rare birds, as many of them reside in woods outside the “designated park area”. You are likely to see many species of western ghats endemics here, such as the Malabar grey hornbill, Sri Lanka frogmouth, Malabar Parakeet, White-bellied treepie, Malabar Starling, Malabar Barbet, and crimson-backed sunbird, among others. Cochin Airport is only 40 kilometres away from the sanctuary, making transportation options like buses and taxis readily available. You make sure that your visit is scheduled between October and March. The weather is pleasant during that period, and migratory birds flock to the sanctuary, adding to the already impressive diversity of avian species.
Munnar, a charming hill station located in Kerala, is renowned for its emerald tea gardens. It has emerged as an important birding destination in recent years. Among the notable bird species found in Munnar includes the Nilgiri pipit, Square-tailed grass bird, Nilgiri Wood pigeon, black-and-orange flycatcher, painted bush quail, and the Malabar grey hornbill. Munnar can be conveniently accessed by road from major cities such as Kochi and Coimbatore, with buses and taxis readily available for transportation. The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, which is approximately 120 kilometres away. For birdwatching enthusiasts, October through March is considered the ideal time to visit Munnar.
Periyar, a known wildlife reserve in Kerala, is also suitable for birdwatching. With its diverse habitats comprising dense forests and a lake, it draws in many bird species, especially in winter. Some key species spotted in Periyar are the great hornbill, Wayaand laughing Thrush, Legges Eagle, and so on. The reserve can be accessed by road from major cities such as Kochi and Madurai. The nearest airport is Madurai Airport. The ideal time to visit Periyar for birdwatching is from October to March.
Trekking as a hobby has recently been picked up in Kerala. The most popular trekking trails in Kerala are the following.
1. Meesapulimala Trek: This trail near Munnar takes you to the highest peak in the Western Ghats of Kerala. It offers breathtaking views, diverse flora, and occasional sightings of Nilgiri tahr. The trek starts at Rhodovalley, off Munnar and takes approximately 6-7 hours to complete, with moderate difficulty. The best time to trek is from September to February. Try to reach the top before dawn, as watching the sunrise form from there will be a memorable experience.
2. Chembra Peak Trek: Located in Wayanad, this trek will take you to the highest peak in the region. The trail passes through tea plantations, dense forests, and a heart-shaped lake called the Hridaya Saras. The trek takes around 4-5 hours, with moderate difficulty. The best time to trek is from September to February.
3. Agasthyakoodam Trek: Situated in the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, this trek offers an adventurous journey to Agasthyakoodam Peak. It is a challenging trek that requires prior permission from the Forest Department. The hike takes two days, with an overnight stay in a camp, and the best time to trek is from January to March.
4. Anamudi Peak Trek: Anamudi Peak, located in Eravikulam National Park, offers a thrilling trekking experience. It is the highest peak in South India and provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The trek takes around 5-6 hours, with moderate difficulty.
5. Periyar Tiger Reserve Trek: This trek takes you through the lush forests of Periyar Tiger Reserve. It offers a chance to spot various wildlife species and enjoy the serene beauty of nature. The trek duration varies depending on the chosen route and difficulty level. Therefore, checking with the forest authorities for the best time and starting point for the trek is advisable.
1. Athirapally Waterfalls: Located in Thrissur, Athirapally Waterfalls is one the highest fall in South India. It is near Cochin airport, and the best time to see the fall is from September to January.
2. Vembanad Lake: Vembanad Lake is Kerala’s largest lake, offering stunning backwater experiences. Exploring the lake on a houseboat or enjoying a traditional boat race is a memorable experience. According to the WTO, it is one of the 1000 places to see before you die.
3. Wayanad Caves: Wayanad is famous for its ancient caves, like Edakkal Caves, which feature prehistoric rock art and fascinating formations. It is expected to be more than 5000 years old, and many believe that it provides a vital clue to like the South Indians with the Indus Valley civilization.
4.Munroe Island: Situated in the backwaters of Kollam, Munroe Island offers a unique experience of village life and backwater cruises. Exploring the narrow canals and interacting with the locals is a delightful way to immerse yourself in Kerala’s culture.
5. Munnar Tea Gardens: Munnar is famous for its sprawling tea plantations, where you can witness the lush greenery of tea gardens spread across the hills. Walking amidst the tea gardens and learning about the tea-making process is a rejuvenating experience.
6. Thekkady Spice Plantations: Thekkady is renowned for its spice plantations, offering a fragrant and refreshing journey through spice-scented pathways. Exploring these plantations and learning about spices grown in Kerala is a sensory delight. It is good to remember that these spices are the root cause of colonialism and many sea expeditions that resulted in discovering new lands, including America.
Apart from wildlife travel, trekking, and birdwatching, Kerala offers a range of other outdoor activities to indulge in. You can enjoy houseboat cruises in the backwaters, kayaking or canoeing, try bamboo rafting in Periyar, indulge in beach activities like swimming and sunbathing, and participate in adventure sports like rock climbing and paragliding.
Kerala’s geography, biodiversity, and natural wonders make it a popular travel destination for nature and adventure. The region offers opportunities to explore wildlife sanctuaries, trek scenic trails, and enjoy the beauty of backwaters. Outdoor enthusiasts can engage in wildlife spotting and birdwatching and embark on challenging hikes. Kerala’s natural treasures are waiting to be explored, promising to create unforgettable memories in this beautiful region known as “God’s Own Country.”
1. Monsoon time is not advisable for exploring Kerala forests and national parks. This is because floods and landslides are expected during the rainy season, which starts in June and lasts till September.
2. Western Ghat’s forests are highly infested with leeches. Therefore, ensure that you wear leech socks when exploring these forests.
3. Kerala forests are highly protected zones. Therefore, ensure you obtain all the necessary permissions from the concerned authorities before your trips.”
4. Check the park timings and holidays before you travel.
5. Make sure that you are with a well-experienced local guide.