Pathanamthitta: Gavi has suddenly become a sought-after destination, thanks to movies shot in the scenic location. The picture of calmness is not entirely true, you would realise the moment you cross the forest checkpoints at Vallakkadavu or Angamoozhi.
This is a deep forest where wild animals prowl. If you are still planning a selfie with them, do it at your own peril. Gavi is not a safe destination a fact underscored on Wednesday when a tourist couple was gored to death by wild elephants .
Government departments speak in different voices when it comes to allowing tourists inside the Gavi forest. The Forest Department controls the travellers’ flow, saying human intervention will destroy the ecosystem. The Tourism Department, on the other hand, organises safaris in the same area. The Forest Development Corporation arranges boating and trekking for tourists.
Gavi, ensconced in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, is home to wild elephants, gaurs, tigers and leopards. The only way through the forest is a narrow dilapidated road. Even if you encounter an elephant, you will not be able to give way to the beast in some areas.
You have to be aware of a lot of things before venturing into the forest. Most of the travellers to Gavi don’t have any idea about the landscape of Gavi.
The Forest Department has curbed tourists’ entry into Gavi, citing environmental issues. They limit the number of vehicles passing the Angamoozhi checkpoint. Plastic and alcohol were prohibited inside the forest. Even those let in were not allowed into the core forest.
On the other side, tourists flow into the forest through the Vallakkadavu checkpoint. Many of them are not accompanied by a trained guide. They disrupt the wilderness and wildlife. They will have to be banned to save themselves as well as the animals.
Before you go trekking...
Always hire a trained and experienced guide on your trekking expeditions. You have to obtain permission from the Forest Department and forest guards before you venture into the forest. It is important to have an idea about the place you are getting into, Ranni Range Officer A. Noushad said.
Ensure that your guide has proper equipment to survive in case of a wild animal attack. Guides and the travellers should carry a compass. Don’t forget to carry drinking water and essential eatables. Do not ever deviate from the path marked by the Forest Department.
It is a good idea to buy an insurance policy for travellers. The Forest Department is facilitating this at several points.
While you trek, be silent. Your voice will scare away the animals. Ask around if the area you walk through has been a scene of animal attack in the recent days.
Trekking is banned at night. You can go into a forest only after sunrise and before sunset.
Plastic is a big no when you are anywhere near a forest.
Photographing the wild elephants
No one can resist the urge to capture the moment they encounter the majestic beast. But you have to be a good nature photographer. Do not use flash. It will provoke the elephant. Do not try to get the animal to face you by creating noises. And don’t ever get close. Your subject is a dangerous animal and no frame is worth your life.
Pay attention to what you wear on your trek. Animals spot red and other bright colours faster. They could be irritated by the unnatural hues. Opt for green or earth colours, Konni District Forest Officer T. Pradeep Kumar said.
The sick are advised not to go into the forest. You could face situation where the only thing that can save you is sprinting.
If you spot an elephant on a safari, immediately stop the vehicle but do not switch off the engine or the lights. Even then the elephant might charge. Your best bet is to wait silently till the beast decides to walk away. Don’t over-speed or honk in the forest. The Forest Department is using vehicles with less noise for patrolling.
You can hear the flapping of jumbo ears from 100 metres away and the lashing of its tail from 50 metres away.
If the asphalted surface is slightly elevated, it could lead to dangerous situations as two vehicles will have difficulty to cross each other.