Places like the Thenmala ecotourism site make you realize the truth of the Mark Twain quote – ‘to get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with’. The country’s first planned ecotourism destination is the perfect spot for fun, adventure, vibing with nature, and everything you would want on a family outing.
Set to the east of Kollam district and laced by the Kallada river, the highlands house the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary. Visitors can make their own itinerary based on their interests and choose from the ‘adventure’, ‘leisure’, 'cultural’, and ‘deep wood experience’ packages on offer.
Past the 27-tree-garden
On holidays, Thenmala wakes up to a long queue of adventure-seekers in front of the facilitation center at the ecotourim site. The ‘culture’ zone includes the butterfly park, ‘nakshatravanam’ and dancing fountain. The ‘nakshatravanam’ is a garden of 27 trees associated with the 27 stars that Indian astrology is based on. It is considered auspicious to have the tree corresponding to one’s birth star growing on the premises of your home. Since that is not always possible, people pay respect to the tree when they are able to spot one.
Past the tree garden, you can cruise into the butterfly safari in a scenic park. Created especially for the winged wonders, the garden of host plants carefully nurtured here enables a large number of native species to thrive. As soon as you enter, the lissom occupants are likely to be alerted to the presence of intruders; watch out for ripples of colors detaching themselves from plants.
Different species of butterflies are partial to different host plants. The garden has clusters of bright colored flowering plants meant to attract the flitting visitors. It boasts of over 166 species of butterflies, though your chance of spotting them depends on the weather and plain good luck. The park has a series of sculptures modeled on the various stages leading to the birth of a butterfly. The figures are intended to give children a graphic explanation of one of the most intriguing metamorphosis in nature.
The park is also home for the ‘the animal that causes the most harm to environment and biodiversity’. Make it a point to visit its den during your trip to Thenmala.
Say hello to adventure
The adventure zone is about 1 km from the culture zone. The major attraction that greets visitors here is the 120m-long wooden bridge. With 109 steps covering its length, the massive bridge is supported by 13 pillars. The long stroll across the bridge through the wilderness is like savoring a cup of coffee, slowly warming up to its bright flavors. By the time you alight at the other end, you will be more aware of the rocky terrain and the deeper green of the jungle innards.
The rocky entrance offers a befitting welcome to the adventure zone which comprises a large lake and games set around the banks. ‘Thamarakkulam’ (lotus pond), the natural waterbody, is the center of adventure sports offered at the site. Crossing the lake dangling on rope is one of the hot favorites of adventure-enthusiasts. Cammando net, tunnel walk, aerial net walk, pedal boating, water roller, flying fox, shooting point, archery, and burma bridge are among the over 25 games facilitated here.
Stroll along the leisure zone
Set on either side of Thenmala Dam, the adventure zone and leisure park are about 1 km apart from each other. Ideal for a quiet stroll, leisure zone is the haven of lovebirds. The walkway is lined by tall trees and shaded by green canopy all along. You can enjoy a scenic view of the Parappar dam and the hanging bridge from here or laze around in the gardens after lunch.
The sculptures that dot the landscape are themed around the relationship between humans and nature. The huge statues of Vikramaditya and Vetal, Ekalavya, Siva, Buddha, and sculptures like the one depicting a group of men sitting around a lit candle are all intended to communicate the vital dynamics of this relationship.
The deer park is a 3 km walk from the leisure zone. All the walking done, you might want to spend the evening for a boat ride on the lake. The boat rides are arranged in the lake adjacent to the Thenmala dam. You might even be able to sight wild animals during the 8-km ride which will take 1 hour.
The musical fountain at the facilitation center is just the perfect note on which to end a day full of action. The water jets, neatly choreographed to suit the soft music, is a beautiful sight in the evening light. As it rounds off with a few fast numbers, you will be rightly wanting to hit the sack, grinning all the way to sleep mulling over a day well spent.
Thenmala Eco Tourism Package, inclusive of GST (without including food charges) – Rs 680 per adults and Rs 655 per child. For booking head to the park's official website.
How to reach
Nearest railway station: Shenkottah, about 29 km and Kollam, about 66 km away
Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, about 72 km away
Via Road: From Thiruvananthapuram – via Nedumangad-Palode; From North Kerala – via Punaloor
Official website: thenmalaecotourism.com
Phone – 0475-2344800, 9495344800, 9495344800
Email – email@example.com
9.00 am to 10.00 am: Butterfly Safari/Boating
10.00 am to 12.00 noon: Adventure Zone
12.00 noon to 01.00 pm: Leisure Zone
01.00 noon to 02.00 pm: Lunch
02.00 pm to 03.00 pm: Deer Rehabilitation Center
03.00 pm to 05.00 pm: Soft Trekking
05.00 pm to 05.30 pm: Tea
05.30 pm to 06.30 pm: Childrens Park& Nakshatravanam
07.00 pm to 07.30 pm: Musical Dancing Fountain
07.30 pm to 08.00 pm: Dinner
The Cocoon - jungle camping (Rs 2,000 per head)
The Honey Comb – a tourist home (Rs 1,400 per head)
The Nest - camping near the river (Rs 2,600 per head)
The Bee Hive – dormitory (Rs 140 per head)
The Canopy Hut (Rs 800 per head)
Eco Fort - a 24 hr private multi cuisine restaurant in the culture zone. Phone – 8547456554
(Rates may vary)