A wildlife safari can be an expensive affair. Moreover, trips through the wooded area involve travelling with strangers in the bus of the Forest Department. Even if you reach the spot in your own vehicle, it will not be allowed into the safari area.
However, there are certain forest routes in Kerala on which private vehicles are allowed. Taking these paths, one can experience the wild at close quarters along with family and friends. An additional benefit of these journeys is less expenses.
The first such route starts from Thenmala. Drive towards the Tamil Nadu border to a marketplace called Panpoli. From there, turn back to Kerala via Achankovil. This is the road that takes family travellers through a dense forest. The first attraction along the route is the Adavinainar dam at Mekkara. A ghat road follows, but there are only six hairpin bends. Passing the Kottavasal check-post, one can enter Kerala again.
Capital to the woods
Another journey can be planned from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram to the Achankovil forest. The route lies along Anchal and the attractions include the hanging bridge at Punalur and during the return, the eco-tourism centre at Thenmala can also be visited.
Highlights of the Achankovil forest include dense forests and several waterfalls. Cool waters in falls like Kumbhavurutty are safe for a bath. The distance from Pathanapuram to the Tamil Nadu border check-post Panpoli is 60 km. This route is narrow and elephants frequently stray on to the path taken by vehicles.
This route is suitable for family trips, but care needs to be taken while driving – the forest at Achankovil is dark even during daytime. Kumbhavurutty waterfall can be reached by walking around 500 metres off the road. But ensure that much time isn't spent there as a good distance has to be covered through the forest before dusk.
A clear idea of the route has to be formed before setting out on the trip. Along the path lies a building of the Plantation Corporation and the road bifurcates from there. It is safer for families to take the path leading to the right. According to officials, elephants would be present all the time on the other route.
A trip along a road where elephants are frequently sighted offers a memorable experience. Adventurous tourists can also venture into the Achankovil forest in their vehicles.
Another attraction along this route is the Pathimoonnu Kannara bridge. The Palaruvi waterfall too is nearby. Among the best experiences at Thenmala eco-tourism centre is the canopy walking.