For nature lovers looking for a weekend adventure in southern Kerala, the little town of Thenmala resting at the foothills of the mighty Western Ghats, is the perfect getaway.
This budding tourist town near the Punalur taluk of Kollam district in Kerala has it all – a picturesque lake nestled in the mighty arms of the Western Ghats, a bubbling waterfall trickling its way down the hills yonder, tiny deers frolicking through their natural habitat and more.
Thenmala which translates to 'honey hills' is the first planned eco-tourism destination in India. The town which is 72 km away from Thiruvanathapuram and 66 km from Kollam town is the ideal choice for those looking for a quiet trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Here are a few must see tourist spots in and around Thenmala.
Punalur Suspension Bridge
The Punalur suspension bridge, one of the first motorable suspension bridges in India, is a delightful place to visit for history-enthusiasts and tourists alike.
Standing on the bridge gazing into the depths of Kallada River, listening to the distant rumble of the Punalur bus stand, the architectural marvel strikes you in its magnanimity.
Legend says that the British engineer who built this bridge, stood under it with his family while six local elephants walked over the bridge, to convince the locals of its tenacity. The suspension effect was added to prevent wild animals from walking on the bridge which connected the town to the forest on the other side.
The Ottakal lookout will most probably be your first stop en-route Thenmala. The lookout tower provides a sweeping view of the Shendurey forest and the Kallada. While the undisturbed reservoir water of Kallada Irrigation Project on one side of the lookout is a vision of tranquillity, the white rivulets which gush their way through the stony terrain on the other side of the spillway is a gratifying sight.
Deer Rehabilitation Park
Tourists can visit this small facility in Thenmala by purchasing a Rs 30 ticket from the counter. The magnificent pair of antlers artfully disguised in the backdrop of forest twigs, the sight of their owner – the Sambar deer – gently striding around its terrain, and the sprightly step of its cousin – the spotted deer – makes the rehabilitation zone a site worth visiting for our young nature enthusiasts. The small children's park within the facility equipped with swings, slides and see-saw is sure to add to their fun.
For more info visit their website
This delightful little waterfall which is located 13.5 km away from Thenmala and 36 km from Punalur is indubitably a tourist's paradise. As suggested by its name, the Palaruvi waterfall which is on the watercourse of Kallada River is a 'stream of milk' traversing through the rocky terrain of the Shendurey forest.
Brief glimpses of the eclipsing waterfall through the dense forest cover as the river takes on in its due course, the sight of red-faced monkeys dancing their way up to the green leafy sky above, and the mind-numbing silence interrupted by the unfamiliar voice of the wild makes the rickety bus ride to the Palaruvi an enriching one.
Both bus rides and trekking options are available to the Palaruvi.
For more info visit their website
Boating-Shendurey Wildlife Sanctuary
The still waters of the Thenmala reservoir set against the backdrop of green hillocks, clear blue sky and the dense forest on either side makes it a perfect boating spot. The ticket (Rs 275 per person) for boating may be bought from the Eco-tourism office.
Alternatively, the ticket counter at the reservoir's gate allows you to take buy a ride on the Forest Department's boat (Rs 300 per person).
Tourists may also choose to navigate the breadth of the reservoir through a coracle (kutta vanchi). An experienced oarsman will help navigate this light-weight, bowl shaped bamboo boat which can carry up to four persons. The ticket charge for the coracle ride is Rs 100. This is besides the Rs 50 entry fee paid at the entrance.
The bamboo rafting facility which was initiated a few months ago, has been discontinued.
For tourists looking for a day's adventure, Thenmala's adventure zone has a lot to offer. The elevated walkway, flying fox, river crossing, and nature trails, will leave you with aching muscles and a content heart. But choose wisely when it comes to options like mountain biking, rock climbing, etc. The rusty cycles, unkempt roads, and improper safety arrangements may leave you with some unpleasant memories. The entry fee to the adventure zone is Rs 70.
Butterfly Park: A unique opportunity to learn about our vibrant little friends on a nature trail. Fee: Rs 70
Musical Fountain, Light and Sound Show: The water fountains dancing to the tune of nature's music in different hues and shades is a wonderful attraction for both kids and adults.
The light and sound show features the history of Thenmala and eco-tourism principles is available at the Thenamala amphitheater. There are no shows on Monday. Fee: Rs 155
Visitors can also opt for the all inclusive 'Discover Thenmala' eco-tourism package for Rs 480. The detailed tariff rates may be found in the Thenmala Ecotourism website.
A word of advise, visitors are advised to keep a snack or two ready in their knapsack for their day's adventure as the eateries are limited in this relatively new tourist site.