The pristine Thoovanam waterfall is tucked away in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is brimming with grizzled giant squirrels, star tortoises and migratory butterflies, at Marayur in Kerala's Idukki district. A trek to this alluring waterfall will provide an experience of a lifetime and a Manorama team recently had memorable moments during the trip to Thoovanam falls.
An eerie silence envelops the verdant forest that is dotted by steep climbs. As not many people visit this region, wild grass and other plants are literally standing tall. The frothy waters of the cascades, which are on the way, that scatter after falling on rocks create pockets of rainbow in many places and the flowing water forms deep pools of water in rocks atop the hills. After a hike of 3km, you will reach the wonder that is known as the Thoovanam waterfalls tucked away in the forest in Chinnar amidst the fresh fragrance of sandalwood. The captivating waterfall looks like white clouds falling on the rocks and dissipating.
Unlike other eco-tourism centers in Kerala, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Marayur is pretty live throughout the year. Chinnar, which is situated in the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, is also the only rain shadow region in Kerala. As Chinnar is a low-altitude forest area, the chances of spotting wild animals in the region are very high. It may be noted that one doesn’t have to worry about blood-sucking leeches as the area has dry forest.
If you travel 4km from Karimutty, which is the gateway of Chinnar, you will reach Alampatti and the journey to Thoovanam falls starts from here. The trek to the falls starts at 8am and there are 16 trekkers available to accompany the travellers. The fee for one person is Rs 300. A forest trekker accompanied the Manorama team that reached Alampatti at 8 am. Kalimuthu, who is also a forest guard, is a resident of an adivasi colony near Marayur and knows forest like the back of his hand.
The trek starts
The team started trekking through the shores of a small tributary, which flows near the office of the forest department in Alampatti, of the Pambar River. As the group entered the forests, sunlight started to fade and there was a nip in the air. Kalimuthu pointed out a number of migratory birds to the touring team amidst the chirping of birds and crickets. It is noteworthy that Chinnar houses close to 250 varieties of birds and many migratory birds, including Amur Falcon.
The team walked tentatively through the narrow path that had rocks and trees on both sides. After trekking for a few meters, the hikers got a feel of the wilderness of the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. The signs of mayhem created by a herd of elephants at night in a bamboo forest were quite evident. The footprints of jumbos and elephant dung could be seen all around the place. The trees also bore marks of elephants’ habit of rubbing themselves against the trees.
After a while, the hikers reached the second small tributary of Pambar River and had to cross a small channel. The travellers found a burnt carcass of a bison and Kalimuthu informed that if a wild animal dies in the forest, post mortem is carried out and the carcass is burned inside the jungle.
‘Intoxicant’ of forest
When the team moved forward after crossing the channel, they came across a tree with a portion of its bark peeled off. The bark of this tree is known as ‘kariyilam patta’ and the tree has the effect of an intoxicant. The porcupines and wild boars usually eat the bark of the tree. With a chuckle, Kalimuthu said that the tree was the ‘beverages shop’ of the forest.
The wonder is here
After trekking for quite some time, the travellers had to climb down a steep slope by walking through grass on different tiers. And there they found Pambar River’s third tributary. From that point there is only verdant forest without any pathways. There are huge rocks and tall trees that seem to be touching the skies. The trekkers moved forward by clinging on to tree stumps and branches. After trekking for close to 1.5km, they heard the sound of gushing waters. The group of travellers climbed onto the middle of a huge rock as scores of monkeys were having a great time in the forest area.
The Thoovanam waterfall looks like milky white clouds scattering against the huge rocks. The water is naturally ice cold and don’t ever try to swim with the experience of swimming in placid waters. But Kalimuthu took the group of trekkers to a place where it was safe to swim.
The tribal people have created a small check dam across the channel with the help of wooden planks to catch the ‘kallelmutti’ fish. The black monkeys, which are known as ‘mandhis’, create deafening sounds that would reverberate in the forest. One could also spot grizzled giant squirrel in Chinnar.
The Thoovanam waterfall is the right spot to be with nature and far away from the madding crowd.