The Anakkulam stream at Mankulam, meaning elephant’s pond, where elephants arrive to drink salty water, is a popular tourist spot in Idukki. Watching the herds spraying cool water on them and engaging in their fun frolicks is a lovely experience. However, it's been a matter of luck for tourists, so far. Many used to complain that they had to either depend on information from jeep or autorickshaw drivers or tourist guides to figure out whether the elephants have arrived or not.
That's a thing of the past, now. A group of teachers from the Government Engineering College, Idukki, recently started a telegram channel called 'Anakkulam Elephant Oru' to help visitors with the same. The channel provides tourists with live photos from the spot to see whether elephants are in the stream. If you are in nearby tourist spots like Munnar, you can check in the channel whether you should head to Anakkulam. The channel is handled by the Mankulam forest division.
Cameras to detect movement of elephants
Government Engineering College faculty Dr Santhosh S says, “We have set up a camera in the location that works 24/7, complete with night vision. It captures images and sends to an AI system, which in turn forwards data to the Forest Department. The telegram group has now made some images accessible to the public as well.” If you want to get the live update from Anakkulam, send the message 'Nowa' (make sure to use capital 'N' and the other letters in lower case) to the group and you will get a photo of the stream. The faculties initiated the project two years ago urged by the Mankulam DFO. “We implemented it first at the elephant corridor at Virippara and next at Mankulam. We will set up cameras soon at the Periyar Tiger Reserve and Thattekkadu Bird Sanctuary as well,” Dr Santhosh says. The college's principal Suresh K and faculty members Rishi Das, Viji R, Sanoj V, Gijy P G and Asha J were also part of the project.
While the public can get only the picture of the spot on the telegram group, the system alerts the forest officials with photos when the elephants are at Anakkulam. “In the future, these pictures can be made accessible to the public as well, through a website or similar platforms,” says principal Suresh. “On Monday night, the elephants reached the stream around 9.15 pm and was there for around 3 hours. The system sent pictures to officials at regular intervals during this window,” he adds.
Mineral-rich water of Eetacholayar
The jumbos trudge to the river banks during winter season and during the initial period of the summer season. They drink the salty water of Eetacholayar, which flows through the western side of the Mankulam panchayat before emptying into the Periyar River. It is found that the jumbos drink the river water not only to quench thirst but also to get enough doses of nutrients from the mineral-rich waters.
How to reach
You can reach Anakkulam from Kallar on the Adimali-Munnar route. One has to travel nearly 8km from the Mankulam town to step into Anakkulam. Besides relishing the majestic beauty of the pachyderms, the tourists can take a dip in the cool waters of a check dam, which is 2km into the Anakkulam-Kozhiyalakkudi road. Here are some of the routes and the distance to be covered:
Though small vehicles can be driven on the Mankulam-Anakkulam road, you can also hire a jeep for Rs 1,500.
Be wary while entering the waters of Anakkulam and surrounding areas. Though the water body may look shallow, be cautious as the depth of the river can be deceptive.