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I have visited Thenmala a number of times and yet, every time I go there, I am amazed at how a small village at the foothills of the Western Ghats has been converted to an eco-tourism destination. Thenmala in Malayalam means 'Honey Hill', and a mere day or two here is enough for one to to bond with nature. For adventure-seekers, it also offers trekking, rock climbing, mountain biking and river crossing.
Things to do
On arrival, head to the eco-tourism promotion society office to purchase tickets (required to enter various zones) and get information on the place, including timings, activities and accommodation. Nearby is an amphitheatre, a shop court (selling handicrafts and souvenirs) and a musical dancing fountain.
A battery-powered bus takes you to the point where you start a one-hour boat ride in the Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary. Keep a watch for elephant, bison and sambar. The sanctuary gets its name from the Chenkurinji (Gluta Travancorica) tree. It has about 951 flowering plants, 34 species of mammals, 245 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, 22 species of amphibians and 42 species of fish! The boating facility is available between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm on all days.
About 2 kilometres from Thenmala junction is an elevated walkway made of wooden planks, supported on concrete pillars. The walk on the elevated path through a canopy of trees offers breathtaking views of the jungle and the pond below. Rock climbing and mountain biking sessions are also conducted here. You can even try your hand at river crossing.
This has the Sculpture Garden, a 200-metre long boardwalk and a sway bridge. The sculptures, depicting the relationship between man and nature, have themes like Unsatisfied Desires Makes Man Gloomy, Mohiniyattam and Beauty Lies Within, and Why Search Outside. Walking up to the garden can be tiring if you aren't used to trekking. A short trek down the mountain brings you to a small garden. A little further is the Sway Bridge, from where you can see the Kallada Power Station. Standing here reminded me of when I visited Thenmala as a kid, when my father's work brought him here.
Deer Park and the Star Forest
Head to the Deer Rehabilitation Centre and Park if you want to relax. Eco-friendly huts and a tree-top hut near the park are attractions here. Nakshathravanam, or the Star Forest, is aimed at popularising tree-planting. Each tree in the nursery is associated with a Nakshatra (Star) and has an aesthetic, economical or medicinal value.
Where to stay
~ Green Valley has air-conditioned rooms for Rs1,200 and non-air-conditioned rooms for Rs 750 per night.
Phone: (0475) 2335134.
~ Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society provides tented and dormitories. Tents are available at the Adventure Zone for Rs 400 per night. A dormitory room can be booked for Rs 250 plus Rs 40 for each person.
Phone: (0475) 2344800.
~ Lake View Ayurvedic Resort offers air-conditioned suites for Rs 2,500 per night and non-air-conditioned for Rs1,500 per night. Standard rooms are between Rs 750 and Rs 1,000 per night.
Phone: (0475) 2783333.
How to get there
The nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram (85 kilometres), while the nearest railway station is Kollam (66 kilometres). By road, Thiruvananthapuram is 70 kilometres away, Kochi 200 kilometres, and Madurai 185 kilometres from Thenmala.
For more information, visit www.thenmalaecotourism.com
Thenmala Eco-tourism Promotion Society
Thenmala Dam Junction
Phone: (0475) 2344800
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