Hidden in the dazzling jungles of the Sahyadris in Kerala are fourteen wildlife sanctuaries and two tiger reserves. The state also has six national parks that are home to a number of protected and endangered species like lion-tailed macaque, Indian bison, the Indian sloth-bear, Bengal tiger and Nilgiri Tahr among many others. Here is a list of some of the best:
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary
Nestled between the Cheruthoni and Periyar rivers, Idukki is among the most beautiful districts in Kerala and the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary is blessed with the most diverse flora and fauna. The sanctuary has a gorgeous lake that is perfect for romantic boat rides. The tropical evergreen and deciduous forests teeming with elephants, bison, sambar deer, wild dogs, jungle cats, tiger and wild boar along with various species of snake including cobras, vipers, kraits and many non-poisonous snakes is a wildlife lover’s dream. A variety of birds such as grey jungle fowl, Malabar grey hornbill, woodpeckers and bulbuls also have found a home in this sanctuary.
Eravikulam National Park
Hidden inside Munnar is the Eravikulam National Park, a home of the fast-disappearing Nilgiri Tahr. Located in Idukki district, it is also well-known because of the Neelakurinji flowers that bloom once every 12 years. Anamudi, the highest peak in South India is also located in the southern portion of the park that is spread over an area of 97sqkm. Echo Point and Rajamalai region are some of the popular spots in Eravikulam. The core zone and the buffer area of the park however are not open to public. One can spot a large variety of rare flora and fauna while trekking in this region. Official vehicles take people on trips where they can experience the biodiversity of a high elevation shola-grassland system. You can also see rare terrestrial and epiphytic orchids and beautiful wild balsams along with the Nilgiri Langur, leopards and the Indian Bison.
Silent Valley National Park
A couple of hundred years ago before humans encroached the area that is now known as the Silent Valley National Park, this reserve of tropical rainforests stood undisturbed and tranquil like a hidden treasure. Situated in the northeast corner of Palakkad district, it was only in 1984 that Silent Valley was declared a National Park. The Kunthippuzha River which feeds the entire forest was named after Kunthi, mother of the Pandavas. The park is flanked by the Nilgiri Plateau to the north and the Mannarkkad Plains to its south. It makes up the core of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, an important part of the Western Ghats, that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012. The flora and fauna found here are very unique. From tigers, leopards, elephants, snakes, lion-tailed macaques and malabar giant squirrels to moths, bugs and toads, the mere diversity of fauna is amazing, to say the least. Along with them there are over 1000 species of flowering plants and another 110 species of orchids. Over 400 species of moths and 200 species of butterflies have been recorded in this area. Out of the 128 species of beetles found here, ten were previously unknown.
Periyar Tiger Reserve
The Periyar forests of Thekkady are one of the richest wildlife reserves in India. Spreads across the entire district, the area comprises of beautiful spice plantations and hill towns. There are over 1965 flowering plants including 171 grass species and 143 species of orchids here. The only south Indian conifer, scientifically known as Podocarpus Wallichianus, grows in the forests of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. More than 60 species of mammals are found here which include the asian elephant, bengal tiger, indian bison, sambar deer, indian wild dog, leopard, barking deer and the smooth-coated otter which can be sighted during a boat cruise in the Periyar Lake. The reserve also boasts of over 265 species including migrants. the malabar grey hornbill, the Indian pied hornbill, whitebellied treepie, many species of drongos, woodpeckers, flycatchers are a few examples. abound in the areas adjoining the Tiger Reserve. Watch Towers: There are a few watch towers inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve which are excellent for viewing wildlife.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary is Kerala’s very first bird sanctuary. In 1983, the 25-sqkm area in Thattekad was declared a sanctuary. It was earlier in the same year that the legendary Dr. Salim Ali had surveyed Thattekkad, and called it the richest bird habitat he had ever seen. There are 284 species of birds that have been recorded at the sanctuary. It is located to the north of the Periyar River, at the foot of the Western Ghats. The best time to visit the sanctuary is between October and March. According to the recommendations made by Dr. Salim Ali, in 1983 an area of 25 sqkm at Thattekkad was declared as Kerala’s first bird sanctuary.