KERALA WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES
There are 14 wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala, each of which boasts an array of Indian animals. Here’s a look at some of the state’s most popular ecotourism attractions, and the highlights they have to offer:
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
Encompassing 55 sq km of tropical forests in the Western Ghats, this picturesque part of the Kannur district is home to Kerala wildlife such as Barking Deer, Nilgiri Langurs, Malabar Giant Squirrels, and Asian Elephants. Don’t miss Aralam’s countless species of endemic butterflies, or a chance to trek to Meenmutty Falls and Katti Betta, the area’s tallest peak.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
Another sanctuary in the beautiful mountains of the Western Ghats, Chinnar is an important part of a 458 sq mi block of pristine forests straddling the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Within its boundaries you’ll find 28 mammal species (including Indian Leopards and Bengal Tigers), 225 species of birds, 156 butterflies, 53 reptiles (including the gorgeous Indian Star Tortoise), and 15 amphibians.
Muthanga/Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1973, this is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala, and part of the vast, UNESCO-protected Nilgiri Bisophere Reserve. The 345 sq km forest is home to a stunning array of animals, but is best known for huge herds of Asian Elephants. It’s managed by Project Elephant, launched by the Indian government in 1992 to protect Elephants and mitigate conflict between humans and wildlife.
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
Though it covers just 25 sq km of lowland forest along the Periyar River (the longest of Kerala’s rivers), Thattekkad was described by ornithologist Salim Ali as having “the richest bird habitat in peninsular India.” The birdwatcher’s paradise features species such as the Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian Pitta, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, and numerous types of Cormorants and Cuckoos.
KERALA NATIONAL PARKS & TIGER RESERVES
If you’re visiting any of these wildlife sanctuaries, there are also some tiger reserves and national parks nearby that you might want to add to your Kerala tour itinerary:
Eravikulam National Park
Parambikulam Tiger Reserve
Parambikulam Tiger Reserve (which includes a wildlife sanctuary of the same name) encompasses 391 sq km in Kerala’s Palakkad district. It’s home to around 39 mammal species, 16 species of amphibians, 61 species of reptiles, and 250 species of birds. But its claim to fame is population of Tigers, which has grown over the past decade to 35-40. The sanctuary is also home to indigenous tribes including the Kadar, Malasar, Muduvar and Mala Malasar, many of whom work in the tourism trade.
Periyar Tiger Reserve
Located in the Cardomom Hills of Thekkady, this stunning sanctuary is one of the oldest tiger reserves in India. The forests of Periyar are home to endangered and endemic species such as White Tigers, Lion-tailed Macaques, Dholes (a.k.a. Indian Wild Dogs), and more than 250 bird species. There are lots of activities for visitors, including boat tours, hiking trails, eco lodge glamping, and more!
Silent Valley National Park
OTHER KERALA ATTRACTIONS
The most world renowned of Kerala’s tourism attractions are its backwaters, a 1500 kilometer network of brackish lakes and lagoons sprawled along the Malabar Coast of the Arabian Sea. Kerala backwater tours typically involve Kettuvallam (a houseboat with thatched roofs over wooden hulls) rides. Taking one of these small ship cruises immersed in romantic picture postcard views is #1 on most people’s Kerala travel bucket list.