Those Lovely Woods – Travelogue
The tribal guide Maakaali signaled to us, and we walked in cautious and measured steps. A few metres ahead of us, we heard a slight rustle of leaves, and intermittent whoosh sounds. Maakaali turned to us and put his index finger on his lips indicating we were to remain silent. He carefully pushed aside a few overgrown bushes, and around five metres ahead of us was our first prized glimpse of the day – a herd of Indian elephants. There were four adults and a playful young one, in an animated mealtime show – happily pushing giant tree branches into their mouth, oblivious to the presence of human stalkers in the pristine tropical rain forests of the Western ghats. Our whole group stood in awe drinking in the beauty and elegance of the beasts, as they lazily moved and swayed their bodies, and went on pulling down branch after branch.
* You can book a stay in one of the watch towers or forest guest houses in the Parambikulam Sanctuary.
* Summer is the peak season, since the dried up water holes bring more animals out of the forest canopy.
* Accommodation deep inside the forest ensure better sightings, and get booked early.
* Organised trekking inside the sanctuary is also arranged by the authorities.
For bookings contact the office—
+91 9442201690, +91 4253 245025
For more details on the sanctuary, visit— www.parambikulam.com
Welcome to Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala. Tucked in between the Anamalai ranges of Tamilnadu, and the Nelliampathy ranges of Kerala, the Parambikulam WLS, covering an area of 285 sq.km., is the home for over 1500 species of animals. This sanctuary is being considered to be classified under Project Tiger – an initiative by the Government of India to save the majestic mammal from being erased away from the face of this planet. Being a major elephant corridor in the region, hundreds of majestic Indian elephants cross the sanctuary throughout the year.
One of the better maintained and well protected sanctuaries of Southern India, Parambikulam houses some of the endangered and endemic animal and bird species of the western ghats. Animals like Nilgiri Tahr, Lion-tailed macaque and Malabar giant squirrel, and birds like Wayanad Laughingthrush, Malabar Grey Hornbill and Sri Lanka Frogmouth are endemic to the peninsular region of India, and contribute to the rich biodiversity of the western ghats.
We had booked a stay at the Thellikkal Inspection Bungalow, which is 8 km deep inside the forest. We had to trek through dense teak plantations to reach this bungalow. A forest tribal guide, and an armed guard accompanied us in our 8 km walk inside the forest. The walk to the bungalow is a treat in itself, with animals like Nilgiri Langur, Malabar giant squirrel, Ruddy Mongoose, and herds of deers and gaur, magically appearing on the trees and amidst the bushes. Birds like the Wayanad Whistling thrush and Racket tailed drongo, which are a rarity elsewhere, can be spotted without much fuss in Parambikulam. In front of the Thellikkal bungalow is a huge marshy vayal (open grassland), which attracts herds of Indian gaur, chital and sambar. The presence of the herbivores naturally makes the vayal a favorite hunting ground for the big cats – especially the great and elusive – Royal Bengal Tiger.
Spotting the tiger in the wild is a dream for every wildlife enthusiast and photographer – a dream that might take years, and often decades of jungle trips to realize. Our guide Maakaali belonged to the Malasar tribe – one of the indigenous tribes of Parambikulam. He was 25 years of age, and had spent all his life in the forest. Of all the years he had spent in the forest, he had been able to have a glimpse of the tiger just around a meagre 15 times, and especially, a tiger during its hunt, only twice! This makes the big cat the most prized sight for any enthusiast visiting the sanctuary.
Our hopes were running high when Maakaali told us that the Thellikkal inspection bungalow was located inside the home territory of the big cat. On our 8 km walk to the bungalow, we could see a number of tiger pugmarks, that kept reminding us that the elusive beast was lurking around somewhere in the bushes waiting for the night to settle in so that he could start his hunt. But the huge beast never blessed us with his darshan. However, it was during this forest walk that we came face-to-face with a family of elephants.
As we got closer to the herd, the elephants magically sensed our presence. The elephants have an extraordinary sense of smell. They got agitated all of a sudden and started moving towards the denser foliage. The adults surrounded the little one on all sides as a gesture of protection, and moved away from us into the bushes. One has to see to believe how these huge and conspicuous creatures easily disappear once inside the greenery of the jungle. I would not be surprised even if the group of elephants had kept walking all the way alongside our path, hidden in the camouflage provided by the rainforest.
Further down the path to the bungalow, we saw a group of Indian gaurs, the mascot animal of the sanctuary. The gaur is an enormous mammal that resembles an angry body-builder in its looks, with well-built shoulder muscles and a huge convex lump in the middle of its forehead, between large curved horns. It is generally a shy animal, and eludes human intervention to a large extent. We also saw a monitor lizard, a flying snake, and a flameback woodpecker pecking the bark of a tree to earn its supper.
That night and the following morning, we could listen to the music of a variety of songbirds, as we strolled through the teak plantations. Glimpses of a majestic sambar deer, barking deers, and a couple of peafowl romancing along the roadside clearing made a fitting end to our memorable journey.
Parambikulam was an enriching experience. The sanctuary is maintained by efficient and passionate staff who really care about the rainforest ecology and wildlife conservation. The stories told by our tribal guides were plinthed on their love for the animals of their forest, and the emotional bonding they share with them. I promised myself an exclusive trip to the sanctuary in the coming months to learn more about the birds of the sanctuary. May be I might get a glimpse of the magnificent Great Indian Hornbill making a serene glide across the Nelliampathy ranges, or Sri Lanka Frogmouths perched on branches deep in the woods. Or even, may be I might chance upon the king of the Indian forests – the ever-gorgeous and ever-inviting big cat – the Royal Bengal tiger.
By Deepak Venkatesan