Thenmala: Kerala’s honey hill offering leisure and adventure

Thenmala encompasses ten ecotourism spots amid lush green forests. Jungle treks through wooden skywalks take tourists close to tall trees while Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, rappelling, river crossing and an old hanging bridge add to the adventure

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 From biking and boat rides to tree houses and leisure walks, Thenmala offers something for everyone

From biking and boat rides to tree houses and leisure walks, Thenmala offers something for everyone. Pic: Flickr

Trekking, camping, biking, boat rides, tree houses and leisure walks in the lap of nature are all part of Thenmala, the ecotourism destination in Kerala’s Kollam district. Offering adventure, leisure and nature tourism, Thenmala, on the foothills of the Southern  Western Ghats is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

About 72 km from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram and 14 km from the Tamil Nadu border, Thenmala encompasses ten ecotourism spots including the Thenmala Dam, Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, Deer Rehabilitation Centre, hanging bridge and the Sculpture Garden. 

In Malayalam, ‘Thenmala’ means honey hill and the area has been a producer of natural honey historically. Even today, natural honey, including varieties with medicinal properties, is produced here.

The dense forests are also home to a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Thenmala, spread over 3.5 hectares, covers the basins of the Pamba, Achencoil and Kallada rivers. Planned by the state government in 1996 as India's first ecotourism destination, Thenmala’s alluring beauty attracts tourists from both India and abroad.

Culture, leisure and adventure

One can also visit waterfalls around the area like the Palaruvi waterfall. The word Palaruvi in Malayalam means a milk stream and that’s exactly how water appears while falling from a height of 300 ft. This waterfall is about 16 km from Thenmala.

The activities at Thenmala are divided into three zones – culture, leisure and adventure. 

The culture zone gives you the option to explore Kerala’s cuisine, crafts, arts and natural beauty. A safari in the Butterfly Garden gives a glimpse of over 150 butterfly species in their natural habitat. Authentic cuisine at the restaurant, an amphitheatre visit and an open-air musical fountain (called Nature Dance) are the highlights of this zone. 

Also Read: Chopta: Mini Switzerland nestled in Uttarakhand

jungle trek pathways
Pathways in the jungle take you up and close to tall trees. Pic: Thenmala Ecotourism

The leisure zone is for nature lovers. Amid lush green forests, this zone has pathways that take tourists up, close and personal with tall trees, many metres above the ground. Chirping birds and humming bees follow the tourists as they navigate the forests with ease, thanks to stairs and bridges.

One has to take the 40-feet long hanging bridge over the Kallada River to reach the sculpture garden, which is home to art pieces carved out of stone. Despite being built in 1877 by Britishers, the suspension bridge is in good condition and loved by tourists.

The leisure zone visit covers the Thenmala Parappar Dam, the second-largest irrigation project in Kerala, surrounded by the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to rare birds, reptiles and other animals. A boat ride in the Shendurney Sanctuary is a must for tourists.

Also Read: Chorla Ghat: Nature lover's paradise & hideout for thieves during British rule

Thenmala Hanging Bridge
Thenmala Hanging Bridge was built by the British in 1877 and is fully functional even today. Pic: Wikipedia

This zone deep in the woods also includes tree huts made of bamboo, canes and ropes with roofs covered with palm leaves. These tree houses in the middle of the forest give a good view of the wildlife besides functioning as a watch tower for the Deer Rehabilitation Centre. This centre is home to stray deer that venture into urban areas. The deer are released into the forest when their population breaches the optimum mark. 

Also Read: Colourful corals and amazing marine life tucked away at Pirotan Island in Gujarat

The third zone, adventure, offers rock climbing, mountain biking, river crossing and rappelling besides other sports activities. The zone also offers Nature Trail, a trek in the jungle through wooden skywalks.

One of the unique spots at Thenmala is the Nakshatravanam nursery. It has trees associated with the 27 constellations or nakshatras and tourists take home saplings of their birth star tree as a memento from Thenmala. 

Some more pictures here:

Butterfly garden Thenmala
The Butterfly Garden is home to over 150 species of butterflies. Pic: Flickr
First planned ecotourism destination kerala
Thenmala is India's first ecotourism destination and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pic: Flickr
staircase in thenmala
Another staircase through the forest for trekkers. Pic: Thenmala Ecotourism

Also Read: Kabini: From a king's private hunting lodge to a commoners’ paradise

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