places to visit
Kumily is a little hamlet situated near Thekkady on the outskirts of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, that is also a thriving market for the trade in spices. Here, the Western Ghatmountains drop abruptly onto the Deccan Plateau from the periphery of the Periyar Valley. Kumily underwent drastic changes with the advent of the British in the region. Once the capital of the Thekkumkoor Kings, the British bought or obtained on lease, extensive stretches of land in the hills and valleys from local feudatories and the state of Travancore and converted the forests to plantations of tea, coffee, cardamom, ginger and utilized labor from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The tribal communities of Kumily comprising the Mannans, the Paliyas, the Uralis, the Mala-arayas and the Malampandaram tribes -- have settled mostly on the outskirts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, practising their age-old customs building dolmens to honour their dead.
Once they earned their living through traditional occupations like fishing and agriculture, however, with the advent of eco-tourism initiatives in the region, alternative sources of employment have been provided, serving as tourist guides and forest rangers.
The Periyar Tiger Reserve
South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary, the Periyar Tiger Reserve is spread over 777 sq. km and contains a 26sq. km artificial lake within. The sanctuary is composed of evergreen and semi evergreen rainforests with the canopy at times reaching a height of 40 to 50 metres and is home to about 1000 elephants, about 35 tigers, bison, wild boars, langurs and deer besides a fascinating array of numerous other species. The Periyar and Pamba rivers flow serenely through the sanctuary creating a large artificial lake where animals come to drink. Community based eco-tourism programs are conducted by locals who enhance the visitor experience, protect the park and earn a livelihood.
An eco-tourism destination that has preserved its scenic beauty, Gavi is one of the must-see places in India. A haven for lovers of nature, Gavi is renowned for its wildlife. Endangered species that populate the forests include the NilgiriTahr and Lion-tailed macaque. Herds of Elephants are sighted often. Gavi is also a paradise for bird watchers with more than 260 endemic and migratory species of birds spotted in the area including the Great Pied Hornbill, Woodpecker and Kingfishers.
A trip ideally undertaken at dawn or towards sunset, Ottakathalamedu is a hill top vantage point with spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, Kumily town, the Periyar National Park and plains below in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Ottakathalamedu is situated about 4 km from Thekkady at an altitude of 1300 metres above sea level.
Situated 11km from Kumily, Chellarkovil is a sleepy little village overlooking the coconut groves in Cumbum to the east, with breath taking views of the plains of Theni and cascading waterfalls and Mangaladevi, the highest point in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The village also contains a medicinal garden that offers huts for visitors to rest in.
RamakalkalMedu gets its name from impressions of feet on the surface of a rock, that many believe are those of Rama, a mythological divine figure of the Indian epic Ramayana. Ramakalmedu is surrounded by panoramic and picturesque views of villages in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. En route to Ramakalmedu, travelers pass scenic views of vast rubber, tea and spice plantations and the hills of Kuttikkaanam.
Parunthumpara, also referred to as ‘eagle rock’ and ‘Grampi’ is located 30 km to the west of Kumily. Essentially an enormous rock extending along a stretch of lush grassland, guests will get to view a spectacular landscape stretching to the horizon, composed coffee, cardamom and tea plantations, thick forests and numerous rivulets in the distance.
Calvary Mount is an Eco-tourism destination accessed through a path with 14 crosses set at regular intervals alongside, with the largest cross at the summit. Guests can trek 12km to the top or else travel part of the way by jeep. From the summit visitors will view stunning panoramic views of forest clad hills and the Idukki reservoir below. Occasionally visitors will also sight herds of elephants in the forests below.