Kerala has some of the world's most distinctive and diverse natural environments, with unique wildlife, and spectacular landscapes, including many National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
In these areas you can get up close to our native plants and animals, explore wide open spaces and discover ancient rainforests on the fringe of modern cities.
All these National Parks and sanctuaries are famous tourist destinations and are frequently visited by tourists to experience the enjoyment of watching wildlife in their natural habitat and to get a feel of the scenic excellence of Kerala.
Here are just a few of Kerala’s iconic natural experiences you won’t want to miss.
Also known as the Thekkady Wildlife sanctuary, the Periyar wildlife sanctuary is located in the hills of the Western Ghats spreading over an area of 675 sqkm. It will be no exaggeration to say that this Park is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in India much to the delight of nature photographers all around the world. Here, in the crisp, cool air of the Western Ghats you will experience wilderness and abundant wildlife first hand. The uniqueness of this sanctuary is the Periyar lake, an artificial lake, which was created by damming the Periyar river a century ago. With its geomorphology, wildlife, beautiful landscape and the picturesque Periyar lake within, the sanctuary is a major tourism center in Kerala and attracts a very large number of tourists each year. With Over 1800 flowering plants including 171 grass species and 143 species of orchids, 35 species of mammals and 265 varieties of bird species, the Periyar sanctuary is a repository of endemic, rare and endangered flora and fauna. Wild elephants, Tiger, Indian bison, Indian wild dog, Leopard, Barking deer, gaurs, langur, sambar deer, Malabar giant squirrel, flying squirrel, Cobra, viper, krait, hombill, stork, woodpecker, kingfisher, raptor, darter, cormorant, grackle, cluster etc... can be spotted here. The tiger is the main predator in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Some of the famous tea gardens are also located around this place. Boating and trekking at the Thekkady (Periyar) Wildlife reserve is a memorable experience.
Major attractions of Periyar wildlife sanctuary are boat cruises on the lake, elephant ride, trekking, wildlife photography and bird watching. There are a few watch towers inside Periyar Tiger Reserve which are excellent for viewing wildlife.
The Silent Valley National Park with an area of 90 sq km is located in the Northeastern corner of Palakkad district. It rises abruptly to the Nilgiri Plateau in the North and overlooks the plains of Mannarkkad in the South. Extremely fragile, a unique preserve of tropical evergreen rain forests which is a veritable nursery of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The core of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is the Silent Valley National Park. Despite its name, the Silent Valley (the clamour of Cicadas is conspicuously absent here) is a rich storehouse of biodiversity. It is a true Garden of Eden for students of life sciences, professional scientists and field biologists.
Perhaps, nowhere else can one find such a representative collection of Western Ghats biodiversity - more than 1000 species of flowering plants which include about 110 species of orchids, more than 34 species of mammals, about 200 species of butterflies, 400 species of moths, 128 species of beetles of which 10 are new to science, about 150 species of birds including almost all the 16 endemic birds of southern India.
The River Kunthi descends from the Nilgiri hills, from an altitude of 2000 m above sea level, and traverses the entire length of the valley and rushes down to the plains through the deep forest. The River Kunthi never turns brown and is always crystal clear, perennial and wild.
The evapo-transpiration from these forests is much higher than from any other surface. This cools the atmosphere, helps easy condensation of water vapour, causing summer rains in the plains.
Parambikkulam is an oasis of tranquil greenery nestled in a valley between the Anamalai ranges of Tamilnadu and the Nelliyampathy ranges of Kerala. The Parambikkulam Tiger Reserve spreads over an area of 285 sq km in the Western Ghats. It abounds in a variety of trees, mainly teak, neem, sandalwood and rosewood. There are three dams within the Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary, , Parambikulam, Thunakadavu and Peruvaripallam. Parambikulam has the largest population of Gaurs (Indian bisons). The rich fauna includes tigers, leopards, elephants, sambars, tahrs, wild dogs, Indian muntjacs, spotted deers, jungle cats, bonnet macaques, lion-tailed macaques apart from nearly 150 species of birds. There are two watchtowers to observe animals. The place is ideal for boating and trekking. Boating and cruising facilities are available in the reservoirs.
The sanctuary offers an exotic experience of the rare fauna and flora of Kerala. Quite a few hill tribes, like the Malayars, the Kadars and the Muthuvans also live in the jungles of Parambikkulam. The sanctuary also has a variety of trees mainly teak, neem, sandalwood and rosewood. The oldest teak tree 'Kannimari' stands tall here.
Thattekkad Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Kothamangalam Taluk of Ernakulam district on the northern bank of the Periyar river. One of the most famous landmarks in Kerala, Thattekkad bird sanctuary is home to almost 500 species of exotic birds. The thick tropical deciduous and evergreen cover is a safe haven for these winged creatures. The fascinating birds that are found here are Bee-eater, Falcon Grey, Jungle Fowl, Black Winged Kite, Shrike, Crimson-throated Barbet, Ceylon Frogmoth, Sunbird, Night Heron, Blue winged parakeet, white-breasted water hen, rose-billed Roller, Hornbill, etc. This rare haven offers picturesque landscapes, and is a nature lover's paradise. Dr Salim Ali, the internationally renowned ornithologist of India, described Thattekad in the 1930's as the richest bird habitat in peninsular India, comparable only with the eastern Himalayas. This bird sanctuary, a peninsular land of 25 sq. km is covered with deciduous forests and plantation of rosewood, teak etc.
Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 77 sq km in the Thodupuzha and Udumpanchola talukas of Idukki. Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary is located at a distance of 40 kms from Thodupuzha.
Situated at an altitude of 450-748 m above sea level, the pristine forests and green hills around the area provide ample scope for trekking, this sanctuary occupies the forest land between the Cheruthoni and Periyar rivers. The great reservoir formed by the construction of the Idukki arch dam and dams at Cheruthoni and Kulamavu is a major tourist attraction.
Besides wildlife viewing and trekking, one can enjoy boat cruises on the lake within the sanctuary, which offers a panoramic view of the surrounding areas. Wild Population of Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary includes Elephants, Bison, Sambhar, Deer, Wild Dogs, Jungle Cats, Tiger, Wild Boar etc. The avian population includes Jungle Fowl, Myna, Laughing Thrush, Black Bulbul, Peafowl, Woodpecker, Kingfisher etc. The wildlife here is similar to that of Thekkady. This sanctuary lies adjacent to the world renowned Idukki Arch Dam.
About 20 km east of Mananthavady, Wayanad district, North Kerala. The district of Wayanad lies on an elevated picturesque mountainous plateau in the Western Ghats. Historians are of the opinion that organised human life existed in these parts of Kerala at least ten centuries before Christ.
In this virgin land, which has not seen much human habitation later, is Begur. The forests here are amongst the most beautiful locales of Kerala. The region has a wealth of diverse species of plants and animals and is of great interest to nature lovers.
Chinnar wild life sanctuary in Idukki district covering an area of 90 sq. km is unique for the thorny scrub forest. This sanctuary is situated on either side of the Marayoor - Udumalpet road. The Marayoor sandal forest and the beautiful Thoovanam waterfalls are located here. Traveling along the Karimunthi - Chinnar road one can spot Elephants, Spotted Deer, Sambhar, Hanuman monkey and even Peacocks on either sides of the road. Unlike Other Regions in Kerala, Chinnar gets Only 48 Days of Rain. This is the second habitat of the endangered giant grizzled squirrel of India. There is a watchtower to observe animals. Early hours of the day is the best time to visit this sanctuary.
The Wayanad sanctuary is rich in bio-diversity, the sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which has been established with the specific objective of conserving the biological heritage of the region. The sanctuary is very rich in flora and fauna, is part of the Wayanad plateau and is home to tigers, leopards, monkeys, Elephant, Panther, jungle cat, tiger, civet cat, wild dog, deer, bear and bison. Peacock, babblers, cuckoos, owl, wood pecker and jungle fowl are only a few among the different types of birds seen in the area. The sanctuary is an extension of the Bandipur National Park in Kerala at its southern border. Rich in bio-diversity, the sanctuary is an integral part of the nilgiri biosphere reserve, which has been established with the chief objective of conserving the biological heritage of the region. The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary comprises of deciduous forest.
The Neyyar reservoir extends for only 9.06 sq km and offers exceptional opportunities for boating. A repository of some of the rarest medicinal herbs, the Neyyar Dam is a popular picnic spot with a lake and a picturesque dam site. The lake formed by the dam across the Neyyar River is the bluest of blue, making boating irresistible for tourists. The 1890 metres high Agasthyakoodam hill, named after the legendary Indian sage Agasthya, lies in the premises of this sanctuary. A crocodile rearing centre set up by the Govt. of India, deer farm and lion safari park are the main attractions. The vegetation varies from tropical wet evergreen to grasslands. The Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary of which the dam is a part is the habitat of over a hundred species of fauna including Asian Elephant, Tiger, Leopard, Slender Loris and reptiles like King Cobra, Travancore Tortoise, etc. A crocodile breeding centre and a lion safari park are also located in the dam site.
An ideal destination to watch herds of wild elephants, Muthanga is contiguous with the protected area network of the Nagarhole National Park and the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in the neighbouring State of Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamilnadu. This area spread over 345 sq km is rich with fauna and flora, and comes under Project Elephant.
Elephants roam freely here and tigers are sighted occasionally. Various species of deer, monkeys, birds etc also live here. The trees and plants in the sanctuary are typical of the south Indian moist deciduous forests and west coast semi evergreen forests. A drive along the road to Muthanga and further, offers chances to watch these roaming animals. Elephant rides are arranged by the Forest Department.
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, Located at about 50 km north east of Thiruvananthapuram city in Nedumangad taluk of Thiruvananthapuram district, is spread over an area of 53 sq. km. The forests of this sanctuary constitute the catchment of Peppara dam, constructed across Karamana River to supply drinking water to Thiruvananthapuram city and suburban areas. It was declared a sanctuary in 1983 as thanks to the ecological significance of the area.
The place is fascinating for its damsite, thick forest areas, crystal clear streams and rocky terrains ideal for adventure expeditions. This sanctuary has tropical, evergreen and deciduous forests, and the hilly parts of the sanctuary harbor tropical forests.
Peppara National Park is the natural habitat of tiger, panther, wild dog, elephant, gaur, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur, sambhar, lion tailed macaque, barking deer, wild boar, Malabar squirrel etc.
At Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, there are 13 tribal settlements. The tribes have a fascinating culture untouched by modern life bustling outside the sanctuary.
The Chenthuruni or Shendurni Wildlife Sanctuary is situated 70 km far from Kollam town on the Kollam-Shencotta Road . According to some recent archaeological discoveries, a rock shelter has been found here which contains a few pre-historic rock engravings believed to be from the Mesolithic period (5210 - 4420BC). The Chenthuruni River flows through the midst of this sanctuary. Both shores of the river is covered with thick forests which is home to a lot of diffrent species of trees and animals like, elephants, tigers, leopards, bisons, sambar, wild boar, lion-tailed macaques, nilgiri langur, deer and many of the other inhabitants of a west coast tropical evergreen forest.
Steep and rugged peaks surround the sanctuary, which is dotted by several breathtaking ravines.
The Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary in Thrissur district is a good spot for nature lovers. Peechi Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary, a 125 sq km sanctuary, is situated at about 20 km east of Thrissur, in the catchment area of the Peechi and Vazhani dams. The Sanctuary comprising of the dense, moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forests is a haven for a variety of wildlife that consists of many rare species of animals, birds and plants as well. With more than 50 species of orchids, medicinal plants, rosewood and teakwood the sanctuary is a veritable treasure trove of rare flora and fauna. Among the wildlife, one can find animals like leopards, sambar deer, wild dogs, barking deer, spotted deer, bison and elephants. More than 100 species of birds and several species of snakes and lizards are also found here.
The highest peak in the sanctuary is the 923 m high Ponmudi. The average annual rainfall is about 3000 mm. The place is congenial for boating and trekking.
Pakshipathalam - the very name of the place refers to the richness of birdlife here. Here virgin forests, rivulets and steep hills together offer challenging avenues for trekking. A cave which rishis (saints) are believed to have used for meditation in ancient times, has become a major attraction for tourists.
Wayanad, the northern hill district of Kerala, is covered with dense, moist deciduous forests. Elephants, tigers, leopards, jungle cats, civets, bison, peacocks, various other bird species can be seen here. In the sylvan solitude of this land, perched at a 1740 m above sea level is Pakshipathalam, a picturesque sleepy little place.
Close by is Kuruvadweep, an island (dweep) well known for its rare ecology. Located 17 km from Mananthavady, Kuruvadweep is a 950 acre stretch of evergreen forests on the banks of the Kabani river, and home to rare species of birds, orchids and herbs.
Chimmini Wildlife Sanctuary, is situated at the Mukundapuram taluk of Thrissur District. It covers an area of 87 sq km. The sanctuary has a dam which was constructed across the Chimmini River at 75 m above the sea level. A part of the Chimmini wildlife sanctuary lies adjacent to the Peechi-Vazhani wildlife sanctuary and the other part to Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary. All kinds of flora found in rain forest are seen here. Animals like leopard, tiger, elephant, bear, wild pigs, wild bison etc are commonly seen here. Vegetation here consists of Evergreen forests, Semi evergreen forests. Leaf shedding forests.
The Aralam sanctuary is only 55 sq.kms in area. The elevation varies from 50m to 1145m and the highest peak of Katti Betta, covered with tropical and semi- evergreen forests rises to a majestic height of 1145 m above sea level. The sanctuary is the northern most wildlife sanctuary of Kerala and is located on the western slopes of the Western Ghats. A variety of flora and fauna endemic to the Western Ghats is found here. Herds of deer, elephants, boar and bison are quite common. Leopards, Jungle Cats and various types of Squirrels have also been sighted. The vegetation here consists of tropical evergreen and semievergreen forests. There are about 490 ha of teak and eucalyptus plantations within the forest area.
Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary
Mangalavanam is an ecologically sensitive area situated at the centre of Kochi city. This mangrove forest is home to many exotic and rare varieties of migratory birds. Mangalavanam gained importance because of the mangrove vegetation and also due to the congregation of communally breeding birds. The most common bird species found at Mangalavanarn were Little Cormorant and Black-crowned Night Heron. Highest species richness of birds was found in the months of May and July.