Monday, March 20, 2006

Sighting Nilgiri Tahr

Two Days in Munnar

Munnar, the tea county of Kerala is an exotic summer getaway – not only for foreign tourists but also for near ones from Kerala and India.

Read this post with the prejudice that this is only the personal experience…

I had the opportunity to visit Munnar – some three years ago, special thanks to Sekhar local boy of Munnar and my classmate at University College Thiruvananthapuram (Zoology Dept 1998-200).

I need to tell about Amjath, Akbar Shah and Suma Kumar who jointly planned a trip to this jewel of Kerala Tourism.

Sekhar promised a free stay for all of us, at his place. We reached the misty tea county of Kerala, Munnar in the evening of May 11, 2002. It was the thick cloudy mist that welcomed us, the journey of over 8 hours has made some of us tired and we headed to Sekhar’s palace, atop a hillock, among tea plantations. On the evening we went to see the proceedings of All India Table Tennis tournament, held under the auspices of Tata Tea, Munnar.

There was only mist everywhere, even in mid-day. We see local people wearing sweaters to shut the cold out. Akbar Shah, Bineesh and I felt a bit adventurous to go without sweaters, and did it successfully (till we started a bit of shivery).

The main goal of reaching Munnar was to have a glimpse at an exotic mammal species found 15 Km away from here in Rajamalai, the Nilgiri Tahr at Eravikulam National Park. These antelopes resemble goats and their population is mainly confined to Western Ghats, especially to Rajamalai.

Sure we were lucky enough to see them very close (after about an hour’s jeep journey from Munnar town). I believed these antelopes were quite un-tamable, they were quite so too. We spotted two tahrs at a distance, atop a rock. It may be an adaptation of these antelopes to save themselves from the leopards that they can move swiftly over the rolling rocks. One can look at the antelopes moving over the rocks only with wide eyes, dropped jaws. Don’t worry if you forget to at least breathe.

A fairly large group of Tahrs were grazing at a distant valley among the savanna-shola mixed vegetation. Moving closer to them without making a sound, we got some snap shots. It was not enough since we had no zoom lens. Among the group one, probably the leader is very careful about the surroundings, raising and turning its ears as if to catch the minute sound that comes from the distant valley or from among the shoal forests.

The unfortunate thing happened, the leader got an alert – raised its head for a look at the intruders, then it took a step back, and before we could notice it started sprinting away at a lightening speed and followed the whole group… leaving us only the snow, forests and some rocks.

Special thanks to Sekhar who took us to this jewel of Kerala tourism, serving homely food and preparing our bed at Leela Ammachi’s house. Also special thanks to his father, mother and little sister who treated us as warmly and treated us as their family members.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Aruvikkara Dam – Pathetic Face of Kerala Tourism

Situated 16km from Thiruvananthapuram city, Aruvikkara Dam site used to be a preferred tourism location. Now you can describe the condition of this place in a single word – pathetic.

There was a good park, which now is home to some snakes and big groves –may be preserving nature.

Major portion of water supply to Thiruvananthapuram City is catered from here. The location has some greenery left, the blue spread of reservoir and the artificial waterfall is also a nice thing to see. On the banks of this Aruvi (stream by meaning) is a Devi temple. Devi Aruvikkara. The fish in the river is believed to be owned by the deity of the temple. A usual ritual here is feeding the fish with rice, flower and peanuts – this could heal warts in skin.

It is impossible to swim and very dangerous to take a bath because of innumerable rocks that have huge curve-ins.

There is a KTDC restaurant – one has to do some ‘research’ to find the place. The only solace to people visiting the place is regular KSRTC bus services connecting the city – you feel it less adventurous to run over the slippery, sharp rocks inside the river.

Let me stop here…

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ponmudi the Golden Peak

Ponmudi the Golden Crown

Located 52km from Thiruvananthapuram, Ponmudi is essentially the southernmost hill station in Kerala. This hill station becomes hot in summer and gets the cool weather befitting a hill station only in the winter and monsoon.

The word ponmudi can be translated in two ways – the golden crown and golden hair. The former meaning is most stable as the southernmost Western Ghats peak resembles a golden crown in a distant vision.

A few restaurants and a Kerala tourism department owned motel are the only places we can depend for a lunch or evening snacks – earlier big tour parties had to book their lunch at least in the morning.

Local tourists have given a bad mark to this lovely peak as the point to booze. Broken bottles take away the attractiveness of the peak on a large scale.

The attractions of Ponmudi include a deer park, a suicide point – a narrow tunnel like trench on the way to the peak. This point says some stories of desperate lovers taking their lives, just because they can’t live together. That is only an old story and today young men and women are tougher than the light hearted old-time lovers.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kerala Tourism bags IITC 2006 - Express TravelWorld

Kerala Tourism Walks away with Tourism Awards

"Kerala Tourism has bagged the IITC 2006 Award founded by India International Tourism Council, Mumbai for the best performance of state managed tourism office. The award was presented at a function held at St. Andrews Stadium, Bandra recently.
IITC has been giving awards for the last four years for various institutions and persons who have contributed outstandingly to tourism, travel, hospitality, communication and media."

Other Sources

Chennai Online

The Hindu

Zee News

Misty Munnar

Munnar is the most sought after hill resort in Kerala, enjoying similar status of Ooty and Kodaikanal in the neighboring state, Tamil Nadu.

Honeymoon couples, students, etc seek to go to Munnar for a misty holiday. The living costs here are lower, when compared to the other well known hill stations of Kerala.

This place is famous for "NEELA KURINJI", a flower which is famous for its blooming pattern, which occurs once in twelve years. The Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered mountain antelope also finds shelter here. Thunderous water falls also offer wild beauty of nature to be enjoyed.

Pic: The misty Location of High Munnar High Ranges

Munnar, Kerala (Flickr Image)

The Sprawling Exteriors of Napier Museum

The lawns that cover the compound of Napier Museum Thiruvananthapuram seems to be the most sought after meeting place for couples and lovers of the city.

The museum hosts many historically important artifacts like a 16th Century temple cart, life size Kathakali figures and much more including seven concentric balls carved out of single ivory- I can’t stop fascinating about the workmanship that produced it.

Also in the museum compound is opening to Zoological garden, which houses many wild animals and exotic birds in almost-natural surroundings. A walk-in aviary is missing from the zoo.

There are also two art galleries within the museum compound. Paintings of world renowned artists like Raja Ravi Varma, van Gogh, etc are kept here.

Back to the exteriors of Museum compound- Trees bear umbrella to give shade to every inch of the sprawling lawns, making it a misty outing for couples, especially in the summer evenings.

This is also a scenic photographic location without any limitations. Watching tiny tots, youngsters, couples and people of all ages posing silhouetted against the back ground of the romantic red building is a never ending fascination.

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Lively Serene Veli Lake

Veli Lake near Thiruvananthapuram is a favorite haunt of local tourists. The place is blessed with a calm serene atmosphere. The atmosphere gets livened up with the children, family groups and ‘love-birds’.

Children’s park, floating bridge to the island, a newly made floating restaurant, boating, swimming and water-sports opportunities make Veli Lake a lively place in Thiruvananthapuram tourism map.

Veli Lake where the lake and Arabian Sea meets is a place to be in –with your loved and near ones of course.

Kerala tourism department has spent most money and efforts for the beautification of this tourism village. Aesthetically laid pavements, placement of trees among lawns bear testimony to this fact.

People who throng here in the evening never miss the evenings that paint the western sky with different shades of orange-red and a perfect sunset.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Silver Sand Beach among Palm Groves-Kovalam

Romantic GetAway to Kovalam International Beach

Hippies of 1960s were the first to find the beauty of this fisher folk village. Through their songs, spread the fame of Kovalam in the world. Today Kovalam beach is the favorite getaway place for tourists from across Europe, America. Not only foreigners but also people from north India, school and college picnic groups from neighboring states spend their time merrily on the silver sands of Kovalam.

Kovalam has actually three beaches, Light House beach –favorite haunt of foreigners, Eve’s beach –local throng mainly here, and another northern beach –no one cares to visit this place. The water at the light house beach is shallow and surfs are gentle, whereas it is quite rocky, deep and strong waves at Eve’s Beach.

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