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Facts About Idukki


High ranges and wildlife

This district's name, 'Idukki' is supposed to be derived from the Malayalam word 'idukku', which means a narrow gorge. That could well be true, for narrow, steep-sided valleys are not a strange phenomena in this hilly district, flanked by the Western Ghats in the east. The river Pamba originates in the mountains of Idukki.

With high ranges of altitude varying from 2500 feet to over 5000 feet above sea level, Idukki is the district where forests and wildlife abound. About 1500 sq ft of its area is reserved forest, much of which is home to a variety of flora and fauna. These forests are a source of teak wood, rose wood and sandal wood. They are also home to wildlife like tigers, deer, bisons and monkeys. Streams, valleys and hills combine to make Idukki district an ideal year-round holiday destination.

For the people of Kerala, Idukki is always associated with power generation since about 60 per cent of the state's power needs come from the hydroelectric power station at Moolamattom, the biggest in the state. The famous Idukki arch dam, the first of its kind in India, is built between two huge granite hills across the river Periyar.

Thekkady: The most renowned destination is the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady, 60 km from Idukki, 190 km from Cochin or 114 km from Kottayam. The drive itself is enchanting as the road winds through tranquil countryside, rich plantations and thick jungles. The sanctuary is centred around the large (24 sq km) artificial lake formed by the dam across the Periyar river. Situated in a mountainous area, the highest peak in the sanctuary is Vellimala (2019 m).

The sanctuary's 777 sq km of luxuriant green, rain-drenched tropical forest is the natural habitat of elephants, bisons, spotted and sambar deer and wild boar, among other animals. Birds like the Malabar grey hornbill, the grey jungle fowl and the jungle myna can also be spottled here.

Tigers also inhabit the sanctuary which was declared a tiger reserve in 1978 under Project Tiger. But they are elusive and difficult to spot.

Periyar is easily the best sanctuary in India for observing and photographing elephants at close quarters. On the boat cruise, if you're lucky, you will spot a herd or two in search of water at the edge of the lake. But for a truly memorable jungle experience, you should stay for a couple of days, preferably in one of the Forest Department's huts inside the sanctuary.

At Thekkady there are opportunities for trekking, elephant rides and boating. This is especially popular as the boat navigates through the branched tops of trees submerged long ago by the man-made lake. Though the sanctuary is open throughout the year (the monsoons can bring a totally different experience), the best season is from September to May.

The best place to halt enroute is Peermade, 43 km before Thekkady, a fertile land at an altitude of 914 metres. Formerly the summer palace of the Travancore Rajas, this tiny and cool hill station is full of rubber, tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations, interspersed with waterfalls and open grasslands.

A game reserve comparable, though smaller, to Periyar is the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, just above the Idukki arch dam. This comprises 70 sq km of forest land between the rivers Periyar and Cheruthoni, situated 40 km from Thodupuzha. There is a scenic lake around the sanctuary. The wildlife here is similar to that at Thekkady.

Cheruthoni is the area around the Idukki and Cherithoni dams, near Painavu, the headquartaers of Idukki district, Situated 3917 feet above sea level, on a clear day one can see certain parts of faraway Cochin. You can reach Cheruthoni only by jeep. The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), which looks after the dams, rents out boats for the two-hour cruise between Cheruthoni and Kulamavu.

Moolamattom: If you are interested in seeing the workings of a power house, visit Moolamattam, 40 km from Idukki. The Idukki Hydroelectric Project's underground power house is located here. You can get permission from the KSEB office to enter the power station.

Munnar, a beautiful, peaceful hill station covered with an unending expanse of tea plantations, is 133 km from Cochin and 148 km from Kottayam. With the altitude ranging from 1600 to 1800 metres above sea level, Munnar boasts the highest peak in South India- Anamudi, 2695 metres high.

If you're ever wondered how the humble tea leaf gets transformed into the cup of tea you drink every day, use this opportunity to visit a tea processing plant at Munnar. You will get a conductaed tour of the factory and the whole process of tea dust manufacture will be explained to you.

Munnar offers not only the typically laid-back atmosphere of a quiet little tea town (with a truly old-world colonial style High Range Club) but also plenty of opportunities to savour nature at its best. Beyond the estates are rich tropical forests which contain wildlife like the Nilgiri tahrs (ibex), sambars, gaurs, elephants and lion-tailed macaques.

Eravikulam National Park: While at Munnar, a not-to-be missed excursion is the the Eravikulam National Park, at the crest of the Anamala range. It can be reached only by trekking from Rajamalai, 17 km from Munnar. In its 97 sq km area can be found the Nilgiri tahr, and endangered species.

At Mattupetty, beyond the dam, is the Indo-Swiss Dairy Farm, worth visiting not just to see prized cows and bulls but to savour the rolling green valleys.

Another hill station woth visiting, 16 km south-west of Munnar, is Devikulam, which literally means 'the lake of the Goddess'. According to legend, Sita, the consort of Lord Rama, once had a bath in this lake.

The Thommankuthu waterfalls, 18 km from Thodupuzha, is a scenic and bewitching picnic spot.

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