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Kerala’s Adavi-Gavi tourism circuit a haven for visitors

Samuel Mathai

Kerala “the God’s Own Country” has been a major tourist attraction since time immemorial for its palm-fringed beaches, Western Ghats hills, forests and wildlife. The state has also included Konni in Pathanamthitta district in the tourism circuit of the Central Tourism Department through ecotourism in Adavi in Thannithode Panchayat and Gavi.

The departments of Forest and Tourism have launched many travel packages on the Konni-Adavi-Gavi route.

Visiting my tiny native village, Thannithode, after a long time, recently, with family members was a real experience beyond expression. My joy has increased in leaps and bounds to know that the murky village, where I spent my childhood, is now on the tourism map of India. The village and its surroundings, where people from small towns of Kerala itself dare not to go even now, because of the fear of wild elephants, has become a much sought-after destination for tourists from within and abroad also.

According to Forest Department sources, the Central Tourism Department has included the Konni-Adavi-Gavi stretch in Kerala in the Tourism Circuit.

Elephant camp

The Elephant Camp at Konni had been identified as the eco-tourism hub in the region and steps would be taken to provide better amenities there. The park at the camp would be kept open from 8 am to 9 pm. A modern restaurant would be opened jointly by these departments.

Coracle ride

Adavi eco-tourism centre, located 13 km from Konni town in the deep forests, is fast turning into an important tourist destination. An aggregate number of four lakh tourists, including hundreds of foreigners, have already visited the flora and fauna of the unique tourist centre. Located on the banks of the Kallar river, the coracle or bowl boat (Kuttavanchi) ride introduced in the recent past along the Mundommoozhy-Thannithode stretch of the river Kallar at Adavi has been attracting tourists across the world in a big way.

Having a capacity to accommodate five people, including a child, the oarsmen of the traditional craft will offer a 30-minute ride on the river. With the arrival of 13 additional bowl boats from Okkanakkal in Tamil Nadu, the total number of the boats stood at 23.

With the completion of the six tree-huts, built on tree branches at a cost of Rs 36 lakh by the public sector Bamboo Corporation by July 15, Adavi is all set to attract more tourists.

Elephant rehab centre

Moreover, the Forest department would be setting up a rehabilitation centre for elephants in 160 hectares of forests on the banks of the Kallar. The centre, modelled on the one at Pinnawala in Sri Lanka, would have a 5-km river frontage.

A herbal garden, bamboo park, arboretum, elephant breeding places in natural settings, honey bee park, and a butterfly park would be the other attractions at the Adavi ecotourism centre.

Familiarising people with the wild through such projects would be of great help in checking anti-forest activities, the DFO said.

Gavi Eco-Tourism

Gavi Eco-Tourism, a project of the Kerala Forest Development Corporation has caught the attention of tourists, mostly from European countries. The project is exclusive in many respects and the majority who visited was nature lovers and adventure tourists. Over a short span of time visitors to Gavi gradually increased, especially after 'Alistair International' the world acclaimed tourism major listed it among the leading eco-tourism centres and one of the must-see places in India.

Gavi, a village in Pathanamthitta district  of Kerala, is located 28 km southwest of Vandiperiyar, on N.H 220, connecting Kollam and Madurai, offers its visitor activities like trekking, wildlife watching, outdoor camping in specially built tents, and night safaris.

The road leading to the picturesque Gavi is blanketed by tea plantations, which itself is a refreshing experience. En route to Gavi are places of interest like Mundakayyam, Kuttikanam, Peermedu and Vandiperiyar from where the road deviates to Gavi.

Once you reach Gavi the serene eco-lodge 'Green Mansion' awaits you like a fairy to embrace you in its protective fold. From the 'Green Mansion', one can savour the spectacular view of the Gavi Lake and the adjoining forests. Besides the accommodation provided in 'Green Mansion' visitors can also try out the tree houses here and can even pitch tents amidst the wild. Here one can have outstanding trekking experiences, which are overseen by trained local people. Those who would love to be left alone can do so in the tranquil environs of Gavi or may even go canoeing in the placid waters of the lake or enjoy a breathtaking sunset.

The place is rich in flora and fauna. There are hills and valleys, tropical forests, sprawling grasslands, sholas, cascading waterfalls and cardamom plantations. Endangered species including the Nilgiri Tahr and Lion-tailed macaque are often sighted at the outskirts of Gavi. With more than 260 species of birds including the great pied hornbill, woodpecker, and kingfishers, Gavi is a heaven for birdwatchers.

Some of the breathtaking viewpoints at Gavi like the Valley View offer spectacular view of a deep ravine and the forest below. From Kochu Pampa, a point near Green Mansion eco-lodge one can track the grazing Nilgiri Tahrs.

The famous pilgrim destination, Sabarimala is a short trek from Gavi. For those interested in observing the nocturnal wildlife, night safaris to Kullur, Gavi Pullumedu, Kochu Pampa, Pachakanam provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Another unique feature of Gavi is camping in the forests. One can pitch a tent in the camping site, which is a rarity in many Indian forests. As the dusk stretches into the silence of the night, one can feel the presence of wildlife in the midst of nowhere, an experience that cannot be explained in words. There are also tree top houses where one can enjoy the avian life to the fullest.

Active involvement of tribals in Gavi makes it a unique venture of its kind in the country. Traditional knowledge of the forest and its way of life helps Gavi to sustain its surroundings in its original state.

Gavi is bound to cast its magical spell on every visitor and is surely a place that should not be missed in one's lifetime. Gavi is pristine, and it belongs to the wild, which is a reminder that visitors are responsible for their intentions and actions, which will have a bearing on the upkeep of Gavi for a long time to come.

Spread across the beauty of Periyar Tiger Reserve, Gavi is a quiet, beautiful and pristine forest haven. It is at the eastern extreme of the Pathanamthitta District at 3400 ft above MSL. These evergreen forests are abundant with magnificent wildlife including tiger, elephants, leopards, bears, Indian gaur, sambar, barking & Mouse deers, lion tailed macaque, other varieties of Kumarakom-bird Sanctuary monkeys, Nilgiri Marten and a lot more.

For the nature explorers Gavi offers the complete acquaintance with the flora around including Nageia Wallichinia (Podocarpus Wallichinia), a highly endemic species of the Gymnosperm family seen only around Gavi in the whole Western Ghats.

For the bird-lover, the forests around Gavi are home to over 320 species of birds –the great Indian hornbills, sunbirds, woodpeckers, kingfishers and myriads of mynas, dongos, cuckoos and bulbuls-truly any birder’s dream.

The sheer beauty of this place is indeed worth a closer look. Here is nature at its unadulterated best. Gavi often serves as a base camp for deep jungle trekkers, birdwatchers, nature lovers, research students and the like.

Ecotourism Activities

Visitors to Gavi can indulge in trekking, bird and animal watching and boating or canoeing in the placid Kumarakom-bird Sanctuary waters of the Reservoir. Trekking trails to Pullumedu Peak offers a panoramic view of the famed Sabarimala shrine. Visitors can also take along a local guide and an experienced 'elephant chaser' and then hike to Meenar, Chenthamara Kokka and Valley View that gives a spectacular view of a deep ravine and the forest below. Outdoor camping and night safaris are organised to Kullar, Gavi, Pullumedu, Kochu Pampa, Pachakanam or Anathodu.