Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Thenmala, Eco-Tourism

Located about 72kms from Thiruvananthapuram, the State Capital of Kerala, God's Own Country, the southern most State of India. Thenmala is a small village at the foothills of Western Ghats and predominantly a forest area. The famous Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary is the most important ecotourism resource of Thenmala Ecotourism. This Wildlife Sanctuary is of about 100 sq. km. and harbors large varieties of flora and fauna.
Thenmala : "Then + Mala" , i.e. in local parlance "Then" means honey and "Mala" means hillock i.e. it mean honey hills. The honey collected from Thenmala forest region is of good quality and of high medicinal value because of the unique floristic composition of the forests.
General Information
(Thenmala Grama Panchayat: the local self Government)
Total population   24,212,
Altitude   Between 100-600 m above MSL
Climate   The hottest months are March to May and the coldest, December and January. The maximum temperature during daytime in the hottest month is about 39oC. The daily temperature varies from 17oC to 35oC.
Rainfall   Southwest Monsoon: May to August extends up to September Northeast Monsoon: late September, October and November Average rainfall 2600 - 3000 mm
Languages spoken   Malayalam, Tamil & English
Season   Throughout the year
Clothing   Tropical 

Ecotourism is a new concept in tourism. It is a purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the cultural and natural history of environment, taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem, while producing economic opportunities that make conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people. In short, ecotourism can be conceptualised as

"Any tourism programme that is
  • nature based,
  • ecologically sustainable,
  • where education and interpretation is a major component and
  • where local people are benefited
can be called ecotourism". If it does not satisfy any one of these components then it cannot be called a real ecotourism venture.

Tourism Department, Government of Kerala, India has taken steps to give focussed attention to ecotourism in the State. A separate ecotourism wing has been created to give policy support for the development of the ecotourism destinations in the State. Accordingly a project for the first planned ecotourism destination (Thenmala Ecotourism Project) has been formulated in and around Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary with the co-operation of departments such as Forest, Irrigation and Tourism. In order to give flexibility in management for the development of this destination, a separate Society, the Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society (TEPS) has been constituted.
"Thenmala Ecotourism" has been conceived as a first planned ecotourism destination in India and the initial stages of implementation is completed.
The major objectives of this project are
1. To develop Thenmala dam and its surroundings as a major tourist destination.
2. To promote Ecotourism on the basis of sound principles of ecological sustainability in the surrounding areas of Thenmala.
3. To have a well planned tourism destination with emphasis on sustainable tourism development so as to become a model for other destination development programmes.
When the idea of developing Thenmala as a tourism destination was mooted seriously in 1996, it was decided to develop it as an ecotourism destination by keeping the degraded forest area, in the outskirts of the Sanctuary, as a familiarization zone. The studies and discussions followed helped to evolve a strategy to control the mass tourism within the outer limits of the Sanctuary. Hence the ecotourism products, which are developed within Sanctuary, are expected to be supply driven, which eventually takes care of ecological sustainability. It was also planned to have satellite centers in various places in Western Ghats mountainous region within a radius of 50 km from Thenmala. The familiarisation zones thus created function as area for soft ecotourists.
Eco-friendly General Tourism is planned in the periphery of the sanctuary so that pressure of tourism will not affect sanctuary. The real ecotourism is to take place in sanctuary and only ecotourists are encouraged for that. Others can experience the ecofriendly products such as small nature trails, elevated walkway through canopies, mountain biking etc. This will give them a feeling of what awaits as ecotourism in the sanctuary area, for which they have to wait since it is supply driven. This was a consciously developed management strategy after analysing what is happening in various sanctuaries by way of tourist pressure.
Facilities such as boating in the Sanctuary reservoir, boardwalk, sculpture garden, amphitheatre, Musical Dancing Fountain, etc. are also provided at Thenmala for soft ecotourists. An Environmental education and interpretation center is also being set up at Thenmala.
Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society adopted a strategy to co-ordinate with Forest Department, the Irrigation Department and Tourism Department and implement various activities in association with each Department.
Private initiative is expected in areas such as providing accommodation, transportation facility etc. No permanent constructions are made in forest areas. Accommodations for tourists are developed outside the forests, at a distance.
To make this project a great success Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society (TEPS) entrusted the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI). KFRI had conducted EIA for the destination and the satellite spots. Further, on the recommendations of KFRI and on the basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment, TEPS amended the activities so as to minimise the negative impacts of the project.
The products such as trekking, bird watching trails etc. is being developed and operationalised through the institution of Eco-development Committees / Participatory Forest Management Committees (locally known as Vana Samrakshna Samithi (VSS)), thereby ensuring local benefits from ecotourism. Forest Department has already evolved expertise in the formulation of Eco-development Committees and VSS through institutionalised means. This will help in channelising the benefits of ecotourism to the local people, which will ultimately elicit support of local community for forest protection and conservation.
Thenmala ecotourism project is the first planned ecotourism project/destination in the country. In many other cases it was just renaming of an already existing "nature tourism". Here from the very beginning efforts have been taken to imbibe the internationally accepted principles of ecotourism in the planning process as well as in implementation. A conscious management strategy has been evolved to create a familiarization zone to limit the impacts in sensitive ecosystems to the minimum. Another important feature is the institutionalizing of co-ordination mechanism among Forests, Irrigation and Tourism Departments, Local Community, Local Self Government and other stake holders.
In short "Thenmala ecotourism" is a learning experience. Our idea is to make this destination qualitatively better by getting valuable feedback from all esteemed visitors and there by strive for excellence in the area of conservation of natural resources and authentic tourism experience.

Thiruvananthapuram - 72 Kms
Kollam - 66 Kms
Pathanamthitta - 31 Kms
Alappuzha - 152 (Via NH Kollam) - 137 (Via Haripad -Cheganoor- Adoor) - 126 (Via Kayamkulam - Adoor) - 123 (Via Changanassery - Adoor)
Kottayam - 121Kms (Via KTR) - 110 Kms(Via Adoor)
Idukki - 239 Kms
Thekkady - 176 Kms
Munnar - 284 Kms
Ernakulam - 214 Kms (Via NH Kollam) - 199 Kms (Via Haripad -Cheganoor- Adoor) - 191 Kms (Via

Kottayam - Kottarakara) - 188 Kms (Via Kayamkulam - Adoor) - 180 Kms (Via Kottayam - Adoor)
Thrissur - 292 Kms (Via NH Kollam) - 255 Kms (Via Kottarakara MC Road) - 244 Kms (Via Adoor MC Road)
Palakkad - 360 Kms (Via NH Kollam) - 323 Kms (Via Kottarakara MC Road) - 312 Kms (Via Adoor MC Road)
Malappuram - 411 Kms (Via Thrissur-Kottarakara MC Road) - + 40 Kms (Via NH Kollam)
Kozhikkode - 397 Kms (Via Thrissur-Kottarakara MC Road) - + 40 Kms (Via NH Kollam)
Wayanad - 470 Kms (Via Thrissur-Kottarakara MC Road) - + 40 Kms (Via NH Kollam)
Kannur - 487 Kms (Via Thrissur-Kottarakara MC Road) - + 40 Kms (Via NH Kollam)
Kasaragod - 603 Kms (Via Thrissur-Kottarakara MC Road) - + 40 Kms (Via NH Kollam)

This zone accommodates various activities, which favours Ecofriendly General Tourism. Restaurant, Shop court, Amphitheatre etc help the tourists understand the Kerala cusines, Kerala crafts and natural wealth and Kerala's Art, Culture etc. An open air Musical Dancing Fountain which is considered, as "Natures Dance" is another major attraction here.

A garden comprising of 27 trees associated with the 27 birth stars. You will be blessed to see all the 27 trees planted in the garden. Walk along and get more information on the trees.

Book on Nakshatravanam
If interested to purchase a book providing the details of Nakshatravanam titled “Stars & Trees-Trees of the Nakshatravanam” it is available at the facilitation Counter at a cost of Rs.250/-. The book published by Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society with research support from Tropical Botanical garden and Research Institute, Palode.

Butterfly Safari
An abode of the butterflies in an open ambience. A garden of host plants for the butterfly has been created enabling the large number of butterfly species of the region to thrive. A guided walk (Safari) along the nature trail of the garden will provide the visitor an opportunity to sight the butterflies and to learn about the butterflies.
Tourism Facilitation Center Accommodates
  • Well-conceived information center explaining The wide range of Tourism products available at Thenmala.
  • Shop Courts - Run by Local Women Self Help Groups.
  • Toilet facilities
  • Well informed staff to provide personal attention.
  • Functions from 09.00 am to 7.30 pm on all days.
Musical Dancing Fountain
A synchronized rhythmic ballet of water, sound and light located in the natural surroundings. Such a natural ambience is very rare and hence provides a unique and authentic experience.

This zone accommodates various activities, which favours Ecofriendly General Tourism. Restaurant, Shop court, Amphitheatre etc help the tourists understand the Kerala cusines, Kerala crafts and natural wealth and Kerala's Art, Culture etc. An open air Musical Dancing Fountain which is considered, as "Natures Dance" is another major attraction here.
Sculpture Garden
The theme of the Garden is MAN AND NATURE. It endeavors to depict the relationship of MAN and his culture with NATURE, in the serene backdrop of a green forest - i.e. unpolluted nature - synchronizing with the Thenmala Forests. Interesting circulation pathways around the sculptures and the integration of the natural features in zone gives the sculpture garden it's own exclusivity.

The activities in this zone favors adventure tourism. The attractions in this area are the Elevated Walkway, The Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, River Crossing, Nature Trails, Resting Spots, Lotus Pond, etc. The nature trail winding through various areas of the zone attracts a large number of nature tourists.

Elevated walkway
Elevated path mediating and exploring the drastic level changes in the zone originates from the deck plaza and through the canopy of the trees ends up in the old Thiruvananthapuram Shenkottah road. The walkway flies over rocky areas though the canopy of large trees providing an aerial view of various features here. The traveler can explore the flora and fauna of the region from over the forest canopy. Here in Elevated Walkway, one can hear the songs of the wind, listen to its fancy melody while taking a walk through the canopy of trees. One can also hear the melodious chirps of birds while enjoying a bird's view of the awe-inspiring beauty of Mother Nature.

Adventure activities
Mountain Biking, River Crossing, Recreational Rock Climbing, Rappelling.

  • One hour duration
  • Trasported to boatlanding by teps vehicles through forest to sensitize tourists on non-polluting sources of energy.
  • Sightings - Elephants, Bison, Sambar etc.
  • Unique scenic beauty and hillocks of high lush evergreen forests.

  • Established to give protection to deer that are strayed out from forests.
  • Deer's protected - Spotted deer, Sambar deer, Barking deer
  • Tree top huts for family day spending,
  • Children's eco-park
  • Short Riverside trek
  • 16 km from Thenmala towards Shenkotah
  • 300 ft height
  • Amidst evergreen forests
  • Managed by local people
Run and maintained by the committee of Local forest dependent community Known as Palaruvi Vana Samrashana Samithi with technical and financial support by Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society.
Contact Ph: 0475-2211200
Rate: Entry fee Rs.7/- Adult, Free for children below 13 years of age and students as part of educational trips. Parking fee extra.
Contact address: Divisional Forest Officer. Thenmala Forest Division, Thenmala
Ph: 0475-2344521
Soft Trekking
Distance – 4 kms
Route: Trekking to a Myristica Swamp Forest
Patch. Conducted by TEPS.
Adult (Rs. 50/-)
Child (Rs. 30/-)
International Tourist - Rs. 100/-)
Maximum trekkers 19 Minimum No. 5 in one trip.
Minimum charge Rs.250/- per trek
Tax applicable
Soft trekking programmes and night camps for one to three days conducted at Thenmala by National Adventure Foundation. One to three days guided trekking tours and bird watching trails in Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary.
Riverine biking trail Route: Cycling to a Myristica Swamp Forest Patch. Conducted by TEPS.
Adult (Rs. 100/-)
International Tourist - Rs. 150/-)
Maximum trekkers 4 Minimum No. 2 in one trip.
Minimum charge Rs.200/- per trip
Tax applicable
Trekking in Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary (contact 0475-2344600)
  • Nature Walk (1/2 day trekking programme) Duration 6 hrs Distance 10 kms Rs.600/- for 10 persons. Rs.75/- per extra person Maximum 20 persons. Start time of trekking 7.00 a.m. & 11.00a.m
  • Kananayathra (One Day trekking) Duration 8 hrs Distance 20kms Rs.1000/- for 5 persons Rs.250/- per extra person Maximum 10 persons. Food inclusive. Start time of trekking 7.00 a.m. & 11.00a.m