Thiruvananthapuram – Trek the forest and give bath to an elephant

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) is the capital city of Kerala and the most populous city in Kerala. However, it also boasts of several tourist locations such as the Padmanabha swamy Temple, the beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, the backwaters of Poovar and Anchuthengu and its Western Ghats trekking tracts of Ponmudi and the Agastya mala.
The City has a strong trading history dating back to 1000 BC. The city was known for trading of spices, sandalwood and ivory.
In the past,the city was almost entirely independent from the rest of Kerala in its political and cultural history. Thiruvananthapuram city is built on hills by the sea shore.
Generally the weather is hot and humid during summer season from March to May and pleasantly cooler during the winter season from November to mid March. Best time to visit the city as a tourist is between November and mid March.

Poovar Island & Beach

Poovar is about an hour from Trivandrum. The 56 km Neyyar River passes into the Arabian Sea near Poovar. A backwater cruise is available at Poovar which will take you through Neyyar River and through the mangroves near Poovar. If you are not a frequent visitor of  Thiruvananthapuram and near by places, then this is a must see location. It is was told to me that some of the shooting sequence of Anaconda movie was done here.

 

Neyyar river merges into Arabian sea at Poovar and the view is one to cherish through out your life.  The golden sand beach at Poovar is neat and safe for dip in water and long walks. The place is usualy not crowded and a resort also operates from this location for an overnight stay. Book it in advance, if you planning to spend a night at Poovar.

Boat ride will cost about 2500 Rupees per hour. The agent might suggest for Rs.5000 (2.5 hours), but according to me, one hour is good enough and 2.5 hours is too long and worth the amount.

Cons:avoid the low tides, as boat ride may not be highly enjoyable and the boats might avoid some areas during low tide.

Kovalam Beaches and Vizhinjam Lighthouse

This is the most popular beach and tourist spot in Thiruvananthapuram. Its a beautiful and clean stretch of three beaches with a lot of sea view hotels and restaurants. The crowd is decent and near by shops and restaurants serve a variety of freshly caught seafood. The best among the 3 beach is the lighthouse beach and the view from the top near the lighthouse is fabulous and attracts lot of tourists through out the year.
The beach is a combination of 3 beaches with a light house. The water is very clean and shallow water stretching for more than a hundred meter is ideal for swimming.

Hawa Beach
Hawa beach is also known as Eve’s Beach , in its early days was used by fishermen setting out to sea.  The beach has calm blue waters and is amazingly beautiful on moon and star lit nights.
Lighthouse (Vizhinjam) Beach
The Lighthouse Beach is the one most popular among tourists and got its name due to the Vizhinjam Lighthouse located high on top of the hillock. The lighthouse is built using stones colored in red and is at a height 118 feet.  The light beams at night from the light house render the beach with an unearthly charm.
Samudra Beach
A large promontory separates this part from the southern side. Samudra Beach doesn’t have tourists thronging there or hectic business. The local fishermen ply their trade on this part. Samudra Beach which is to the north of Ashoka Beach. One has the option to walk along the sea-wall and the sight of the waves lashing on the rocks below is awesome.
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Agastya Mala Trekking

One of the most precious place with herbal and most distinctive species of birds, animals and plants. Agasthya hills, is the soul and heart of pilgrimage centre for devotees of the Hindu sage Agastya. Agasthyamala biosphere reserve is among the list by UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves . A Guided trekking is available from the Kerala Forest dept from Jan to Feb of every year (From Makara Vilakku Day To Shiv Rathri Day). You can book the slots online and maximum 100 tickets will be provided on daily basis. Kerala Forest dept opens a link to book the ticket maximum a week before trek start day. Trek is 2 days long and Agastya Mala is without doubt one of the best trekking experience in South India. The trek is not that difficult but it require a lot of stamina. There are a lot of small streams in the way and some unbelievable view points. There is a temple of Agastya muni at the top. the two day trek is about 30 km long. Women are not allowed on this trek, so confirm before you book and go.

You can book the tickets at Kerala Forest and Wildlife website. It opens 2 weeks before the season.

 

Thiruvananthapuram Zoo

Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, is one of the oldest zoo in India. The zoo was formally established in 1857 and under the control of  Travancore kings. it is spread across 55 acres of land. Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is home to 100 different species of animals from all over India and abroad. Official website contains the list of animals and more information regarding the zoo.

Shanghumukham Beach

Shanghumukham beach is 8 Km from City and near Trivandrum International Airport. Shanghumukham beach is a good place to take your kids and spend time in the evening. Apart from playing on the beach, there is a small park close to the beach with few rides like merry go round and toy train.  A small garden and star-fish shaped restaurant located close by attracts large crowds.
Connectivity to this place is reasonably OK.

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Elephant Rehabilitation Centre

Ever wondered how it feels to get close to the Giants and give a bath to one these animals ? Elephant Rehabilitation Centre is a place for this.  This is a place where lost, trapped and injured elephants are taken care off and trained . The elephant bath and feeding time in the morning is a must see activity. There are many baby elephants to play with and interesting to watch those gentle giants bathe and feed. Elephant Rehabilitation Centre is located at Kottur near Kappukadu in Activitydistrict. The best time to visit the centre is between 9:30 and 11:30am, when the elephants are being fed.

Take plenty of water and old shoes/flip flops, if you are planning to get into the water to wash the elephants.

 

Neyyar Wild Life Sanctuary and Dam

Neyyar is one of Kerala’s oldest wildlife Sanctuary and situated  32 kilometres away from Thiruvananthapuram  city. Three rivers  Neyyar, Mullayar and Kallar meet here. The place is ideal for half day trips. Nature lovers can walk near the Dams to enjoy the nature. Neyyar Dam is also a crocodile breeding centre and located close to this is a lion safari park.  A boat ride at Neyyar dam is available for Visitors.

Boat Service costs RS.250 per person and the Lion Safari is available across the river.
This place is not very well known to tourists and tour operators. November to March is the most pleasant time to visit. However, If you want to experience the true beauty of western ghats, then I would suggest post monsoon like October and November when the rainy clouds starts to withdraw.

check Official website and NAT GEO for some more details.

Arippa

Arippa is located about 50 kms from Trivandrum City. The place is great for nature lovers and adventure lovers.You can see nature at its closest. it is one of the best point to see Western Ghat Flora in and near Trivandrum. If possible, plan for an overnight stay at Jyothishmathi Jungle Lodge.
The nature lovers would absolutely love this area.

Peppara Dam and Wildlife Reserve

Peppara Dam is a small dam on the way to Ponmudi from Thiruvanthapuram.  This can be a short stop on the way to Ponmudi. Walk all the way from the entrance to the other side of the DAM and walk into the forest areas. Good place to take a few snaps and then keep going to ponmudi.
This scenery  and fresh oxygen will provide good energy.  the Dam is often visited by nature enthusiasts and ornithologists and the surroundings are covered by luscious green trees. The entry to the place is absolutely free. The dam is built over the Karamana River.

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If you really want to see the dam full and don’t mind getting wet , Then July – August is the best season. However, Ideal time to visit the dam is from November to mid March. Digital cameras areprohibitted this place, You can take pictures using the mobiles. Don’t ask me the reason for allowing mobiles and not digital cameras :P.

 

When to visit and weather

Best season to visit is between November to February. The weather is pleasant during this interval with some hot days.
However, if you are a lover of monsoon season, don’t miss the heavy showers of August to October. The western ghats are lush green during this season. However, trekking is near impossible during the rainy season.
The summers are very hot and humid with temperatures above 35 degree celcius.

How to reach here

Thiruvananthapuram is accessible by Road, air and railways. The international airport has good connectivity to other cities in India and cities across Middle East, Europe and Asian countries.
Several trains are available from different train stations in Thiruvananthapuram to other cities of India including major cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. There are several passenger trains available to nearby locations within Kerala and Knyakumari. More detailed list and schedule is available at Indian Railways website.
Thiruvananthapuram is well connected by roadways and can be easily reached from most of the South Indian cities and towns by buses. Transportation with-in the capital city is not a concern and very cheap.

Using buses, taxi and auto rickshaw is a convenient mode of transportion with-in the city and many taxi’s offer a daily fare and will agree to take you popular tourist destinations. You can talk to local taxi driver’s to find the rates charged and from my experience it is nominal.

A Word of Caution

As with all the other places in Kerala, The call for strike (harthal) is common and causes complete shutdown of transport, business and other activities.
Stay indoor during strikes and it may impact your schedule and restrict your movement and may not be able to carry on your trip as planned.
Before entering Kerala, make sure that there are no strikes.
watch out for extreme hot weather during the months of Mid march to May end or mid June.

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