This incredibly beautiful sanctuary is spread out over 172 sq km of beautiful hills and valleys of the southern parts of the Western Ghats in Pathanapuram. This biosphere reserve falls within the Kollam district and is about 70 km from Kollam city, which is a major tourist hub in itself; the nearest airport is less than 80km away in Trivandrum. Kerala has truly been gifted by Mother Nature as this awesome sanctuary is blessed with a variety of birds, butterflies, animals and vegetation. Numerous streams, rivers and waterfalls along with the Thenmala dam keep this forested area green throughout the year.
The Shendurney wildlife sanctuary was formed in 1984 when the Parappar (Thenmala) dam was built across the confluence of the Shendurney and Kulathapuzha rivers, resulting in the formation of a man-made lake that covers an area of about 26 sq km. The lake is central to the sanctuary and is surrounded by luxuriant forest cover on all sides which are home to big cats as well as the largest land mammals, the elephants, Kerala’s state animal.
Interestingly, the sanctuary is located in and around Thenmala’s Ecotourism project, which is the first of its kind in India. It is named after the locally-named ‘Chengurinji’ tree which is native to this place. Sadly, this tall wild tree which is harvested for its timber is now among the endangered species and facing extinction. It’s hard, beautifully grained red heartwood makes wonderful furniture. The sanctuary is also of major importance because it is home to the endangered lion-tailed macaques as well as the highly elusive nocturnal Great Eared Nightjar birds.
There are a number of trekking packages available for tourists to experience the luxuriant greenery and wildlife up close and personal. The treks are not meant for the faint-hearted or frail ones as trekking through the wild undergrowth for up to 18km requires stamina and strong will. And if you are lucky, you just might get to see a prowling tiger or leopard or the flighty Sambar deer and mouse deer or the Indian Giant squirrel or the Nilgiri langur. The trails take you through altitudinal variations of up to a 1000 meters, but amazing sights of beautiful birds and butterflies keep you going, wanting to see more of wildlife in their natural habitat. Don’t be surprised if you come upon a majestically large male gaur or a herd of elephants that gets your pulses racing!
All the bevy of trekking packages start at the Thenmala Information Center at 8am and end by 4pm, while the sun is still up. Two experienced forest guides and a forest guard accompany the trekkers, with groups being limited to a maximum of 5. Packages are available for soft and hard trekking with distances ranging from 5km to 18km covered in one day. You would do well to wear comfortable cotton clothes, sneakers, and use plenty of non-perfumed insect repellants. Take sufficient drinking water and energy food for sustenance.
Along with the mind-blowing scenery, a visit to a huge cave in the north-western region of the Shendurney River, which stands testimony to the Stone Age culture dating back to the Mesolithic period, is a must. Recent studies have revealed that Shendurney was home to one of the oldest river valley civilizations in India, dating back to an awe-inspiring 5210 to 4420 BC. The stunning beauty of this verdant sanctuary is incomplete without checking out these fascinating massive caves too, the last remnants of the Stone Age culture.