Abundant and pristine natural beauty, biodiversity and sustainable practices have paved the way for Thenmala in the Kollam district of the southern Indian state of Kerala to become India’s first planned eco-tourism destination. By way of eco-friendly methods, environmental protection, awareness and alternative energy, this town provides tourists with leisure, adventure and cultural experience. So, to escape the bustle of city life and reconnect with nature, Thenmala is the perfect destination.
Thenmala means ‘Honey Hill’ in the local dialect, and once this town was popular for its honey, which was considered to have curative powers. Today, this town is an avant-garde, environmentally friendly tourist hotspot focused on conservation, the reduction of the carbon footprint and the promotion of sustainable travel.
What to do and see
Tourists in Thenmala can enjoy a range of activities, without leaving a footprint and stressing the nature. These activities are divided into three zones–the leisure zone, the culture zone and the adventure zone. We guide you through each of these zones.
There is perhaps no better way to relax than in nature, and this zone allows visitors to do just that. Explore a sculpture garden, a hanging bridge, a wildlife sanctuary and a dam.
This historical 400-foot long bridge was built in 1877, and leads to the sculpture garden.
The theme of this garden is ‘man and nature’, and it houses sculptures and art pieces that showcase the relationship between nature and humanity.
Thenmala Parappar Dam
This is the longest reservoir and the second largest irrigation system in Kerala. A boardwalk leads to the dam, which is flanked by the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary on both sides. Boating on the clear waters of the reservoir is a popular activity here. It offers tranquility and scenic views.
Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary
Alongside the reservoir, Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses an area of 171 square kilometers (66 sq mi) and consists of tropical semi-evergreen and lush evergreen forest. This sanctuary is home to a variety of flora and fauna, and also offers boating to get you up close to the wildlife, including sambar, elephant, bison and rare birds, like the Great Eared Nightjar (a nocturnal forest bird). There’s also a tree top hut, kids eco-park and riverside treks.
This zone introduces you to the rich culture, tradition and cuisine of Kerala, while maintaining maximum contact with the natural environment.
Butterfly Safari Park
Spread over 3.5 hectares, this park is home to around 125 colourful species of butterflies. The plants and lush greenery create a natural habitat for these fascinating creatures. Guided tours of the park are available.
Musical Dancing Fountain
A major highlight of the culture zone is the musical dancing fountain, which is an open-air fountain. Water combines with sounds, lights and nature to create a water show of dancing fountains beautifully harmonized with rhythms – a spectacle like no other!
Take a guided trekking tour of 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) through the fringes of the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary into the Myristica Swamp Forest. The tariff is INR 100 ($ 1.57) for Indians and INR 150 ($2.35) for foreign nationals, and timing is from 6 am until 4 pm.
This garden has 27 trees that represent the 27 birth stars (called nakshatras) according to Hindu astrology. Take a relaxing stroll in the garden and learn more about them, like which trees are compatible with your sign and nature. These trees are also of social, medicinal, economic and aesthetic value. This zone also has a multi-cuisine restaurant, Eco Fort, to grab a bite to eat.
This thrilling zone features an array of adventure activities, which take full advantage of the beautiful natural scenery too. For instance, take a walk on the elevated walkway that passes through lush forest and rocky terrain, thus providing an opportunity to be one with nature, while getting a close-up view of birds in their natural habitat. Other adventure activities include rock climbing, zorbing, archery, mountain biking, river crossing, a flying fox and nature walks. This zone also contains a museum displaying various kinds of rope knots used by rescuers, sailors and sportspeople.
Nearby spots to visit
This waterfall lies about 14 kilometres (8.6 miles) from Thenmala, a must-see waterfall. The name Palaruvi means ‘stream of milk’, which gives an indication of what it looks like. Surrounded by tropical rainforest, the milky water cascades from a height of 91.4 meters (300 feet) into the plunge pool below, where you can take a refreshing dip and enjoy the spectacular view of the waterfall from the bottom.
Pathimoonnu Kannara Palam
This beautiful 13-arch bridge made of limestone rocks is about 4 kilometres (2.4 miles) from Thenmala. The architectural wonder was built in 1904 by the British to carry goods from Kollam to Madras. Its 13-arched design makes it a spot worth visiting.
Deer Rehabilitation Center
Another must-see spot is the Deer Rehabilitation Center, which is home to a variety of deer species, including sambar, spotted deer, etc.
Where to stay
There are several eco-friendly stay options in Thenmala:
Also known as Tented Jungle Camping, this place offers Swiss cottage tents with en-suite bathrooms. Basic facilities are on offer. The tariff is INR 1200 for Indians and INR 1467 ($23) for foreign nationals, on the basis of double occupancy.
The Honey Comb
Also known as A Tourist Home, it offers single room with attached bathroom. The tariff varies depending on a/c and non-a/c rooms. A/c rooms are INR 1400 for Indians and INR 1659 ($26) for foreigners. Non-a/c cottages cost INR 1000 for Indians and INR 1276 ($20) for foreigners.
This stay option offers Swiss cottage tents with basic facilities. It is located near the Kallada River, so beautiful views of the river add to the appeal. The price, on twin-sharing basis, is INR 1200 for Indians and INR 1468 ($23) for foreign nationals.
The Bee Hive
This place provides dormitories with en-suite bathroom and two-tier beds. The price for an a/c room is INR 250 for Indians and INR 319 ($5) for foreign nationals, while non-a/c rooms are INR 160 per bed for Indians and INR 255 ($4) for foreigners.
This accommodation is in the form of canopy huts with single rooms with en-suite facilities. The price on twin-sharing basis is INR 800 for Indians and INR 766 ($12) for foreigners.
Several packages are also on offer for overnight stays. The park package costs around INR 3320 for Indians and INR 4084 ($64) for foreigners. The ecotrek package includes trekking and costs around INR 4200 for Indians and INR 4723 ($74) for international visitors.
You can book the packages and the accommodation in Thenmala online.
How to get there
The nearest airport is Trivandrum International Airport, approximately 75.4 kilometres (46.8 miles) away. The nearest railway station is Sengottai Railway Station, approximately 32 kilometers (19.8 miles) away, or Kollam Junction Railway Station, approximately 68.3 kilomters (42.4 miles) away. You’ll need to take a taxi the rest of the way.