In a nation as large as India, it can be difficult for one small region to stand out from the crowd and establish itself as a bona-fide tourist destination on its own reputation, but that is just what the beautiful ecology of Kerala has allowed one of the nation’s smallest states to do.
In the past, Kerala was an important hub for the spice trade and it still contributes significantly to India’s national output of spices, tea, pepper and natural rubber, but tourism is rapidly taking over as the most important factor to the local economy.
Blessed with a long ribbon of perfect coastline, as well as 9,400km2 of tropical forests, Kerala has become a magnet for tourists searching out both the tranquility of its beaches and the fascinating ecology of its forests and wetlands.
With 1,272 endemic plant species and more than 200 examples of fauna that is endemic to Kerala, this small slither of land along the coast of India is one of the world’s most important natural environments – which is why promoting sustainable tourism has become a huge priority for the local government.
The uniqueness and beauty of Kerala is threatened by extensive habitat destruction, both natural and man-made, with efforts now underway to reverse this trend and preserve the area for responsible tourists to enjoy and, crucially, to ensure that Kerala remains a haven for a wide variety of wildlife.
Tourists hoping to experience as much of Kerala’s diverse ecosystem as possible are likely to head to Parambikulam, a sprawling nature reserve that compromises 277km2, carpeting the areas between numerous peaks.
The sanctuary offers something for all tourists, no matter how intrepid they may feel – although any trek within the grounds of the nature reserve requires formal permission and a tribal guide, to ensure that the sanctity of the area is protected and also to protect visitors from the rugged natural environment.
For the bravest and most energetic of trekkers, rare animals including the lion-tailed macaque and Bengal tiger live deep within the confines of the reserves, but wildlife enthusiasts and bird-watchers will find a cornucopia of fascinating species, many of which are endemic to the area.
Photos: [all via Bigstockphoto.com].