Gavi: The Eco-Tourism Project in Kerala
Gavi, located in the Pathanamthitta district offers its visitors activities like trekking, wildlife surveillance, forest camping in tents, and night safaris. Gavi Eco-Tourism Project of the Kerala Forest Development Corporation has caught the attention of tourists, especially from Europe. The project is unique in many aspects and the majority of the visitors are nature lovers. Alistair International, the world acclaimed tourism major, listed it among the leading eco-tourism centers and one of the must-see places in India.
Gavi will cast its charisma on every visitor and is indeed a place that should not be missed in one’s lifetime. It is natural and pristine, which reminds the visitors that they are liable for their actions which will affect the conservation of Gavi.
Gavi is 28 km southwest of Vandiperiyar and 40 km from Kumily, near Thekkady. It is part of the Ranni reserve forest and part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rough journey to Gavi may preferably be made on a four-wheel-drive like a jeep which can be hired either from Vandiperiyar or Kumily. Entry passes must be obtained from the Forest Check Post at Vallakkadavu. The entrance fee is Rs. 25 per person and Rs.50 per vehicle. Still, Cameras are charged with Rs.25 and video cameras with Rs.100. The route to Gavi from Pathanamthitta is the most lovely and joyous. Online advance booking with the Kerala Forest Development Corporation Ltd.
The place is rich in flora and fauna with hills and valleys, tropical forests, sprawling grasslands, sholas, cascading waterfalls, and cardamom plantations. One of the attractions in the Gavi forest area is the biblical gopher trees. The two fully-grown gopher trees in Gavi, with robust stem and lush foliage, are believed to be the only gopher trees in India.
Gavi’s evergreen forests are abundant with wildlife including the tiger, elephants, leopards, bears, Indian gaur, Sambar, barking and mouse deer, lion-tailed macaque, and Nilgiri marten. With more than 250 species of birds, Gavi is a treat for birdwatchers.
Gavi has a pleasant climate throughout the year with temperatures ranging 20- 28 deg Celsius during summer and 10-25 deg Celsius during Monsoon
We have booked the overnight stay program online with KFDC. We started our journey from Kumily is a continuation of our trip to Vagamon and Thekkady. We stayed at Kumily and the next day early morning went to Thekkady for the boat ride in River Periyar. After coming back, we had our breakfast and started the journey to Gavi in our vehicle at 1100 hrs
If you are staying overnight you are permitted to arrive at Gavi by your private vehicle. You have to obtain the vehicle entry permit at the KFDC Eco-Tourism office at Vandiperiyar. The pass should be submitted at the Vallakkadavu Check post for getting passes for a vehicle, cameras, and people.
After passing the check post our journey through the forest started. We were hoping to see some elephants or other animals en route. We could see fresh elephant dung and footprints at many places on the road. Unfortunately, we were not able to see an elephant as we were traveling in the middle of the day. The journey was a bit rough for an LMV but the surroundings are serene and beautiful. We had to show the passes at a second check post before reaching Gavi. We reached Gavi by 1400hrs and reported to Green Mansion and checked in. The rules to follow were briefed and our guide Muniyandi was introduced to us.
We rested until 1600hrs and our guide Muniyandi took us for the rowboat ride in the Gavi Lake. As it was a weekday, there were not many visitors and the ride was quiet and enticing. We have seen many birds and giant Malabar squirrels on the surrounding trees. Once we completed the boating and came ashore, we have seen a wild boar wandering on the bank of the lake.
After the boating, we had our tea break and drifted around the place enjoying the beauty of nature. From the Green Mansion, one can relish the spectacular view of the Gavi Lake and the adjoining forests. There is a small rose garden near the restaurant. Thunbergia myogenesis (Indian Clock Vine) on the walkway was in full blossom and the flowers are so beautiful and a feast to one’s eyes. A few lion-tailed macaques were playing on the nearby trees. It was a nice experience of wildlife in close proximity.
As it became dusk and wandering on the roads or forest is not encouraged, we retired to our rooms. Had our dinner, a good vegetarian dinner, in the restaurant and retired to get ready early morning to go for the Jeep Safari.
We got up at 0500hrs and got ready to commence our safari. Had our morning tea at 0615hrs and started the safari. Our guide was a native and has a thorough knowledge of the forest and its flora and fauna. The jeep safari through the gutted road was rough, but the surroundings are very scenic.
En-route we have stopped to see the two gopher trees, said to be the only ones in India, The wood of the gopher tree will float in water even if it is green. It is a tree called `Nirampalli’ and its botanical name is ‘Boro Carpus’. It is also said to be the Biblical Gopher wood or gopherwood, a term used once in the Bible for the substance from which Noah’s Ark was built.
We visited Kochu Pampa and the Dam. The dam and its catchment area were beautiful and really breathtaking and the forest lining the banks is dense. Those who are on the day trip from Pathanamthitta or Ranni can enjoy boating in the Kochu Pumpa Lake.
We continued our safari through the thick forest hoping to see some wildlife on the way. We came across many birds and a few monkeys. Elephant dung and footprints were observed indicating recent elephant movements at many places. To our hard luck, we could not come across any elephants or any felines. At the Viewpoint, the view of the deep ravine and the forest below is spectacular and breathtaking. We also had a glimpse of a group of buffalos grazing the meadow.
We returned back from the viewpoint and en-route stopped for a glass of tea at the KSEB canteen. The tea was good and refreshing. We reached Green mansion after two and a half hours of safari. We had a filling breakfast and went to see the Sabarimala Viewpoint. If there is no mist, one can see the temple very clearly. The environment around is fabulous and scenic.
After the viewpoint, we went to see the animal museum, a modest museum where you can see the salvaged head of the buffalo and the elephant skeleton. As we had been through the cardamom plantation and the factory before, we skipped that part of the tour and started our return journey early so that we could reach Trivandrum before nightfall.
We have chosen to stay overnight at the jungle lodge. There are other programs like Swiss cottage tents and jungle camping. Jeep Safari is not included for jungle camping. The charges vary and jungle camping is not recommended for ladies and children. There are day programs starting from Pathanamthitta and Ranni. The journey starts at 0630hrs and ends at 2000hrs. Nowadays trekking is not permitted in Gavi.