Image Courtesy: Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary/Ecotourism
Shenduruny (Shendurney/ Shenduruney) Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the district of Kollam in Kerala, India. The sanctuary is situated around 60 kms from Kollam and 70 kms from Thiruvananthapuram city on N.H.208. The Kollam – Shenkottah meter gauge railway line passes close to the sanctuary.
The etymology of the name ‘Shenduruny’ has been derived from a tree species endemic to this area called ‘Shenkuruny or Chenkuruny’ (Gluta Travancorica). As per a tourism website, mammalian fauna sighted in the sanctuary includes the bonnet macaque (Macaca Radiata), the lion tailed macaque (Macaca Silenus), the Nilgiri langur, the Indian giant squirrel (Malabar giant squirrel or Ratufa indica), three striped palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum), the gaur or the Indian bison, the sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), the barking deer (muntjac), the Indian chevrotain or mouse deer, wild boar and the Indian elephant.
Year 2006. The harsh summer gave way to the humid monsoons, the most enthralling season in Kerala. A season which gives a reason for the lazy bones to curl up inside??? Nay!!! On the contrary, monsoons are best enjoyed outside… Have you ever had a swim in a temple pond with a torrent of rain pouring down from above, playing hide and seek with the rain drops waiting to prick your face with a thousand water needles, the moment you surface from the water? Ever watched a silver sheet of rain approaching you from miles away from a golden sea shore … Ever heard the mesmerizing sound of rain as it patters down the baked clay roof tiles, forming a temporary waterfall down the Nadu-Mittam (central courtyard) in a Nalukettu (traditional Kerala homestead with a central courtyard open to the sky) … Wow ! You just can’t have enough of Kerala monsoons… So was the season when we chanced upon a Hindu Metro Plus article about a wildlife sanctuary near Thenmala in Kollam district. It was love at first sight and the next Sunday was promptly earmarked for exploring the place.
The Sunday commenced quite early that week as opposed to 11 am on usual weeks 😉 Our eyelids which rebel at 7 am on weekdays were magically open wide at 5 am 🙂 as we geared up for the 70 plus kilometre journey ahead… As usual the Hindu Metro plus excelled as a travel guide… It was not yet daybreak as we whizzed past the winding terrain on that drizzly morning. We reached Thenmala by 6:45 am. The Hindu had provided contact information and we had arranged to meet one Mr. Thomas at Thenmala for our proposed trek in the sanctuary. We had a quick breakfast at a junction tea shop. As we were sipping the hot tea, we came across a group of forest officials in their khaki uniforms, also in search of their regular morning tea.
By the time we finished our breakfast, our host was ready for us. He was well acquainted with the forest officials and chatted them up. We came to know that a group of them were going to the forest on a raid that very morning, based on a tip off that illicit liquor was being brewed inside the sanctuary. After a discussion, it was decided that we would accompany these officials part way, as they were traveling by boat and this would help us to reach the core of the sanctuary faster. Once we land, we would trek on our own with a guide Mr. Thomas was to arrange. We too welcomed the idea as it would gain us more time inside the sanctuary.
The first step was to gain an entry pass from the Wildlife warden. As we were accompanied by Thomas and the forest officials themselves, we had no trouble whatsoever in getting one…Thus began our sanctuary visit, with the team of forest officials and a guide named Kumar in tow. Our vehicle passed the tall entrance way to the sanctuary… What lay beyond was an enchanting world. If you have ever watched the movie ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, you would know what I mean; just open a cupboard door and you step out into a magical world … We drank in the first sights, sounds and smells of pristine nature. Our vehicle came to a stop at the brink of a huge lake, where the road terminated. Promptly a boat was arranged for and we all boarded it. The rain played truant… The morning breeze, the placid lake and the serene surroundings induced an invigorating feeling. As our boat glided past the sloping grasslands, we sighted a group of wild boar, coming down to drink water from the lake. They seemed oblivious to our presence. We passed the grasslands and soon reached a bank with a thick foliage of gigantic trees. The boat was tethered to a fallen tree and we embarked on our trek… Our guide Kumar was a localite in his late 40s and was as familiar with the sanctuary as the back of his palm… He was a Jim Corbett of sorts, virtually having grown up in the sanctuary. He was an invaluable companion in that trip. He gave us some sort of oil with a pungent smell to ward off potential leech attacks, which we generously applied on our feet. He shaved off a few sticks from the thick undergrowth overhanging the lake. We armed ourselves with these 5 foot sticks and commenced our journey on foot through the veritable forest!!
As we had covered quite a lot of distance via boat, we landed far inside the sanctuary. As we treaded inland from the shore, sunlight became scarce. A thick multi layered canopy of trees covered the horizon. Our guide was of the opinion that for every plant found outside the forest, there is a corresponding jungle variety. He showed us the jungle paddy, a small plant with shoots very similar to the original paddy plant. He showed the jungle goose berry tree, the fruits of which were somewhat smaller than the native ones, but a lot tastier. We came across a gigantic tree species, which our guide called the ‘Kari Maram’, the bark of which was coal black in colour! We soon realized that the stick so thoughtfully provided was a multi-pronged tool… Use it to ward off the thick undergrowth, use it to test the depth of a crossing rivulet, use it to remain perpendicular while manoeuvring a steep incline or simply to gain a false sense of supremacy in case of a wild animal sighting 😉 We walked behind Kumar who was as nimble as a Nilgiri Tahr. We came across trees with roots the size of a ledge, protruding on all sides. Kumar opined that a wild boar could easily hide behind one of those roots and attack us… Attack or no attack, we were completely taken in by the sheer beauty of a real forest, a trek route where very few human feet have treaded before. The unrelenting sea of garbage had not yet encroached upon this virgin forest. There was an absolute lack of noise, mineral water bottles and other plastic litter…only peace, tranquillity and pristine beauty…
Tiny streams criss crossed our trek route, a welcome intrusion as even with the thick green canopy and the monsoon season, the place was arid. The crystal clear water untouched by humans has medicinal value according to our guide and it sure did taste so… On one particular stream we noticed that the water was all murky and red, which could mean only one thing… Some wild animals were at the water front farther upstream and they were churning the water red… We listened intently without making a noise so much as to breathe… but failed to see them… poor luck 😦 Further down the path we came across elephant dung which was quite fresh and could see some small trees and branches all in shambles. Surely a troop of elephants had just passed through!!
Our plan was to trek till a major waterfall in the area called Idimuzhanganpara… After an arduous trek we reached an enthralling waterfall fringed with steep rocky inclines… It was cake walk for Kumar to climb up those 80 degree inclines… We in our late 20s sure did struggle! After an arduous trek, water in all form is always welcome… I spent no time in plunging into the water. My hubby is not as much of a water buffalo as I am and is much more logical in his approach to the dangers that exist in the world. He was quite apprehensive as the rocks were slippery and there is always the fear of a sudden spurt in the water level. Kumar assured that it was safe and left us to our privacy. The strong water current had carved out basins in the underlying rocks, to form terraced natural bath tubs with water thundering from above. Undoubtedly, the plunge in the virgin Idimuzhanganpara waters amidst the dense tropical cover has been my best swim so far…
After having soaked in the magical waters to our hearts content, we had our packed sandwiches squatting down on the rocks bordering the river, careful to pick up and stuff our litter back into our backpacks. It was time to start the return trek :(. We walked along with Kumar and met the forest officials coming down after their hiatus… They were carrying a few cans of illicit liquor with them, to be taken back as proof. They were quite mum about the raid as such and we didn’t probe further. Again the trek and the boat ride brought us back to our vehicle… So was a Sunday well spent :).
The plush leather seat in an air-conditioned corner office doesn’t seem so enticing when compared to this day in Mother Nature’s lap. Shenduruny is nothing short of a temple, a temple of nature. I dedicate this post to the enthralling Flora and Fauna of Shenduruny, born free, living free and hopefully, forever free!!
I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~ E.E.Cummings
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