Adventure tourism makes waves in Kerala
MuddyBoots zipline on Vythiri-Tharuvana road in Wayanad | Photo Credit: Aswin V.N.
On the world tourism map, Kerala once meant laid-back, secluded beaches and misty hills. However, in the last few years, another word has been added to the lexicon defining the State — adventure. From surfing and scuba-diving to river rafting and paragliding, adventure tourism is making waves here. A look at where to go for that adrenaline rush:
Riding the wave
With about 550 kilometres of coastline, it is a surprise that it took so long for surfing to hit the Kerala coast. But it is here to stay now, with Kovalam and Varkala showing how to ride the wave. Surf groups such as Kovalam Surf Club and Soul & Surf at Varkala train beginners as well as lend surf boards to enthusiasts. For travelling surfers, the quaint, palm-fringed beaches of Kerala offer something rare in surfing circles — waves that they can ride all alone.
Built around the iconic Jatayu Rock, near Chadayamangalam, Jatayu Adventure Centre is a one-of-a-kind park for adrenaline junkies, with rock-based adventure activities. Whether it is climbing steep rock faces or rappelling down even steeper cliffs, Jatayu offers them all.
Thenmala Adventure Zone in Kollam district is another spot that offers rock climbing, besides commando nets, river crossing and tree climbing. For a more ‘heart-in-the-mouth’ experience, jump off a cliff at Vagamon, with a parachute, and explore the verdant greens of this secluded hill station. If green valleys are not your thing and you wish for a bird’s eye view of the stunning coastline, then head to Varkala Papanasam beach and buckle up for the tandem paragliding.
Up the hills
Ever crossed a misty valley while hanging in the air? If not, head to Idukki or Wayanad and zip down a tea garden while the mountain air chills your face. Located at Pattumala in Idukki, the 750-metre zipline operated by MuddyBoots, is one of the longest in the state. All you need to do is let go and the motorised line takes you for a brief ride above the gorgeous garden. MuddyBoots also operates a 300-metre line on the Vythiri-Tharuvana route in Wayanad. For a more physical experience, try the lines at Jatayu and Thenmala, where you have to pull your way across. At the adventure zone at Thenmala, ride down the mountain biking trail, traversing jagged paths through lush evergreen forests, but try not to fall!
Traversing the rapids
With 44 rivers and an expansive network of backwaters, there is no shortage of waterways to explore. It is one thing to cruise in a luxurious houseboat and quite another to work yourself up paddling around tropical islands on a kayak.
Scuba Cochin trains beginners as well as organises kayaking tours in parts of the Periyar river and Vembanad backwaters. Kayaking gear and kayaks too are provided by the group. In Kozhikode, Jellyfish Watersports takes you for kayaking trips in the Chaliyar and Kadalundi rivers. A guided trip offers a tour of the rich heritage of Kozhikode, with visits to the iconic tile factories of Feroke and dhow-building centres of Beypore, on the banks of the Chaliyar. Jellyfish provides training in white-water rafting and sailing as well.
Visitors to Varkala too can try their hand at stand-up paddling and kayaking in the lake nearby.
Into the blue
The seas may not be as clear as you find in other parts of the world, but it is still quite an experience to dive into the depths at Kovalam coast. You could either take a ride on an underwater scooter to discover marine riches or scuba-dive for a more thrilling expedition. PADI-certified tour agency Bond Safari offers regular training courses, as well as diving trips.
Although there aren’t any reefs to explore in Kochi, Scuba Cochin provides training in scuba-diving and snorkelling at Thiruvankulam quarry pond, one of the deepest in the state. They also operate in Kovalam.
Apart from scuba and snorkelling training, Scuba Cochin also offers a cliff-jumping facility at Thiruvankulam, near Kochi. The participants can leap off from the rocky cliff of the quarry and have a clean plunge 30 ft below into the pond.
Malabar River Festival
Roaring rivers flowing down from the hills present the perfect setting for white-water rafting. The mountainous countryside of Kozhikode district, where the fast waters of the Iruvanji, Chali and Kuttiadi rivers cut across the verdant green, offer the perfect opportunity for this extreme adventure sport. Malabar River Festival, an international rafting competition, is held during the month of July every year, and it is a monsoon spectacle to behold. This year’s competition is from July 18 to 22.
Wild, wild ghats!
If you find man-made adventures boring and are on the lookout for some good old trekking, then the hilly east of Kerala is where you need to set your sights on. Trek through the high-altitude grasslands of Brahmagiri hills in Wayanad, the Shola forests of Idukki or try the two-day trek to Agasthyamala in Thiruvananthapuram; they all offer different shades of the magical Western Ghats. Permission is needed from the forest department for all these treks.