Wayanad Nature Trails – Kuruva Island to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

posted in: Asia, India, Kerala, Nature | 49

The “land of paddy fields”,  called Wayanad, is a popular travel destination with not just the tourists from far and abroad but also, for people from Chennai, Bangalore & even Hyderabad. Bountiful nature ranging from green mountains to placid lakes and dense forests is what beckons people to make multiple visits. Naturally, one of the key things to do in Wayanad is nature trails – that range from simple walks through the coffee or tea plantations to elaborate ones that take you to waterfalls & lakes. I went on two of them recently – one through the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the second – along Kuruva Island.

Nature Trails in Wayanad, Kerala
Nature Trails in Wayanad, Kerala

Wayanad Nature Trails

Snailing around in the monsoons of Wayanad
Snailing around in the monsoons of Wayanad

The best part about Wayanad is that you can go on nature trails in any season. The lush green monsoon Wayanad trails showcase brimming waterfalls and tons of colorful insects while the winter ones are pleasant to capture the still green flora and the happy fauna. Summers showcase the beauty of the dry land and the fauna that comes out to beat the heat.There is something special in every season of Wayanad.

Female Orange Minivet Spotted at Kuruva Island, Wayanad
Female Orange Minivet Spotted at Kuruva Island, Wayanad

The Wayanad nature trails are perfect for everyone. For the wildlife enthusiasts and birders, the variety in what you spot will more than make your day. For the adventure lovers, there is always a new challenge that every trail throws at you. Photographers will have a blast capturing it all and if you like your gentle walks, there is always a soothing trail for you.

Nature Trail through Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Nature Trail through Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

In fact, every visit of mine to Wayanad has included one of these trails and this time too was no exception. Over the two days that I spent here, I went for at least three trails – one that took me along the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, another that continued through the Sanctuary to the Tribal villages and the third to the ecological rich Kuruva Island. Each one was exhilarating in its own way and here is why you too, should try them out.

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Elephants from Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Elephants from Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary found along the Mysore – Sultanbathery highway

Also referred to as the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, this protected area is a home to elephants, deer, tiger and leopards. I had never been inside the sanctuary for a nature safari but have seen tons of elephants and deer as I crossed it enroute from Bangalore. This time too, it was Elephants galore and some even visited the area around the resort I stayed.

Black Rumped Flameback Woodpecker, Wayanad, Kerala
Black Rumped Flameback Woodpecker, Wayanad, Kerala

My nature trail was not through the forest but the periphery or the buffer area. The safaris were closed this time of the year but that did not deter the chirping beauties from showcasing themselves. It frankly was not hard spotting them at all. The Orange Minivet followed us through the canopies while we spotted the Black-Rumped Flameback Woodpecker pecking away to glory. A fleeting sight of the Malabar Hornbill got us really excited while the leafbird turned upside down to grab a bit of honey.

Malabar Hornbill, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Malabar Hornbill, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Leaf Bird at Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Leaf Bird at Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

There is no ignoring the sweet sound of these winged beauties which are occasionally interrupted by the squealing Giant Squirrels. They actually mesmerized us by their playful activities where they chased each other on high tree tops. I loved seeing them jump from one tree to another – they sure are a skillful lot.

Giant Squirrel, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Giant Squirrel, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Parasitic plant that make the host hollow, Wayanad
Parasitic plant that make the host hollow, Wayanad

It isn’t just the wildlife that will interest you. With a good nature guide, you can spot some amazing plant life too. Like the Fishtail palm that is used by tribals for an alcoholic drink or some parts used for construction. I had never seen a tobacco plant but here it was – in its wild organic form. Parasitic plants were pretty common  – ones that grew on trunks and made them hollow  – almost like an artwork in the forest.  And to think, we did not enter the forest this time. 😉

Nature trail through the Tribal Village of Wayanad

A typical Kattunayakan house, Wayanad
A typical Kattunayakan house, Wayanad

This one was a nature trail with a difference. Not only did we spot the exotic birds but also, met the indigenous inhabitants of the forests of Wayanad. The tribal villages of Wayanad was an interesting addition to the nature walk. There were two tribes that we visited – the first was the Paniyars and the second – Kattunayakans.

Paniyar kids in Wayanad
Paniyar kids in Wayanad

I know of no one who can resist the charm of the ever smiling faces of the inhabitants. Warm and friendly but still a little introvert as far as the adults are concerned. The kids – not at all, playful and engaging. Happy to show off their hidden talents as they run around and climb trees like you would climb a ladder.

A little modern Tribal home _Wayanad
A little modern Tribal home along the buffer area of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

A nature trail through these villages will also, showcase their simple eco-friendly homes, complete with pretty flowers and a cute sit out. It is here that we encountered a record-breaking tree – the 2nd largest teak wood tree in South India.

2nd tallest teak wood tree in South India_Wayanad
2nd tallest teak wood tree in South India in Wayanad, Kerala
Machan amidst the bamboos in Wayanad
Machan amidst the bamboos in Wayanad

Here and there, you can spot Machans that are built amidst bamboo trees to spot animals. The thicket as I understood, keeps away elephants while the tribals keep a watch around. Our nature guide also, gave us some strange leaves to taste and understand how the natural way of life prevails for these tribals. If you visit here, don’t miss buying the pure honey that you get straight from the forest.

Visiting Kuruva Island, Wayanad

Kuruva Island, Wayanad, Kerala
Kuruva Island, Wayanad, Kerala

Kuruvadweep or Kuruva Island is an ecological, uninhabited island of Wayanad. Surrounded by fresh water, this is an isolated piece where silence actually sings to you. While I had been on this island several years back, this time I saw it with different eyes. I had a nature guide with me who not just pointed out to the interesting things but added the punch to the visit with details surrounding those.

Bamboo rafts to Kuruva Island
Bamboo rafts to Kuruva Island

Waterbirds like the River Tern and the Heron greeted us as we sat on a small bamboo raft to cross the stream. A bamboo bridge creaked but stood sturdy as we crossed into lair of butterflies and bamboos. The fluttering beauties in blue, red, brown and yellow colors created a mesmerizing atmosphere – one where we lost time as we attempted to get that perfect shot of them.

Butterfly Lair at Kuruva Island
Butterfly Lair at Kuruva Island
Blue Tiger Butterfly at Kuruva Island, Wayanad
Blue Tiger Butterfly at Kuruva Island, Wayanad

One amazing find was the inspiration behind Draco Malfoy, the mean Slytherin boy from Harry Potter. Our guide pointed out to what looked like a twig but was, in fact, a flying lizard called Draco. Camouflaged perfectly, it had this yellow dewlap that pushed in and out like a flag. As I understood, it was trying to attract its girlfriend. 😉

Flying Lizard at Kuruva Island
Flying Lizard at Kuruva Island
Close up of Draco_flying lizard_Kuruva Island
Close up of Draco_flying lizard_Kuruva Island

Hidden swamps with tiny grasshoppers were quite fun to find till we encountered a huge bed of rocks and the stream. This is where the crowd was as they attempted to cross over using those stones. Slippery but fun, it was quite a challenge to go across and get back. I was worried about my camera getting wet and I quickly put it away to enjoy the jumps better. It was quite a feat to jump and balance those rocks and once we reached the other side, we sat awhile with our feet dipped in water as we observed the tiny fish and tadpoles. The return was far easier as we carried our shoes in hand and waded across back home.

Rocky Crossover at Kuruva Island
Rocky Crossover at Kuruva Island

Three trails and I did not seem to have had enough of it. I could have gone on in search of these elusive and exotic nature gems. It was almost like a game – you saw one unique thing and you wanted to spot another one. Suddenly my senses were so active that even a little hustle in the bush had me turn to see if there was something new. It felt like a game of chase.;-) And that is actually, how a nature trail should be. And in Wayanad, there are just plenty for you to follow, especially these three. Which one of these would be your first pick – message in to let me know.

Getting here

  • The closest airport to Wayanad would be at Calicut (60 km). This is also, the closest railway station. Once here, you can either hire a self-drive or take a taxi to Wayanad.
  • There are plenty of buses too to Wayanad from Calicut. Get one that takes you to Sultan Bathery
  • The other cities from where you can drive to Wayanad from include Bangalore, Chennai and Mysore. Again, you will get plenty of buses from these cities to get you in.
  • Once in Wayanad, hire a cab or take your taxi to reach either Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary or Kuruva Island. To get them on your map, click the respective names.

Travel Tips

  • Nature Trails in Wayanad are best done early morning or early evening when the bird life and animal life is active.
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary has safaris at two places – Muthanga and Tholpetty. More information on this can be found on their official site. Note that the same is available from June to January.
  • Kuruva Island is maintained by the Kerala Forest Department and there are charges to enter the same. The table of charges and timings are as below:Entry fees of Kuruva Island
  • Kuruva Island is closed in monsoons owing to high water levels
  • You will have to deposit money for every plastic bottle that you carry to Kuruva Island. This will be returned back to you once you show the bottle to the officer.
  • Don’t miss the exclusive Bamboo rice payasam that is available near Kuruva Island. This is made with the seeds of Bamboo that flower once in 70 odd years.

Bamboo Rice_Wayanad

  • When going for nature trails, avoid wearing dark colors. Wear light and natural colored clothes. Do not forget your hat and sunglasses and wear flat walking shoes. Cotton clothes in summer while light woolens in winter is advisable.
  • Most of these trails do not have mobile coverage.
  • Carry your drinking water with you and have plenty of it.
  • For the evenings, keep a mosquito repellant.
  • Be respectful of nature and do not leave behind any trash. When you meet the tribals, please do not take their pictures without their permission. Remember to be polite for they are really humble and nice people.

P.S: I was invited by RCI India to experience their vacation exchange program with a stay at Sterling Holidays in Wayanad. These nature walks were a part of this entire experience program.

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49 Responses

  1. Mayuri Patel

    looks like best place for being with nature with sound of humming birds and animals.All captures are so beautiful.would love to visit in next winter

  2. Sandy N Vyjay

    Kuruva Island looks like a great biodiversity hotspot in Wayanad. This place we missed during our last visit. Have to return back again for this, looking at your pictures. The place seems a perfect haven for nature lovers. having a naturalist as a guide is really so helpful too.

    • Ami

      Having a nature guide certainly adds more meaning to the place. Glad I had one. Hope you can visit this the next time. Cheers

  3. Travel Bugs

    These are the hidden gems we aspire to visit, places where you are really immersed in the natural surroundings, people and culture. Your experience in Wayanad is remarkable, a real haven for nature enthusiasts. 🙂

  4. Lisa

    This looks like a wonderful wildlife sanctuary. Kuruva Island seems the perfect place for a little nature getaway, and so tranquil too. A great place to spend outdoors for sure!

  5. Jen Morrow

    What a great way to learn about the local tribes, and enjoy the nature trails. I admit, I am so jealous of the safari and especially being around the elephants. This is the side of India that I am so keen to explore.

    • Ami

      Thanks Jen. This time there was no safari but despite that got some good sightings. I hope you can get here to explore this

  6. Aisha

    I am in awe of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary! I hadn’t heard about it until this post but the experience you described and the stunning photos of the nature and wildlife, as well as the images illustrating the way-of-life of the local tribes showcase a rich experience I know I would enjoy. I’m still not sure what I would have enjoyed more – the wildlife encounters or the ability to learn about the tribe. Truly a great and informative read!

    • Ami

      I know what you mean. Both the experiences kept clashing with time… Did not know which one I wanted to spend more time on.

  7. Denny George

    Wayanad is one of my favorite places in Kerala. If you look hard enough, there are still places there that are not overrun by visitors. I must have visited these places countless times. Thank you for taking me on a trip down the memory lane.

    • Ami

      It is so huge and beautiful that you will always find a spot that is not crowded. It does remain my favorite suggestion for weekends from Bangalore.

  8. TravelTheGlobe4Less

    I really want ton visit Kerala so this is something to add to my list of places to go. The wildlife is fantastic and your photos are very detailed. I love that you can visit in all seasons too.

  9. Stella Jane

    The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary really looks amazing! I would love to go there and see those beautiful birds for myself. It’s wonderful that you got to meet some villagers too. I’m very impressed by the photos.

  10. Eazynazy

    I have always wanted to visit Kerala but for some reasons I couldn’t . This winter I will definitely try to go with my family and explore the beautiful nature . Being a nature lover, I loved this post

    • Ami

      If you are a nature lover, you will find this a paradise. I hope you can visit it. Thanks

  11. Kavita Favelle

    Loved reading about Kuruva Island and the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, this is my kind of place to visit. You had some really great wildlife sightings and I love that you also got to meet the indigenous people of the forests.

    • Ami

      The tribals were so friendly and lovely and visiting them teaches you a different aspect of life. I hope you get to visit them along with sighting those lovely wildlife creatures. Thanks.

  12. Marvi

    Sounds like an exciting and interesting trail! I love the fact that aside from the wilderness, it also led you to the villages of the locals. Such a great way to learn how the locals lived and see how peaceful their community is.

    The Draco flying lizard sounds pretty interesting too. Such a unique way of attracting a partner!

    Your photos are beautiful, Ami! They definitely captured the beauty of Wayanad!

    • Ami

      Draco was amusing and creepy and yes, weird too. But well, meeting him was great. I am glad you enjoyed this post and I hope you plan a visit to this part of the world soon.

  13. Chris Bloomfield

    Most people wouldn’t think to get a photo of a snail, but what a great shot! It is fun getting to see animals in the wild and your photographs are beautiful. The huge teak tree is great, I wonder if they have measured it because I am curious how tall it is. I agree that butterflys are both mesmerizing and difficult to get a perfect shot of. I love that they charge a deposit on pastic bottles for the island to make sure none get left behind.

    • Ami

      The tree was measured, Chris but I can’t remember the numbers (:-() I was so in awe that I forgot to note them down too. I too, thought that the plastic being charged was a good idea and I would encourage it at all destinations. Definitely makes travelers more responsible.

  14. Meg Jerrard

    Have been on safaris all over the world but haven’t done one through India yet. Seeing elephants and tigers would be incredible but it looks like there is so much more wildlife to see like abundant birds, insects, and reptiles. Beautiful pictures…really tempted to book a trip soon.

    • Ami

      You should attempt the wildlife trails in India. There is a variety and each region has a different one. Do come soon, Meg.

  15. Siddhartha Joshi

    Loved the detailed post and even more the wonderful pictures! It’s pretty awesome that you can enjoy the nature trails in any season at Wayanad…makes me want to pack my bags right away 🙂

    It’s strange I’ve never been there…now I have at least 50 reasons to go!

    • Ami

      Ooh Siddharth, pack your bags and head there soon and I bet you will keep returning. Wayanad is quite beautiful

  16. Sam Sparrow

    Wayanad looks truly beautiful! It seems like such a perfect location for a nature walk and I love the idea of the trail through the tribal village. As always, your pictures are stunning and really paint such a stunning picture of the place. One for me to visit one day I’m sure!

    • Ami

      Thank you Sam. Your comment made my day. I do hope you visit here soon. And I know you will love it.

  17. Paige Wunder

    What an amazing place! Those trails sound absolutely stunning. I love that so many trails in Asia include something cultural, like a village visit. That little snail was so bright! I love it! I hope I can make it here myself!

    • Ami

      Thanks Paige. I hope you can visit here. The snails come out in monsoons and are everywhere. You will love those colors then.

  18. Suruchi Mittal

    My husband is going to love these trails and I will love that Tribal village and Kurwa Island. I am sure these trails will be equally beautiful in every season. Surely gonna visit Wayanad soon. Beautiful pictures Ami and I loved that bright snail.

    • Ami

      Am sure you will discover a lot here. And also find it refreshing. Thanks Suruchi for stopping by

  19. Medha Verma

    Wayanad is lovely! That snail picture is awesome 🙂 I’d love to take that nature trail through the tribal village, not only is it so green and lovely, it’ll give me a chance to interact with the locals! The wildlife sanctuary also looks pretty amazing. Every part of Kerala is full of nature, beauty, wildlife and I cannot believe I haven’t explored it yet! Thanks for the inspiration Ami.

    • Ami

      Thank you Medha. I loved every moment of my trek and I hope you get around to going for these trails. Cheers

  20. Broad Bean

    Wow…Its look likes a wonderful wildlife Sanctuary.Thanks for sharing this amazing blog post.The inserted images are awesome.

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