If you’re ever planning to visit Kerala for a holiday, the one thing that has to be part of your itinerary should be elephant spotting. These magnificent creatures are just plain beautiful to watch. And in Kerala, they take elephants very seriously and have even named them to be the state animal. Hence, elephants being a part of the emblem of the Kerala Government.
Elephants are a part and parcel of everyday life in Kerala. There is not a day you’ll pass without seeing an elephant on the road. Kerala has one of the largest number of domestic elephants in India with the number as high as around 700. They also have around 7000 wild elephants with the number increasing every year.
So for wild elephant sightings, there a quite a few wildlife sanctuaries and parks that you could visit to see elephants along with other wildlife animals. Since the elephants travel during certain seasons, you need to be there at the right place at the right time to get a glimpse of them, and probably even a small pot of luck.
So here are the top 3 places you could visit to spot wild elephants:
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Thekkady, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one place where you can spot wild elephants. So during the driest months of March and April, one would be able to spot elephants and sometimes even tigers near the lake frequently. But since the number of wild elephants is in thousands in this park, you are almost sure to see elephants on your safari to this park. But the best time to visit the park would be October to June.
Located in Munnar, the Anamudi Peak which literally translates to “Elephants Foreheads” is home to the largest surviving population of Asian elephants as well as home to some endangered species of elephants like the Gaurs and Nilgiri Tahrs. The best time to visit Anamudi Peak to catch a glimpse of the elephants would be around the months of November to February.
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Popularly known as Muthunga Wildlife Sanctuary, which is considered to be Kerala’s second largest wildlife sanctuary is another popular site for elephant spotting. Over here, the jeep safari does not dwell deep into the forest but through the well-laid roads inside the park where you could be stopped by elephants or even other wildlife animals crossing the road. You could even go to the Madhumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu which is located nearby for elephant rides.
Since elephants are also domesticated in Kerala on a large scale, there are many places where you can go for elephant rides and see them getting trained and taking baths. Here are the top 3 places you can visit:
Located in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the Tusker Trail is a perfect place to take an elephant ride as well as watch them take baths. They provide 2 different programmes for one and two hours including various activities with the elephants. You can find out more on their official site.
Located in Thekkady, Elephant Junction is a fun place to be with elephants. You can take baths with them and splash water around. Elephant rides are also available.
Konni Elephant Camp
This is one of the most popular elephant training centres in Kerala. Over here, baby elephants that are lost as they wandered away from their herd, injured or roaming alone are taken in for training. It is a very joyous sight to see these naughty baby elephants who are always very welcoming to visitors getting trained.
Other than these training centres and elephant rides, it is commonplace to see the elephants in temples. Almost every temple festival calls for the presence of an elephant and hence almost every temple owns an elephant.
Of all such festivals, Thrissur Pooram is the biggest and grandest. This festival is filled with music and fireworks and the biggest attraction of all: the elephants decorated with “nettipattam” and standing in the center of the show. There are more than 50 elephants from various temples that are displayed here with the largest ones usually at the centre. This festival takes place in the Malayalam month of Medam which usually falls in the month of April. People from all over the world gather to watch this magnificent spectacle. But beware, the crowds are going to be massive and there would barely be anyplace to stand. Pickpocketing is also very common and hence carry very limited money along with you. But the festival is such an experience that it is just a necessary thing to add to your bucket list when in Kerala.
Guruvayur Temple Anayottam
Anayottam (“elephant race”) marks the beginning of the 10 day festival at the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple. In this event, elephants with their “papaans” (mahouts) on top of them race to the finish line. This sight is nothing like any other race seen ever before. And the prize for the winner? Well, the winning elephant gets the honor to carry the Thidambu, the replica of the idol of Guruvayurappan at every special religious occasion for a year.
In Kerala, back in the old days, it was a prestige to have an elephant in the house. So the elephant would have 3 mahouts to look after him. And the elephant would be fed with the best of all foods and treated like a king. Maintaining an elephant is a costly affair and hence having an elephant at your home symbolized how much wealth you possessed. This is the modern day equivalent of having a BMW or Porsche parked in your front porch.
So as you can see, I was serious when I said that the people of Kerala take their elephants seriously. From their protection to tourism and temple festivals to races, the people of Kerala keep elephants very close to their heart.
Food for thought: It is said to be good luck if you start your day by seeing an elephant from its back. So if you are ever visiting Kerala, you never know, an elephant might change your luck.