Considered of outstanding natural importance to the entire human race, the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve, also known as Agasthyakoodam Biosphere Reserve, is known for its rich bio-diversity. The reserve is under consideration for being selected as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The biosphere reserve covers an area of 3,500.36 sq km. The biosphere reserve is spread over in Kerala and Tamil Nadu; 1828 sq km lies in Kerala and 1672.36 sq km in Tamil Nadu. The biosphere reserve encompasses Neyyar, Shendurney and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries along with nearby regions like Thenmala, Punalur and Konni.Thiruvananthapuram serves as gateway to the biosphere reserve.
The reserve gets its name from Agasthyakoodam or the Agasthyamala (mala or malai means peak in Malayalam and Tamil respectively). At an elevation of 6,129 ft, Agasthyamala is the second highest peak in the state of Kerala. Agasthyakoodam literally means the abode of Sage Agastya.
Located within Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the summit can only be reached by trekking from Bonacaud which is the last motorable. The Thamirabarani River originates on the eastern side of the mountain.
The biosphere reserve is home to Kanikaran tribe (one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes on the planet).
The Agasthyamala forests are a delight for nature lovers for the abundance in flora and fauna here. Over 2000 medicinal plants can be found in the forests. Other than medicinal plants there are lichens, orchids, mosses, ferns and many other plants that can be found in the forest.
Karamana River that flows through Thiruvananthapuram, originates in the Agasthyakoodam ranges. The Agastya Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Centre is named after Sage Agastya. The Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is a part of the Agasthyakoodam mountain range.
Agasthyakoodam is a pilgrimage hub where devotees of Sage Agastya come to offer their prayers. Sage Agastya was considered to be one of the seven rishis (also known as Saptarishi) of the Hindu Puranas. There is a shrine at the top of the peak which is considered to be of great religious importance to the sage’s devotees and paying homage at the shrine is believed to grant blessings by Sage Agastya.
The trek up to Agasthyakoodam takes two days to complete and is done in two phases. The first phase starts from the forest checkpoint in Bonacaud and ends at the base camp. The trek is moderately challenging and physically exhausting. The second phase of the trek is the steep 10 km trek up the mountain to the summit.
The Agasthyakoodam trek is open to all but prior permission from the Wildlife Warden’s Office in PTP Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram needs to be procured. To ensure the biosphere reserve is not affected by tourism, the number of tourists visiting the sanctuary is controlled. Advance booking is required to trek the mountain.
You can indulge in rock climbing, trekking, nature walks, photography, bird watching and have a picnic beside the stream near the base camp of the trek.
WHERE TO STAY
There is a dormitory at the base camp of the trek about 20 km from Bonacaud which provides decent accommodation with basic facilities.
WHERE TO EAT
There is a canteen at the base camp which provides basic meals. You can carry packed food for the trek to the summit.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Agasthyakoodam is between the months of November and April.
NEAR Agasthyakoodam Biosphere Reserve
Thiruvananthapuram: Called the ‘Evergreen city of India’, Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state of Kerala.
Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary: The wildlife sanctuary attracts many nature lovers and photographers due to its diverse flora and fauna.
Aruvikkara Dam: Located on the banks of the Karamana River, it is a very popular picnic spot.
Ponmudi: Ponmudi is a breathtaking hill station situated at the southern stretch of Western Ghats. Located within a short driving distance fromThiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, Ponmudi literally means The Golden Peak.
Bonacaud: Situated at the foot of Agasthya hill range, Bonacaud serves as the base camp of the famous Agasthyarkoodam Peak. It is known for its spectacular beauty consisting of waterfalls, valleys and forests.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Thiruvananthapuram is as given below. The best time to visit Thiruvananthapuram is also specified.