As you travel through the 9 km stretch to Vallakadavu, you could see houses and shops after the check post, moving ahead you will find wild forest, abundant with all sorts of wildlife including the Tigers and elephants. It will take two-hour jeep ride to reach there, while traveling you will come across hills and valleys, tropical forests, sprawling grasslands, cascading waterfall and cardamom plantations. For lovers of birds it is surely a paradise with 250 species of birds living in this habitat. In its en route are the Pamba Reservoir and a large tract of reserve forests, so catching glimpses of the endangered species like the Nilgiri Tahr and Lion Tailed Macaque are high. The area is now developed into an exclusive eco tourism project, Gavi is noted as one of the must-see places in the tourism map of India.
Gavi, full of evergreen forests is an island. On traveling 28 km south west of Vandiperiyar, 14 km from Kumily, close to Thekkady lays this misty hill station.
It was 5 pm when we reached near Vallakkadavu check post. Here you have to follow strict restrictions as it comes under the control of Periyar Tiger Reserve. To move ahead entry passes should be obtained from the Forest Check Post eroute at Vallakkadavu.
They charge entrance fee of 25 rupees per person and 50 rupees per vehicle. If you have cameras, the fee is 25 rupees and for video cameras they charge 100 rupees. We didn’t have any difficulty in getting admission at the check post as we already booked with Gavi Green Mansion of the Kerala Forest Development Corporation.
The concerned authority have informed about our details including vehicle number in the check post. Entry through this gate is possible only for vehicles who have obtained prior permission, apart from vehicles of natives, KFDC officials and guests. We could see travelers returning from Gavi and when enquired they said they spotted herds of elephants in many places.
The travel to Gavi was through stunning beautiful roads which ran through lush green tea plantations. The most suitable transportation is taking a jeep ride, it will help you to reach and explore Gavi in all its charm. The land is popular for serene natural magnetism still untouched by the destruction of mass tourism track. The place is famed for its verdant forests, rolling grass lands and the natural waterfalls that give Gavi a dramatic appeal and surreal beauty.
We used the opportunity to chat with the tourists who were coming out of the forests after enjoying the beauty for hours. Their eyes were still searching for beauty of the forests and Angela from Portugal felt that she got a fortune. They had luck to view herd of elephant from very close. Her friend who was smoking stubbed the cigarette he was smoking and put the rest in his bag in respect of the forest, the act of not throwing the smoked cigarette made us pride of the couple. Our driver gave us information about spotting elephants, but we didn’t get a chance to spot any till we reached Pachakkanam check post.
On covering 4 to 5 kilometers, we reached a spot where we saw a man waving his hand from his vehicle. The person was R Radhakrishnan, tourism manager in Gavi, who had come there to make phone call. He had to come to that point known as phone point as there was no range for phone before and after that area. You will be surprised to know that there are no land phones in Gavi too. The routine is that one official from tourism department will come to the spot every evening to access bookings and give answers to the queries. Night had fallen, when we reached Gavi. It was here the forest Mansion is situated, a picturesque eco-lodge overlooking the Gavi Lake and adjoining forests.
Gavi Lake is one of the eight lakes included in Sabarigiri hydro electric project. There was a temporary shed prepared during the construction of dam which was converted as forest mansion. It is the one and only accommodation facility here. It was pleasant stay at the mansion, good hospitality, and the food was excellent.
Gavi has a history of agriculture and flow of migrants thereafter. FDC as part of ‘Grow More Project’ has taken over the cardamom plantations here. Here they own a cardamom factory. Sri Lankan workers who migrated here during the 80s are the employees of this factory. Gavi is now their home, and some distance after the green mansion is their colonies, school and temple.
The only transportation facility that connects Gavi to the outside world is a private bus. In recent times KSRTC started operation service to Kumili via Gavi to use the tourism opportunities. The service goes through Pathanamthitta, Vadasserikkara, Perinad, Puthukkada and Mankkayam. Natives of Gavi work as guides in eco tourism projects.
From a hilltop here one can get a distance view of Sabarimala. As part of the package tourist are taken to cardamom plantation and factory. During the boat journey you could see waterfall. Gavi is the territory of over 260 avian species and that makes it a favorite spot for bird watchers. RJ will go to the extent to say that the tree which Noha used to build his ship is still here. He also takes nature classes for tourists who come here.
Night safari facility is provided for those who are staying over night. A cute couple arrived at Gavi from Amsterdam in the morning, Saira and William. RK described to them about the forest and the intrinsic beauty around it which they enjoyed. Afterwards they decided to select the hard core trekking which involves trekking in the forest from morning to evening. They started their journey after having the breakfast.
By evening we started the return journey which was also very much appealing. The views that we missed the last day unveiled before us. The forest provided us scenes like herds of elephants at various locations.