Trekking can revitalize your body and soul. Imagine trekking in a mystical land that is full of healing herbs and plants! Well, trekking in such places can extend your lifespan for sure! Agasthyarkoodam trekking can give you one such experience. The place can give you mesmerizing trekking experiences that are not possible elsewhere in the world. Agasthyarkoodam is Kerala’s one of the highest peak and is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve which lies conjointly in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Agasthyarkoodam forest preserves various medicinal plants that give it a mystifying aura. It is a treasure trove of medicinal flora that is not found elsewhere. The place is part of UNESCO’sWorld Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2001. Trekking at Agasthyarkoodam is perfect for those who seek unforgettable memories in terrain or others who wish to live free from worldly woes. The place can bestow lifelong cherishing memories to wildlife lovers and passionate trekkers.
Agasthyarkoodam attracts three types of people to its mystical realms; the pious devotees, ardent trekkers, and wildlife photographers or ornithologists. Agasthyarkoodam got its name from the pious sage Agasthya who meditated for long in the forests. The famed sage Agasthya is a pioneer of Tamil Siddha Ayurveda and literature. Atop the hills, there is a monumental statue of the pious saint. Visitors of the place can instantly comprehend the reason as to why sage Agasthya chose here of all places to meditate. The place had enough medicinal plants for his extensive research.
The place also claims to have lore that explicates Agasthya’s connection with the place. When all the heavenly residents and asuras rushed to the Himalayas to attend Shiv-Parvati marriage, the whole equilibrium of earth underwent a change. Ultimately, Paramashiva sent Agasthya to the place to restore the equilibrium of the earth.
How to get an entry pass to Agasthyarkoodam.
Agasthyarkoodam falls under the extreme scrutiny of Kerala Forest Department and one can visit the place only with a pass. The department allows public access to this place on two modalities.
Online registration during the seasonal time.
Every year the forest paths will be opened during the Sabarimala Makaravilakku period. Normally, trekking is allowed for 60 days during the period. You can get a pass during the period through the Kerala Forest Department website or Kerala e-service website. A pass will cost you 1000 INR. The limit for trekkers per day never exceeds 100. On average, only 4000-6000 people are lucky enough to visit the place. The server difficulties of websites further doom hiking plan.
The following tips may help you with this procedure
- Enter your personal details such as name, phone number, ID proof, Aadhar etc.
- Await the signup notification
- Use quality internet
- Refrain from booking as a team and opt for individual data entry.
Except for during the monsoon, the website will accept the booking for groups of 10. Entry passes are available after the payment of 2000 INR through Forest Permanent Online Pay. Each group will have access to 3 guides throughout the trekking. The public can use one more method to book access to the place. After the second booking, if someone is unable to go trekking, another person can join the trekking in his stead. However, to do so, one must submit the affidavit of the booked hiker, ID proof copy, entry pass copy, booked party’s ID proof copy, and 1000 INR (fees once paid are non-refundable) to Wildlife Warden’s office, Vatiyoorkav. It can be submitted in person or through an authorized third party, but submission is not permissible via online. Trekking the Agastyarkoodam is possible only through the above-mentioned procedures.
Keep your backpack as light as possible. During the peak season periods, wildlife photographers may have to return empty-handed as they won’t be able to click any of the animal photos. Therefore, please avoid tele-lens and binoculars. You can refill your water bottles frequently from the rivers and streams on the way. Please include only the necessities in the checklist.
- Food items (fruits, glucose, dry fruit)
- 2 or 3 dress
- Bath towels
- I liter empty bottle
- Blanket, bed sheet or sleeping bag
- ID proof, entry pass
- Hiking boots
- 1 pair slippers
- Lightweight backpack
- Emergency first aid kit
- Raincoat (based on season)
- Camera (take extra battery)
- 1000 INR
Please refrain from using perfumes or other cosmetics in the forest.
The base camp of Agastyarkoodam trekking is at Bonacad estate. Bonacad lies around 50 km from Trivandrum city. Hikers need to reach the place by 8 am. Trekking from Bonacad is not permissible after 11 am. Bonacad is reachable via private vehicles or KSRTC buses.
Operation one: Private Vehicles.
Bonacad is reachable through Ponmudi road, Nedumangacad and then Vithura. The journey takes around 2 hours. The vehicles can be parked near Bonacad Forest department parking space after paying a nominal fee. Cars may find difficulty in reaching the place. Bikes can reach Bonacad at leisure.
Operation 2: Public Transportation.
Bus users need to board the bus from Thampanoor bus depot by 5 am to report at Bonacad by 8 am. Only KSRTC offers services to the place. To reach Thampanoor after trekking, the bus service is available only by 2 pm. After getting down, bus commuters will have to walk 2km to reach Bonacad forest office.
This year changes.
Until 2019, trekking at Agasthyarkoodam was permissible to men alone. However, this year rules have been changed, and the place is open to women hikers as well. One woman achieved the historic feat of climbing the abode this year, and since then countless women throng the place. Earlier, devotees could conduct self-pujas at the shrine of sage Agasthya. From 2019, all forms of puja were banned here, and the place is now heavily guarded with barricades.
- Trekking fee has increased from 700 to 1000 INR
- Use of plastics in the forests is punishable
- The accommodation spaces in the forests have become better
- Strict security checks for baggage
- Puja materials are strictly prohibited
Trekking procedures at Bonacad office are relatively easier. Procedures begin from 8:30 am. Each group members should produce their ID proofs and entry passes to forest beat officers to apply for entry. After baggage checks, trekking will begin. During this time, hikers must pay a fee for the camera and plastic bottles and collect receipts.
Usage of plastics is strictly forbidden in the Agasthyarkoodam forest reserves. The authorities even frown upon the usage of plastic covers of soap and toothpaste. During the baggage checking, they will remove any such materials from the backpack. So to save time, it’s advisable to remove them earlier from plastic covers and wrap in paper sheets. Covers of glucose and dry fruits are also prohibited.
The only plastic material permissible is medicines and water bottle. A fee should be paid for them and is refundable after the trekking. You can have breakfast from the canteen, near the office. Carry a lunch parcel for eating in the forest. After formal permission, trekking begins. After 15km walking, hikers will reach Athirumala camp spot. It is imperative to reach the camp before the ‘forest canopy’ begins obscuring sunlight. If you reach earlier, that can also help you arrange the place for spending the night.
Things to Remember.
- Buy food coupons from Athirumala camp base
- Approach trekking with due sincerity
- Take care of yourself. Remember that your injuries can impend the prospects of the whole group
- Obey the instructions of forest guards and guides
- Keep your voice low in the forest
- Do not wander away from the trekking spot. You may be prone to the attacks of wild animals there
- Enlist in the trekking only if you are physically fit
- Behave well to fellow hikers especially ladies
- Behave in a friendly manner to guides and canteen workers. May come handy later!
- Remember always that you are in a dense forest with minimal facilities
- Refrain from collecting souvenirs from forests and collect only cherishing memories instead.
Await the exciting details of Agastyarkoodam trekking in the next blog. Happy trekking readers!!