I am always looking at offbeat destinations or what we call it as experiential travel. Yes! enough of doing all that touristy stuff be it Hill station, Beach or multi-storey skyline modern cities with new age attractions. I am always looking at challenging myself to some experiences or adventure.
One of such places is Kookal near Kodaikanal in South India. Now, what is so special about it one may ask? My reply to it will be everything! Kookal is a small village in Kodaikanal taluk of Dindigul District in Tamil Nadu. People visit Kodaikanal for its regular attractions like the famous Kodai Lake, falls, temples, viewpoints etc. And trust me they all are so so beautiful and scenic and must be visited again and again. But I was on a different trip altogether. It was a trek, camping and bonfire trip for me to Kookal village which is about 40 km from Kodaikanal and is at an elevation of approximately 6200 ft. Famous for its high biodiversity of the area Kookal also has a hilly terrain, step farming landscapes, dense forest, lake, flora & fauna, breathtaking views etc. Kookal is certainly a nature lover’s and adventure enthusiast’s paradise.
We, a bunch of like-minded started on a Friday night from Bangalore in a hired tempo traveller for an overnight journey to Kodaikanal. By morning 7.30 am we reached Kodaikanal. You can either go straight to your campsite/accommodation where you will be staying or can freshen up at Kodaikanal Bus Stand and have tea/coffee and then proceed further to Kookal which is around 40 km from here. The Kodaikanal Bus stand has an excellent facility of wash & bath at a nominal charge.
We then moved further up to our base campsite, which was booked in advance by Treks Unlimited( the group I went with). There are options available ranging from homestays to tents. We chose to stay in tents. We always do. The hot local breakfast with tea /coffee was getting ready for us. The Idlies were being steamed in the traditional pan on woodfire while some of us played with their 10 pets and others admired the flora around.
Within no time we were ready for our trek with all carbs loaded enough to keep us going till noon. The basic lunch consisting of lemon rice, chutney and some savouries were packed along with drinking water.
Look for magnificent Nilgiris range of mountains while you trek. There are different routes for trekking ranging from 3 to 8 km depending upon how high you want to go. The most important aspect to be kept in mind is not to venture out trekking without a local guide. Rather there are cops at the base of trek making sure that no one treks on their own. Tourists are required to get permission from the Forest Department to visit Kookal or trek in the forest areas.
Reason being the wilderness and wildlife in the area. Yes, the dense and lush green forest has the presence of and even chances of encountering wild animals like deer, boar, Indian Gaur etc. This place is also home for exceptional and amazing wildlife. Mouse deer, Barking Deer, Bison are some of the wildlife commonly sighted. Over 165 species of butterflies, Wood pigeon, Nilgiri Pipit etc are also found here.
We finished our trek in 4 hours and reached the top for that spectacular view of valley surrounded by mountains. One thing which I fail to understand how come there is always a small temple on the top. Though there is a number of stories attached to it, hats off to people who build these temples. Well! After the trek, it was so soothing to sit under the shade in the temple. We relaxed for some time, had lunch and took lots and lots of photos. The descend was not so difficult as usual and didn’t take much time too. The village has a spectacular view with terrace farming all over.
We reached back to the base by 6 pm and tea & snacks were waiting for us. After relaxing for a while we started preparing for bonfire and Barbeque. Some of our friends got some potatoes, sweet potatoes, pineapples, guava, corn, green apples and some non-vegetarian stuff. With a little nip in the air the bonfire, barbeque and music was a perfect setup after a long day.
If you are a nature lover, photographer, bird watcher or an adventure seeker, Kookal offers you an absolute serene ambience for a peaceful stay. Plan to stay there for a night or two.
Next day we started early visiting nearby villages and interacting with the villagers about their supplies and farming. It was a great learning experience to know how they source their water and groceries.
How to Reach
The major Railway Station near to Kookal is Madurai which is 85 km away. However, the nearest railway station is 10km from Kookal.
Similarily, Madurai is the nearest Airport.
Buses ply from various places to Dindigul District and the closest town is Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal is the most popular hill station after Ooty in Tamil Nadu. Various state road transport buses ply every day and night.
The best way to reach Kookal is by self-driven vehicles enjoying the scenic nature.
Book your stay in advance.
Choose your commute by road or a self-driven vehicle. This way you can enjoy a lot of scenic beauty.
Kodaikanal Bus stand is well equipped with wash and Bath facilities.
Take permissions for trekking.
Take a guide along with you for trekking for safety reasons.
Ensure your hydration and food while trekking. There is nothing available on the top or en route.
Eat local food.
Do not litter and keep the surrounding garbage free.