Holiday at the Priyadarshini Tea Estate at Mananthavady to escape the summer sun.

The summer vacation is here! It's very hot in Kozhikode and everyone is on the lookout for an escape. That's when a friend told me about the Wayanad Tea County set in the Priyadarshini Tea Estate at Mananthavady.

For the tribes

The Priyadarshini Tea Estate was begun as a cooperative society in 1985 to provide a means of livelihood for the Adivasis who were released from bonded labour. I was told the proceeds of our stay at the estate would go towards the welfare of the 120 Adivasi families living in the estate.

A majority of Adivasis still live in and around forests, depending on forest produce for food. They are among the poorest sections of Indian society, with the government doing precious little for their welfare.

We reached the estate at noon and were treated to a sumptuous vegetarian Kerala meal that the caretaker of the estate bungalow, Balakrishnan had cooked. Soon, the alluring spell of the lush green tea gardens invited us outdoors.

My friend and I did a two kilometre trek up the tea garden slopes to an erumadam (adivasi tree house) set up at the highest point of the plantation.

The climb was tough but we were promised a view so delectable and serene, that we ignored the cries from our lungs gasping for breath and our legs growing heavy with weariness.

Atop the hill, we climbed the erumadam gingerly, fearful of falling. Awaiting us, was a lovely bird's eye view of the tea gardens, thick forests, Mananthavady town and countless hills dotting the distant horizon.

Next morning, we headed for the Kuruva Island. The island spread over 950 acres of jungle, is in reality split up into several ‘dweeps' (islets) by the tributaries of the Kabini river flowing through it.

A part of Kuruva is open to the public between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and the visit involves crossing 12 rivulets and dweeps, one after another before returning via a changadam (bamboo raft).

Endangered

Adivasis who live on Kuruva, manage the tourist activities on the island. As we crossed each stream and dweep, I was distressed to see plastic and other waste strewn around in the ecologically fragile place by tourists.

A week ago, a deer had died on the island after consuming plastic. Can't we be more responsible when we go sight-seeing?

The island used to be a haven for birds, but we could not hear the chirping or the sweet singing of even one bird. Instead, the not-so-sweet din of human voices pervaded!

A proposal to make the island a ‘whisper zone' is on the cards. But will we humans co-operate? Will the sound of birds return to Kuruva? Let us indulge in sight-seeing with responsibility and have compassion for fellow beings.

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