Thiruvananthapuram

Agasthyamala trek season cancelled

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Forest Department to cancel the annual trekking season to Agasthyarkoodam (or Agasthyamala) and extend its off-season package in a bid to prevent crowding.

A 1,868-metre-tall peak that forms part of the Western Ghats, the biodiversity-rich Agasthyarkoodam is widely regarded a trekkers’ haven with many eagerly awaiting for the annual trekking season that usually commences on the day of the Makaravilakku festival in Sabarimala and continues until Sivarathri. While hundred entry passes are usually issued for each day of the trek, the daily trekkers’ list usually go up to 150 with more trekkers managing to gain entry.

Trekkers in their final leg of the three-day-long journey often come across those who have only set forth, paving way for around 250 people to be accommodated at the Athirumala base station all at once.

35 trekkers on two days

Since such crowding would contravene the COVID-19 guidelines, the Forest authorities have decided to permit up to 35 trekkers each on two days – Tuesday and Friday – a week to enable social distancing as much as possible. The off-season package, which was wound up in March-end because of the pandemic situation, was revived on November 20. The authorities plan to continue with the package for the time being.

According to Thiruvananthapuram Wildlife Warden J.R. Ani, the provision for individual online bookings has been cast aside for the time being.

Entry pass rates

“Bookings this year will instead be done under a special package operated by the Neyyar-Peppara forest development agency (FDA). The entry pass rates for groups of five people and 10 people have been fixed at ₹16,000 and ₹28,000 respectively,” he said.

While three guides will accompany groups of five trekkers, four guides will be sent along with the batches of 10 people. The guides, who are members of the Bonacaud eco-development committee (EDC), will also be tasked with transporting provisions and cooking food for the trekkers.

Certificates must

Mr. Ani added that COVID-19-negative certificates would be mandatory for the visitors who will also be screened using thermal scanners at the Bonacaud picket station where they will assemble for the 26-km trek. Children below 12 years will not be allowed.

Bookings can be made at the office of the Thiruvananthapuram Wildlife Warden in the department’s office complex in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, Vattiyurkavu.

Further details can also be obtained by contacting 8281004537.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 6:30:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/agasthyamala-trek-season-cancelled/article33303175.ece

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