Packaging orchids

Be it in the wildlife sanctuaries, the countryside or in the compounds of homes, Kerala can boat of a vast and fascinating variety of orchids. A city-based tour operator has come up with upmarket tours tailor-made for those in love with the orchids of God's Own Country.

Coming close on the heels of tours being organised to spot the enormous species of butterflies and birds of the State, the `Orchid tours of Kerala' will enable the tourist to see orchids in their natural settings while at the same time taking in Nature.

The 14-day tour has been launched in association with Nature Expeditions India (NEI) of the U.K. The aim is to combine business with pleasure, says Varghese Oommen, managing director of Destination Indus.

As many as 150 species of orchids can be spotted in the State with the Western Ghats being the biggest trove. Visitors can look for the `Obronia', one of the largest species, the `Habenaria periyarnsies', a ground orchid found only in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, and `Peristyls richardianus', which is seen only in the South.

The tour will commence with a visit to the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) at Palode in the suburbs of the State capital and will wind up in Kochi.

Visitors will be able to see orchids in the wild at Thekkady and Munnar, interact with commercial growers in the capital and Kochi and meet those having special collections in Alappuzha and Thiruvananthapuram.

A backwater cruise at Kumarakom and a visit to the wildlife sanctuary at Thekkady come free with the package. Interactive sessions with orchid enthusiasts and an extension tour to Wayanad are being offered as orchid cultivation is a burgeoning enterprise.

The tour, which is part of the efforts to open up special interest venues in Kerala, is to be formally announced at the forthcoming international orchid conference to be held in Saba, Indonesia.

The orchid tours of Kerala along with tour packages to spot butterflies and birds is to give a big boost to ecotourism

The tour package for spotting birds had been well received. With a rich and varied avifauna and home to nearly 500 species of birds, the State is a recognised birder's destination.

Thattekad, Kumarakom, Munnar, Periyar, Parambikulam and Govindaperri (Kalakkad) in the South are the major birding hotspots. Kalakkad-Mundanthurai region and Arippa are the less known places which make for excellent birding destinations.

Most birding hotspots in the State are in the periphery of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks. There are exciting resorts and lodges near birding areas for those undertaking the tailor-made tours. Tour leaders well-versed in local birding accompany the enthusiasts.

By Anil Radhakrishnan S.

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