Overnight bus rides are always exciting, and inter-state travel in India always promises at least one stretch of forest. I was eagerly anticipating a night of (hopefully) spotting elusive nocturnal animals in the forests of Nagarahole, Brahmagiri, and Krishnagiri as I boarded the bus to Kannur, Kerala.


As the city lights gave way to a crisp fresh breeze, I knew we were approaching the stretch of the Karnataka-Kerala highway that traveled through the forests of Nagarahole. Nagarahole, famous for its elephant herds, bold tigers, and photogenic melanistic leopard, was always a thrill to explore. But the night’s darkness held too many secrets, and our noisy bus engine must have alerted animals to rush into the dense foliage, out of sight. Apart from a mouse deer scurrying along the side of the road, I saw nothing and eventually, I must have fallen asleep, for I woke up to the sound of the conductor shouting Kannur, Kannur! It was 4:15 am…


Kannur is a peaceful coastal city, and at a first glance, reminded me of some of the older parts of Chennai, although much smaller. However, the city does have its own airport! Known as Cannanore during the British rule in India (it was a part of the Malabar District in the Madras Presidency), Kannur served as the British military headquarters on the west coast of India. Remnants of British architecture stood out, a stone archway here, a steepled building there. I was looking forward to exploring more of the city over the next two days.

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We headed to the Valapattanam River, a lazy stretch of blue-grey water. It was dotted with patches of mangroves, estuarine shrubby species that grow along inland waterways where saline and fresh water mix. Traditional houseboats floated by on these waterways, some filled with tourists and others belonging to locals. We also saw smaller, brightly-coloured fishing boats with curved ends. We hopped aboard a local boat and decided to explore Mattool, an island off the mainland.

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We thoroughly explored Mattool Island, travelling from one end of the small landmass to the other. We walked down mud paths lined with swaying palms, past colourful houseboats and fishing smacks, past beautiful fisher houses with shady verandas and bright-eyed children peering interestedly at us.

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Waking up early in the morning in Kannur provided a whole new level of excitement for me after the bustling mornings of Bangalore. Palm civets (toddy cats, if that term is more familiar to you) chattered from the treetops, safely out of sight but clearly mocking our IMG_20191224_080854less-evolved senses. Jackals made their presence known under the safe blanket of the night sky and the dewy morning ground was covered in their padded tracks. I spent a pleasurable hour following the escapades of an amorous pair of mongooses as they danced around each other, occasionally giving each other little bites and rolling in the fresh grass. Birds flitted from one tree to another – green parakeets, mynahs, koels, paradise flycatchers, and so many more. The gentle babbling of the stream near the house attracted multiple wild denizens, and some intrepid housecats that had their eye on the fish swimming in the clear water.

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The next day, we decided to take a day-trip by motorcycle (thanks to my friend’s brother and cousin, both of whom are able riders) to Sasipara, the highest point of Kanjirakolly Hill Station some 4,000 ft. above sea level nestled in the Western Ghats of Kannur district. We left home at six in the morning, armed with daypacks filled with snacks and plenty of drinking water. The ride, which took 2 hours from Kannur on a winding road that was entirely uphill (makes sense, given that we were headed to a peak), passed through some utterly stunning landscapes. Kannur is a coastal city, and we travelled inland and uphill, deep into the rainforests of the Western Ghats.

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Sasipara is almost at the border of Kerala and Karnataka, and from the vantage point, one can see the Coorg forests of Karnataka, an extension of my beloved Nagarahole, as well as the Kanjirakolly Valley. We spent an hour looking over the cool green hues of the forested ranges below us and clicked photographs to our hearts’ content.

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After our day drive to Sasipara, we went from the crest of Kannur District back to the coastline. There, we explored the Kannur lighthouse, which overlooked Payyambalam Beach, and huffed our way up the winding narrow staircase to the tiny overlook balcony. People sat around sunning themselves in the late afternoon breeze, and a young couple posed happily for selfies overlooking the ocean. We spread out, our eyes drinking in the scenery, happily lost in our own appreciation of the view. Payyambalam Beach was scenic and quite empty, but my friend warned me that it was a popular hangout spot in the evenings.

The next day, we went to Chal Beach, another stretch of warm sand along the endless coast, with my friend’s entire family and I walked along the coastline, feeling the warm evening water lap against my ankles and kicking up soft wet sand. We saw a white-bellied sea eagle swoop down from the blue skies and skim the surface of the water very lightly, hunting for a quick bite. Black kites soared far above on the thermal currents, and the squeals of children dashing through the waves echoed off the rocks. The palm trees swayed to the rhythm of the evening breeze, and I smiled. Kannur, with its stunning scenery, picturesque houseboats, meandering rivers and winding roads, and kind people, had been good to me. And I was certain that my travels would draw me back to that coastal city again.

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