Team Tyndis visited the Kadalundi-Vallikkunnu Community Reserve to have our taste of the Mangrove Trails Experience in the Community Reserve.
The three member team reached Kadalundi at in the morning to get accompanied by Siddhique and Kunhali two expert guide cum boatmen of the Kadalundi Community Reserve. Kunhali is also a watcher at the Forest Department’s Outpost at the place.
Siddhique is a guy with special importance as he previously worked with the Sand Mining groups at Kadalundi. They were the people who did the job of taking out excess sand deposits from the river beds near the confluence point of the Kadalundi River with the Arabian Sea.
With the coming of the Sand Mining Regulation Act, Siddhique and his group lost their jobs and went into utter unemployment and poverty. The local self-governing bodies recognized the issue on the constant notifications from the side of the unemployed families.
With a rehabilitation of these families in concern, the government initiated a Community Reserve project in Kadalundi to Conserve the Mangroves and the eco-system of the region together with employing the jobless people.
Soon with the commencement of the Community Reserve, people like Siddhique and many other emerged as Boatmen who now lead the tourists, guiding them along the Mangrove Trails on well-maintained Puddling Boats.
Siddhique and Kunhali are great storytellers who shared with us the tales of the earlier days when people were reluctant to accept the fact that Mangroves were precious to the eco-system, the efforts put by the government and key people like Ayappettan to make people aware about the importance of the Mangroves, the life of the local communities, the fish cultivation and the stories covered everything that could be including the train accident that took place at Kadalundi decades ago.
The Kadalundi-Vallikkunnu Community Reserve lies in two districts of Kozhikode on one side of the River and Malappuram on the other side.
Nature has gifted the land of Malabar with the perfect blend of its treasures. With the mighty mountains of the Western Ghats on one side and the vast stretch of rich coastal belt on the other, the Malabar or the North Kerala Region, especially Kadalundi is a wonderful trove showcasing the vivid biodiversity!
People like Ayyappan, fondly called as Ayyappettan by the local people, have invested a best part of their life in conserving and planting Mangroves along the wetlands of Kadalundi and nearby places.
Ayyappettan is a follower of the Kallen Pokkudan – the Mangrove Man of India! Ayyappettan brought the seeds of the Mangroves from Pokkudan and started planting them along the wetlands of the Kadalundi River. People like Ayyappan knew the importance of the Mangrove Ecosystem.
The Mangroves supported a wealth of life, ranging from crabs, snakes, birds, wide range of fish, squirrels; a food source for monkeys, a nectar source for bats, butterflies and honeybees, and countless other creatures! Even the villagers used the dried branches of the Mangroves as firewood.
Ayyappettan remembers the life of his guru – Kallen Pokkudan. Pokkudan always referred the Mangroves as the living box of Pandora! And he couldn’t just sit there watching the treasures being destructed in front of his eyes. With pure determination and spirit, Pokkudan embarked on a historic effort were in he would daily set on his country boat along the waters to plant sapling of Mangroves along the marshes he could spot!
He not only planted acres of Mangrove Saplings, but infact conserved and protected them until they emerged as thick Mangrove Forests! As a dedicated routine, Pokkudan would either walk or canoe along the wet-waterlogged marshes to plant new Mangrove Saplings for hours starting from early morning till noon.
It was tough task for Ayyappan and his co-workers to try and make understand the local people about the importance of the ecosystem.
But the Tsunami in 2004 took the villagers by surprise because when the Tsunami became a havoc at various places, the Mangrove belt along the mouth of the Kadalundi River protected the shore from the dangerous waves. This initiated the spark of realization and the need to conserve and propagate the Mangrove ecosystem and thus the success story of the Community Reserve.
The Community Reserve is about 153 hectares wide and includes around 14 island villages – inhabited and not around the place. Few of these palm-fringed island villages are only connected by boats or small bridges.
Kadalundi-Vallikkunnu Community Reserve has one of the longest contiguous stretch of mangroves in Kerala. A natural shield against flood, erosion, salinization and natural calamities like tsunami, this lush green coastal forest is the reason why there is always a cool breeze sweeping across the village even at the height of summer. Mangroves, often called tidal forests, coastal forests, coastal woodlands, walking forests, oceanic forests etc. are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world.
With the setting up of the Kadalundi-Vallikkunnu Community Reserve project which focus on creating awareness among people and organizing activities for reforestation and conservation of the Mangrove Forests, the people in the region began putting up a collective resistance against the destruction of mangroves. The Community Reserve has around 9 varieties of Mangroves which are thickly grown along the islands.
The place is also home to around 100 varieties of birds including the Oyster Catcher, White Eyebiz and the Red Shang. The reserve is also home for large varieties of Butterflies.
The Community Reserve offers sessions for visitors explaining them about the role of Mangrove in the ecosystem of Kerala and elsewhere. The reserve has the story of rehabilitating the Sand Mining Laborers of the region with the proud job of leading the tourists visiting the reserve along the Mangrove Trails. Guests will be taken on Puddling Country Boats along the waters of Kadalundi River.
Volunteers and Storytellers like Ayyappan in Kadalundi from the Community Reserve have dedicated their lives to conserve the magical forests of Mangrove. They will accompany the tourists and impart the stories and movements that happened in the region to conserve and protect Mangroves. They will also discuss the biodiversity and importance of Mangroves in the eco-system. Guests can also learn about the various types of Mangroves and even take part in planting of Mangrove Saplings if the time and weather is convenient for the planting.
The Kadalundi Region where the Community Reserve is situated is located at the mouth of the Kadalundi River, where in the river confluence with the Arabian Sea. This place is known as Azhimukham. The village of Kadalundi is famous for delicious Sea Food.
On the trails along the river, the boats are often docked along side few of the islands that are famous for fish cultivation. The guests are taken on foot to visit various Fish Cultivation Centres in these islands like that of Ambalan Baburaj who has been felicitated for his contributions to the Fish Agriculture by the Central Govt. of India. ‘Kallummakkaya’, Karimeen, Prawns, Mussels etc. are major local delicacies of the place. One can find ‘Thada’ – a primitive fish catching method as well.
Further, the palm-fringed coconut islands and the livelihood of the people in the islands can be experienced and explored by the guests on their walk along the villages. Storytellers hailing from the village shall accompany the guests on this journey, sharing their own essence of the life in the village.
Completing the 2 and half hour long cruise with immense stories and experiences of the bio-diversity that have abundant flora and fauna, we finally reached the banks. It was then time for lunch – time to experience some really tasty sea food.
Siddhikka and Kunhalikka who soon became good friends with us took us to the nearby hotel of Balettan. Balettan’s Hotel with the board of “Nadan Bhakshanam” is the key fooding place in Kadalundi where one can experience best quality Rice and Fish dishes.
We learned to our surprise that Siddhikka and Kunjalikka didn’t do a single bit of boasting as the lunch was incredible. The fish, the hot rice, and the side dishes everything served with love on the long banana leaf – a heaven for a foodie!
After the sumptuous meal, we bid good bye to our dear friends at the Community Reserve and set on to our journey backwards to Calicut to explore more about the heritage of the City of Truth!