The beautiful state of Kerala fondly called as 'Gods own country' is a dream destination for the photographer in you. Rivers, hills, trees, forests, beaches, backwaters; God had graciously blessed this part of the country with all of it. If you are planning to go for a photography tour, the state of Kerala can pose, to give you a magical experience with the best of its beauty! As a boutique tour operator based in Kerala, offering niche and speciality tours, our customized photography tours will have an exclusive guide who is also a professional photographer who could share more about specific locations and places where you can get great portraits, landscapes and a lot more.
"Don't shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like" - David Alan Harvey
The state has various geographical peculiarities; a long coastal stretch, the Western Ghats, well-connected network of canals, lagoons, and backwaters. Apart from these aspects, the land is rich in culture, tradition, and art. These multiple facets together make Kerala an incredible place for photography. I, myself am an amateur photographer. I have travelled along the length and breadth of the state. I am from Cochin and have been part of some photography workshops, which has enhanced my knowledge of this art, as well as the science of capturing light. There are more than 15 unique locations within Kerala, which have got the potential to create photographs that can be a part of many international contests.This blog is just a guide. You can spot many more destinations and places if you unearth, the whole map of Kerala. So let me present to you the top 15 locations for a photography tour of Kerala.
Let us start our journey from North Kerala, the Bekal Fort would be one interesting place, where you can get a feel of history and coastal life. One can see a lot of rock formations, at the keyhole extensions of the fort to the sea; something like the Fort Aguada you see in Goa. The ambience is fantastic. There is a beach close to the fort. In North Kerala, in the district of Kasargod, close to Neeleshwaram, there are backwaters and backwater estuaries. These are perfect places to capture some good landscape scenes during the golden hours.
The Muzhappilangad beach is the only drive-in beach in Kerala. The beach stretch is long enough to capture some remarkable sunset photographs. This beach is a local picnic spot where people come down, to spend their evenings. There is an island close to the beach. You can walk along this island, during the low tides (nothing interesting to photograph here).
Theyyam is a very photogenic temple ritual very much popular in North Kerala. The months from Feb to May is the most common months where you can spot a Theyyam performance. It is not a public activitiy but a temple ritual and hence you can find it only in Temples or extensions of Temples like "Kaav" the woods left back for nature to thrive, this is something done very religiously. In recent year photographers are not really entertained by the temple authorities because of the multiple hindrance the Theyyam performer has to face when a lot of photographers are around. We would organize for special permissions for Theyyam performance and find an exclusive place within the crowd for members of the photography tours.
Next, you can plan your visit to the hills of Wayanad. The crisp weather conditions and the scenic hills is an inspiration to anyone longing to capture beauty in the lens. There are two wildlife sanctuaries, the Muthanga and Tholpetty wildlife sanctuaries; you can spot wild beings like Elephants, Indian Gaurs and, Sambar deer. There is a Bird Sanctuary in the Kuruva Island; you reach the Island in a bamboo raft. The bird sanctuary is ideal for bird lovers and wildlife photographers. Apart from this, photographers interested in plantations, and Colonial Estate Bungalows can visit the Parisons Estate Bungalow and the tea factory.
After Wayanad comes Calicut, where you can visit the SM Street for some street photography. SM Street is otherwise known as 'Mittai Theruve', which means Sweet Street. Close to Calicut is the Beypore shipbuilding yard, where you get to photograph the craftsmanship and woodwork, men working on the ships and a lot of colourful boats at the nearby Harbor. There is a partially destroyed Sea Bridge at Calicut beach which looks pleasant during the evening golden hours with the sunset backdrop. There is a martial art school in Calicut where you could shoot the traditional Martial art form of 'Kalaripayattu'. Practice sessions happen in the early mornings and evenings. Martial art schools are found near Cochin as well.
Next place your camera would love to shoot would be the beautiful Athirapally waterfalls within the Shola forests of the Western Ghats, often called the 'Niagara of the South'. The waterfall is almost 80 meters above the Chalakudy river. You get good shots from the top as well as the bottom of the waterfall. Another interesting viewpoint is from the Rainforest Resort at Athirapally; they do not entertain visitors even for lunch, so you need to find an option to get in there.
A hundred Kilometers south of Athirapally waterfalls is the old port town of Cochin known as 'Fort Cochin'. Fort Cochin has a lot of interesting colonial buildings, churches, cemetery, clock tower, synagogues, beaches, mangroves and backwaters. Its an ultimate destination for street photography; the wall painting of the previous Muziris Biennale is still live here. Art and Architecture is also a theme here. To explore more of the backwaters of Cochin, try boarding a local boat connecting the port town to other islands; one gets to see a lot of fishermen boats, large ships etc. The estuary with the ships passing by during the golden hours is a treat to the eyes. The two-hundred-year-old classical drama of Kerala called the 'Kathakali' is a photogenic event. Short forms, of these dramas, are conducted in small theatres in Cochin as well. It would be an hour of makeup and another hour of performance. There are prospects for a lot of vivid photographs. Apart from Kathakali, other ethnic traditional dance forms, are conducted here.
Not very far from Cochin is 'Andakaranazhi' on the coastal road to Alleppey. In the early morning sessions, you can snap a lot of fishermen coming back from the sea with their catch. This happens to be a large fish auctioning centre during early morning sessions. The Andakaranzhi has a lighthouse and is ideal for landscape shots. You can visit this place while staying in Fort Cochin.
The 'Kodanad Elephant Kraal' is an elephant orphanage, run by the Government of Kerala. The elephants, who get into human spaces are brought here, and they spend the rest of their lives here. In the morning, the mahouts take all these in-house elephants to the nearby river Periyar, where they are given a bath. This is another photogenic activity, where the mahouts give the elephants a good bath, while the baby elephants have a jolly time in the river. The 'Thattekkad Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary' is located close by; it is the perfect place for bird photographers, and wildlife photographers. A hike in the Sanctuary can pave the way, for rare and exotic birds, being captured by the camera lens. It is always better to have a guide along with you, while in the sanctuary so that you don’t get lost.
Munnar and its sprawling tea plantations are loved and admired by all, especially the young and amateur photographers. The road to the top station is strikingly beautiful and, you can shoot the refreshing tea gardens to get some lovely landscape pictures. Other interesting places would be Meeshapulimalai and the Rhodo Valley trek. One can capture the sprawling grasslands and, the mist-clad peaks of the Western Ghats in all its beauty. Kolukkumalai is also a lovely spot for some landscape photography. This is the highest tea plantation and tea factory in the world, and they produce orthodox tea here.
Not far from Thekkady, is Gavi, a serene splendorous location with a lot of nature and beauty. Streams, valleys, jungles and amazing curved roads- Gavi is packed with adventures and natural beauty. Gavi also opens a chance for wildlife photographers; elephants are the most common here. There have been unfortunate incidents of elephants charging, so keep your limits! Your cameras would love Gavi, don't miss this place. Monsoon makes Gavi, even more greener.
Let's move down to the backwaters of Kerala. Kumarakom is a backwater village, where you can shoot local life, backwater villages, and agriculture. Sign in for a backwater village tour, organized by a responsible tourism body, operational here. They will take you through the heart of Kumarakom where you can witness what we call, the real local life.
Another interesting place is the backwater town of Alleppey. Board a houseboat (you get more space to move around in a houseboat, also try out different angles) and cruise through the narrow canals of the backwaters. One gets to see local backwater life, people, paddy fields, children going to school, old historic churches and temples, a lot of boatmen in canoes, and so on. If you are visiting Kerala during the month of July – August, you can see a lot of snake boats with hundreds of men, busy practising for the upcoming boat race held in Alleppey, called the 'Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race'.
The Beach of Varkala is an apt location for beach photography. The beach has got a big cliff where a lot of hotels and restaurants operate. A lot of sunbeds can be spotted on the beach. There used to be surfing here, however, the waves are not that great. The beach provides a broad view of the Ocean; dolphins can be spotted at times.
The Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram (Capital city of Kerala). This would be the only temple, ideal for a temple photography session. Photography is prohibited inside the temple. In fact, only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple and, there is a dress code to be maintained inside the temple; men in dothi and women in saree. Kerala is in short of large temples and temple architecture, compared to Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Nadu, the temples are large, with a lot to be photographed.
The Mangroves of Poovar is another interesting place; board a small boat to cruise around these mangroves. There is an estuary at Poovar, where the backwaters connect the sea. The golden hours are beautiful.
Hope you got a brief idea about the immense photography possibilities in Kerala. This was just a guide. You've got to come and visit this beautiful state, to experience the reason, this place is called 'Gods own country'. The Shutterbug in you is going to love this place! If you wish to visit Kerala for a photography tour of Kerala, please be in touch with us. You can contact them at email@example.com, Green Earth Trails is a bunch of innovative destination specialities who can organise hassle free tours across Kerala and South India.