If you’re travelling on all but the most flexible of budgets, you’ll have to base yourself in the district’s capital, KALPETTA. A hectic market hub straddling the main road, the town has little to commend it as a place to hang out, but does have the only budget accommodation in the area, as well as good transport connections to points east, notably the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary (daily 6–10am & 3–5pm; Rs110, camera Rs25), the southern portion of the Wayanad reserve. Some 40km east of town, the park is noted primarily for its elephants, but also shelters Indian bison (gaur), deer, wild boar, bear and a handful of tigers. Trekking in the sanctuary is only allowed during the morning slot; guides for the three-hour route charge Rs150. If you opt for the two-hour, 22km Jeep trip, you’ll also have to pay for a guide (Rs100) and the vehicle’s rental (Rs300) and entry fee (Rs50).
Buses bound for Mysore and Bangalore (Bengaluru) from Kalpetta run past the park gates, as do local services heading towards Ponkuzhy. The state bus stand in the centre of town has frequent services to Kozhikode (72km; 2hr) and Mananthavady, for the Tholpetty reserve (27km; 1hr). Auto-rickshaws and Jeeps are also available for local destinations. Kerala Tourism’s office (Mon–Sat 10am–5pm, closed 2nd Sat of each month; t 04936/204441) is in Kalpetta North, 1km from the bus stand, in a building sharing space with the local DTPC information desk. Helpful staff can assist with hiring forest guides and Jeeps for those going to Muthanga. Numerous small internet cafés are dotted around town, and there are plenty of 24hr ATMs, as well as a UAE Foreign Exchange outlet where you can cash travellers’ cheques and change currency.