Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Kahlil Gibran
Is the dying malnourished plant in your backyard the only contact you have with nature? Take time out to visit nature in all its magnificence at the Periyar Tiger Reserve. With 62 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles, 27 species of amphibians, and 38 species of fishes., and the main attraction – the 40 tigers that the sanctuary houses, Periyar is well worth a visit.
Periyar Tiger Reserve is situated in the Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts of Kerala State in South India. To get there, fly to Cochin and drive to Periyar (200km) or the nearest railway station to Periyar is Kottayam (114km)
There is an excellent variety of accommodation available at the park. The main concentration of these is around the Tourist Complex located extremely close to the park. The most recommended ones are the Periyar House, and Aranaya Nivas. The Taj Garden Retreat is at a stone’s throw away and houses a high quality multi cuisine restaurant, conference room, ayurvedic massage parlor and swimming pool. Periyar cafe painted in blindingly bright colors is a cheery eatery that serves up loads of North Indian and local dishes at very sensible prices. Located right near the park entrance, it’s perfect for an early breakfast or quick lunch between animal spotting trips.
The best way to explore the sanctuary is by boat but you also have the option of spending time atop watch towers. At Eddapaliyam, right from the hotel, it is possible to sit back and enjoy the sights of gaur, elephant and wild boar as they come out to graze from inside the deep forest. You also have the choice between various guided tours. These tours are absolutely safe and they are of different lengths and durations. For those new to trekking, The Nature walk, a guided day trek generally 4 to 5kms in length, is the best choice. This is an interactive program which offers excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wildlife. This trek lasts for around 3 hours. Those serious about trekking and medically fit should take the Periyar Tiger Trail. This program is either1 night/ 2days or 2 nights and 3 days. The program is unique in the sense that it is conducted by a team of poachers turned protectors of the forest. Country tents are put up for the night and give you a unique opportunity of witnessing the forest at night.
The sanctuary also offers bamboo rafting which is a dawn to dusk range hiking program through some of the richest tracts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The rafting is for about 3 hours and the visitor gets a panoramic view of forest clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephants, gaurs, and sambar deer are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake.
All tours are accompanied by knowledgeable guides who keep the visitors safety in mind at all points of time.
While at Periyar, don’t forget to visit a spice garden located on the periphery of the park. Experience the Ayurvedic oil massage available at Thekkady. The ruins of an ancient Hindu temple can be seen at Mangladevi, 14 km. from Thekkady, but entry is restricted and requires permission. If you’re here for the weekend then travel to Peermade (32kms), Peermade is named after Peer Muhammed, the Sufi saint who spent his last days here. The mausoleum of the saint, the summer palace of the erstwhile Travancore Royal Dynasty and the residence of the Diwan are situated nearby and all are worth visiting. You can also choose to visit Pullumedu (43kms). This charming little town lies along the banks of the scenic river Periyar hidden by a lush green canopy. This is a good picnic spot to enjoy the beauty of nature. The place retains its closeness with nature partly because of its inaccessibility and remoteness. The famous Shabarimala Ayyappa temple can be viewed from here.
This is the perfect place to rediscover your sense of adventure and view some of the marvelous bounties nature has to offer. It’s the ideal weekend break.