A land that allures with its wild charm. Entices you with its sensuous beauty. And intrigues with its unpredictability... The delightful natural wildlife reserve of Thekkady unravels a world of enriching experiences. Here the exotic and the enchanting are closely woven together. And you will discover that some of the most beautiful moments in life often come unannounced.
One of the environmental hotspots in the world famed for its biodiversity and encompassing 777 sq. km, the Periyar Tiger Reserve will bring you close to some of the rarest animal and plants. A treasure trove of contrasting experiences, here, misty hills vie with majestic animals. Spice gardens snuggle close to evergreen forests. And tranquility goes in hand with raw vitality.
The Periyar Tiger Reserve is located in the Western Ghats in the Cardamom Hills at an altitude of 3,900-6,000 ft, is the largest sanctuary in Kerala. Three kinds of forests enrich this sanctuary-evergreen, grassland and moist deciduous. Different species of animals, birds and plants can be seen in each type of forest.
The starting point of the reserve is the boat house, roughly 2km from the entry gate. All treks, boat rides and walks begin from this point.
Walks and Treks in Periyar
Wander through three different life zones in the course of a day. Move past evergreen, grassland or moist deciduous forests and come across various species of flora and fauna in each forest land. Filled with a different choir of birds. And harbouring some of the most fascinating collections of orchids -145 of them to be precise. A close watch of the trails will also reveal pug marks left by the forest inmates.
How about a stint as night watchman of the jungle? If interested you can be part of the regular night patrolling carried out in the ecodevelopment zones of the tiger reserve. Two separate teams of eight trekkers accompanied by couple of watchers and an armed forest guard patrols the area every three hours at night. Join the action by signing up for this package organised as a part of the Periyar Project Tiger Scheme.
Tracking the Tiger
Well, this is certainly no ordinary cat and mouse game. So only the really tough and fit need pack their bags. Traverse the adventurous Periyar Tiger Trail and camp deep inside the dense forests. You will have trained forest guards to help spot the elusive cats that generally prefer a solitary existence.
In the Thick of Things
Spend a night in one of the observation towers or rest houses right inside the forest and ignite your adventurous spirit. Safely perched atop one of these watch towers you will get a bird's eye view of the jungle as well as the wild life. But for that you will have to reserve your room well in advance.
Lace up your hiking boots for a backpacking day through rough terrain scaling 900-1300 metres of mist clad peaks. A challenging but rewarding course, trekkers get to catch glimpses of the lofty escarpments bordering the park and the vast plains below. Apart from birds and butterflies, you also come across Gaurs, Sloth Bears, Elephants etc along this route.
Get cosy in a forest cabin at Kokkara. An ideal place for two to enjoy the quietness and ambience of forest life, you get to meet many animals right near your lodging. And if you wish to stretch your legs a bit, different varieties of birds will provide the perfect music for a fabulous trek.
Face to Face with the Gaurs
If you are the kind to play safe you can enjoy watching animals from the safety of a boat. But then if you are ready for the excitement of seeing wildlife just a stone's throw away, don your shoes for a jungle walk. The Gaur, a majestic animal is seen in its largest size in the Western Ghats and its huge, trademark horns weigh any where up to a ton. Other members of the jungle you could expect to have close encounters with are the Sambars, Chital, the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar and so on.
Surrender to Nature
Go camping in one of the finest natural environs. Pitch your tent among bamboo thickets that form a wonderful backdrop to the eco-lodges earmarked for experiential learning and nature sensation camps at Gavi. Trained locals host family and group camps as part of the Green Mansion eco-tourism project. You can also opt for tree top huts or grass houses. Trekking expeditions, boating on Gavi and Kullar lakes, bird watching, plantation visits and so on are arranged for visitors who can reach Gavi from Thekkady by jeep.
Hikes with a Soundtrack
Virtually every walk in the woods comes with an added sensual delight- the lusty singing of over fifty different species of birds. The best way to spot the orange-headed ground thrush, the resplendent forest wigtail and many others is to sign up for one of the bird spotting treks.
Boating in Periyar Lake
Cruise along the huge artificial lake surrounded by hills. Sheltering an amazing variety of exotic fishes. Look out for the most famous and endangered game fish of India, the Mahseer, found abundantly in the upstream parts of the lake. The Otter, the only mammal of the lake can also be spotted during the boat ride, which is the best way to see the sanctuary.
Cruise on Bamboo Rafts
Glide through the waters on bamboo rafts so that you get see wildlife at close quarters without disturbing their privacy or harming their natural habitat. The bamboo rafting programme is part of a full day trekking package through some of the riches forest tracks of the tiger reserve.
Things to See and Do
Ride a mighty elephant and feel on top of the world as it takes you along a land that exudes a wild charm. Synonymous with elephants, Thekkady is home to some 750 of them and they come in all sizes and ages. You get to see herds of elephants frolicking by the lakeside or trekking through the jungle. But make sure that you hitch a jolly ride only on one of those tamed gentle giants.
Go on a coffee or tea plantation tour to get a taste of all the goes behind the growing, processing and actual brewing of your morning coffee. Or else you can visit a spice garden with its numerous plants, colours and aromas and get acquainted with the spices in their pre-packed state.
Discover a Rare Heritage
Acquaint yourself with the culture and lives of the tribes belonging to this region. A tribal heritage museum built right inside the Mannan settlement belonging to one of the oldest tribes features various types of artifacts related to their ancient practices and rituals. Open on all days, the two-hour tour covers the tribal museum visit and a trek through the tribal hamlet.
Pack your field glasses and explore the open forestland minutely. Try to spot as many as possible of the astounding 119 butterfly species recorded from the Periyar Tiger Reserve of which 20 are Western Ghats endemics with 35 rare and 64 uncommon varieties. Pachakanam estate are has been identified as the best place in terms of richness and diversity of these winged delights.
Check out some of those wonderful spices that changed the very course of history. In Thekkady where the very air is headily aromatic, you are literally in the heartland of spices. The best quality fenugreek, nutmeg, black, white and green pepper, rolls of cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, coriander and cloves are available here. So do not miss the chance to get a few of those neatly packed and labelled samples as take-away gifts.
Plant and Animal Kingdom
Over 1965 flowering species including 171 grass species and 143 species of orchids. The celebrities include teak, rosewood and bamboo.
Mammals: Thirty five species including the wild elephant, gaur, sambar, barking deer, Nilgir langur, tigers, leopards, spotted deer, antelopes, wild boar and the wild dog are some of the carnivores you will find here. The sanctuary also houses a number of smaller carnivores such as marten and ratel, the fishing cat, the elusive rusty spotted cat, Indian civet, the brown palm civet that live on fruits, the large ruddy mongoose which acquires a brick red coat in winter, the nocturnal brown mongoose, lion-tailed macaque, bonnet macaque and the common langur.
Birds: 265 species including migrants. The hornbill, stork, woodpecker, kingfisher, raptor, cormorant, grackle, darter etc
Reptiles: Cobra, viper, krait a number of poisonous snakes and the monitor lizard.
Amphibians: Frogs, toads and limbless caecilians, including the colourful Malabar gliding frog, common Indian toad, fungoid frog and biocolourd frog.
When to Go
September to March is the ideal time, when you can enjoy nature without the rains. If you are a bird watcher, this is also the time to spot migrant birds. Summer though hot, is also good for wildlife-spotting.
Telephone access code: 04869
Air: Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport (160km, 6hrs)
Rail: Thekkady is 5km from Kumily on NH220 which links to Kottayam and Theni in Tamil Nadu.
Bus Kumily's KSRTC Stand Tel: 04869 224242 has regular connections with Kottayam, Alleppey, Kochi, Trivandrum and Munnar.
Tourist Offices and Tour Packages
Tourist Information Office
Department of Tourism
To sign up for programmes like spice plantation tours, tea factory tours, Periyar tiger trail, border trekking, jungle patrol, camping, bamboo rafting etc.
The Eco-tourism Centre
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