Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
A combination of the forests of the Periyar tiger reserve and the mountains of Munnar is more than anything a tourist can ask for. Just 180 km from Kochi, is the thickly forested wildlife sanctuary at the Periyar Tiger Reserve and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the reserve, you may chance upon the enchanting flying squirrels, herds of elephants or even the tiger. The sighting of birds like the Malabar pied hornbill or the crested serpent eagle or even butterflies like the Malabar tree nymph are a delight for the tourist. The journey from Periyar to Munnar takes you through rough mountain roads, passing through the cardamom plantations. On the mountains of Munnar, you can witness the peaceful world of the shola-grasslands at over 7000 feet.
During 1895, a reservoir across River Periyar was constructed in the present reserve area. The dam was constructed to provide irrigation facilities in Tamil Nadu. This area covering 600 Square kilometers was declared as Nellikkampetty Sanctuary in 1934. In 1950, some area was added to the existing land and the sanctuary was renamed as Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary at Thekkady is one of the country's major sanctuaries. The drive to Thekkady is enchanting as the road winds through tranquil countryside, rich plantations and thick jungles. The artificial Periyar Lake (spreading on an area of 26 square kilometers), which encircles the wildlife areas, adds beauty to the sanctuary. The animals, water and land birds can be seen from the boats available at the lake.
Reaching Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary: The nearest airport is at Madurai in Tamil Nadu (143 km away) while the nearest railhead is at Kumarakom (114 km away). The nearest town is Kumily (4 km), and the entry point to the reserve is at Thekkady, which is accessible by good roads from Madurai, Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram.
What to do in Periyar:
Nature Walk - The guided day trek
The Sanctuary organizes a 4 to 5 kilometers guided tour. The tour covers almost the sightseeing places in forest area. The guests are taken on a nature trail either early in the morning at 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. or in the afternoon between 2.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. The tour lasts for 3 hours. Maximum number of 5 persons is allowed to go on a tour accompanied with a tribal guide. With nature walk, enjoy the bliss of nature. Smell of flowers and chirping of the birds makes the tour more joyous.
The Periyar Tiger Trail - Adventure trekking and camping
Adventure Trekking and Camping is a delight for adventure lovers. An efficient and dependable team of persons who were poachers earlier conducts the programme. These experienced team members takes you on a tour of either 1-night/2 days or 2 nights/3 days. The expedition starts at 9 a.m. Five visitors, five guides and two forest officials take you on a tour covering 25 to 35 kilometers of distance.
At the reserve guests may chance upon seeing indigenous wildlife like Nilgiri langur, giant squirrel, elephant and many more animals. The trek covers route of tropical plants and wide-open spaces. Vegetarian meal is served on route and the nights are spent in the tents. Armed forest guards accompany trekking groups. People among the age group of 15-65 are advised to take tiger trial.
Border Hiking - Protection oriented range hiking
Border Hiking consumes whole day and comparatively is a hard trek. The trek is undertaken from 8 in the morning till the evening. The route passes through rugged terrains covering altitudes of 900 meters to 1300 meters. Gaur, elephant, sloth bear, etc. are often spotted along this route apart from birds and butterflies. Maximum of 10 tourists can take the programme in two different groups.
Bamboo Rafting -Dawn to dusk range hiking
Bamboo rafting takes you through some of the most fertile forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The journey takes you through a number of habitats. Finally you are taken into rafts made of bamboos. The forests are rich in bird life and arboreal animals like giant squirrel and Nilgiri langur. Verdant hills are reflected on the lake where the tourists enjoy rafting for about three hours. An armed guard and 4 guides accompany 10 tourists. Snacks and packed lunch are served on the way.
Jungle Patrol-Shepherding the jungle
To keep a record of the activities and well being of the animals, night patrolling is done every night at any time between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m. It is actually a part of the programme devised for the protection the forests of Periyar. Only the persons who are mentally and physically fit and prepared to undertake challenges can join the trek through the wilderness in the night. The tour takes a maximum number of 8 persons in two groups. Two protection watchers and one-armed forest guard will accompany the tourists.
Tribal Heritage - A peep into the past
Mannans are the oldest indigenous group of people to inhabit Periyar Tiger Reserve. Till 1940's, they used to live in the most distant areas of the tiger reserve leading a very simple life and surviving on fishes caught from lake and cultivating a few crops.
Tribal Heritage Museum exhibits hunting weaponry, fishing gear, indigenous medicine and vessels, cereals, medicinal herbs, bamboo furniture, etc. along with artifacts related to their ancient agricultural practices, marriage ceremonies, cultural events, dress code, rituals and death ceremonies. This two-hour programme is available on all days from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Jungle Inn - Jungle in the night
For boarding two persons, the forest cottage at Kokkara is an ideal place. The tourists can relax, read a book or simply watch the forests outside. Tea, snacks and dinner are provided at the cottage. The check in time and check out time are 3 pm. and 9 am.
To feel the slow pace of the village life, to be part of the innocence, to take away you between cock and stick fights, to quench the thirst with the nectar from tender coconuts. Conducted by a group of people who were engaged in sandalwood smuggling, later surrendered before the Forest Department .The profit from this programme goes to rehabilitate this group of people. The programme starts at 6 am in the morning and at 2.30 pm in the afternoon and is a half -day package.
Some other Wildlife Tours