Periyar For An Eco-Friendly Holiday

A trip to Periyar as a family can transform the young into gung-ho environmentalists. For this photogenic, 925-sq km tiger reserve in Thekaddy, Kerala, has spawned creative tourism initiatives where ex-poachers have been transformed into guides who lead tourists on exciting forest treks.

We embarked on one such foray in the company of a villain-turned-protector of the forest and came to admire his stealth and knowledge of the land that he had once pillaged for its sandalwood and wildlife.

Soon we were crashing through the woods, located high up in the Western Ghats. Our trek threw up a bouquet of sights as this protected reserve is home to elephants, tigers, panthers, leopards, deer (sambar, barking deer, mouse deer et al), wild dogs, porcupines, wild boar, monkeys, snakes, over 350 species of birds and an endless variety of insects. For the first time in our lives, we were viewing the forest at ground level, without the safety of a vehicle, stooping to examine fresh elephant dung, the hoof prints of a sambar., a porcupine quill. We encountered a herd of trumpeting elephants, graceful sambar and ungainly wild boar. The ex¬poacher even had an eye for the small and beautiful—a giant wood spider; a “strangler” vine; a damson fly with transparent wings.

The gun slung on our guide’s shoulder did not seem so menacing, after all, and he oozed courage. The jungle’s law of survival of the fittest and eat or be eaten did not seem to faze him. By the end of the trek, he had become our hero.

  • Apart from boat safaris in the reserve, there are opportunities to patrol the jungle along with armed forest guides at night; embark on longer Tiger Trail programs; cruise the lake in a bamboo raft and gaze at the denizens of the forest as they strut past.
  • Bullock cart rides in the farmlands of a valley behind the Periyar Tiger Reserve give an insight into rural life.
  • Stay in a jungle inn at Kokkara, about an hour’s walk from the forest checkpost, and listen to the jungle thrum at night.

By Air Kochi International Airport (190 km) and Madurai (140 km) are the closest airports.
By Rail Kottayam (98 km) is the closest railhead. From there, buses or taxis will take you to Periyar.
By Road A scenic drive from Kochi or Madurai gets one to Periyar.

The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) runs the only three hotels within the limits of the reserve. All other hotels are situated in Kumily village, 3 km outside the reserve.

Restaurants, cafes and dhabas serve a variety of cuisines in Kumily.
Fragrant spices, jute, and bamboo products rose and sandalwood sculptures.

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