Periyar National Park, Kerala
The Periyar National Park at Thekkady in Kerala, is one of the 16 Project Tiger Reserves in India. The Periyar River was dammed in 1895, by a British engineer, working for the Maharajah of Travancore. The Maharajah granted protection to the adjoining forests and the 55 sq kms reservoir.
Set high in the ranges of the Western ghats, the artificial picturesque lake is at the heart of the sanctuary. It meanders around the contours of the wooded hills, providing a perennial source of water for the local wild life
Priyar is one of the most impressive wildlife sanctuaries in India. The terrain is basically hilly, and the only flat areas of the sanctuary are the grasslands, at the edges of the lakes. Impregnable forests and open grasslands make for a sustaining environment, for both the carnivore and herbivore population of the reserve.
Periyar is famous for its pachyderm population, which is around 800 in number. It is probably one of the few places, where one can observe the elephants in their natural surroundings, uninterrupted, and approach them within 20 meters, fearlessly. Herds of elephant and Sambar, gaur and wild pigs wander down to the lake-side and can be observed from the launches that cruise the lake. In March and April, during the driest period here, the animals spend a lot of time near the lake and the elephants can be seen bathing and swimming in the reservoir. Other animals include the gaur, wild pigs, Sambar, barking deer, mouse deer, dhole (Indian wild dog) and tigers. There are now an estimated 40 tigers here. A glimpse may be had even of the tiger during this season, as it comes to the water.
Four species of primates are found at Periyar - the rare lion-tailed macaque, the Nilgiri Langur, common Langur and bonnet macaque. Periyar also happens to be the habitat of the elusive Nilgiri Tahr, which is rarely to be seen.
The lake attracts birds like the darter, cormorant, grey heron and ibis and they are seen perched on the snags of dead wood that dot the lake. The great Malabar hornbill and grey hornbill are often seen flapping their ponderous way between trees. There are kingfishers, ospreys and kites as well as orioles, hill mynas, racket tailed drongos, parakeets, including the unusual blue winged parakeet and fly catchers. The liquid notes of the Malabar whistling thrush and the loud call of the hornbills are distinctive amid the normal sounds of the jungle.
There are several ways of exploring the Periyar Sanctuary. Most people do it by boat. A two hours boat safari at dawn and dusk, is the best time to sight animals as they come out to drink water. Boat trips can be booked at Spice Village.
Trekking can also be arranged to venture deep into the forest. Accompanied by a tribal guide you will be dropped off by boat at the far end of the lake, for a rare adventure – not for the faint hearted.
There are a few fascinating tribal villages around the Periyar, primarily the Manan and Oorali tribes. The Manans are ace fishermen, and a few of them still indulge in the traditional, if dangerous, practice of collecting the honey of large and deadly hill bees. The Ooralis build tree dwellings, though not as residences, but as watchtowers to keep wild pigs, and elephants from ruining their crops.
With special permission, one can boat to the source of the Periyar Lake, the Periyar river. This area falls at the heart of the sanctuary, not usually open to visits, and the rest house located there, is known as Thannikudi. The sloth bear is a common sight at Thannikudi, and tigers, too, prefer this area, as it is far removed from the main park area, hence, peaceful. On the whole, visiting the Periyar Sanctuary is a delightful and enlightening experience, one that should not be missed for the world
How to get there
The National Park is 4 km from the nearest town, Kumily. It is approached only by road. The nearest railhead is 114 km, at Kottayam on the Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram line. The nearest airport in Kerala is Kochi, 190 km from the Park.
Where to stay
We recommend Spice Village Resort, at Kumily, and Shalimar Spice Garden,Thekkady. Scroll below for more information.
When to visit
The best time to visit Periyar is between October and April.
Spice Village Resort
Set in the heart of the Cardamom Hills, Spice village Resort offers a rare opportunity of exploring a wildlife sanctuary whilst staying in the comforts of a nature resort. The atmosphere is relaxed and enchanting.
The resort is located just three kilometers from Thekkady, the main entrance to the Periyar National . Recreating the mood of the local tribal community, individual cottages have been set up in a landscaped spice garden. Each dwelling is thatched with elephant grass and offers simple luxury and privacy. A verandah runs around the cottage, and each unit is set in its own land
The rooms are spacious and furnished with simple sophistication – terracotta tiled floors, pinewood furniture and whitewashed walls. There is an en-suite bathroom with running hot water.
At the center of the resort is a swimming pool. Surrounded by tropical trees and lawns. There is an exclusive Ayurvedic clinic, a games room, and a floodlit badminton court. The highlight though is the garden – bursting with a rich array of spice trees and bushes. Each plant is labeled and there is botanist at hand to answer your questions
Overlooking the pool is the buffet restaurant, which serves a wide range of traditional Indian and international cooking. As you would expect, spices play their part in a menu, which changes daily. Cooking classes are held by the chef every evening. You can not only learn, but also try your hand with the earthenware pots and pans, to make your own dishes
Shalimar Spice Garden Resort
A nature resort, which merges with spice gardens and the verdant landscape bordering the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. It has a special ambiance The pace of life here is so easy and peaceful that even the birds and the butterflies do not seem to be in a hurry.
The lush foliage of the coffee, cardamom and other spices plants surrounding the cottages provide privacy for each cottage.
The resort has rooms and cottages. All are made of traditional materials of Kerala tiled roofing which has been thatched externally, for that authentic appearance and added insulation. The bedrooms are tastefully furnished, and the en-suit bathrooms and toilets are immaculate and spacious.
One cottage is made out of a reassembled heritage Kerala home with intricately carved wooden panels.
The restaurant is laid out with traditional Kerala furniture and the chef conjures up some of the best Italian and Continental dishes not to mention authentic Indian and Kerala cuisine.
The swimming pool is set amidst trees at the back of the property . Perfectly secluded it provides you with a relaxed atmosphere of nature.
The peaceful environment at the resort is ideal for nature cures. There is a specialized ayurvedic and yoga center in the resort providing all the treatment.
Prices: On request