Periyar National Park - A Jungle Sojourn : South India V
Periyar is the most popular wildlife sanctuary in south India. Though billed as a tiger reserve, Periyar is really famous for its wild elephants, 100-year-old artificial lake and its setting in the beautiful thickly forested Western ghats. This is not your best shot at spotting the Bengal Tiger considering there are less than 40 of them that inhabit an area of 777sq.km but there's plenty of other animals like the Nilgiri langoor, Nilgiri tahr, bison, deer, antelope and about 700 elephants to make the trip worthwhile. The Periyar Tiger Reserve consists of tropical evergreen, semi- evergreen and moist deciduous forests. It was declared a Project Tiger Reserve in 1978 and the first research started in 1991. The results indicate 49 species of mammals, 246 species of birds, 28 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians, 22 species of fishes and 112 species of butterflies. The core area is 350 sq.kms. Some of the deeper valleys contain tropical evergreen forest with extremely thick tree cover that even bright sunlight finds hard to penetrate. The few level areas in the park contain marshy grasslands near the edges of the lake and other water bodies. Apart from Elephants, the other animals to be seen in the Periyar sanctuary Kerala are Gaur, Wild Pigs, Sambar, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Dole or Indian Wild Dog and very rarely, a Tiger. There are, now, an estimated 40 tigers in the Periyar national Park. Periyar also happens to be the habitat of the elusive Nilgiri Tahr, which is rarely to be seen.
|On Way to Thekkady from Munnar|
|A Stop at Spice Gardens|
After spending about an hour there we proceeded to our destination. It took another hour of drive when we saw a queue of cars. The boards across the shops did inform us that we were in Thekkady. We could notice a predominance of hotels in this area and probably a camp town for most of the tourists at Periyar. The driver informed us that this was a forest check post for entering into the national park and we were required to take a ticket at the reception. I got the tickets, both for us and vehicle, and proceeded towards the Hotel <Name of the Hotel – KTDC Aranya Niwas. The car travelled through the forests and ultimately climbed the slopes of the approach road to the hotel. We disembarked and checked into our room. The room was premium yet simple. It had all the modern facilities and yet an outlook to showcase that we were in middle of a jungle. The usher advised us to keep the windows closed to prevent monkeys to visit us and grab stuff. A view outside the windows was full of the thick forest till far. Towards one corner, we could see waters of the Periyar Lake which reminded us that we needed to make arrangements for our boat safari.
|Periyar Lake Shores|
|Posing by the Lake|
Next morning, the honking alarms and blaring intercom woke us up to get ready in time to reach the boat point in time to board our KTDC ride - Jalatharangini. The boat started at the scheduled time - 6 AM - at its slow but firm pace. Actually we started as a group of 5-6 boats which later separated to take tourists through the lake using different paths. The driver kept the boat slow and removed from the shores to avoid alarming the animals. Throughout the ride we were delighted with exotic birds – of all colors and shapes. The forest officer on the boat was alert with his prying eyes looking for any clue of animals for which we were waiting with bated breath. Soon we noticed that driver killed the engines and officer sought our attention – he had noticed a wild bull. The driver slowly steered the boat to the coast and we all enjoyed a close view of the mighty animal. The forest officer gracefully borrowed my camera to take a picture of the view and animal. After every tourist on board had a chance to have a glimpse, the boat proceeded further. The journey took us through the entire coast of the lake and we got to see deer, reindeer, wild pigs and elephants roaming in their free habitat. After an hour and half’s ride, the boat dropped us back at the boat point and we enjoyed the breakfast at the restaurant. Post breakfast we packed our luggage and checked out. We were in hurry to reach out next destination – Alleppy, where we were to float on water for an entire day in specially designed houses on boat.
|Boarding the Boat - Excited for Safari|
|Sailing into the Lake for Safari|
Do visit the link towards the end of the article for more travel experiences.