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Periyar National Park - A Jungle Sojourn : South India V

It was time to experience some jungle life and hence we were headed for a stay in the middle of a national park for an entire day and a night. We had planned a stopover at the Periyar National Park in Thekkady, Kerala. As planned we bid goodbye to the family and proceeded on our journey to Thekkady by 1:30 PM on the 28th of December 2015.

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 langur, 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
On our way to Thekkady, we stopped at a spice garden at about 3 in the afternoon to have a closer look at the plantation of spices which are famous in this region. The Periyar Spice & Ayurvedic Garden, which we chose for the excursion was a nicely organized facility. The place charged a modest ticket to cover for the cost of tourist visits. We were taken through a narrow lane until the center of the plantation where there was a reception center. We were allotted a group along with a few other tourists who were present there already. Once the required quorum was achieved, the reception assigned a guide to our team who took us around the gardens and explained various spices being grown, their health benefits, peculiarities and a general explanation of their production and manufacturing techniques. There were at least 100 varieties of plants that were being maintained there. The range was as diverse as it could get. It was here that we were made aware of the reasons why some specific spices are expensive in particular. While 5 kg of fruit yields 1 kg of cardamom, the number goes to 8kg for a kg of cloves. There were specific plants which helped in insulin deficiency, skin diseases, or kidney stone. There was a bright pink flower which was named “love flower” which was sold as a showpiece.

After spending about an hour there we proceeded to our destination. It took another hour of a 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 the 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
After freshening up, we went out for a stroll across the area. While on our way out we stopped at the reception to enquire about the boat safari. We were informed the all guests at the KTDC facility was automatically enrolled for next morning’s safari. The boat safari has two options – one on KTDC boats while other is the forest department boats. We by default were assigned the first one. What needed some persuasion was assurance for obtaining a seat on the upper deck of the boat. Reviews on the internet had advised us of the significant difference in experience. Finally, the lady at the reception gave in and assured us that she would try her best to get us a seat on the upper deck. Post this extended discussion, we proceeded to explore the jungles on foot. We took a round across the green spread and had wonderful moments in the lap of nature. We returned by about 6 post which we were allowed to be out of hotel campus. We later enjoyed a decent spread of dinner at the hotel restaurant. Post dinner, it was time for an early sleep as we had an early start for the boat ride next morning.

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 a 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 a boat.
Boarding the Boat - Excited for Safari
Sailing into the Lake for Safari
Leaving you with a wonderful capture of the human ancestors carrying on with their daily activities. Did you like the pictures or was there too much text? Little on knowledge or lacks the personal touch? Tempts you to visit the place or took it off your dream list? Whatever it is that you are feeling right now, do not forget to give put down in comments as your feedback and views – for or against :-)

Do visit the link towards the end of the article for more travel experiences.

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