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PERIYAR (Thekkady)

Periyar is a protected area, and a nature reserve in the South Indian State of Kerala, set high in the mountains of the Western Ghats at the border to Tamil Nadu. It lies in the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta. The protected area covers an area of 925 km², out of which a 350 km² part of the core zone was made into the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, sometimes dubbed the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. The park is often called by the name Thekkady also. Thekkady or Periayr is located four km from Kumily, approximately 100 km east of Alappuzha, 110 km west of Madurai and 120 km southeast from Kochi. The Periyar protected area lies in the middle of a mountainous area of the Cardamom Hills. In the north and the east it is bounded by mountain ridges of over 1700 meters altitude and toward the west it expands into a 1200 meter high plateau. From this level the altitude drops steeply to the deepest point of the reserve, the 100 meter valley of the Pamba River. The highest peak is the 2019 meter high Kottamalai. The sanctuary surrounds picturesque 26 km² Periyar lake, formed by the building of Mullaperiyar Dam in 1895. This reservoir and the Periyar River meander around the contours of the wooded hills, providing a permanent source of water for the local wildlife.

 
 

ATTRACTIONS OF PERIYAR (Thekkady)

Nature Walk - The guided day

Different nature trails traversing diverse habitats form the trekking routes, generally 4 to 5 km. in length. This is an interpretive programme offering excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands. The programme is offered between 7.00 am and 10.30 am and between 2.00 pm. and 3.00 pm. and lasts for about 3 hours. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking at a time along each nature trail, accompanied by a trained tribal guide. The Nature walk is the right programme to feel nature, hear her whispers and smell her flowers.

The Periyar Tiger Trail - Adventure trekking and camping

The programme is unique in being conducted by a team of poachers who turned protectors of the forests. The team members are hardy and dependable with an intimate knowledge of the forest terrain. The programs are 1 night/2 days and 2 nights/3 days. The first day’s trek starts at 9 am and ends by noon in the second or third day. The team consists of a maximum of 5 visitors, 5 guides and 2 forest officials. Normally 20 to 35 kms. of trekking distance will be covered, depending on the route chosen. Here, one may chance to encounter much indigenous wildlife like Nilgiri langur, giant squirrel, elephant and who knows, even the tiger! The trek route passes through hills and valleys with a variety of tropical plants and wide-open spaces. En route vegetarian meals will be prepared and served and country tents will be pitched for holing up in the night. Trekking groups are accompanied by armed forest guards with good communication equipments, and geared to face any emergency situation. Remember to listen to unusual and strange adventure stories of the former poachers, now your guides and protectors of the forests.

Border Hiking - Protection oriented range hiking

This is a conservation oriented hard trek taking up a full day. The trekking starts at 8 o’ clock in the morning and ends in the evening. The route passes through undulating terrains. Altitudinal ranges of 900 meters to 1300 meters will be covered and the trekkers could glimpse the lofty escarpments bordering the park watershed and the vast plains down below. Gaur, sloth bear, elephant, etc. are often sighted along this route apart from birds and butterflies. Maximum of 10 tourist can take the programme in two different groups. The trekkers will go with two guides and an armed forest guard. Vegetarian refreshments can be had en route.

Bamboo Rafting

This is a dawn to dusk range hiking and rafting programme through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Starting at 8 am from the boat landing, a mosaic of habitats will be traversed before the party gets into rafts made of bamboos. The forests are rich in bird life and arboreal animals like giant squirrel and Nilgiri langur. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and Sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake. The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5 pm. An armed guard and 4 guides will accompany a maximum of 10 tourists. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served en route.

Jungle Patrol

This programme is part of the regular night patrolling in the fringe eco-development zones of the tiger reserve. By participating in this, one is actually helping in the protection of the forests of Periyar. The trekking could be at any time between 7 pm. and 4 am. and could be taken by persons having proper physical and mental fitness to trek through the wilderness in the night. The maximum duration for a slot is 3 hours and the maximum capacity of one slot is limited to 8 visitors (to move in two separate teams). They will accompany two protection watchers and one armed forest guard! Try the limits of your senses-sight, hearing and smell and take in the totally different world of nocturnal jungle life.

Tribal Heritage - A peep into the past

Mannans are among the oldest indigenous group of people to inhabit Periyar Tiger Reserve. Till as late as 1940’s, they used to live in the remotest areas of the tiger reserve eking out a simple living by fishing in the lake and cultivating a few crops.

A tribal heritage museum built inside the Mannan settlement featuring various types of artifacts related to their ancient agricultural practices, marriage ceremonies, cultural events, dress code, rituals and death ceremonies is the hub of this ecotourism programme. Display of fishing gear, hunting weaponry, indigenous medicine and vessels, cereals, medicinal herbs, bamboo furniture’s, etc. are other attractions providing a peep into their original culture.

Jungle Inn - Jungle in the night

The forest cottage at Kokkara, about an hour walk from the Forest check post is an ideal place to board two persons hoping to share the quietness of the jungle night. Here one could relax, read a book, listen to the cicada or simply watch the forests outside. The high point of the programme is walking through different forest types at prime time when animals tend to be more active. One can watch troops of langurs, giant squirrels, etc., besides many birds along this stretch. Who knows, if the goddess of fortune blesses you, a tiger could come out of the bushes chasing a herd of sambar deer!

Bullock Cart Discoveries

Visit the farmlands of a village hidden in the valley behind the mountains of Periyar Tiger Reserve in a bullock cart. The village is rich in bird diversity (New explorations for a serious bird watcher, also wonderful beginning for a novice). With vineyards, diverse agricultural crops of mangoes, tamarind, onions, sunflower, jasmine and a score of other vegetables, the village will take your breath away when the guides start to interpret how farming has woven delicately with the culture and the life of the natives. 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.

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