If you love adventures in the wild, one of the best destinations to be is at the Periyar National Park, situated in scenic Thekkady in Idduki district of Kerala. Spread across 925 sq.kms, the reserve is home to a huge number of wild elephants, sambar deer, gaur, tigers, and wild boars including some endangered species as well. The Periyar Tiger Reserve is a one of a kind reserve offering a number of ecotourism activities to visitors who flock here for some adventure and fun (romance not excluded!)
The reserve’s ecotourism programs are run by former poachers and illegal timber loggers who have in-depth knowledge of the forests and know its ways. These native people are rehabilitated as naturalists and guides to educate and enlighten tourists in the ways of the forest and their conservation and protection.
If you have a few days to unwind, why not book yourself into one of the many ecotourism programs that the Periyar National Park Offers to experience a unique wildlife adventure to rejuvenate your mind and body?
Top EcoTourism Activities to Check Out at Periyar Tiger Reserve
The Nature Walk is one of the best ways to watch butterflies, birds and wild animals in their natural habitat. The walk is a 4 to 5 km long trek through different habitats such as the evergreen and moist deciduous forests and marshy grasslands. The trek usually lasts for about 2.5 to 3 hours and is available in 6 different time slots (7 A.M; 7.30 A.M; 10 A.M; 10.30 A.M; 2 P.M ; and 2.30 P.M.) The trekking groups are usually divided into groups of 6 and are accompanied by a trained tribal guide. Cost: Rs. 200/- per person. (All rates are subject to vary.)
Cloud Walk is an extended trek of about 3 to 4 hours starting from Gandhi Park at Kolathupalam and passing through the Kurisumala view point past the Tribal Heritage Museum and ending at Anavachal. The trek offers a view of the grasslands, forests, the Cumbam valley, faraway Palani hills, and the Mangaladevi, Kumarikulam and Fort of Periyar. At the Tribal Heritage Museum, visitors can check out the ancient artifacts and remnants of the Mannan tribe. This program runs in 2 time slots; the morning slot starts between 7.30 and 8.30 am ending before 12.30 pm and the afternoon slot starts between 1 and 2 pm and ending before 6 pm. The trek allows up to a maximum of 6 persons @ Rs.300/- per person.
This is a day long hike starting at 8 in the morning and concluding at 5 in the evening, covering a total expanse of 15 kilometers. The hike will take you to altitudes of about 900-1300 meters offering a view of the vast plains below. The trek offers a chance to glimpse elephants, guars and sloth bears in their natural surroundings. The trek is divided into 2 groups, each having 4-6 people costing Rs. 1000/- per person (lunch & refreshments included). Trekkers will be accompanied by 2 guides and an armed forest guard.
This is another day long adventure starting at about 8 in the morning from the boat landing, traversing through forest tracts before getting into bamboo rafts to glimpse the wildlife in the park. The rafting takes about 3 hours and one can glimpse the giant squirrel, the Nilgiri languar, the elephant, guar and sambar deer on the trip. This trekking group allows a maximum of 10 people @ Rs. 1500/- per person and trekkers are accompanied by 4 guides and an armed guard. Tea, snacks and lunch is served en route.
This is an ecolodge and a center for learning about life in the sanctuary. It is a series of cottages clustered in the bamboo forests where you can experience life in the wilderness. The program includes an orientation program followed by visits to a tribal colony, opportunity to watch wildlife film shows, go bird watching, trekking and a complimentary boat ride on the gorgeous Periyar Lake. The huts accommodate 2 people and come with modern amenities including a modern kitchen and board room. The cost is Rs. 1500/- per cottage. Cost includes lunch and dinner served on the first day and breakfast served on the second day.
Jungle Inn offers a unique chance to experience the jungle inside one of the watch towers constructed within the forest. The watch towers are about an hour’s walk from the Forest check point and can accommodate 2 persons. The program’s highlight is a walk in the forests at prime time, when the wildlife are most active so you’ll see plenty of animals and birds in the trek. The check in time is at 3 P.M and the check out time is 9 A.M the following day. The package allows 2 persons per night, @ Rs. 2000/- per person. Tea, snacks and dinner are provided.
Bullock Cart Discoveries
Take a trip in a bullock to the hidden villages behind the mountains of the tiger reserve to experience life in the local farms where mangoes, tamarind, onions, sunflower, jasmine and other vegetables are grown. You’ll get a guided tour of the culture of the natives and how they have carefully conserved the environment making it a rich spot for bird watching. This is a half day package starting at 6 A.M and ending at about 2. 30 P.M. The program is run by a group of rehabilitated ex-sandalwood smugglers and all proceeds from the trip go towards their rehabilitation.
If you are a hardcore wildlife adventurer, you can participate in this program that allows you to join the regular night patrols as a paid volunteer. You’ll experience night time patrolling in the fringes of the ecodevelopment zone of the Tiger Reserve along with armed guards. The program is available in 3 time slots of 3 hours each between 7 pm and 4 am. You will need to be young and fit to participate in the program, which is run in 2 groups of six people each @Rs. 750/- per person.
Periyar Tiger Trail
This is the most adventurous package offered by the Periyar Tiger Reserve. There are 2 offers in this package; a one night and two days @Rs. 4000/- per person; and a 2 nights and three days plan @Rs. 6000/- per person. The Tiger Trail happens twice a week, starting at 9 A.M. A maximum of 6 people are allowed in a group and are accompanied by 5 guides and an armed guard. Although you are not guaranteed to catch sight of a tiger, chances are you will see the indigenous wildlife such as the wild elephants and the Nilgiri langur at its best.
This program is conducted by a team of rehabilitated poachers and loggers who have in-depth knowledge about the forests. The trek covers a distance of about 20 to 35 kilometers through hills and valleys. Meals are prepared and served in country tents that will be pitched for holing up during the night. The guides will be sure to regale tales of their unusual and wild adventures in the past when you settle in for the night.
How to Reach Periyar Tiger Reserve
Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady is about 4 km from Kumili in Idukki district, central Kerala and is well connected by road from all the major towns of Kerala.
By Air :
- Cochin International Airport : 190 Kms.
- Thiruvananthapuram International Airport : 267 Kms.
- Madurai: 140 Kms.
- Kottayam : 114 Kms.
- Changanassery: 120 Kms.
- Ernakulam : 190 Kms.
- Madurai : 135 Kms.
- Direct bus links to / from Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin, Kottayam, Munnar & Madurai.
Best Times to Visit
March and April are the driest parts of the year at Thekkady. This means you can find more animals spending time near the Periyar lake, offering an excellent chance of catching sight of them, especially the elusive tiger. The animals can be seen from motorboats on the lake or from the watchtowers set up in the jungle.
What to Carry
The Periyar Tiger Reserve offers a splendid opportunity to observe and capture photos of the wildlife up close. A camera and binoculars are must-haves on a visit to Thekkady. If you don’t own a binoculars, you can purchase or rent one on a daily basis at Thekkady. Always carry a water-bottle, adequate warm clothing if you are traveling in winter and raincoats and umbrellas during the monsoon. If you are planning a camping or hiking trip, pack your own hiking and camping gear including leech-socks.