Set amid lush forests and verdant mountains, this hill station is definitely a marvellous tourist spot. The most striking area of Thekkady is the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a must-visit tourist spot. At the centre of the sanctuary is the manmade Periyar Lake. Besides having boating facilities, the lake is a major waterhole for animals in the forests nearby. During the summer months from March to May, animals come to the lake frequently, and so, tourists brave the heat and visit the sanctuary. Elephants and wild boars are the most spotted ones at the lake.
The kings of Travancore used to visit these forests, and it was declared reserved forests in 1899. The king at the time appointed S.C.H. Robinson as the area’s first game warden. It was on his opinion the reserved forest was made a sanctuary in the early 1930. After many years, in 1978, under the Project Tiger, it was declared a tiger reserve. And in 1982, major portions of the reserve came to be a national park. The Mullaperyiar Dam, over the Periyar River, was designed by British engineer, Colonel J. Pennycuick. It was built in 1895. This 170-foot-long dam provides water for villages in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The sanctuary comprises semi-evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests, grasslands, eucalyptus plantations and tropical evergreen forests, or Sholas. The forests are home to more than 300 recognised medicinal plants. Also found are 145 species of beautiful orchids. Elephant, tiger, Nilgiri Langur, civet cat, bonnet macaque, sambar and spotted deer, Nilgiri tahr, leopard and gaur are found here. A lot of birds are found here. Some of them are migratory birds from the Himalayas and Siberia. The great pied hornbill, Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiri wood pigeon, blue winged parakeet, sunbird, crimson throated barbet, Rufous babbler, Nilgiri flycatcher, forest eagle owl and the Ceylon frogmouth are some of the birds found within the park.
The endangered lion-tailed macaque population is confined to a small area in the sanctuary. So are the Malabar giant squirrel and the Travancore flying squirrel. One of the world’s rarest bats is the Salim Ali’s fruit bat, found in the Periyar region. The Nilgiri marten, too, is an endangered species.
In order to keep track of the sanctuary’s flora and fauna, the forest department has erected three watchtowers. They are located at Thannikudi, Edappalayam and Manakkavala. For tourists, there is a hiking and rafting activities in the tiger reserve. While rafting, you can enjoy the forests and lakes around. You can see herds of elephants or a small group of deer here. An armed guard will guide you through the three-hour journey. Trekking trails within the park provide an opportunity to walk with nature. You can also go birdwatching, too.
The Periyar Tiger Reserve is divided into core zone, buffer zone and tourism zone. This facilitates the regulation of tourist traffic within the reserve, ensuring the proper conservation of the cats. The tourism zone makes way for boating, trekking, elephant safaris and nature camping.
For those interested in learning the history of the park and its original human inhabitants, there is a Tribal Heritage Museum inside the tribal settlement. You’ll find tribal gear, weapons, tribal medicines hunting equipment and bamboo products. A tribal guide can be hired to take you through tribal villages and visit the museum and explain its intricacies.
How to reach
Thekkady is 190km from Cochin airport. Theni, in Tamil Nadu, has the nearest railhead, at 60km away. Kottayam is only 120km away. It is connected by buses to Kottayam, Cochin and Trivandrum.
- “With the best of trekking, wildlife safaris and spacious homestays, why would you choose any other town in Kerala?”Karthik Sujat
- “Waterfalls, blue hills, lakes and a tiger reserve. Great for an adventure-filled vacation.”Santhosh Wankid
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