Periyar Tiger Reserve

Periyar Tiger ReserveLocated in the Periyar Valley at Thekkady, this is the oldest and largest tiger reserve in Kerala. Spread across the foothills of the southern Western Ghats, this 777 sq km forestland is also home to the Asiatic elephant. A repository of rare and endangered flora and fauna, the valley is a major watershed for two important rivers – the Periyar and the Pamba.The famous Sabarimala shrine and the Mangala Devi Temple are also situated in the region.

This is one of the most prestigious regions on the high ranges of the Western Ghats. One of the world’s most fascinating natural wildlife sanctuaries, the Periyar Reserve is noted for its geomorphology, diverse wildlife and beautiful landscape. The drive to Thekkady itself is enchanting as the road winds through tranquil countryard, rich plantations and thick jungles. The sanctuary, declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978 under the Project Tiger Scheme, attracts travelers from all over the world. This is the only sanctuary in India where the wild elephant can be observed and photographed at close quarters. There are two watch towers in the Periyar forest.

At the centre of the reserve is the vast artificial lake created by a dam built by the British in 1895.Formed by the construction of the dam across the Mullaperiyar River,the lake harbours within itself a unique aquatic eco system. The numerous little islands in the lake are witness to the intricate inherent interrelationship among the terrestrial aquatic and subterranean life forms. A boat cruise on the lake is perhaps the best way to watch the wildlife in the reserve.Declared a sanctuary in 1950,the Periyar Reserve become part of Project Tiger, a Central Government initiative to protect the animal.

A combination of tropical, deciduous and evergreen forests and grasslands make this an ideal home for 62 species of mammals, 320 species of birds and 45 species of reptiles. There are numerous varieties of flowers and butterflies as well. A boat ride on the lake is a delightful way of spotting elephants and avifauna, for which the park is well known. If you are fortunate, you might even spot the pride of the sanctuary, the tiger. Although tiger sightings are not very common, there are enough of these magnificent felines around. Trackers routinely spot pugmarks.

Periyar Wildlife SanctuaryPeriyar Tiger Reserve is one of the largest and the best managed tiger reserves in India. Thousands of tourists visit it round the year, to savor the beauty of green shores frequented by animals – elephants, bisons, sambar, deer, barking deer, wild dogs – from tourist boats run by the forest department and KTDC.In such a sprawling forest, spotting a tiger is akin to picking that proverbial needle from the haystack. Still you should not be disappointed, for the chance sight to an elephant crossing the river, with a periscope of its truck jutting out of the water, is enough compensation.

Perhaps the best vantage point to unwind and relish the beauty of the jungle is to stay a night at Lake Palace, a formal summer palace sitting in the middle of Periyar Lake – a 20 minute boat ride from the main land.The Palace, now run by KTDC as a Premium Heritage Jungle Lodge, evokes an opulent sepia toned past, with photographs of viceroys, members of royalty, a former prime minister, adorning the walls of the reception room.The Jungle Lodge has six rooms. Spending a night in one with royal beds and frippery would indulge your wild imagination. In the morning you’d find yourself lazing on one of the chairs set outside the place. Your eyes would fall on the other shore, to catch in time a herd of elephants begin their mud bath.

A stay for one night in the Palace would set you back by Rs.14, 000 during off season.

Trekking Sites: Mangaladevi hills, Mullakkudy, Thannikudy, Vellimala etc.Forest treks are arranged by the Forest Department. For booking contect: The Wildlife Preseration Officer, Thekkady.Phone: 04869 222027, 2322058.For more details of eco tourism activities in Periyar see the listing on Eco Tourism in Periyar .

Contact

The chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Thiruvananthapuram – 695014.Phone 0471 2322217.

The Wildlife Preservation Officer, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady – 685536.Phone 04869 222027.

The Deputy Director,Periyar East Division,Thekkady P O,Kumily – 685536. Phone 04869 222027.

Getting There

By Air : The nearest airport is  at Madurai Airport,140 km,Kochi is 190 Km.

By rail : The nearest railhead are Theni -  60 km,Kottayam – 114 Km and Madurai – 140Km.

By Road : Kottayam – 114 km,Munnar– 110 km and Madurai – 140 km.Thekkady is on NH 19,which connects Munnar to the Periyar Tiger Reserve. A good road network connects to different tourist destinations and major towns in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.The entry point to the reserve is Thekkady,which is accessible by good roads from the airports of Madurai (140 Km) and Kochi (190 Km) and Thiruvananthapuram (272 Km).

Location: 9° 18’ – 9° 41’ North and 76° 55’ – 77° 25' East

Where to stay

Good hotels and resorts are available at Thekkady and Kumily. For details of hotels and resorts in Thekkady,see accommodation listing on http://halokerala.com/hotels/thekkady/

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