Periyar Nature Reserve, India

Our next stop was Periyar National Park. Although it is only 91.5kms from Munnar, the roads are steep & windy & last year’s floods have washed away whole segments & closed some roads. What remains is pot holed & bumpy.

We arrived around 1pm & headed for our Homestay in Thekkady which is right by the Park & the cheapest yet at £11 per night. It was spotlessly clean & included breakfast. We ended up with a family room due to us messing up the dates of our booking.

What to do there

The Park is the main attraction & formally known as the ‘Periyar Tiger Reserve’.

OK, first things first: do not expect to see any tigers. They are few in numbers & the park is vast. So set your expectations before you arrive realistically.

Secondly, it’s not a safari, so any animals you may see will be as a matter of chance.

Your driver (& countless guys in he street) will try to sell you a Jeep Safari, or Rafting. It’s important to ask yourself why are you here & what are your objectives. If adrenaline is what you seek, then perhaps these are for you.

However, if your objective is nature, ask yourself how much you will see bombing along in a jeep or rafting?

Read the Trip Advisor reviews before you arrive to be clear on your requirements.

Alternatives:

The alternatives are not readily advertised as they are cheaper (& the profit margin isn’t as great). The Tourist Office will advise you, but you have to book them in an internet café in town (take your passport & cash, & they book online via their credit cards for you). The alternatives are:

Guided walks –

Either Forest or Lake based, a minimum of 4 people for 1400 rupees (£3.50pp approx). If 2 of you go, you still pay 1400 rupees. Entrance to the park is £4 pp extra.

Boat Trips on the Lake –

These were also around 350 rupees per person & you pay another 40 rupees for the bus to the Lake.

Our Experience – Forest Walk

We opted for the 7.30am Forest Walk (as we were told we were more likely to see animals & 4 others were already booked).

This is a 3hr walk & involves inclines & declines. Our warden (most are from the local tribes who live on the Park’s land) walked at a fast pace. Colin & I love walking, but the other four ladies seemed to struggle at times, especially with inclines, uneven ground or crossing muddy/stream sections.

Termites

What did we see?

Not much to be honest. Two types of squirrel (including Asia’s largest); brown monkeys & macaques; storks & a herd of bison (although these aren’t true bison as from the deer family). We also saw plenty of evidence of elephant presence (dung & footprints) but they remained elusive.

Verdict:

We’d already read the Trip Advisor reviews, so I hadn’t expected to see anything. Our guide was a knowledgeable young local & although he picked out some trees & plants, I think he could have filled the gap in wildlife spottings, with more on plant life or even insects, which we were all asking about. An energetic, tiring 3hrs with unfortunately, little seen.

Our Experience – Lake Boating

After the morning’s experience, I’d set my expectations low: a leisurely amble on a lake enjoying the scenery.

What did we see?

Within the first few minutes we’d already spotted: otters; bison; deer; various water birds and water buffalo. Later we saw 3 elephants in the trees. On the other boat was a lady I met afterwards, who gave her camera to one of the crew & he’d taken some amazing photos of water birds including two different kinds of Kingfishers & a whole family of otters (I wish our crew had pointed these out as well).

A young female macaque decided to join the queue for the boat

Verdict:

Well worth the money for the amount of wildlife seen. Other passengers had hired binoculars, but we’d been unaware of this & in hindsight a brilliant idea. The fact that we travelled in dry season & the water level was very low meant we had the opportunity to see the animals clearly as they came down to drink.

You also need a camera with a decent zoom as the wildlife is far away – sorry about the photos.

What else is there to do?

Like most of the town’s we’ve visited so far, there are evening shows of
Kathakali which is one of the major forms of classical Indian dance. distinguished by the elaborately colorful make-up, costumes and facemasks that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. ‘Dance’ is focused on eye & facial movements.

Our driver had recommended going whilst in Thekkady, so we could team it up with an evening of traditional Kalaripayattu (combination of martial arts & gymnastics).

Our trip to Periyar & Thekkady feels rather touristy & format (which is unlike us). The town has far more tourists than the other two places we’ve visited so far & food prices reflect this (but still really cheap).

Next we are heading to the Backwaters & have a ‘treat’ in store for ourselves …

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