Periyar National Park
Periyar extends around the banks of a huge artificial lake that was created by the damming of the Periyar River in 1895.
Periyar is located in Thekkady, around 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from Kumili in the Idukki district of central Kerala.
How to Get to Periyar:
The closest airports are at Maduri in Tamil Nadu (130 kilometers or 80 miles away) and Kochi in Kerala (190 kilometers or 118 miles away). The nearest railways station is at Kottayam, 114 kilometers (70 miles) away. The scenery on the way to Periyar is beautiful, and includes tea estates and spice gardens.
Periyar Opening Hours:
Periyar is open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Forest Department and the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation conduct two hour slow boat trips inside the park. The first one leaves at 7 a.m. and offers the best chance of seeing animals, along with the last one at 4 p.m. Other departures are at 9.30 a.m., 11.30 a.m., and 2 p.m. Guided nature walks that last for around three hours start between 7.00 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. in the morning, and 2.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon. All day border hikes and bamboo rafting trips leave at 8 a.m.
Foreigners pay 300 rupees ($7) to enter the national park. Boat trips cost 110 rupees for the upper deck and 75 rupees for the lower deck. Visitors should book their tickets well in advance from the boat jetty, near the Wildlife Information Center. It's possible to hire your own boat from the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation and this is highly recommended to avoid the hoards of people and noisy children on the other boats. Nature walks cost 100 rupees per person, and bamboo rafting 1,000 rupees per person. Tiger Trail treks are 3,000 rupees ($70) for one night and 5,000 rupees ($115) for 3 nights.
Periyar Travel Tips:
Safaris are only carried out by boat, making Periyar a peaceful place to be. The lake is particularly captivating at sunset. However, the best way to explore Periyar and see the wildlife is to participate in one of the many eco-tourism activities that are on offer. These include hikes through the forest with reformed poachers as guides, bamboo rafting, night time jungle patrols, trips to local villages on bullock carts, and tribal heritage visits.
Visiting Periyar During the Monsoon:
Periyar National Park is one of the few national parks in India to remain open during the monsoon. Most of the activities in Periyar are still weather dependent, but boat trips operate throughout the monsoon season. If you do visit Periyar during monsoon time and go trekking, keep in mind that leeches also come with the rains so make sure you wear the leech proof socks that are available at the park.
Wildlife in Periyar National Park:
Besides the elephant and tiger, the other animals commonly seen in the Periyar National Park are Gaur, Wild Pigs, Sambhar, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Dole and Indian Wild Dog. On account of the persistent efforts of the zoo officials, the number of tigers in the Periyar National Park has rose to forty. Four primate species found at Periyar, which act as the centre of attraction, are the rare lion-tailed macaque, the Nilgiri Langur, Common Langur and Bonnet Macaque. Periyar is also the only habitat of the Nilgiri Tahr, which is not seen easily.
More than 100 species of butterfly and at least 240 bird species inhabit the area. The park is surrounded by the aromatic spice gardens. These gardens can be deeply explored by the help of good guides who elaborate the medicinal value of each spice.
A large number of bird species at Periyar National Park comprise of Darters, Cormorants, Kingfishers, and the great Malabar Hornbill and racket-tailed Drongoes.
A number of Monitor Lizards dominate the reptile population. The tourists can also be fortunate enough to view a Python or even sometimes a King Cobra. The fresh and unpolluted air and the moist deciduous forests ably define the real beauty of 'The God's Own Country' - Kerala. The flying lizard and the flying snake are unusual species found at Periyar National Park.
Special Attractions in Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park IndiaPeriyar Lake: The Periyar Lake attracts grey heron, ibis, the great Malabar hornbill and grey hornbill. The other birds include kingfishers, ospreys and kites as well as orioles, hill mynas, racket tailed drongos, parakeets, including the unusual blue winged parakeet and flycatchers.
Kumily : You can go for a short excursion to Kumily, just 4-kms away from Periyar. The former spice trade centre, the town is still growing the spices largely. There are plenty opportunities for accommodation in the hotels and resorts in the town.
Cardamom Hills : Then Kerala's picturesque and beautiful cardomom hills can be easily accessed from Periyar and Kumily. A guide who accompanies you in the jeep or taxi elaborates and directs you towards the correct position to have a panoramic view of the hills.
Boat Cruises : The best way to explore the nook and corner of the Periyar National Park is through the two hour Boat Cruises in the early morning or evening hours. The Periyar Lake provides an excellent boating spot to the tourists where one can see the herds of elephants, bathing animals and even the herds of deer.
Apart from the elephant safari in the park and the boat cruises on the lake; one can also enjoy the treks to the ruined Mangala Devi temple - an ages old beautiful old stone temple amidst the Thekkady forest.
Jeep and elephant safaris can also take you through the offbeat tracks. You can also hire a bike till the park's entrance. A morning 'trek' can also be equally rewarding for game watching. You can discover the wildlife as well as the pug marks while on your jungle tour.
When to Visit Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park IndiaThe best time to visit Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is from October to June. The tourists flock the place particularly in December and January. During summer season, it is quite easy to spot elephants and chital (spotted deer) as they gather near the lake. Avoid weekends for your Periyar tour as the place gets overcrowded for the whole day.
How to Reach Periyar National Park:
By Air : The nearest airports from Periyar are Kochi (Cochin) at 200-kms or Madurai in Tamil Nadu at 140-kms from Periyar.
By Rail : The nearest railhead from Periyar is at Kottayam, which lies at a distance of 114-kms.
By Road : The nearest town from Periyar is Kumily, well connected with Kottayam, Ernakulam and Madurai in Tamil Nadu by regular and frequent buses. Buses are available from Ernakulam (6 hours), Kottayam (4 hours), Trivandrum (8 hours), Kovalam (9 hours), Munnar (4 ½ hours) and Kodaikanal (6 hours).
After heavy rains or monsoon, the chances of wildlife and bird watching become rare as the animals gather at the lake only when there is no water source available inside the Periyar National Park.
The tourists have to obtain entry permits to visit Periyar available at the Wildlife Information Centre (near the boat jetty) in Thekkady. For foreigners, the permit charges are Rs 50, which is valid for five days. The tourists have to pay extra charges for the guided tours of the sanctuary and the boat trips.