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Periyar Tiger Reserve

Periyar Tiger Reserve

South India

The Periyar Tiger Reserve in ‘God’s Own Country’ of Kerala is a spectacular expanse of greenery and seemingly unending chain of hills in the southern region of the Western Ghats, with some of the best wildlife activities for keen wildlife visitors to enjoy. The reserve along the river Periyar, which originates in the heart of these forests, spreads over an area of 925 sq km amidst Thekkady’s spice-scented Cardamom Hills. More than 60 species of mammals are found here; including the Asiatic elephant, Bengal tiger, Indian bison, sambar deer, Indian wild dog, leopard and barking deer. Periyar is, perhaps, one of the best reserves in India to observe families of Asiatic elephants together by the lake shore. The Western Ghats are believed to be amongst the oldest mountain chains in the world, and boasts of a wealth of diverse flora, fauna and terrain. The reserve is bordered by the Kerala-Tamil Nadu interstate line from Kumily in the north, the Ranni and Kakki reserved forests, a...nd the Kottayam division forests. The artificially-created Periyar Lake that covers 26 sq km is the park’s nucleus and main visitor focus. The forests around the lake were declared reserve forests in 1899 by the then Maharaja of Travancore, and thereafter a tiger reserve in 1978 under Project Tiger. In 1982, the core area of the park was notified as a national park. The highest peak in the park is the 2,019 m-high Kottamala. The reserve nestles beautiful trails for treks and nature walks. Interestingly, it also offers opportunities for night-trekking deep into the forests, which has been a crowd-puller in recent years. Periyar Tiger Reserve has 1,965 species of flowering plants, including 171 grass varieties and 143 species of orchids. The only south Indian conifer, scientifically known as Podocarpus Wallichianus, grows in the forests here. Though elusive and mostly confined to the quiet interiors, more than 40 tigers prowl these forests. Smooth-coated otters are often seen near the lake. Nilgiri tahrs are aplenty in the high-altitude rocky areas, whereas the endangered lion-tailed macaques are seen in the interior evergreen forests. Both the bonnet macaques and Nilgiri langurs inhabit the trees here. Similarly, the reserve also boasts of a rich variety of amphibians, fish and reptiles. The reserve has recorded 322 bird species, who are mostly permanent residents.  
Large diesel boats ply water borne safaris to watch animals from safe distances on the Periyar lake, but offer a scenic yet crowded and poor visitor interpretation at the present time. Far better are the nature walks and night treks are also facilitated for visitors seeking the secrets of the jungle on foot; the forest department will arrange for trained local tribal community guide to accompany them. One can also opt to camp out in the forests for a night, with prior permission from the forest department. Tourists also spend time atop watchtowers, tucked away in the canopy, quietly observing the forests’ different life forms from afar.
Families of Asiatic elephants dominate the landscape in Periyar. What also makes for a splendid sight are the cautious Eurasian otters looking out for signs of danger while standing on their hindlegs. Three types of mahseer and other multi-coloured fish are found in the crystal-clear lake waters. Dholes, porcupine and wild boar register their presence in the forests. The fruit-bearing trees in these evergreen forests shelter and feed four highly-threatened species of primates - lion-tailed macaque, the bonnet macaque, the Nilgiri langur and the common langur. Keep an eye out for the playful and colourful Malabar Giant Squirrels. Reptiles such as monitor and flying lizards, and golden flying snakes are also found here. Birders are usually enamoured by the fish-eating great cormorants, darters osprey, great hornbills and the Eurasian cuckoo, among others.
Travellers can visit an elephant sanctuary, and also opt for walks through the sweet-smelling spice plantations. The Kerala Ayurveda Museum in nearby Agadipetty is another favourite spot. An eco-tourism package for visits to Gavi is also available on prior request. Tourists also choose to indulge themselves with an authentic Ayurveda oil massage or martial arts and kathakali performances.
The Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, which sees an annual footfall of more than five million pilgrims, is located in the buffer zone of Periyar tiger reserve. In recent years, commercial and residential constructions have come up here due to the high influx of pilgrims, thereby impacting the forests’ biodiversity. Ecologists have, for long, been calling for the regulation of the number of these pilgrims to protect the region’s ecology. On a positive note, community-based eco-tourism initiatives launched by the park authorities have helped poachers and other forest-dependents seek alternative livelihoods. This has also helped minimise poaching in the reserve. Closer monitoring of Thekaddy’s tourism expansion needs to undertaken with limits set on its ongoing  impact.

Destination Information

How To Book

Lodges in the region do take care of bookings for their guests. You can also buy your tickets directly at Forest information Centre counters in the park. To book tickets online, please visit:

Park Timings

The park is open throughout the year from 6AM to 5PM every day. However, the boat rides are available only at specific times in a day. The park remains closed during floods or heavy rain.

Getting Around the Park

Boat rides are the most commonly-used mode of transport to move around the park. Serious wildlifers are also allowed to trek the forests with local guides, but with prior permission from the park officials.

Entry Fees

Rs 45/- for Indian tourist (adult) Rs.15/- for Indian child (below 12 years) Rs.500/- for foreign tourist (adult) Rs.180/- for foreign child (below 12 years) Rs.45/- extra for camera. Bus fare to the Park is Rs.20/-
By air: Madurai (About 140 km) and Cochin (About 190 km) are the nearest airports to Thekkady. By rail: Kottayam (110 km) is the nearest station By road: Kumily is about 4 km from Periyar
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Wildlife Travel Guide

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Nestled in Kerala’s spice-scented Thekkady highlands, Spice Village was conceived in 1991 at the beginning of a journey by its founder Jose Dominic into lodge sustainability, and now is part of his family’s multi award winning CGH Earth group.

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