The Home of Royal Bengal Tigers
The Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve is situated in the southern state of Kerala. It is one of the most captivating wildlife parks in the world famous for its elephant and tiger population. Alongwith numerous wild animals and birds; the park is perfect for wildlife photography. Full of lakes, temples, and other tourist spots, the park is one of the better-managed wildlife sanctuaries in the country and in the enviable position of being a national park as well as a protected tiger reserve.
Swimming, angling, boat rides on the Periyar Lake and forest trekking are some of the activities that can be enjoyed here. The temperatures range from 21?C to 31?C during the summers through April and June with high levels of humidity. The monsoon season lasts from July to August, and brings heavy rainfall with the temperatures ranging from 19?C to 21?C. Winter lasts from October to March and is cool and pleasant. The best months to visit the park are from October to April. Periyar is today one of the most exciting biosphere reserves with a large variety of flora and fauna in the country.
Tourist Attractions in Periyar
Periyar offers a large number of activities with the premises of the reserve. For one, Periyar and elephants are synonymous and one cannot be thought of without the other. Herds of playful wild elephants have made Periyar Lake their favourite haunt for frolicking in the water. Scores of them can be witnessed bathing and swimming here. It is interesting to note that Indian female elephants do not posses tusks like their African relatives. Other inhabitants of Periyar include the leopard, wild dog, barking deer, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur (a primate), bonnet macaque, sambhar, porcupines, squirrels, gaur (Indian bison), wild boar, and sloth bear. There are approximately 40 tigers in the area as per the latest reports. The tigers, along with the Nilgiri tahrs (a kind of a wild goat), are elusive creatures. However, an early morning visit could be fruitful and you might be able to catch sight of one here.
Monitor lizards can be spotted amidst the rocky hinges along the lake, and several trekkers claim to have sighted pythons, king cobras, and flying lizards. Also, about 260 species of birds can be found at Periyar. These include darters, cormorants, ibises, grey herons, mynas, flycatchers, orioles, wood pigeons, kingfishers, kites, ospreys, thrushes, and an appreciable number of blue-winged parakeets.
Animals spend a lot of time near the lake during the summer months of March and April. Animals can be seen from motorboats on the lake or from watchtowers. A special permission is required to travel by boat to the source of the artificial lake, the River Periyar. This area is generally not open for tourists, but is the favourite haunt of the sloth bear. There is a good chance of spotting an occasional tiger in this relatively peaceful corner of the forest. One can also form a group and go on a walking tour with locally available guides. The flora here is mainly composed of marshy grasslands, with forests that are a mixture of grasslands, fire-resistant low-growth vegetation, deciduous forests, semi-evergreens, and tropical evergreens.
Excursions in Periyar
Situated on the banks of Vembanad Lake, the largest lake in Kerala, at a distance of around 133 km from Periyar is Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. The place is famous for its bird-watching activities and cruising on the scenic backwaters.
Kottayam is a major railway hub and commercial center that is famous for its rubber plantations. There are many churches and a Shiva temple in the city.
There are some tribal villages around Periyar, which are worth a visit. The tribal people are expert fishermen and farmers. Some are still engaged in the traditional practice of collecting honey of dangerous hill bees. They have built interesting tree dwellings. These dwellings do not signify a 'perched' existence. Quite the contrary, they are comfortable watchtowers for taking note of any wild pig or elephant in the area that might ruin the cultivated fields.
How to Reach Periyar
The airports nearest to Periyar are Madurai (140 km) and Cochin (200 km). Cochin is a major airport with regular connections with other Indian cities as well as the cities in the Gulf countries. The nearest major rail junction, on the other hand, is Kottayam (120 km). Periyar is connected with most of the cities in the region as well as other parts of the country with regular trains.
The Periyar Park is full of lakes and the only way to move around from one part to another part is on boats. Motorboats ply inside the park and since free movement is not allowed in the park region, the services of a guide are required.
Important Travel Information
During summers, light cotton garments are recommended while for the winters, cottons and light woollens are suitable. Those planning a trekking expedition should keep a look out for snakes in their vicinity. Forest rest houses situated in the park's tourist complex area offer good accommodation facilities. The Lake Palace at Eddapaliyam, which was once the royal residence of the Maharaja of Travancore, and Spice Village are two good options for accommodation in the area.
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