One of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in India, Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve was established in the verdant stretches of Kerala in 1895 and declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. The Periyar Widlife Sanctuary covers an area of 777 sq km, out of which 360 sq km is under thick and dense evergreen forests. Surrounded by the dense forests, it is quite popular for the Periyar Lake.
An ideal habitat for Indian Elephant, you can see this mighty herbivore living in accord with the ferocious carnivore – Tiger – in the national park. Whereas the wooded hills and the forest provide shelter to the resident animals, the Periyar Lake is the vast water resource, which quenches their thirst anytime and every time. This national park & the tiger reserve is rated as one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India for wildlife photography, bird watching, elephant herds and tiger watching.
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. 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
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.
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.
The Kerala’s picturesque and beautiful cardamom 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.
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.
Mangala Devi temple
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
The 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 available at the Wildlife Information Centre (near the boat jetty) in Thekkady. The tourists have to pay extra charges for the guided tours of the sanctuary and the boat trips.
Tourist Information Centre
Field Director, Project Tiger, Kanjikuzhi, Kottayam, Kerala.