Bandipur -> Wayanad -> Kozhikode -> Guruvayur -> Cochin -> Periyar
Let’s work on the names first. There are three names you can use and mean the same. ‘Periyar Tiger Reserve’ is the entire protected forest area, covered under project tiger. ‘Thekkady’ is the place inside the park where tourists arrive to enjoy boat rides, go on treks or register for any tourist package offered by the reserve administration or Kerala Tourism. Kumily is the town head, a tourist town just outside the park. The names are often used interchangeably.
Kumily is a town high in the hills and has the lovable, cool hill station weather. Go to any corner of the town and look around, and you will not miss seeing a couple of hotels in all directions. Whether you are looking for a Rs.100 per night lodge, or a Rs.10,000 per night plush resort, you will find it in Kumily. It is a tourist town cashing in on the popularity of South India’s most popular wildlife reserve.
We arrived at Kumily in the morning and checked into the beautiful Coffee Inn, close to the reserve gates. It was around 11am by the time we settled down and headed to the sanctuary. A couple of birds – a very pretty White Bellied Treepie, a pair of Black Drongos and a big bunch of jungle babblers kept us amused just after the park entrance. As we drove forward, we got glimpses of the lake shore now and then through the trees. Periyar lake was a sight I wanted to see. The huge artificial lake appeared all around us once we reached Thekkady. It is a large freshwater body tucked between the hills, with dead trees popping up here and there in the middle of it. A few boats stood on the jetty waiting to carry tourists on a boat safari. We had some time left before the next boat-trip schedule, and we used it to wander around the park office.
Thekkady is a small place with tourist facilities like a canteen, a forest department office and a couple of hotels run by Kerala Tourism. A sign indicating rules of behaviour for the tourist mentioned boldly that alcohol is prohibited inside the park. And soon followed another sign from one of the Kerala Tourism Hotels in the park, welcoming you to their ‘beer parlour’! Tourists can avail an hour long boat ride facility at a nominal cost, where a large noisy boat that can take a hundred people will ferry you around the lake. There are other ways to go around the park, like chartered motor boat trip, man powered floats, or trekking, all of which are expensive.
We took the evening boat trip on the lake. Within a minute of start, we had moved far from the jetty and sailing into the lake in the middle of hills. Water in the lake is clean and clear and it feels good to be floating on it. It is probably the greenery around that gives the lake its green color. It was a cloudy day and it looked like it is going to rain anytime. In the first half hour, we saw a few big birds like the black necked stork and egrest, a tortoise and a bunch of wild buffaloes. It started pouring heavily on our way back and visibility was considerably reduced. The rain added to the beauty of the lake and the experience of the evergreen tropical forest. I loved every moment we spent in the water and wish it lasted longer. I hoped to come back here some time and spend many days floating in the lake surface and enjoy the views of the hills, the forest and see all the fauna that the forest conceals.
We returned to Thekkady next morning, and this time we walked the 3km stretch to Thekkady from the park entrance instead of driving. We encountered a few Samabar deers and Chitals on the way as we walked. After idling in Thekkady enjoying the beauty of the lake for a while, it was time for us to get back and move on. We started out of Kumily at around 12pm. It was our last day in Kerala and we were now driving back to Bangalore. We passed via the towns of Theni and Salem and reached Bangalore around 11 in the night, ending a six day long eventful journey.