Tigers hunt the large herbivores including sambar and other deer, gaur, wild boar, etc. The tiger’s beauty and strength are beyond compare. No one can ever forget the first sighting of this great cat in the wild . Even a brief glance is an unforgettable experience. But it is a shy and alert animal, hence difficult to see and observe at ease.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, locating in Thekkady is the perfect example of nature’s bounty with great scenic beauty and rich biodiversity. In this astounding location of Kerala, the Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is considered as the most protected area for the elephants and the tigers. One of the most renowned national parks in South India, the Periyar National Park is set high at the Western Ghat ranges. The protected area is widespread along the area of 925 sq km (357 sq mi). The rest of 350 sq km (140 sq mi) of the core zone was declared as the Periyar National Park in the year 1982.
The park is being adorned with a picturesque lake at the heart of the sanctuary which is an artificial 100 years old lake at Thekkady and is basically known for its wild elephants and thickly established Western Ghats forests. Many of the intense valleys of Periyar contain tropical evergreen forest with extremely thick tree cover with hardly any sun-rays to get penetrated. These trees are fully grown at the amazing heights of up to 130-140 feet. Some of the areas in the park contain marshy grasslands near the edges of the lake and other water bodies. Spread out across the park are also patches of semi-evergreen forest used as important cover by many of the animal species.
Major Wildlife Attractions in Periyar National Park
The tiger is the main attraction in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. An estimated 40 of these magnificent beasts inhabit the Reserve. The Indian tiger is a large animal averaging a little less than 3m. in length. This great cat is a solitary animal except when courting or when a tigress is with her cubs. The cubs only leave their mother after reaching maturity at the age of about 2 years.
Elephants live in herds with a leader which is often an old and experienced cow. A herd also has a master bull which dominates other bulls. Not all bull elephants have tusks and those without are called makhnas. Cow elephants in India, unlike in Africa, do not have tusks. This enormous animal is the largest of the land mammals. It requires ten to fifteen hours of grazing everyday. It feeds on grass, tree barks and so on. The elephant is a very intelligent animal, has a highly developed sense of smell and hearing but its young are sometimes attacked by tigers, but this is very rare as the herd defends its young extremely efficiently and even ferociously. Man, of course, has hunted this great animal for ivory for hundreds of years, but today the elephant, found in many forests in India, is a protected animal.
The beautiful Malabar squirrel and flying squirrel are common sights in this sanctuary.
Deer of some sort is usually found in abundance particularly the spotted deer and the sambar deer.
The Wild Pig
The wild pig is an opportunistic feeder and is found in large numbers.
Periyar Tiger Reserve is rich in Bird life. Birds such as Malabar Hornbill, Grey heron, Jungle fowl and Jungle Mynah live in the sanctuary. 266 species of birds are positively recorded. Among the common aquatic birds are Darter or snake bird and Cormorant. While swimming the snake-like neck and beak remain above water. Fish is the main food. Dabchick or little grebe, squat and tailless duck is the Local migrant and is the smallest swimming bird of the locality. This expert diver feeds on aquatic insects and tadpoles.
White necked stork, feeds during the day and roosts on trees at the night. During October-May, the bird population explodes in Periyar. Lesser Pied King fisher is another common bird in the lake catching fish that could be hunted from the water. Also takes tadpoles and aquatic insects. Nests in horizontal tunnels, dug on the bank of river, ending in an egg chamber.
Great Indian Hornbill is seen in evergreen areas. The largest population in western Ghat is at Periyar and is noisy and distinctive in flight. They nest on the natural hole of tree, where the female sits almost closing the hole and lays the eggs and remains there till incubation is over. Male bird collects food and supplies to female and the young ones till they are able to fly. The Woodpecker is the resident of the deciduous forest. Food is mainly black ants. Nests in holes excavated on trees. Brahminy Kite is seen singly or in pairs. Breeds in the area. Feeds on offal, fish, frog and small snakes.
Poisonous snakes like Cobras, Vipers, Kraits, and a number of non poisonous snakes forms the reptilian life of the Periyar Reserve. Monitor lizards are also frequently sighted in the forests. Pythons are regularly seen while trekking and in the evergreen areas the King cobra is sighted.
Situated just 4-kms from Periyar, Kumily is a growing town where tourism is fastly catching up just like the spice trade, the major occupation of this small town. The town is also well equipped with the excellent hotels and resorts for accommodation.
Periyar and Kumily are the most convenient points from which visitors can easily explore Kerala’s beautiful Cardamom hills. Guide will approach you at offers of trips via jeep or taxi to the hills and if you can get a group together, these trips work out as a good travel value.
Boat Cruises :
Boat cruises make the best option to check out the wilds of Periyar Sanctuary.Today the Periyar lake presents an excellent boating spot for tourists. Although it is unusual to see many animals from the boats, still you spot a family of Elephants, Wild Boar, and Sambar Deer by the water’s edge. The upper deck is best for wildlife viewing when taking a boat cruise, but better turn up half an hour early to get the best seat. To maximise you chances, take the 7.00 am boat. You can also consider renting your own boat.
Best Time to Visit Periyar
The best season to visit Periyar wildlife sanctuary is from the months of October and June.
How to Get there
By Air : Kochi (Cochin) at 200-kms or Madurai in Tamil Nadu at140-kms are the nearest airports from Periyar.
By Rail : Kottayam at 114- kms is the nearest rail head from Periyar.
By Road : Kumily, the nearest town from Periyar is well served by both state and private buses from Kottayam, Ernakulam and Madurai in Tamil Nadu.