Situated in Kerala’s Idukki district, at an altitude of 900-1800m above sea level, Thekkady is an ideal destination for adventure travellers and nature lovers alike. The region is home to the richly bio-diverse Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is an elephant and tiger reserve. Thekkady is so closely related to this renowned sanctuary that often the names Thekkady and Periyar are used interchangeably.
The wildlife reserve is one of the finest in India, with its bountiful treasures of tropical flora and fauna. It is home to many an endangered species and a rich tribal culture. The sanctuary is bound by mountain ridges and surrounds the Periyar Lake, the reservoir of the 120-year-old MullaperiyarDam. The lake and the meandering Periyar River flow through the forests and serve as a great way of spotting wildlife.
Apart from the forests, the rolling hills are also home to several spice plantations, speckled with small towns and villages. For those who love the outdoors, there are yet untrodden paths to explore and many a trek to go on.
The tropical evergreen forest is a treasure house of various species of plants. It has hundreds of flowering plants, over 150 species of grass and almost as many species of orchids. There are also several kinds of medicinal plants and herbs to be found. The trees include teak, sandalwood, banyan, jacaranda, mango, bamboo and many, many more.
Mammals: The sanctuary is home to about 35 species including the Asian elephant, tiger, Indian bison, sambar deer, Indian wild dog, leopard, barking deer and smooth-coated otter, which can be sighted during a boat cruise in the Periyar Lake. The Nilgiritahr is confined to the higher rocky areas whereas the endangered lion-tailed macaque can be found in the evergreen forests. Bonnet macaques and Nilgirilangur can be seen foraging from the trees near the boat landing. The Malabar giant squirrel is also a common sight.
There are about 265 species of birds here, including migrants. The Malabar grey hornbill, The Indian pied hornbill, whitebelliedtreepie, many species of drongos, woodpeckers, flycatchers, babblers, the spectacular Malabar trogon and many more can be seen near the boat landing.
Cobra, viper, krait, a number of non-poisonous snakes, and the Indian monitor lizard live in these forests.
Frogs like the colourful Malabar gliding frog, fungoid frog, bicoloured frog, many species of toads, and limbless caecilians make for interesting sightings.
The Periyar Lake and streams have several species of fish including the mahseer, the well-known and endangered game fish of India. The smooth-coated otter can be frequently spotted from the boat, so keep your eyes peeled.
Around the sanctuary are several plantations of tea, cardamom, pepper and coffee.
If you want to spot wildlife, there are a few watchtowers inside the wildlife park that serve as excellent vantage points. Reservations can be made at the Forest Information Centre, Thekkady. Ph: 322028
Nearest railway station: : Kottayam Railway Station, about 110km away.
Nearest airport: Madurai, about 140 km and Cochin International Airport, about 190km.