Situated very close to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the Kerala town of Thekkady is every travel enthusiasts’ dream. Surrounded by the lush greenery of the Periyar forsest, Thekkady is home to a number of tea estates and spice plantations. It offers great options for every kind of traveler, whether it is sightseeing, adventure, activities or just relaxation and leisure.
Easily counted as one of the most fascinating natural wildlife reserves, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, provides you the most unique experience of viewing wildlife from the safe havens of a boat on the lake. While the 360 sq km evergreen dense forest is home to a number of species of wild animals and birds including the tiger, Periyar is almost synonymous with the wild herds of elephants that come down to play near the lake. Viewing this from close quarters during the boat safari is indeed wonderful.
While the boat safari is not to be missed, a guided tour around one of the numerous spice plantations in the area can be as interesting as is informative. Also, if you are not someone who likes to sit back and relax in the exotic locales, you can opt for a bout of rich cultural experience by watching a show of the traditional Kathakalli dance and/or a gallant display by the connoisseurs of the traditional martial art of Kerala, Kalaripayattu.
In a mood for something more adventurous on our second trip to Thekkady, we decided to do the popular Jeep safari which is essentially an exciting drive of about 40 km along narrow, winding, treacherous terrains while offering stunning views of the landscape from the confines of an open jeep. The almost four hour drive is a great way to view the mystic hills and its panoramic peaks, traversing paths that can be negotiated using a four wheel drive only.
Driving from Thekkady along Vendiperiyar into the interiors along hilly roads lined with tea estates the safari includes the picturesque view of Parunthumpara, view-points in Sathram and the vistas of the Sabrimala forest. The jeep is parked on the lush green meadows at each point where one can alight and soak in the natural beauty of the magnificent green landscapes. The Periyar forest border is visible from one such point and per our guide wildlife including deer and elephants can be abundantly spotted on the hills during the early hours of the morning. The view of the orange orchards, waterfalls, natural streams flowing along the rocks and endless stretches of lemon grass bushes along the way complete the pretty picture. Complimenting this is the exhilarating off-road experience the ride offers.
Do not forget to visit one of the tiny tea stalls in the villages on your way back, while you can sample a truly refreshing tea here, you can also pick up some fresh forest honey and spices as well. While there are a number of travel agents in Thekkady who offer the safari tours, be sure to do your own research and enquire with at least a few of them before zeroing on one.