is as sublime as the destination itself. A scenic
journey past mistyped mountains, spice plantations and open grasslands lined
with spectacular waterfalls and delightful trekking trails forms the access
to your hideaway here. Perched amidst dense greenery in the outskirts of the
Periyar Tiger Reserve
. Throwing up pleasant surprises like wild
boars scuttling across the road in front, as you near the sanctuary. Which,
sprawling across 7777 sq. kms, is one of the largest in India.
On arrival, you can settle into the summer palace of the former Maharaja of
Travancore now renovated into the Lake Palace Hotel - which has changed
little since the days of royal ownership. Satisfying the most dedicated
romantic. Set alluringly on a small island within the picturesque Periyar
Lake, the hotel has six imperial rooms with black wooden furniture and
spacious verandahs forming an ideal base for game-viewing.
Or you can choose from the 30 rooms offered at Aranya Nivas, the gracious
old stone structure serving as the main sanctuary lodge at the head of the
The more adventurous can even opt for accommodation designed along the
lines of a jungle lodge with cottages built on eleve-foot stilts like the
Indian 'machans,' offering fascinating tree-top views of the beautiful
A boat safari on the Periyar Lake - a nineteenth century reservioir around
which the sanctuary is based - extends a life-time's chance to sport exotic
wildlife in its natural habitat. Like the eccentric bathing habits of the
wild elephants that come down to the lake. Squealing, swimming and spraying
each other with mud. Unmindful of eyes - both yours and your camera's -
training on them. and herds of bisons ambling across one thick range of bush
to another. Timing your trip in the evening raises the possibility of
glimpsing the mouse deer, flying squirrels, wild boars and otters that
populate these hills.
Periyar is one of the few Indian reserves which allows trekking. However, be
guarded against leeches. Wearing insect repellant on socks over trousers is
one stock measure against them.
Trekking with a local guide familiarizes you to the rare birds, trees and
flowers that are come across here. And also sets up your close encounter
with guar, barking deer, porcupines, langurs and macaques. Only the most
fortunate do eventually sight a rare predator - the tiger, the panther or
perhaps a pack of wild dogs. Though aquatic birds are relatively few here,
the Indian darter and black-necked stork are common. However, the forest is
home to an amazing variety of terrestrial birds such as the great Indian
hornbill, the Brahmin kite, the little cormorant, the pied kingfisher and
the golden oriole.
You can even set upon a walk through the bending lanes, which wind through
the plantations filled with the heady fragrance of fresh spice. Black peper,
cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. And an engaging visit to a tribal village
deep inside the forest provides your close-quarter observance of the curious
ways of neolithic life.