Thekkady is situated in the KeralaTamil Nadu border town of Kumily. It is 114 km from Madurai City and Madurai International Airport, 185 km from Cochin International Airport and 114 km from Kottayam railway station. The sanctuary is famous for its dense evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savanna grass lands. It is home to herds of elephants, sambar deer, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed Macaques and NilgiriLangurs.
The Thekkady wild life sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. The impressive artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River adds to the magic of the park. The greatest attraction of Periyar are the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake. Sanctuary can be accessed through a nature walk, or by boat. Though known as Tiger Reserve, Thekkady has a rich diversity of vertebrates. The diverse forest types, marshes, and a large aquatic habitat together support 62 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, 45 species of reptiles, 27 species of amphibians, and 38 species of fish.
About 160 butterfly species have been listed. Among the 62 species of mammals, many are rare, endemic and endangered. Periyar is prime elephant country and large herds are often sighted at the lake fringes. Small populations of the highly endangered NilgiriTahr are found in the high altitude grasslands of Mangaladevi. Four of the five primate species found in the Western Ghats are well represented in Periyar. While the NilgiriLangur enjoys a wide distribution in the moist forests, the highly endangered Lion Tailed Macaque are confined to the dense evergreen canopies. Malabar Giant Squirrel is common in the area.
The Tiger is found in all types of habitats though their density is much less in the evergreen forests. The population is estimated to be between 35–40.
Places to visit:
Vandanmedu: Vandanmedu is one of the world’s largest cardamom auction centers. An excursion through the wide spread cardamom plantations at Vandanmedu is an intoxicating experience.
Plantations: Murukady,Odamade, Vellaramkunnu. These are major Tea, Coffee, Cardamom, Pepper, Vanilla growing areas. A walk through the spice plantations of these areas can be a memorable experience.
Chellarkovil, (15 km): This little village slops to the famous grapes, coconut, cotton and vegetable growing areas of Tamil Nadu. Abundant scenic beauty and a silver cascade add to the charm of the place.
Pandikuzhi, (5 km): From its mountain top, one can enjoy the sleepy little village with its view of the plains. It is a feast for the eyes.
Vandanmedu, (25 km): The fragrance of the cardamom permeates this town. It is one of the world’s largest auction centers of cardamom.
Nature Walk: There are guided day treks available. Also there are different nature trails for the possible viewing of diverse habitats on the trekking routes, generally 4 to 5 km in length. This is an excellent opportunity to see wildlife, birds and a variety of butterflies. The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests scattered with marshy grasslands. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking at a time along each nature trail, accompanied by a trained tribal guide. The Nature walk is the right programto feel nature, and listen to the sounds of the woods and absorb its colors.
The Periyar Tiger Trail: This expedition is unique, as it is conducted by a team of poachers who turned protectors of the forests. The team members are dedicated and dependable with an intimate knowledge of the forest terrain. The programs are 1 night/2 days and 2 nights/3 days. The first day’s trek starts at 12 noon and ends by noon in the second or third day. The team consists of a maximum of 5 visitors, 5 guides and 2 forest officials. Normally 20 to 35 km of trekking distance will be covered, depending on the route chosen. Here, one could encounter many indigenous wildlife like Nilgirilangur, giant squirrel, elephant and in the rare occasion; even the tiger! The trek route passes through hills and valleys with a variety of tropical plants and wide-open spaces. En-route,vegetarian meals will be prepared and served and country tents will be pitched for holing up in the night. Trekking groups are accompanied by armed forest guards with good communication equipment, and geared to face any emergency situation. You will be able to listen to the unusual and strange adventure stories of the former poachers; now your guides and protectors of the forests. Preconditions for joining the tiger trail: Visitors who are medically fit and aged between15 – 65 are advised to take the tiger trail. Visitors should be ardent nature lovers willing to sacrifice some of the luxuries and comforts of a hotel.