The Periyar Tiger Reserve, located in Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts of Kerala State in South India is one of the 27 reserves in India meant for the conservation of the big cat – the Tiger. This 777 sq. km. tiger reserve is home to rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna and forms the major watershed of two important rivers of Kerala, the Periyar and the Pamba.
The tiger reserve has a rich diversity of animals. The diverse forest types found here support around several mammalian species, huge variety of birds and the region has an appreciable presence of reptilian and fish life. The tiger reserve is also home to around a large number of butterfly species.
Even though dedicated for the conservation tigers, the Periyar Tiger Reserve is noted for its good elephant population. These gentle giants can be seen roaming around in herds, especially at the lake fringes. Other animal members that have a credible presence in the tiger reserve are the Gaur, the Sambar, which is the largest among deer types in India and the wild pig.
Visitors to the tiger reserve can also spot the highly endangered Nilgiri tahr, found in the high altitude grasslands of Mangaladevi; primates like the Nilgiri langur, the highly endangered Lion-tailed macaque; Malabar giant squirrel; the endangered Small travancore flying squirrel; the more frequently seen Large flying squirrel and the endangered and endemic Fruit bat; the rarest among bats, which was first recorded in the region by the famous ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali. While the Striped necked mongoose is not uncommon, found in the semi-evergreen and evergreen forests, the Nilgiri marten is extremely rare and endemic one in this region.
For avid bird watchers, the tiger reserve is a veritable paradise and is noted for Raptors, Water birds, Galliform birds, Pigeons, Woodpeckers and Passerines. The region also support good number of butterfly species. Southern bird wing, Common rose, Malabar rose, Common Mormon, Bluebottle, Common albatross, Great eggfly, Evening brown, Jezebel, Clipper, Common palmfly are among the 160 odd butterfly species found here.
The reptilian species in the Tiger Reserve would come to around 45 and include 30 species of snakes,13 species
of lizards and two species of turtles. Among the snakes, all the four deadly venomous species found in Kerala such as King cobra, Cobra, Russels viper and Krait can be found here. Flying lizard, Forest dwarf gecko and the Green calotes are some of the other fairly distributed reptiles in the region.
At Periyar Tiger Reserve majority of the natural vegetation here being tropical evergreen and semi evergreen forests, the region is also noted for its flower power. The reserve has more than 50% of the entire flowering plants of Kerala. Nearly 65% of Kerala’s orchid varieties are found in this tiger reserve. The fish wealth in the Periyar Tiger Reserve is quite appreciable and has four endemic species.
And the region is a treasure trove of medicinal plants. More than 350 species have been recognized as medicinally important with good percentage of them in the form of trees and the rest herbs and shrubs. Of late, the authorities of the Periyar Tiger Reserve transformed it into a destination for visitors to experience and understand the many facets of wildlife and other forest resources.
People oriented and park centered community based ecotourism is the hallmark of Periyar Tiger Reserve. These programs are conducted by local people responsible for the surveillance of the vulnerable parts of the reserve. By taking tourists along, they are involved in the conservation of the forests of Periyar and some valuable revenue is generated for community welfare.
Tourists can get involved are Nature Walk – The guided day trek; The Periyar Tiger Trail – Adventure trekking and camping; Border Hiking – Protection oriented range hiking; Bamboo Rafting; Jungle Patrol, Shepherding the jungle; Tribal Heritage – A peep into the past; Jungle Inn – Jungle in the night; The Bamboo Grove – Eco lodge and Centre for experiential learning and Bullock cart discoveries.
Periyar Tiger Reserve, the placid water of Lake Periyar is an inviting proposition. In the morning with stubs of tress rising here and there in the lake, the lingering morning mist caresses the water and slowly the Sun breaks through spreading its warmth. And then one can sight cormorants and darter birds, perched on top of the worn out tree trunks, spreading out their wings to dry out. Boating in the lake amidst this ethereal setting is quite fascinating. While cruising on the lake, one can appreciate rolling hillocks of the Western Ghats and the slopes of grasslands that slowly merge with the forest full of thick canopied trees. Another delightful experience of boating here is when you sight animals as they roam on the banks of the lake; like herds of elephants, gaur, spotted dear, wild pigs etc.
The best season to visit the tiger reserve is September to May. The months of March and April constitute the driest part of the year, because of which the animals spend a lot of time near the lake in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Even the tiger may be spotted approaching the waters in the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
By road: Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady is about 4 km from Kumili in Idukki district, and is well connected by road from all major towns of Kerala.
Nearest railway stations: Kottayam, about 114 km; Changanassery, about 120 km.
Nearest airports: Madurai, about 140 km; Cochin International Airport, about 190 km.
Periyar Tiger Reserve