Complete with spice plantations, tea gardens, a wildlife sanctuary and a thriving indigenous tribe population, Thekkady is a traveller’s delight. The Periyar Tiger Reserve here is the area’s main attraction. Most resorts and hotels centre around the town of Kumily, a mere stone’s throw away from the reserve. Probably the only reserve in the world that allows tourists to camp and trek inside the forest area, the sanctuary does live up to its high expectations, with thrillingly well-beautifully curated activities. Float on reservoir waters on quaint bamboo rafts as you spot Malabar Hornbills gliding through the treetops. The reserve houses indigenous tribes who still feed off the produce of this forest, maintaining a symbiotic relationship. Erstwhile sandalwood smugglers and poachers have now turned protectors and guides of the jungle, and tales of their lives make for interesting night stories by the campfire. Elephant safaris, jeep and boat rides as well give you a glimpse into a life otherwise unknown. Witness tribal culture at its best in their dances organised by the Forest Department. The hills around Thekkady sport sprawling spice plantations and tea gardens, some of which date back to the British era. Featured even on BBC’s Around the World in 80 Gardens, spice gardens here are well worth a visit as well.
Place to visit in Thekkady
Periyar Tiger Trail
Periyar Tiger Trail
Bear witness to the mind-altering sight of the majestic beast balancing itself ever so lightly on a low-hanging branch with low rumbling growls accompanied by a malicious leer. Be guided across trails and streams, profusely clicking away with your camera, for an experience you’re definitely not likely to easily forget. Or rather you may never want to.
Spice plantations of Spring Valley
Featured on BBC’s ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’, Spring Valley offers a venture into the aromatic world of the spice plantations that they hold in high regard. The lingering combined fragrance of cloves, nutmeg, and the like, is surprisingly not overwhelming, especially not to the extent one would expect it to be!
Walk and raft your way through the spectacular forest that is the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Follow your head tracker under the guidance of the forest beat officer to spot a variety of jungle dwellers. A variance in perspective, you get to see the wild through your own eyes while rowing through the enigmatic Periyar or scampering across the dense vegetation.
Dance the Tribal Way
Tribal Dance at Periyar
Blend into the tribes living on the periphery of the Periyar Tiger Reserve surviving on the bare necessities, just like the song! Move to the jungle beat as the tribal youth shows you how they really get down. This is where you really let loose and go wild. Pun intended.
Night Safari in Periyar Tiger Reserve
Night Safari at Periyar
Follow the head tracker through the thick forests in the dead of night with nothing but a flashlight to reveal the way. Get an authentic experience of the life in the wild. Imagine the ‘Blair Witch Project’ meets the ‘Crocodile Hunter’, only without the ghosts and the fear for own well-being. Feel the adrenaline-rush of traipsing across thick forests on the lookout for intriguing wildlife.
Best time to visit Thekkady
For clearer skies, opt for a slot between early September to the end of March. The beaches look their best early November through to March as well, so look out for some spectacular sunsets. Mid-October and November does see a fair amount of rain with the North-West monsoons. Sultry summers set in from April to the end of May with fairly high outdoor temperatures. Monsoons arrive by the first week of June right through to the end of August. Cool temperatures with overcast skies and green all around make this a visit like none other.
Things to carry
• Light clothing and sandals, a light jacket for cooler evenings • An umbrella if you’re here in the monsoons • Mosquito repellent and sunscreen • Chargers and prescription medication.