Madurai to Periyar Wildlife Reserve, boat ride on Periyar Lake
Periyar Wildlife Reserve, boat ride on Periyar Lake, Kumily, Thekkady
The Journey: Chennai to Pondy, Kumbakonam, Tanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Periyar, Gavi, Vagaman, Vembanad, Kochi, Wayanad, Coorg, Mysore, Yelagiri, and back to Chennai
We had slept late and got up late but saved time by getting hot Idlis from a street vendor in front of the hotel. Finally we were on our way at 9:45 AM. We drove straight through, with one break at 12:30 for samosas and coffee at a wayside place. Thus we made it to ‘Periyar House’ by about 1:30 PM. First visitors must get a car entry permit (Rs.75/-) and adults entry (Rs.33 x 2) at the tourism office in Kumily (the permits are not available at the gate of the reserve) to enter the forest reserve. Periyar House, the boat house, and the other two KTDC places are about 2 Km inside the forest and visitors can drive in their own vehicles from 7 AM until 5 PM, after which no private vehicles can move from the gate till the Boat House, the only stretch of road available. Safaris are not available in the reserve. The first of two excursions available is the boat ride, trips every two hours from 7:30 AM until the last departure at 3:30 PM, 1.5 Hour boat ride costing Rs.225 per head. The second is trekking trips, on which a number of forest guards accompany the group. These are 3 hour day or night trips or full day trips, and overnight trips with stay at tented accommodation, to be booked well in advance.
We booked for 2 nights at Periyar House in their budget room @Rs.2,600/- per night on MAP (breakfast and dinner included for 2). You can walk the 500 yards from the hotel to the boat house (or drive) through the forest. We carried some ‘Murku’ (a South Indian snack) and walked to the boat house at 3:00 PM and enjoyed the views, watched the last boat ride depart and stayed till it returned. A lot of visitors come to the viewing platform to see the lake and just be inside the forest and stroll around.
Later the hotel had a Bharatanatyam performance 6:45 till 7:30 PM by two students from the local dance school. They put up a pro performance, 6th and 10th standard students. Many of the students had made it to state level dance champions and surely these two were at a very high level. Very confident, never missed a step, great skill, facial expression, footwork and rhythm.
Dinner had fish and chicken curry, both excellent preparations. We retired to our room early. Tomorrow we have booked the boat ride at 9:30 AM, so need to have an early breakfast and reach with time to spare as they assemble the visitors and sell off vacant seats (or no shows) 15 minutes prior to departure.
Day9: At Periyar House, Thekkady, on the Periyar Lake
Periyar Wildlife Reserve, boat ride on Periyar Lake, Kumily, Thekkady, Bharatnatyam Dance
Woke early, had breakfast and took the 9:30 till 11:00 AM boat ride on the lake. Saw plenty of Bison, deer and birds (and not much else), and had a lovely boat ride. It is really peaceful and lovely being in the open boat and with a cool breeze blowing. It was cloudy with the sun peeking out a bit at times. On our return to the guest house we booked another boat trip for 3:30 – 5:00 PM. We did some shopping, 3 t-shirts from the Boat House shop for Rs.205 x 2, and Rs.170 = Rs.580 and we got the wife’s favorite sandalwood soap Rs.29 x 4 = Rs.116/-.
Back in the room we decided to go to Gavi Eco Tourism KFDC (Kerala Forest Development as opposed to KTDC, Kerala Tourism) place for a one night stay. We booked online the Swiss Cottage Tents @Rs.6,300/- including taxes for the night, the accommodation still available. The price includes 3 meals and activities, being an evening boat ride and a morning tour of a spice plantation, a viewpoint of Sabari Malai Hill (Temple is on the hill but not visible) and a ride thru the forest road (in a rickety mini bus) for an unlikely wildlife viewing. It is a 2 hour 40 Km drive from Kumily to Gavi, 20 Km inside the forest reserve on a battered and broken road, let’s hope it works out!
Later we spoke to family (Skype) and then had fish curry and rice at the restaurant of the hotel, and a guava, mango and bananas, and then it was time for the boat ride. The afternoon ride was quite a repeat as it was still overcast and the weather was identical in many respects. We saw some sea otters, missed the abundant elephants once again, the Gaur and deer were there on both rides, as were the numerous birds.
In the evening the Bharatanatyam performance was even better than the previous day. The girls, two of them, performed together and were really in sync, a rousing rhythmic performance. A movie on Periyar, dinner and then a surprise Republic Day cake and laddus sponsored by a guest from Mumbai. We chatted with the couple afterwards, 76 and 77 years old, retired, they go for a tour for a month each year, stay in their own apartment in Mumbai, close to but independently from their son, and holidaying separately as well. Theirs is also a love match, she volunteers as a teacher and he as a civil engineer offering services to charitable causes wherever they get the opportunity.