When you think of India you probably imagine busy cities, colourful buildings and lots of noise, right?
After exploring the North of India a couple of years ago, and seeing the hustle and bustle of the cities of Rajastan, I was keen to see the other side of India – the peace, greenery and wildlife. Was this possible? I wasn’t hopeful – until I visited Kerala, a state in South India.
Planning my route through Kerala, I chose to visit places that would give me the opportunity to get back into nature and see the true beauty of India. After living in New Zealand for 18 months, I developed a love for hiking, so I wanted to get out into the hills whilst I was there. My guidebook and many other tourists pointed me in the direction of Periyar National Park, so, after a week on the beach in Goa, I decided to visit to see what all the fuss was about…
Situated in the heart of the South Indian state of Kerala, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the most popular National Park in Southern India and sees huge numbers of foreign and Indian tourists visiting every year. The area is home to impressive numbers of wildlife including elephants, tigers, bison, sambar deer and many more.
After my visit I must agree that Periyar is a worthwhile stop on your Kerala itinerary, not only because of your high chances of spotting wild animals, but because it is also such a remote, beautiful area and you can experience it in a number of ways (including hiking – yay!). Annoyingly, the official website for the wildlife sanctuary doesn’t provide much information and there are no leaflets available from the ticket office, hence my writing this post – here is a guide to visiting Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, India.
Options for experiencing the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Jeeps can be arranged to take you to the National Park, however they are not allowed to enter the grounds. You are therefore taken to a number of ‘viewpoints’ on the park boundary, with the hope of spotting animals from a distance. Around 30km of the track is on sealed roads.
Jeeps are organised by private operators, not by the official EcoTourism office. Drivers stand around the town in Kumily and may approach you to sell their services. I was quoted between 1,500 to 2,00Rs for a 4-5 hour trip. You pay for the jeep, not per person, so the more of you who choose this option, the cheaper it will be. Most jeeps seat up to four people. I decided against this option because I wanted to go inside the National Park grounds and I was travelling solo and did not want to take a jeep by myself.
Cost: Around 1,500 – 2,000Rs per jeep | Departures and duration: Vary dependent on operator, can be agreed
One of the easiest ways to experience the park without using a guide is by taking the Lake Cruise. This is bookable at the Ecotourism Office. Trips last 90 minutes and there is the opportunity to see wildlife from a distance – from what I have heard from others who have done the cruise, chances of spotting animals are unlikely. Upon arrival in the park, you’ll need to buy a ticket for the boat from the ticket office which is clearly signposted and is right next to where the bus stops.
Cost: 225Rs per person | Departures: 8am
Walking and Trekking
There are a number of guided walks and treks available to choose from through the Ecotourism Office, including the 2.5 hour easy level Nature Walk and Green Walk, and the full day Border Trekking (medium difficulty). You are not allowed to enter the park without a guide.
Cost: from 350Rs to 1800Rs per person | Departures: Varied; full, half day and short walks available
Paddle along on the lake on a bamboo raft, and hike a few short tracks to go wildlife spotting on the islands in Periyar National Park! Bamboo Rafting was the option I chose when I visited the sanctuary because it’s something I had never done before and I was hoping to see the animals – and luckily for me, I saw three elephants!
Cost: 1800Rs pp (half day), 2400Rs pp (full day) | Departures: Half day 7:30am – 12:30pm or 9:30am – 2:30pm; Full day 8:00am – 5:00pm
Discover the park by night with a guided walk in Periyar National Park. You might be lucky enough to spot tigers!
Cost: 6000Rs pp (one night), 8400Rs pp (two nights) | Departures: 9am, finishes 12 noon on the final day
What to know before you go to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Here’s a quick need-to-know guide for visiting Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is also referred to as Periyar Tiger Reserve and Periyar National Park.
- Be prepared for the weather. The area is prone to heavy rainfall, so bring a waterproof coat and closed waterproof shoes with you.
- There are leeches in the area but you will be given leech socks to wear if you choose any programmed operated by the EcoTourism Office – DO WEAR THEM! I also advise wearing closed shoes (hiking boots are a good idea; I wore converse which got soaked).
- The closest town to the National Park is Kumily (also spelt Kumaly). It is also called Thekkady, so be prepared to use both names. The town of Periyar is 12km towards Kottayam – don’t confuse it with the National Park.
- The KDTC EcoTourism Office organise all expeditions into the park, you can reserve tickets at the EcoTourism Office in Kumily, or your guesthouse can book them on your behalf but may charge extra.
- Jeep safaris do not enter the park grounds.
- You must pay the National Park entrance fee on top of the cost of any programmes you book through the KTDC. This is payable at the National Park Ticket Office in Kumily. Entrance costs are as follows: Adults – 33Rs/Indians, 450Rs/foreigners; Children – 5Rs/Indians, 150Rs/foreigners; Cameras – 38Rs; Video recording – 300Rs.
- If you choose to do an activity that is run by the KTDC, you can catch a bus to the National Park from Kumily. It costs about 30Rs and you pay for it at the National Park Ticket Office in Kumily. The buses depart from here.
- Opening times for the Wildlife Sanctuary are Monday to Sunday, 6am – 6pm; last entry at 5pm.
Where to stay in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Whilst it is possible to stay inside the National Park, most visitors choose to stay in the closest town, Kumily.
- Inside the park: The Ecotourism Centre arranges a number of options inside the park, many of which can be combined with a programme to experience the wildlife at Periyar. These include the Jungle Camp (from 5000Rs per tent, fits two people), Jungle Inn (from 5000Rs per Watchtower, fits two people), or the Bamboo Grove Cottages, which start at 1800Rs per night (fits two people) without package, or 4000Rs per night with package.
- In Kumily: I stayed at the Blue Mangoes Homestay which was basic but comfortable. Use the Booking widget below to search for accommodation options (you have to search for Thekkady on Booking.com).
How to reach Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
The closest town to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is Kumily (also spelt Kumaly). It is also called Thekkady, so be prepared to use both names. The town of Periyar is 12km towards Kottayam.
To get to the sanctuary from Kumily, you can either hire a bike (around 300Rs per day), your jeep will pick you up from your accommodation if you choose a safari, or you can take the bus from the National Park Ticket Office.
From Alleppey, I took the 7:30am ferry to Kottayam (18Rs). From here I took a rickshaw to the bus station (40Rs) and then caught the 10:15am bus to Kumily (100Rs).
There are no trains to Kumily, and taxi rates will vary – be sure to agree the price before you commence your journey.
Have you ever been bamboo rafting or seen elephants in the wild? Hope you enjoyed my guide to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary!
Thanks for reading and happy travels!
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