Heaven on Earth: Thekkady

It would not be an overstatement to call it ‘Heaven on Earth’; this place truly deserves it- Thekkady, Kerala. Kerala, itself running parallel to the Western Ghats and with its brackish lagoons and lakes running along the Arabian Sea, is a place enough to imagine what Thekkady will have in store for nature lovers. Home to the world famous wildlife sanctuary Periyar National park, wildlife sanctuary and tiger reserve, Thekkady welcomes you with its lush green surroundings of thick dense evergreen forests and savanna grasslands. Blessed with a moderate temperature makes it accessible all throughout the year except for the months from June to September when it sees heavy rainfall and landslides. However, it is advisable to visit Thekkady between the months of September and March when it is at its scenic best.

Situated at about 700-1900m above sea level and spread over approximately 12.07 sq.kms, Thekkady locates the oldest wildlife sanctuary in India established in 1895 and has been given the status of an Tiger Reserve in 1978. Adding to the charm of this place is the Thekkady Lake which attracts maximum number of tourists. During summer time mostly, elephants, over hundreds of different species of birds and 240 species of butterflies can be easily spotted since they gather around for water. Apart from that, the sanctuary has a count of about 40 tigers, rarely found animals such as long tailed macaque, nilgiri langurs, bonnet macaque, leopards, wild dogs, porcupines, wild bear, sloth bear along with birds such as cormorant, giant hornbill, racket tailed orongo to name a few. The nilgiri tahrs, a kind of wild goat is to be found only in this sanctuary which makes it even more exceptional. To explore the place closely, one can take a two hours boat ride along the park which takes place early morning and late in the evening. It is mandatory to get passes to enter the sanctuary which are available at the Wildlife Information Centre in Thekkady at a nominal price. My suggestion here is to trek around the area with a local guide and experience the serenity of the place, finding one’s self so close to nature, away from the rush of the daily city life.

This place does not restrict itself to its wildlife but has a lot more to offer. Thekkady is surrounded by spice plantations including tea, coffee, cardamom and pepper. Kumily lying on the borders of Kerala and Tamil-Nadu, a 4 kms drive from Periyar, on the Cardomom Hills, is plantation town and the trading center for spices. A short drive from Kumily lies Pandikuzhi which is a paradise for photographers because of its picturesque beauty. A flavor of traditional Kerallite architecture can be seen in Pandikuzhi and Mangla Devi temple though it opens only during the Chitra Pournami festival. A 44kms drive from Thekkady is the Peermade which again is a big tourist attraction. It is said that the name is taken from the Sufi Saint Peer Mohammed meaning the ‘hill of the peer’. Other places to visit around Thekkady are the backwaters of Kottayam and Kumarakom.

The people of Thekkady are mostly Malayam. In order to enjoy the cuisine of the place an in house stay is more advisable than the hotels, if possible. Communicating here becomes a little difficult since people are not very fluent with Hindi. Mainly, English and Malayam are spoken. It would be of great help if someone from the local area could show you around. That way one can save the burden of being misguided.

Thekkady is well connected with roads and other modes of transportation. One can drive around the city by hiring a vehicle. As far as reaching Thekkady is concerned, the nearest airport is Kochin, 185 kms away from Periyar and 114 kms from Madhurai airport. The nearest rail head is Kottayam which is around 114 kms. The enchanting country side can best be explored by road. Accommodation can best be found at Kumily. The splendor of the place cannot be confined to describing it in word and thus paying a visit becomes a must.

Manpreet Sohanpal

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/senthilvasan/3033954753/sizes/m/]