Set high in the mountain ranges of Cardamom Hills, the Periyar National Park is one of South India’s most bountiful places.

Have you come across the adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”? Well, if you find yourself in Kerala, visit the Periyar National Park. Better known as Thekkady, the sanctuary is a must-see, and hordes of tourists, who want a slice of God’s Own Country, make a beeline to this place.

The sanctuary, sprawled over the districts of Idukki and Pathamthitta, is a protected area, of which 350 sq.km. was converted into the Periyar National Park in 1982. It derives its name from the Periyar River. It is a perennial river and a permanent source of water for the park’s wildlife.

As it is located along the Western Ghats, the park is surrounded by plantations of tea, coffee and cardamom. The park contains hundreds of species of evergreen and deciduous trees and flowering plants. It boasts of being home to over 140 species of orchids. Some of the most prominent trees found in these forests are teak, rosewood, mango, banyan, sandalwood, bamboos and fig.

Though Periyar is known as a tiger reserve, it is also home to the Indian wild elephant. Tourists who happen to spot a tiger are considered lucky as these magnificent creatures usually don’t venture out in the open. Bisons, sambar deer, lion-tailed macaques, the Indian giant squirrel, the Nilgiri tahr and langurs are more conspicuous. Some notable feathered friends you will find there are the Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiri thrush, blue-winged parakeet and crimson-backed sunbird among others.

Do not forget to take pictures if you see them. Just make sure you don’t scare them away. Yes, that’s right. However big or small, these animals and birds are just as scared of you as you are of them.

Schools are closed. Phew! Some of you are back from a holiday and others are yet to go on one. Wouldn’t it be a great adventure if you could visit some wildlife sanctuaries? There are a number of such reserves in our country. Here, we shall look at a few sanctuaries. Grab your backpacks, water canteen and cameras, and let’s explore.

How to get there:

Nearest airports: Madurai,Tamil Nadu; and Kochi, Kerala

Nearest railway station: Kottayam.

Private and government buses run between Kottayam and Thekkady frequently.

The best time to visit is between September and March. The park is open throughout the year from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Look out for:

- Guided nature treks

- Boat rides

- Adventure trekking and camping

- Tree houses

- Jungle patrol