Eravikulam National Park is the proud owner of a national heritage and a fleet of vehicles. The park is mostly identified with two of its mascots Nilgiri Tahr and Neelakurinji.

Last blooming season of the Neelakurinji and the unending flow of visitors set the cash registers ringing in the park.

As the flowers withered away marking the beginning of a long wait of 12 years for the next blooming season, the national park became owner of a fleet of six mini buses. A distinction many others cannot claim.

The buses were introduced as part of the visitor management programmes. The park management did not wait for the support of the Government for introducing the buses, which employed 45 persons.

All of these persons were earlier making their living as taxi drivers and vendors in the region.

One of the public sector banks offered a loan of Rs.40 lakh for purchasing the buses with the term of repayment as seven years. "The park repaid the whole loan amount in 10 months and now fully owns the fleet," said Roy P. Thomas, warden of the park.

The end of the tourism season does not mean that the buses would be lying idle. Conducted tours will be operated using these vehicles. "A Thekkady-Munnar-Parambikulam tour is what we have in mind," Mr. Thomas said.

The runaway success of the mini bus project has inspired the park managers to take up more projects.

"We are working on a proposal for acquiring some vehicles including AC luxury ones for operating some conducted tours," Mr. Thomas said.