A Correspondent

KATTAPPANA: Three more boats will be introduced in Thekkady for providing boating facilities for tourists. The construction of two of them has already begun on the banks of Periyar Lake.

Each boat, costing Rs.32 lakh, has the capacity to accommodate 80 people. The boats are being built by an Aroor-based company.

Sources in the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) said that the main work of assembling the boat was being done at Thekkady and engines would be brought from outside. The services are expected to begin by August. With the introduction of new boats, it is expected that in five services an additional 800 people could be taken for boating in the lake.

During the last tourism season, long queues were witnessed in front of the ticket counters and many tourists had to return without going for boating. Skirmishes between forest guards and the tourists who didn’t get passes for boating were also reported.

Flood of tourists

It is estimated that an average of five lakh tourists visit Thekkady annually and the most preferred area for them is Periyar Lake which provides a close view of wild animals, including elephants. “Tourists mostly reach Thekkady for boating and prefer to return the same day,” said a tour operator at Kumily.

According to him, during the last season, many foreign tourists also had to return without going for boating. Though the Periyar Tiger Reserve is in the international tourism map as a renowned tiger reserve of high quality, forest trekking is secondary for internal tourists reaching Thekkady with family. Last season, thanks to the summer rains, the water-level in the lake was high and a large number of tourists visited Thekkady.

A senior official of the Forest Department said that the thrust in Thekkady is to develop responsible tourism. “Thekkady has the unique feature of wildlife protection. Non-bio degradable items are banned inside the forest. Members of the eco-development committees are always ready to guide the tourists reaching Thekkady,” he said. According to him, it is a welcome move that more facilities for tourists are coming in Thekkady.

However, a responsible tourist should keep in mind that the protection of wildlife and environment is the priority. “When water level has fallen, boat services have to be called off. It is good for internal tourists to visit Thekkady during the off-season,” he said.