Periyar Tiger Trail is an adventurous trekking and camping program conducted by the Government of Kerala and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary near Thekkady, Idukki.
For a lover of nature, the tiger trail offers tour packages which are a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
On Nature’s Lap
The tiger trail trek is immensely popular among foreign and north Indian travelers. The trek involves long walks and demands a certain level of physical fitness from the trekkers. All spots are covered on foot.
Three packages are made available each week. The first camp, which stretches for two days and a night begins, on Monday and ends on Wednesday. A second one starts on Wednesday and ends on Friday. A third one starts on Friday and concludes on Sunday. The weekend package for two nights and three days is the best of the three.
Travelers should report at morning 8.45am in the Thekkady office. They have to enter through the Periyar National Park entrance where Indian tourists have to pay a fee of Rs 33 and foreign tourists have to pay Rs450. Minimum age for eligibility to take the trip is 12. The travelers have to sign a contract at the office. The journey starts at 9 30am from the Thekkady boating point. From the jetty a small row boat takes the travelers to another shore from where the trek begins.
A maximum of six tourists are taken at a time accompanied by five guides and one armed forest guard. The team covers 20 to 35 kilometer of trekking distance, depending on the route chosen.
The route passes through the tropical forest of the mighty Western Ghats range with hills and valleys strewn with a variety of tropical plants and trees. Vegetarian meals are served on the route and dome tents are pitched for the night.
Former poachers are guides
The guides accompanying the group are rehabilitated poachers, who have an intimate knowledge of the terrain. They narrate the adventurous stories from their former lives.
There is a legendary incident behind this tradition of poachers turning protectors of the forest. The Tiger Trail Treks officially began in the year 1995. Around the same time, forest officials caught 25 poachers from the area. Bennichan Thomas, then eco tourism officer and O P Kaler, district forest officer, dismissed the robbery charges and worked on their rehabilitation. In a strange turn of events, they were appointed as forest guards and entrusted with the safety of the forest and travelers.
Bennichan Thomas is now chief conservator of forest. Tiger trail provides livelihood for 13 ex-poachers. Besides bringing the benefit of immense experience, these ex-poachers are also preventing habitual offenders from ruining the forest.
The Periyar Reserve is spread over an area of 925 square kilometer of which the trek covers 26 square kilometer. The tiger reserve is home to 48 tigers and other rare animals like Nilgiri langur, elephant, wild boar, gaur (Indian Bison), Sambar deer, and rare Nilgiri marten, which resembles a giant squirrel.
The trekking route is abundant with a wide variety of chorakali trees and bunyan trees as old as 600 years. Many trees have scratch marks from tigers, caused when they clean their nails or mark their territory.
By noon on the first day, the group is taken to the first camp site where they are served lemon tea and a sumptuous vegetarian lunch. There is a stream nearby for a refreshing bath. The trek restarts by 3pm and continues for another 12 kilometer.
Food and camp fire
The group returns by 6pm in the evening to the camp site for dinner and rest by the side of a campfire on the banks of the stream. The morning trek to tiger territory begins at 7am. The group is taken to the path were tigers are usually found so that they may get a glimpse of the majestic animals. At the end of this trekking route there is a giant swing made of wines, which can seat 15 people at a time.
Two nights and three days of thrill
The trekking package on the weekend takes the travelers to the deeper parts of the forest. In the three to four hours of trek time, travelers are taken as far as they want to go into the forest. The camp is set at Nellikapetti on the banks of Mullaperiyar River. The package ends on the third day after the morning trek and breakfast.
A few things to keep in mind
Although, all mobile phone networks have intermittent range in the area, BSNL has the most range and network. Travelers may carry phone charging devices with them. The two nights and three day trip costs *Rs8,400 while the shorter one costs *Rs6,000.
Booking can be done by via telephone 85476-03066 or from the official site of Periyar Tiger Trail.
(Rates at the time of publishing this article)