Thekkady and Kumily: A Blend of Wild and Spice
shared by Claire Algarme
A white blanket of fog covers the surroundings, like clouds floating over still, quiet waters. Filling the landscape are uneven and leafless black tree trunks protruding from the water, while great cormorants (one of the bird species found in the area) are perched on their branches. We made our way slowly through the lake, avoiding the trees that seemed lifeless, as the mist parted ahead of us and later on made way for the sun to peek through the grey skies.
It was like a scene out of an adventure movie when we did our early morning trip to the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Kerala, India, which was our destination for Day 4 of the Kerala Blog Express Season 4. This time, we went into the wild, with the hopes of spotting a free-roaming tiger at the reserve.
The blanket of white fog covers the reservoir and the rest of Periyar Lake and its surroundings.
Great Cormorants, one of the bird species found in the reserve, find rest on the lifeless branches protruding from the Periyar Lake.
Walking around Kumily
From our backwater experiences in Alappuzha (READ: Alappuzha: A Night In A Houseboat) and Kumarakom (READ: Kumarakom: Life in a Kerala Village), we made our way inland and ascended to the elevated part of Kerala towards the Idukki District. We drove on zigzag roads and passed through hill stations, manicured tea estates, and cardamom plantations, before we reached the town of Kumily, our gateway to Thekkady.
There are many bus stations in Kumily and it connects the states of Kerala and neighboring Tamilnadu.
We got a chance to walk around Kumily when we visited a spice store. We saw shops, churches, and food stalls bustling with energy while being surrounded by Thekkady’s greens and some mountains in the backdrop. And when in Kumily, one must never miss going to the spice plantations in the area, which we did.
We bought some spices, souvenirs, and other items in this store in Kumily.
Kumily is a bustling town surrounded by mountains and greens.
Here’s a street food stall in Kumily. Yes, those are large chilis hanging from the stall.
Knowing the Plants in a Spice Plantation
To get to the inner part of the spice plantation, we had to go through a very short tunnel of plants and vines. It was like a forest inside the plantation, given the diversity of its flora and fauna. There we came to see up close some plant species that makes our dining experiences superb, such as peppercorns, mulberry trees, cacao plants, coffee plants, avocados, eggplants, cinnamon trees, cardamoms, jackfruit trees, chili plants, and so much more. The plantation also has some beautiful flowering plants of various sizes, shapes and colors.
This is the entrance towards the spice plantation in Kumily.
Peppercorns are plenty in the spice plantation.
Bloggers take a closer look at cardamoms, which abound in Kumily.
Taking a Ferry in a Periyar Tiger Reserve
The 925-square kilometer area of the Periyar Tiger Reserve is home to a rich biodiversity (yes, it’s not just the tigers out there) that includes flora and fauna, birds, mammals, butterflies, and fishes. This protected area is the oldest and largest in Kerala. It was a game sanctuary in 1934 before it became the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950. Since 1978, it has been called the Periyar Tiger Reserve, and it adopts a community-based ecotourism program.
During our boat ride, we spotted some otters scrambling for food at the banks, as well as a turtle, several birds and wild boars. There was also a herd of wild buffaloes but they were too far for my camera to capture.
Since the protected area allows the animals to roam freely, interaction between animals and humans are a bit limited, which is a good thing to avoid one from hurting or causing harm to another. Still, there are plenty of activities within the reserve that will enable visitors to get to know more about the biodiversity of the place. There’s the self-guided one hour Pugmark Tail to begin with. To stay in the midst of greens, with a touch of enchantment by the fireflies during night time and the music of insects, there’s the Jungle Inn. A guided adventure trekking and camping, called the Periyar Tiger Trail, is also available. Other activities include bamboo rafting, jungle scout, border hiking, and a guided Green Walk and Nature Walk.
We spotted a turtle in the lake during our boat ride.
An otter was trying to grab for food at the lake.
Wild boars also roam around the reserve.
When the fog subsided and the sun came out, a different beauty of Periyar Tiger Reserve emerged.
Elephants Belong to the Wild
Some of these activities would provide an opportunity to see the elephants in the wild. Note that you might also find certain elephants kept in homes and facilities. While it is part of Indian culture, I advice that you think twice about going for an elephant ride. I am guilty of doing this in the past because I was not aware how these elephants are treated behind the scene. Now that I have become conscious of such, I realize that we have to respect the nature of elephants as well as their needs, which is why I commend the Periyar Tiger Reserve for protecting them and allowing them to roam freely.
Keeping elephants as domesticated animals is not uncommon in India. However, let us be responsible enough to know their nature and their plight before we participate in any activity involving these animals.
Short Break at the Lake Palace
In an island within Periyar Lake, part of the tourism zone of the reserve, is the KTDC Lake Palace. It has six rooms with antique designs and its outdoors provide a beautiful view overlooking the Periyar Lake. We made a stopover here for some coffee and local snacks before we retraced our route. On our way back to the jetty, we saw some locals fishing near the port, an area that is accessible to humans.
There’s a place you can stay inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Rooms in the KTDC Lake Palace provide a beautiful view of the surroundings.
The interiors are designed with antique furniture and items.
Our morning snack in KTDC Lake Palace during our brief stop, which was like a ginger bread.
We enjoyed the breathtaking view of the Periyar Tiger Reserve from the Lake Palace.
Before we left the facility, we met with the Periyar Tiger Reserve Deputy Director Krishan Kumar, who gave us an overview of the operations and scope of the reserve, including the wildlife found in the area. It was good to know that there is an office looking after the welfare of this beautiful place and the protection of its biodiversity. We all need to realize the importance of taking care of our environment for the good of our planet and our future generations.
A local was fishing near the jetty.
Periyar Tiger Reserve Deputy Director Krishan Kumar (5th from left, seated) pose with the bloggers of the Kerala Blog Express Season 4. Photo by Jinson Abraham|Kerala Tourism.
Visiting Kumily and Thekkady
- Take a bus to Kumily from Cochin, Thurvananthapuram or Madurai, where there’s an airport available. Jeeps to Thekkady are available from Kumily.
- Kumily is also accessible by rail.
- While March and April can be dry and hot, the months from June to August is the monsoon period. It is best to visit between September to May to avoid the rains.
- Entrance Fees for locals: Rs 5 (children 5-11 years old); Rs 25 (11 years old above); Entrance Fees for foreign visitors: Rs 105 (children 5-11 years old); Rs 300 (adults)
- The Reserve is open from 6:00am to 5:30pm. Tickets are sold between 6:30am to 5:00pm.
- Boating ticket fees: Rs 50 (children 5-11 years old and students); Rs 150 (adults). Tickets are sold starting 90 minutes prior to the trip schedule. There are five schedules a day – 7:30am – 9am, 9:30am – 11am, 11:15am – 12:45pm, 1:45pm – 3:15pm and 3:30pm – 5pm
- Contact the Periyar Tiger Reserve:
Phone: +91 4869 224571
- Contact Lake Palace (KTDC):
Thekkady, Idukki – 685536, Kerala, India
Phone: +91 4869 223887, 223888
Fax: +91 4869 222024
This article is part of the over-arching post First-time in Kerala: God’s Own Country where you will find the list of my blog posts related to this trip. Get updates on the Kerala Blog Express at thehttp://keralablogexpress.com/ and check #keralablogexpress #tripofalifetime and #liveinspired in social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.