GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE
If you want to experience an elephant ride or see elephants bathe, swim and otherwise frolic in the water, this game reserve in Kerala, in southern India, is considered the best sanctuary in the country for watching and photographing elephants at close quarters. You can also fish and trek in certain areas of the reserve.
Anytime during October-to-March. It may be on the warm side, but bearable.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
The reserve, on the border between Kerala and Tamu Nadu states, lies on the road about 100 miles from Madurai and directly on the way to Cochin on the Indian Ocean coast.
You can also go by rail from Trivandrum to Thekkady, about 10 miles from the reserve, and then by bus to Periyar. Whether going by private car or public bus or rail, enroute to Periyar you're likely to see some memorable scenery including tea, rubber, coffee and pepper estates stationed around the verdant hills.
One-hour elephant rides go through the heavily forested reserve. You can also take a motor launch ride through Periyar Lake where elephant herds come to the shore to bathe and perhaps swim across the lake.
MOST UNUSUAL ATTRACTIONS
While elephants are the game most likely to be seen, other creatures that may be spotted are sambar, the largest deer in India; muntjac or barking deer; mouse deer; wild boar; jackal; pangolin or anteater; and packs of dhole or wild dogs. Among the many monkeys are the frisky bonnet macaques native to southern India and the dark-faced lingur monkeys. Tiger spottings, unfortunately, are rare.
BEST ACTIVITIES AND TOURS
Take time for a short side visit to the nearby aromatic village of Kumily, the spice center of the area where cardamom, pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, turmeric and other spices are grown. Souvenir packets of spices are sold at many stores. Find more more intrepid tours in Kerala .
The places to eat are at the Aranya Nivas Hotel and Taj Gardens Retreat. Cuisine includes western and Indian fare (some of which may be vegetarian).
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS
Two things to bring to Periyar are binoculars and mosquito repellent.
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