Going to Thekkady is killing two birds in one stone. First, it is at a good altitude and gives respite from summer heat. Next, it is an excellent place to be in nature, and if you are lucky, you can spot some wildlife.Overview.
Thekkady has some naming confusions, so let's set it right first. The names Thekkady, Kumily and Periyar tend to get mixed up very often and get used interchangeably. Periyar is the name of tiger reserve encompassing a large area of forest and a reservoir. Thekkady is a small place in the forest where tourist facilities for Periyar Tiger Reserve are located. Kumily is the town, which serves as the road head to Thekkady. Periyar National Park comes under 'Project Tiger' and is the most visited National Park in the south.Orientation.
Thekkady is on the bank of the reservoir that is in the center of the park, and is 4km from Kumily. You can drive down, take a walk, or hire a rickshaw from Kumily to get to Thekkady. For any activities in Thekkady such as walks or boating, you need to arrive here first and buy your passes.Sightseeing and ActivitiesBoat ride.
Boat ride is the most popular activity in the park. You can take public boats that start from Thekkady, which take you on the large reservoir in the forest. The ride lasts for an hour, and is a good way to see the beauty of the park. If you are lucky, you might spot elephants, bison, chital and even the tiger. There are two types of boats - large boats managed by Kerala Tourism and smaller ones from the forest department. While both of them don't really give a you a very personalized experience, forest department boats are comparatively less crowded.Private Boats.
If you are willing to spend some extra money for the experience, you can hire your own boats and go into the lake. An expensive option though.Jungle Walks.
Forest department organizes jungle walks. You will be escorted by local tribals who are now part of community based eco-tourim programme. These tribals are experts in tracking wildlife and might help you see animals that you would have missed without their tracking abilities.Walk to Thekkady.
It is a pleasant walk in the forest from Kumily to Thekkady. Resist the tempation to drive, and take a slow walk instead. You will get glimpses of the lake on the way, and have plenty of chances of seeing wildlife. When I walked this stretch, I got to see Sambar deer, wildboars and chitals and few indigenous birds like White Bellied Treepie.Spice Tours.
This is an activity that probably started to amuse foreigners who come in good numbers to Thekkady. Any auto-rickshaw driver can plan a quick spice tour for you. If you are looking for an elaborate one which sometimes involves a lunch, talk to a travel agent or to your hotel manager. The tours usually involve walk to a spice plantation with an escort cum guide. Stay in the forest.
There are two hotels inside the forest that are run by Kerala's state toursim department. One of them, an expensive option, is the lake palace which happens to be located at the bank of the lake.
For more information on activities in the reserve including boating, treks and nature walks, see the reserve's website
Kumily is where most people stay. It is small town but full of hotels at every budget costing as little as few hundreds to more than 10,000. There are a couple of hotels inside the reserve that are run by Kerala Tourism Department.How to reach.
Nearest cities with good train connectivity are Madurai and Ernakulam. Both these cities have airports. Buses connect Kumily with Madurai and Ernakulam.