Call of the wild in Thekkady

Jungle attracts both Jaishree and me. Even during our non-holiday times we hear Jungle calling us. The images of wild terrain float in our eyes. This romance with Jungle and wild life started with our honeymoon in Bandipur. After that this affair is never ending. I was showing photographs of our Bandipur trip to my friend Avinash Dubey and his wife Bhavna, and both of them came with the same question, “Have you been to Thekkady”? So when we planned our Kerala trip, next destination from Munnar was Thekkady.

Elephant family in Bandipur

Elephant family in Bandipur

Thekkady is situated in the lap of scented cardamom hills. It is India’s largest and most visited wildlife sanctuary that is spread over an area of around 777 sq Km. In 19th century the area around Thekkady was found quite suitable for Tea/Coffee Plantation. The rapid increase of the plantation alarmed King of Travancore and to prevent his favorite hunting ground from encroachments he declared this area as reserve forest. According to another Legend the killing of an elephant by a British soldier made Maharaja of Travancore very sad. He realized the significance of conservation and turned the forests around the lake into a sanctuary in 1934 and christened it as Nellikkampetty sanctuary. In 1978 this sanctuary was declared as part of Project tiger and now it is also known as Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Most of the tourists visit Thekkady dreaming to see the ferocious cats and many of them return disappointed. After a few visits to the Jungle we have learnt that a Jungle should be visited for its own beauty & charm and not in the only hope of encountering wild cat. Their sightings are rare and should be expected as the icing on the cake.

From Munnar we took the bus to Kumily – A small town at the periphery of Thekkady. This town is also known as the spice garden of the Kerala. The bus journey from Munnar to Thekkady was breathtaking & views were stunning. It was among the journeys when you feel that

जहनो-नज़र में हर वक़्त, मंज़िल ही क्यों रहे,
जब तक रहे सफ़र, सफ़र का मज़ा क्यों ना लें

Most of the time we were complaining that why the bus was moving so fast and we wished (unsuccessfully) to be able to capture the beauty of that journey in our camera. I would suggest fellow ghumakkars to take taxi from Munnar to Thekkady stopping in between and enjoying the beautiful journey.

We reached Kumily at night. Our accommodation Lake Queen Tourist Home was around 1 Km from the Bus stand. After settling in the room we enquired for nearby restaurant and came to know that they had a restaurant downstairs – Lakeland Restaurant. The buffet served in that restaurant was delicious, rich and fulfilling.

Next day we hired an Auto and it drove us towards Periyar Wild life Sanctuary. Kumily is around 4 km from the Sanctuary and is a small touristy strip of Tourist centers, hotels, Ayurvedic Massage Centers and spice shops. On the way to Thekkady there was music in the air – the wind was playing with Bamboo groves.

Periyar wild life Sanctuary is centered on 26 Sq km artificial lake created by British to supply water to the dry parts of Tamilnadu. The forest Department and KTDC conduct boat trips that last for around 2-3 hours. We decided to do the trip and bought the ticket. There was a big crowd to board the boat. As the boat returned from previous trip, passengers on the boat disembarked and we boarded the boat and rushed to occupy a good viewing position.

The Periyar Lake

As boat moved, the silence of the Jungle was slightly perturbed by the boat slicing through the water, leaving waves that undulates gently to the banks interrupted occasionally by the stumps of the trees trying to break free from the water. As this Lake is result of construction of a dam on Periyar River many trees could be seen submerged in the water. Even when these trees were reduced to stumps they provide resting place to the water birds – generosity suiting to these magnanimous living beings.


I was praying to see the wild elephants coming to the shore and frolicking in the water. Prayers remained unanswered. When we visited Thekkady, there were ample rains. That time was not the best time for wild life sighting. The best time for wild life sighting is March-April when water reservoirs inside Jungle starts to dry and more and more of wild animals are driven to Lake to quench their thirst.

In between we stopped at Edapalayam Lake Palace. King of Travancore constructed this building in the midst of Lake to entertain his guests. It is now being converted into a heritage hotel. I belong to Udaipur, a place that boasts of a more popular Lake Palace. I was unaware of and hence was pleasantly surprised to see a Lake Palace in distant south too.


Jagniwas Lake Palace of Udaipur
That was a cloudy day. The clouds casted a spell on mighty Sun and turned the burning Sunrays into soothing blessings. That was a very good weather to have a cruise in dazzling green surroundings.

Periyar Lake Cruise, Thekkady

On flip side, the boat was crowded and the noise of the Engine and people on board were enough to put off any serious wild life enthusiast. That was a nice cruise but did not give us the real feel of visiting the Jungle. We came to Thekkady with high hopes of seeing the jungle, but were largely unsatisfied.

At that time we came to know that Forest officials also organizes three hour walking tour in the Jungle. Bingo! That was what we were looking for. When we enquired at the counter we were told that trekking in Jungle was not allowed with a three-year-old kid. We cursed our luck.

A French couple was standing there with their daughter of almost Rachit’s age. The French Gentleman came to us and inquired about the possibility of us joining them in the walking trail. Walking required minimum of four persons and they were looking for partners. With small baby they felt that it would be easier for them to have a trail with couple sharing the same constraint. When we asked forest officials that how they allowed them for the trail? They also allowed us. I am not clear that why they did not allow us to trek in the beginning itself. Were they worried about the capabilities of an Indian child walking for around 2-3 hours in the Jungle?

We were told that the trekking would be in the buffer zone of the Jungle. First we were prepared to thwart any attack from bloodthirsty monsters. We were not prepared against man-eating Tigers but the Leeches. We wore Leech socks guarding ourselves from the best frontier Leeches like to attack unaware trekkers. This token preparation set the tone of our trekking and excited all of us specially Rachit.


Rachit is strange; he hates walking on the roads. Whenever we walk on roads he starts complaining that he is tired and I should lift him up. Replace tar roads with mountain trails, forest trails and he would be very excited and even if he were on my shoulder he would force me to put him down.

We had to move from Tourist zone to buffer zone. For that we crossed the Periyar Lake on Bamboo boat. That was our first experience of sailing on Bamboo boat. We sailed across the Lake on several Bamboos tied together in the lush green background. The cool gentle breeze was sailing with us across the Lake. The only barrier between the water and us were the Bamboos. We were sailing closest to the water. The boat was pulled from other end with a rope. It would have been more adventurous if bamboos were used for rowing also. In that case though I am not sure that in which part of other side of Jungle we would have landed.


With that crossing we left the Tourist Zone behind and entered the Buffer Zone. Thekkady is covered with dense evergreen, Semi-evergreen, Moist deciduous Forests and Savannah grasslands. We walked in the Jungle listening the murmuring of the dry leaves and getting awed by the Giant trees.

We crossed water streams on bridges made with tree trunks by Forest Rangers. Crossing those streams on the trunks, keeping our balance, was also very enjoyable part. Though I was sure that we would not encounter deadly cats on our walking trails still murmuring of dry leaves and screeches of Langur were good enough to make us anxious and cautious.


We all formed very nice group. We were walking in a pace well suiting to our kids to let them run behind butterflies, appreciating wild flowers and picking up broken twigs and quills.


Kids also struck a chord between them. Amazingly kids easily communicate with each other and for them language is never a barrier. The kids enjoyed walking and never complained about getting tired. Finally after walking for 2-3 hours we reached other side of the Lake and walking across it we came to the same place from where we started. We never realized that how fast those beautiful hours passed.


Boat was ready to be pulled to the other side this time. At that time Rachit was very shy and most of the time he remained glued to us, but on that day he left us and walked quickly to occupy the position of his liking on the boat.


Once on the boat, I looked back at the Jungle the last time & thought that this might be the way the earth looked once – raw, uncaged & with wild tall trees all around.

Will I be able to go back there again when my kids would grow and we could enjoy the Jungle Safari for longer hours?


We had several restrictions because of the baby, but ghumakkars without such restrictions can indulge in following activities:

Bamboo Rafting – Dawn to Dusk range hiking and rafting programme.

Jungle Inn – The programme is a one-night stay in a watchtower situated in Thekkady forests.

Bullock Cart Ride – This programme is a visit in a bullock cart to the farming areas of diverse agriculture crops of mangoes, Tamarind, onion, Jasmine, sunflower and other vegetables.

Periyar Tiger Trail – It is an adventurous trekking and camping programme inside the forest for one night and two nights.


  • Arun says:

    The best thing I loved about Thekkady is the lake. The water is so nice… I wish I could swim in it, but obviously they wont let you..

    “generosity suiting to these magnanimous living beings”

    loved that description.. :)

  • Celine says:

    Nicely written Manish. A good read of a trip to an interesting place, and I admire your interest in travels taking little Rachit along. He has the signs of being a traveller himself. :)

  • nandanjha says:

    Well done. I under-estimated my belly-need by having just two Paranthas this morning. That uneasy empty-stomach feel is gone after reading this :)

    I am a father of a young girl and I guess my inhibitions of not venturing in wild needed a shake, when I read about you and Rachit. We did go to Corbett and other places but we have been trying to control the environment too much I guess (home car, good hotel, no tents and all that young parents juvenile thoughts). It inspires me to go out, more then what I am doing now.

    Boat thing. Not sure whether you have ever been on a banana-trunk boat. Take 5-7 banana trunks and tie them and they float like anything. Its much soft on the bottom and you have more fun. Also if its a small pond/lake, just take one banana trunk and even if you dont know swimming , you can use that to float around.

  • Ram Dhall says:


    You have churned out yet another breathtaking account of your journey to the Periyar Tiger Reserve at Thekkady. What a beautiful description, supported by some excellent pictures.

    Going for a trek in a Tiger Sanctuary with a three years old child and that too in a virtually “off season”, is certainly amazing. The bamboo boat with someone pulling the rope from the other side, must have been a different experience.

    A great post.

    Look forward to your forthcoming contributions.

    My best wishes and God’s blessings to Jaishree.


  • Avinash says:

    With each travelogue, list of people who admire your writing skills, is increasing which amply shows the quality of writing you have managed to undertake. The picture of Jaishree crossing a small water stream on a tree trunk bridge reminded me of the similar trekking experience from Kosi to Pindari Glaciers. Neither I know, when you will be able to plan your next trek nor I know the condition of this route (Kosi to Pindari) coz I went there way back in 1986. Wot I know is that, no sooner the latest arrival in your family gathers enough strength to accompany you, no one would be able to stop you four from venturing on to your next trip. Just keep this route in mind. Me & Bhavna have visited Thekkady during our honeymoon trip to south (minus trek) and it still remains our favourite trip despite having undertaken numerous other journeys across the country. MARVELOUS. WELL DONE MANNU. KEEP WRITING.

  • Geetha Saravanan says:

    A very captivating read Manish. I second Arun’s opinion about your description of trees. Wishing you many more family nature treks in the future.

  • Bhooma says:

    You have really made a good description of the beauty of thekady..As somebody brought up in kerala dislocating to delhi soon after marriage was an immence problem specially becuase of the weather . and lack of green. Your write up made me feel so much at home. Thanks a lot.

  • Bhooma says:

    I would also like to add that I admire the way the present generation is able to pack young kids and go off on trips .

  • Nandan says:

    Well written Avinash. Manish must be occupied now to read these comments though.

    Congrats Manish. Wishes for the new bundle of joy.

  • manish khamesra says:

    We are blessed with our little bundle of joy :), so dear friends please bear the slow response I would be able to give to your inspiring comments.

  • manish khamesra says:


    Thanks for going through the article. It feels good to get first comment from someone whose writing style and beautiful photography you appreciate so much.

    I saw Geetha too loved the description of Trees like you and I would like to add that your appreciation of those lines are in-fact because of your own appreciation of these GREAT SOULS around us.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks Celine.

    Its true that Rachit has started to enjoy his travels so much that we like to travel also(and sometimes only) because of the pleasure he get from these trips :)

  • manish khamesra says:


    I think floating with a Banana trunk should be a great fun. No I never had an opportunity to float like that. But I can imagine the Great fun it would be :)

    With kids we have our own limitations. I love traveling with Rachit but sometimes I am also a little worried about how to get immediate good medical care. But he also enjoys it so much that sometimes we have to drop down our inhibitions :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Ram Uncle,

    Thanks for going through the story and as ever for your generous appreciation.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks Avinash for finding time to visit Ghumakkar, to read the story about Thekkady and for the generous appreciation.

    list of people who admire your writing skills.
    To me my fellow ghumakkars are like family members. We all have the same passion about traveling. I would not call them admirers, but for sure that I am indebted that they find time to go through the post as their comments definitely encourages me a lot. And I am too enjoying doing virtual traveling to so many places with beautiful travelogues. I think I am getting richer in my knowledge with all the posts I go through :)

    Kosi to Pindari Glaciers
    Thanks Avi for suggesting me another nice place to go. When we will plan, I would surely ask you the details.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks Geetha.

    I am thankful to you for the generous feedback. Its a long time that you have written anything. When can we expect another post from you ?

  • manish khamesra says:


    I can very well understand the problem you might have faced in adjusting yourself from the Green-serene surroundings of Kerala to the Metro life. It is also true that you are so lucky to have spent the most beautiful part of one’s life in that wonderful place.

    I have yet to go through the story of Ho Chi Minh city, but the beautiful pictures are already alluring me. I agree with you that we are lucky with the amount of money we get to continue this passion for ghumakkari. And also the many modern amenities which makes traveling much easier for us.

    Its good to know that write-up about Thekkady made you feel at home. Please find some time to write about Kerala and may be of your old memories. I am sure we would learn a lot about Keralite traditions and way of living.

  • Celine says:


    I understand you have a new bundle of joy! That’s so good to hear. Is it a boy or girl?

    Congratulations to you and Jaishree. I hope Rachit is pleased about the new addition to the family. You could tell him that he has now got a new travelling companion. :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks Celine for your wishes. Rachit is blessed with baby brother and he is very happy about it. He is waiting when the baby will grow and he could play cricket with him :) In-fact when he came to know that he is blessed with baby brother, his first reaction was that look I told you that GOD will gift baby brother to me.

    I would pass your wishes to Jaishree too.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Congrats Manish/Jaishree, on the new arrival.

    Your ‘ghumakkari’ is now curtailed for some time but we do expect posts (blast?) from the past.

    Can see Nandan nodding in agreement ;-)

  • nandanjha says:

    Surely. There is a lot of France which Manish has to write. I have been lucky to be with him and Jaishree (about 5 years back, I guess) on one such trip which we made to Orcha, but just once.

    After reading all the stories, I feel that we have made more journeys together. :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks a lot Patrick.

    Yes though my ghumakkari is curtailed but I think there are many memorable trips of my past that I can share with you all. And yes thanks for your constant encouragement.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Orchha is a special one, first as we traveled together with Avinash & Nandan & it was the time when we were expecting Rachit.

    I loved that idyllic place.

  • Nandan says:

    Yup. It was very soulful, just sitting on the banks of Betwa river and watching the occasional traffic pass by the bridge which had no railings. :)

    And to confess on a public forum, I abandoned Manish-Jaishree and Avinash on Day2 because the other couple didn’t like being there doing nothing. Avinash still holds me for that. We tried explaining them that the whole fun is being here doing nothing but ……

    When I plan my Khajuraho trip (drive from Delhi) , I would stop over at Orchha for a evening for sure. Good ol’ times.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Yesterday I tried hard myself to stop commenting on it and managed it well :)

    Well, on that trip we realized that how bore co-ghumakkars we were. Nandan, Lavanya and Mr Jain left us and it was so difficult to convince Avinash to stop there accompanying us :)

    Though its not a good feeling seeing your friends leaving in between, but still I love Orchha, surprisingly :) After that we also learnt that we are better off as solitary ghumakkars.

    “??? ?????? ???? ??? ??, ?????? ?????? ?? ??,
    ??? ???? ??? ??? ?? ??? ????? ?? ???.”

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Well, I can see ‘blast from the past’ – and tears too – have already started.

    Manish’s couplet arouses nostalgic feelings…..

  • manish khamesra says:


    Patrick I used :) and not :(

    It seems that you can read the writer very well and you were able to see my wet eyes while writing about that heart wrenching incident. In the past on the emotional letters I wrote to those many special one in my life I used to drop small drop of water to fake it . The E-mails have taken away that fun.

    Nandan thanks for giving me opportunity to creatively twisted this beautiful sher, in-fact the original one being just the contrary of what I wrote.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    So you are a ‘shayar’ as well (albeit the ‘twist’)

    Seems even Jaishree has fallen for those fake teardrops on the letters she received from you :-)

    Try Bollywood or Saas-Bahu soaps; you’ll do well :-))

  • Avinash says:

    It’s not meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! please. :( Mannu you got to tell this to visitors that the Avinash you are talking about is/was in ST. Else someday I may receive a surprise line, “Why made you to do that, buddy?”, in response to my comments.

    To all fellow readers, I am Avinash Dubey, presently serving in Indian Air Force and a childhood friend of Manish Khamesra (we studied in the same school till Intermediate).

    Yaar, too much sentiments floating around !!!!!!!!!!!

    main ise shohrat kahun, ki unki ruswai kahun
    un se pehle us gali mein unke afsaane gaye….

  • Nandan says:

    shall we have a website for these poetic souls. ? :)

    That was Avinash Gupta (not in ST) but someone who was with Manish in his college. He seems to have an Avinash during all of his education days.

  • manish khamesra says:

    So Patrick you are suggesting me to adopt the nickname of “Twisted Shayar”. Not bad, I have to think about it.

    Thanks for reminding me and for the realization that at least one of those special one may read this comment and then I have to repent about what to write and what not to write on public forums. Shhhhh ….
    “Yaar Manish tu itna open kun hai …”

    When I watch these “saas Bahu” serials I feel like Laughing, I think the way I would love to write a comedy that will surely made those watching it to cry …

  • manish khamesra says:

    I will like to announce that it was not “Avinash Dubey” my childhood friend who suggested me to visit Thekkady, with me in Orchha but it was “Avinash Gupta” another close friend.

    I think Nandan, Avinash, you are reading what Avinash Dubey wrote, one day this world will ask you that – What made you to do that, buddy?.

    The mere feeling that one day it will happen – Made my day :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Nandan is reminding us that please don’t be too poetic (else he has to take another blog space and manage two sites). This post and the site is for real ghumakkars and so we would talk about Orchha, when one of us will share his experiences of it :)

  • Celine says:

    Interesting topics being discussed under one roof here: from Thekkady to New Baby to Shahyari to Orchha. :)

    Orchha..hmmm. I’ve been there. That’s my next destination after Jhansi on my blog. A pretty romantic place along the Betwa I must say. ;)

  • manish khamesra says:

    I agree with you Celine, Orchha is a pretty romantic place. This is one of those places, where I felt that the ignorance of vast potential of tourists has been ignored/not known to the locals.

  • Jerry Jaleel says:

    Another good travelogue. I too enjoyed visiting Thekkady or Periyar Tiger Reserve several times over the years. Never seen a tiger or leopard there, but seen and photographed herds of elephants, Gaur (Indian Bison), Sambar, Cheetal or Spotted deer, wild boars, troups of Nilgiri langurs and common monkeys. Once I saw a python crossing the river there, and another time a jungle walk made a number of leaches very happy. We stayed at Aranya Nivas Hotel, close to the boats, and once at the Ambadi Hotel and enjoyed the fine Kerala cousine.

    Over the years, I have met many people returning after a visit to India, and sadly most of them never heard of Kerala. Evidently they didn’t know what they missed!

  • Manish Khamesra says:


    I read with awe the spotting you did at Thekkady, but for the leeches :-)

    Can you please also share with us the way you explored Thekkady ? I don’t think it was usual boat ride or two-three hour jungle trek as we did. Along with it please suggest the best ways to explore Thekkady.

  • Jerry Jaleel says:


    Most of my trips within the Periyar lake were by boat to view wildlife. Each time we stayed a minimum of 3 days and took advantage of the boat ride in the morning and in the afternoon. We saw most animals including elephants and bison (gaur) during the dry season, on hillside close to the water. Sambar and spotted deer were seen all the time except during the heavy rains (June-Aug). Wild pigs and monkeys were common sights any time. The only unpleasant side (if any) of the trip may be the noise made by some of the co passengers in an overcrowded boat.

    We always started our trip by road to Thekkady via Kottayam- Kumili (K.K) Road, and each time we enjoyed a side trip by foot along the perimeters of the forest. Right behind our suite at the Aranya Nivas Hotel, next to the forest, there were huge trees and sighting of noisy langur monkeys was common.

    During a jungle walk one evening in the monsoon season ( a mistake) we came across a small herd of bison in the distance, a tusker, lots of elephant droppings and a large snake, could be a cobra, but not sure. We were guided by an unarmed Forest guard clad in Khaki uniform, and upon hearing a shrill cry – probably from a sloth bear which are common in this area- he promptly encouraged us to get back to our hotel at once. Having read the stories of man eating tigers and leopards in the Indian jungles by Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson, I agreed to obey our guide’s command without hesitation.

    It was at the hotel, after removing the shoes, we found the leeches made a comfortable home on our legs and between the toes, gorged themselves in blood. After removed them quickly with lighted cigarettes, we rubbed the tiny wounds with ashes to stop the flow of blood, as advised by the guide.

    It is suggested that an overnight trek in the jungle, accompanied by armed forest guards will bring an added experience in true jungle life. The trekkers sleep in tents in front of a bonfire while the guides keep an eye for your safety. However, it is not recommended for family outing, and I have never tried to spend a night in the elephant infested jungle in a tent. I leave this type of adventure treks to the younger generation.

    For the boat ride, they also charged a fee for the camera and more for the video camera. Now it is a relief to know that with a 4 or 8 GB memory card in your digital camera, there is no need to carry a video camera.

    Hope this information might be of help, and good luck with your next visit.


    We found Ambadi Hotel was less expensive and very comfortable during our last visit. They also served delicious meals at a reasonable price.

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      What an experience and what a useful information for fellow travellers!

      Thanks for sharing it Jerry. It has enriched my post as well. Now anyone clicking on it will get double bonanza :-)

  • Pradeep says:

    Nice description of Tekkady trip.I feel inspired to visit next time around.Keep it up Manish

    • Manish Khamesra says:

      Thanks a lot Pradeep for reading it and leaving your encouraging comment …

      I think for tourists without restrictions, no kids etc, its definitely a place with lots of potentials :-)

  • Sanjeev says:

    Hey Manish, nice blog & well written. Tell me – are kids allowed to do the bamboo rafting, jungle trails, etc. Which of the activities are not permitted for kids? Any ideas on that. I have twin daughters aged 10 years and I am anxious to know whether they would be permitted or not in any of the activities. Planning to go there next month.

  • Thanks Sanjeev for liking the post and leaving the comment.

    It had been a long time that I visited the sanctuary.
    However ten years of age seems ok for all the activities you listed. In my case my kid was much smaller, only three years old. They allowed him as well, though for us it was sheer luck.

    Still, to be 100% clear you need to contact the authorities in Periyar wild life Sanctuary only.

    I wish you enjoyable trekking and sightings.

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