People oriented community based and park centered ecotourism is the hallmark of Periyar Tiger Reserve. These programmes are conducted by locals who are responsible for the surveillance. By taking tourists along they not only interpret the values of Periyar and enhance the visitor experience but also add to the protection of the park and earn a livelihood out of it. Hence, when a visitor joins in all these programmes is directly contributing to the cause of conservation and community welfare.
Nature Walk and Green Walk
It is an interpretive sandal protection trekking programme offering excellent opportunity of watching birds, butterflies and other wildlife through a range of habitats during the 4-5 km 3-hours walk. These programme are offered between 7 am to 3 pm in different nature trails inside the Park. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking at a time along each trail accompanied by a trained tribal guide. It is a programme where one can feel nature’s whispers and her sighs!
The programme is a guided trek for approximately 3-4 hours. From the vantage point, you can have a look at grasslands, evergreen, deciduous and riverine forests and the expanses of irrigated arid land across the border where the nectar from Periyar provides the breath of life. Visitors can see the exuberance of Cumbam Valley, the dizzying heights of Mangaladevi, Kumarikulam and other escarpments of the Fort of Periyar and glory of Palni hills farther away from the view point. Possibility of sighting some habitat specialist birds and butterflies including endemics like Nilgiri pipit, broad-tailed grass bird, tree nymph, etc. You can visit the rich cultural heritage of the Mannan Tribe from the yesteryears that have been preserved in the form of the artifacts, metaphors and cultural remnants for the posterity in Tribal Heritage Museum. You will, at the end, have many reflections on the pace of transitions of life and traditions along the tides of times. The Programme will have two slots each day; one in the forenoon and another in the afternoon. The forenoon slots will start between 7.30 and 8.30 am and end before 12.30 pm and afternoon slot will start between 1 and 2 pm and end before 6 pm. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking in a group accompanied by a trained guide.
Jungle Patrol: This is a regular night patrolling programme in the fringes of the ecodevelopment zone of the Tiger Reserve in the company of armed guards between 7 pm and 4 am. This programme injects excitement into the experience while keeping smugglers at bay. One really feels like a cop protecting the precious forest wealth. Of course, this best suits younger visitors fit and disciplined enough to walk in the silence of the night.
It is day-long range hiking programme along the borders of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The route passes through undulating terrains and altitudinal ranges of 900 m to 1300 m where the trekkers can glimpse the lofty escarpments bordering the park, watersheds and the vast stretches of Cumbam Valley below. Gaur, sloth bear, elephants are often sighted apart from birds and butterflies. A maximum of 10 tourists can take part in the programme in 2 different groups. The trekkers along with two guides and an armed forest guard participate in the programme which starts at 8 am and ends in the evening.
This is the dust to dawn hiking and rafting programme through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. It starts at 8 am through a mosaic of habitats and forest rich in bird life, arboreal animals like Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri langur, herds of elephants and gaurs. The rafting is of about 3 hours duration where one gets a panoramic view of the forest clad hills reflected on the lake. Five tourists accompanied by 2 guides and an armed guard par taking the programme. This programme caters to a maximum of 10 tourists per day.
Periyar Tiger Trail
In the Tiger Trail, nature lovers are in the hands of a team of guides hardy and dependable who know the forest and its ways intimately. They were once poachers who have been transformed into the protectors of the forest and now part of the protection force of PTR. This is an adventurous camping and trekking programme of one-night – two-days and two-nights – three-days duration. The team consists of a maximum of 5 visitors, 5 guides and one forest official. Normally a distance of 20 to 35 kms is covered during the trail.
It is an eco-lodge and centre for experiential learning where 15 bamboo huts are clustered in an ecofriendly ambience along with a traditionally modern kitchen and a well equipped board room (Kalari). Experiential learning and nature sensitization of camps are conducted for discerning aspirants and visitors who dwell in the bamboo grove. Lectures, group discussions, audio-visual programmes, field visits are the attractions of this eco-lodge. Each hut can house two inmates. Traditional Kerala food here is an added attraction.
The forest cottage at Kokkara is an ideal abode for two persons. Here one could relax, read a book or just watch the fire flies as they descend like the stars from the milky way as evening sets in. One can watch troops of langurs, giant squirrels, many birds and the changing colours of the forest. The check-in and check-out timings are 3 pm and 9 am in the following day respectively. Tea, snacks, dinner and breakfast are provided.
The programme provides tented accommodations for 30 persons at a time with a board room facility for projection, film shows, trekking in the forest (Windy Walks) and a chance to experience the traditional tribal food prepared by the Urali tribe. The site is located at the river view point in the banks of Periyar River at Vallakadavu, the sylvan surroundings of the forest in Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Bullock Cart Discoveries
This programme takes you in a unique experience through farm lands, vine orchards, jasmine garden, a typical tamil temple, coconut groves, a meandering river side trail and the sleepy village of Gudalur, the setting very similar to R.K.Narayanan’s Malgudi Days. And you ride on a bullock cart guided by people who were once poachers from Tamilnadu. This is a transboundary tourism initiative of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The programme starts at 6 am in the morning and 2.30 pm in the afternoon. It is a 3-hours package. The profit from the programme goes to rehabilitating the group who choose to join the mainstream society four years ago.
Mannan and Paliyan Tribal Dance
The youth of the Mannan and Paliyan tribes living in the fringes of the Park are eager to revive their forgotten culture and the folklores. They have been successful in documenting the lost traditional dance forms of their cult and are all set to launch the traditional dance programmes with the support of Periyar Foundation.
Border Hiking and Windy Walks at Vallakadavu
Both programmes are protection-oriented and community based ecotourism programmes through the grasslands of Vallakadavu in PTR. They have strong elements of adventure, nature education and are designed to provide livelihood to 15 PETS EDC watchers from the local communities.
It is really a dreamy escape into wilderness. It is an innovative attempt to protect and utilize an old heritage building in the tourism zone of PTR. It involves protection oriented trekking and rafting programmes to keep a vigil on the illegal transit routes on the periphery of the Park.
Organic Village Visit
It is a programme crafted by the villagers itself in the periphery of the Park which shall take guests to the organic farm lands of the Forest Fringe Farmers Ecodevelopment Committees