Periyar Lake, a reservoir measuring 26 sq km (10 sq mi), was formed when the Mullaperiyar Dam was built in 1895. Many trees got submerged in the lake. The stumps can still be seen sticking out of the water. The lake is surrounded by thickly wooded hills of Periyar Tiger Reserve. It is 1 km from Kumily in Idukki District of Kerala.
Boating on the lake is organised by Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation. Please click here to visit their website for online tickets. Tickets cost Rs 225 for adult and R 75 for child. On reaching the boating area, you will be allotted numbered seats on one of the boats. You have to go to a ticket counter to get this done. In addition to the fee for boating, there is an entry fee of Rs 25 per person at Periyar Tiger Reserve. This has to paid for at the entry point.
From the entry point, visitors have to walk 500 metres to the boating area. Vehicles are not allowed inside. The road has many towering trees on both sides. We could see black monkeys cavorting on the trees.
Tickets for boating can also be purchased at the counters at the boating area. Only two tickets are issued per person. Ninety minutes is duration of the cruise, starting at 7:30, 9:30, 11:15, 13:45 and 15:30 hours.
On entering the boat, everyone has to wear a life jacket. Moving around on the boat is not permitted, for reasons of safety. The guides keep a lookout and do a good job of spotting animals on the lake shore.
The cruise is a wonderful experience. The waters are calm and few ripples disturb the lake surface. There is hardly any noise but for the sounds made by the boat. The lake and the forests are beautiful. We were able to pick out Indian Bison (Gaur), Otter and monkeys from the safety of our boat. Among the birds that we noticed were cormorants, herons, parrots and many kingfishers.
The king of Periyar Tiger Reserve is the tiger. But he rarely steps out of the forest to greet his fans. Herds of elephants are often seen by the lakeside. Binoculars will come in handy. There are many photo opportunities in the cruise. A tele lens will be useful to keen photographers.
There are 35 species of animals in the park, including many threatened species. It is an acclaimed tiger and elephant reserve. Other animals include sambar, gaur, Nilgiri tahr, wild boar, sloth bear, Nilgiri marten, Nilgiri langur, otter, stripe-necked mongoose, Indian giant squirrel and Travancore flying squirrel.
The lake is home to many types of fish, including Periyar trout, Travancore loach, Periyar barb, channa barb, and Periyar latia. Fishing is prohibited.
In the middle of the reservoir, 20 minutes by boat from the mainland, is the lake palace. It was the summer residence of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, former Maharaja of Travancore, and has been turned into a top-end jungle resort. The palace could be a grand place to watch wildlife across the water.
The forests nurture 246 species of butterflies. Three rare species of butterflies have been spotted here: Sahyadri Baby Five Ring, Pale Green Awlet and Broad Tail Royal.
Other outdoor activities in Periyar National Park are: Nature Walk, Bamboo Rafting, Border Hiking, Jungle Camp and Green Walk.