Thekkady is an easy weekend destination for most people living in Kerala. A day or two spent in the company of nature will rejuvenate us, and help us to free ourselves from the boredom of daily life. Though the pandemic put a full stop on our travels for more than a year, things now seem to be changing for the better. When you go to Thekkady, do you just roam around and come back? Or do you make the best of your trip? Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is obviously the biggest attraction in Thekkady. But apart from this, there are so many amazing things to do in Thekkady that many of us are not aware of. So let us have a quick look at the things to do and the places to visit when you visit Thekkady.
1. Boating or Bamboo Rafting in Thekkady Lake
Did you know that Thekkady got its name from the ‘thekku thadi,’ or teak stubs adorning the lake in Thekkady? It is a beautiful sight. The lake lies majestically in the center of Periyar Tiger Reserve. This is not a natural lake. It was formed during the construction of the Mullaperiyar Dam. Boating in Thekkady is a different experience, as it offers an encounter with wildlife. While sailing in boats, you can see many animals on the shores. The most common are sambar deer, monkeys, and elephants. There are many varieties of birds also, like the snakebirds (Anhinga). If you go in summer, you might be lucky to spot even tigers.
During summer months, Periyar Lake becomes the only water source for the wild inmates of the National Park. For this reason, summer is the best time to spot animals during a boat ride. You also have a greater chance of spotting animals in the mornings and evenings. All said, animal spotting is purely a matter of luck. Boat rides are for a duration of one and half hours, and are operated by KTDC. The first ride starts at 7:30 AM and the last ride starts at 3:30 PM. If you spot tigers or elephants while on a boat ride, please remain calm, and do not disturb them. Remember, it is their home, and we are just visitors. For those with a greater sense of adventure, bamboo rafts are also available. This will be a nature-friendly way of wading through the waters. The experience will be the same as a boat ride, but it will be more exciting and adventurous.
2. Jeep Safari
A jeep safari is one of the most amazing things to do in Thekkady. You get into the jeep with an expert driver behind the wheels, and enjoy a drive through the lush greenery and dense forests. The drive will be rough, but an amazing one. It is a drive where all you see are trees and birds, and all you hear is the music of the jungle! A jeep ride will also offer you a chance to have a close encounter with animals, provided the conditions are suitable. There are different operators in Thekkady who provide jeep safari packages. A jeep ride inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve is usually combined with other activities such as trekking or canoeing.
If you wish to venture a little far off, you can opt for a jeep safari to Gavi, which is an off-beat destination 40 kms away from Thekkady. Safari to Gavi is preferred by adventure-seekers. This is an offbeat destination inside the thickets, so be prepared for a bumpy ride. Don?t be surprised if you find an elephant blocking your path during the drive! This jeep ride will take an entire day. Generally, Gavi jeep ride packages will have food, trekking and canoeing included in the total cost.
3. Jungle Walk And Jungle Scout
If you are willing to explore on foot, there is no better way of knowing the jungle than walking into it. Guided walk inside the jungle is offered as a part of eco-tourism activities in Periyar Tiger Reserve. You can walk within the allowed perimeters, and only with trained guides. As you go deeper, you feel a sense of calmness and curiosity enveloping you. Tiny brooks, song of birds, and murmur of trees will make your walk meaningful. This is the most eco-friendly way of intruding into the forest. During the walk, you can see many birds and animals, but make sure not to disturb them. Do not worry about the safety aspects of the walk, as a guide armed with guns will be at your side. This walk is organized in groups.
A night trek through the jungle will be more thrilling than a day trek. Don’t you feel so? This is what a jungle scout offers you. Jungle scouts are guided night treks of three hour duration, and operate at different time slots in the night. This is also a group activity.
Kids are not allowed in jungle scouts. Night treks are amazing as they give you the real picture of the dark forests. Who knows? A few wild beasts may cross your path! Night trek in jungles is definitely one of the most amazing things to do in Thekkady.
4. Elephant Bathing and Feeding
Elephants are part of our childhood memories. Watching the huge pachyderm has always been awe-inspiring. Most of us had a childhood dream to get close to an elephant, or to feed it. Here in Thekkady, you get a chance to fulfill those unfulfilled dreams. Elephant safari is one of the most amazing things to do in Thekkady. There are different packages in this. You can opt for a ride over the elephant, or for lending a hand at bathing and feeding the tuskers. You can also click pictures with them. Remember, all of these come with a price tag. If there are kids in your group, this is one activity that they will thoroughly enjoy. The trainers will also help you to learn a few commands to communicate with the elephant. Imagine the fun of having an elephant obeying your orders! Be careful not to hurt the animal in any way.
5. Vineyards of Cumbum
Just around 23 kms from Thekkady lies another wonderful destination, Cumbum. It is in Tamil Nadu. The rustic beauty of Cumbum is heart-warming. There are some beautiful waterfalls, quaint little temples, and lots of greenery to appease your senses. This laidback town has several magnificent vineyards. A visit to the vineyards of Cumbum is one of the most amazing things to do while you are in Thekkady. A drive for an hour or two will take you to Cumbum. There are other attractions like Chellarkovil waterfalls which you can combine with the trip.
Most vineyards in Cumbum allow visitors. You can roam around, see fresh grapes, click pictures, and learn more about grape farming. Some farms charge for entry, while some don’t. Jenis Grapes is one of the farms that offer free entry to visitors. But plucking of grapes is strictly prohibited. If you wish to take home some grape memories, you can buy a few items from the grape products kept for sale. It will be a great experience for those who have not seen vineyards. January to March are the best months for vineyard tour.
6.View From Parunthumpara Cliffs
Parunthumpara is a hill view point located at a distance of 24 kms from Thekkady. You can reach there in a 2 hour drive from Thekkady. This little known tourist destination will bowl you over with its beauty. The word Parunthumpara translates as ‘Eagle Rock.’
You can go by your vehicles to the top of the cliff. Views from atop these cliffs are simply superb. You will find misty mountains and endless green valleys on all sides! During the the rainy season, there will be many small and big waterfalls trickling down from the cliffs. You can also view the famous Sabarimala temple and the forests surrounding it from a distance. During the Makaravilakku festival at this temple, many devotees gather at Parunthumpara hills to view the spectacular sight of the burning fire.
7. Trip to Kuttikkanam
The beautiful hill station, Kuttikkanam, lies at a distance of 35 kms from Thekkady. Unlike Thekkady and Munnar, Kuttikkanam is rather unexplored, and so, less crowded too. A drive to Kuttikkanam is one of the most amazing things to do in Thekkady. Pleasant and cool climate is the biggest attraction of Kuttikkanam. There are lush green tea gardens everywhere. This is a place where you can easily spend a day or two, just relaxing in the lap of nature. There are several attractions like Panchalimedu, and Ashley Bungalow.
Located at a distance of 12 kms from Kuttikkanam is yet another unexplored picnic spot, Madammakkulam. Here you will find a pretty little waterfall and a pond formed underneath the falls. Locals have a story behind the name Madammakkulam. They say that during the British rule, British madams frequented this pond for bathing. This is why it got the name Madammakkkulam, or Madam’s Pond. It takes a tough off-road drive or a plucky bike ride to reach the place. If you go by your own four wheeler, you can park it at a distance and take a short walk to reach the place.
These were the must-see places and the must-do activities in Thekkady. There are several other attractions too, if you have enough time in hand. We shall discuss them in another blog.