Periyar National Park

Thomas and I have spent the last two days exploring Periyar National Park on foot. We came here hoping to spot Indian gaur, often referred to as Indian bison, as well as lion-tailed macaques. (Yes, we have very specific wildlife needs.) Unfortunately, the gaur and lion-tailed macaques weren’t playing along.

We did, however, have several spectacular encounters with wild Asian elephants, which is always more of an adrenaline rush on foot than from the relative security of a jeep. One of the encounters required us to climb out on a steep cliff over thick jungle canopy to discover a periscope-like elephant trunk poking up through the growth groping around for tasty treats. Eventually the elephant ate enough of the leaves that we could actually see his head.

But our wildlife encounters weren’t limited to elephants. We spotted dozens of black Nilgiri langurs as well as colorful giant Malabar squirrels, which grow to over three feet long. Add to that sambar deer, wild boar, and phenomenal bird life and you’ve got a pretty successful wildlife experience considering the dense jungle growth.

But even if we hadn’t seen any animals, Periyar would have been worth it for the magnificent jungle studded with fire-red coral trees as well as the stunning escarpment drop-off views over the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. All in all, a great trip.

But this being India, don’t expect to just walk up to the park entrance and buy a ticket. Periyar is seriously bogged down with incoherent rules, hiking limitations, pricey fees and seriously undertrained park guides. Why does it always have to be so complicated?

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