Lake Periyar Wildlife
This is a drive of about 4 hours from Cochin. You will see some incredible small towns full of people going about their daily routines. There are also areas of country side, rubber and tea plantations.
The only way into Periyar is to drive. The ride from the Cochin to Periyar was interesting. The roads are narrow and the traffic is heavy. You must trust in your driver as everyone honks and passes in areas where you are sure there is not enough room. Somehow it all seems to work and you arrive safely at your destination. We all thought we would nap but none of us did. The sights of India are unique. So many wild ducks and stretches of green vines with purple flowers. Just like in a post card. The rubber plantations and the tea plantations were beautiful. Particularly the tea plantations, I had never seen a tea plantation before. The tea plantations are a brilliant shade of green and are terraced on the hillsides. looked like you could bounce from plant to plant, a truly spectacular sight. This area is very Christian and so there a many fantastic churches on the way. Then there are the little towns, just full of people, and tiny little shops. India is dirty there is no getting around this fact but it is amazing the longer you are here the more you get used to that.
The two key attractions here are the spice plantations and the wildlife refuge around Lake Periyar.
The Spice Plantations
When you hear this description it is often imagined that there are large plantations of spice plants. Actually the plots are very small and family owned and operated. The plantation walk is really just walking into someone’s garden except it is disorganized and jungle like. This is not a tour that I would rate that highly and if you have any difficulty walking it is on uneven ground and can be a little hot. What I did love on this tour were the children. The children of the spice farmers are interested in the tourists and gather around on arrival. This is not for a handout or to sell anything it is just to say “hello”. On arrival a little girl about 5 was standing there saying “hello”. She gave me a flower, she was so sweet so I held out my hand and we starting walking together. Later, we were joined by about five other children. All they can say in English is “hello” and “goodbye”. They were all excited and smiling, absolutely adorable. These are some great Kodak moments.
Boat ride on Lake Periyar
This is a pretty, man-made lake and a wildlife preserve is all around. There are not many European tourists and this is a very popular attraction for Indian tourists. The boats are very simple, covered with simple plastic chairs for seats. The boats are always full. This is not a glamour launch trip by any means. The wildlife reserve does have about 40 tigers but our guide who has been guiding for 28 years has never seen one.
You are so far away from the deer and wildlife that they were really just specks on the land. This was a one and a half hour boat ride.
There are two small towns in this area. They do have some tourists shops but not that many. Mostly they offer spices grown locally and these shops are where most of the tourists were spending their money. Although Saffron is not grown locally, compared to US prices it is a bargain here, what we purchased for $3 would cost at least $30 in the USA.
The two best hotels are the Spice Village and the Taj hotel. Update: Since this report was first written, the Taj Hotel in this area has closed.
The Spice Village (an eco-friendly hotel) - This hotel has a lot of potential. The grounds are lovely and they property is spread out with paving stone paths among the trees and shrubs. Each building has two rooms. These rooms are very large with tile floors and twin or king sized beds. There is no air conditioning as the temperature really cools down at night but they do have powerful ceiling fans over the bed which are really nice to have. Little things would help this property improve, such as a TV and better towels and amenities. It is comfortable and I would rate it about a 3 – 4 star property. There is no wifi in the rooms and the only Interent available is in the management office where they will connect you via a dial up modem. The dining room area is nice and they feature a buffet each night. How much you like this buffet depends on what is offered that night. One night I found it too Indian with too many hot dishes, the next night they had a pasta station and far more variety of non - Indian foods. They also feature a grill where you can pick your fish, lobster or shrimp and they will cook this for order for you.