Located in the Periyar Valley at Thekkady, this is the oldest and largest tiger reserve in Kerala. Spread across the foothills of the southern Western Ghats, this 777-sq-km forestland is also home to the Asiatic elephant. A repository of rare and endangered flora and fauna, the valley is a major watershed for two important rivers – the Periyar and the Pamba. The famous Sabarimala shrine and the Mangala Devi Temple are also situated in the region.
At the centre of the reserve is the vast artificial lake created by a dam built by the British in 1895. Declared a sanctuary in 1950, the Periyar Reserve became part of Project Tiger, a Central Government initiative to protect the animal.
A combination of tropical, deciduous and evergreen forests and grasslands make this an ideal home for 62 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, and 45 species of reptiles. There are numerous varieties of flowers and butterflies as well. A boat ride on the lake is a delightful way of spotting elephants and avifauna, for which the park is well known. If you are fortunate, you might even spot the pride of the sanctuary, the tiger. Although tiger sightings are not very common, there are enough of these magnificent felines around. Trackers routinely spot pugmarks.
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