Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is one the best wildlife spotting locations in Kerala.
The scenery is fantastic, animals are in plenty and the wild corridors of the jungle are as wild they should be.
Before getting too excited, let us look at a few things that can go wrong.
Firstly, this reserve is for those who want to take the trouble that is necessary to get to animals and see them in their natural habitat. A quick day tour barely touches the surface even though you may see a few animals.
Other thing to know is that this sanctuary is more bent on wildlife preservation than marketing. At times, they are a bit hard to reach, whether it is email or phone.
The sanctuary tries to support local tribal people through jobs and other initiatives. Many of them work as tour guides. Their service and willingness to help are top class although their English needs to catch up.
The sanctuary is run by a dedicated group, so let us hope things will get better sooner than later.
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is in Southern Palakkad. It is surrounded by the forests of Nelliyampathy, Sholayar and Anamalai.
Area of about 285 sq kms is occupied by dense forests except for the occasional grasslands, teak plantations, a few rivers, dams and reservoirs. There are three main rivers and three dams.
After several decades of functioning as a Wildlife Sanctuary, Parambikulam was elevated in status in 2010 and became the second Tiger Reserve in Kerala. There is more chance to see wild cats here than in Periyar, the other Tiger Reserve in Kerala.
Animals usually seen are gaur, deer, nilgiri langur, peacock, mugger crocodile, wild boar, malabar giant squirrel, mongoose, sloth bear, spectacled cobra, krait, viper, turtle etc.
Parambikulam has huge bison population. It is highly likely that you will see a few of them. It is even possible to see large herds of them.
Elephants too are strong in numbers. So there is good chance to come across them as well. Tigers and leopards are also around, some visitors do see them.
Other things to know
You can either visit the sanctuary on a day tour or opt for overnight stay.
Activities such as treks and rafting are offered to staying guests as well as day time visitors. Plan before day time visits to avoid long waits or totally missing out on these activities. Day visitors must leave the sanctuary before 6 P.M.
Accommodation within the sanctuary is limited to what the sanctuary is offering. They have package deals for tree houses, tents and other jungle accommodation.
The most popular of all is the Tented Niche. The package includes overnight stay, food, Kannimara Teak safari, Bamboo rafting, tribal symphony and early morning trekking.
These permanent tents are comfortable, have electricity and toilets. They are located at Anappady, where the Forest Information Centre is.
There also have tree houses. They are not as comfortable as the tents. The tree houses near the lake are not great for animal watching as well.
If you are after a deeper and more adventurous jungle experience, then try Thellikkal Inspection Bungalow. It is located 8 kms inside the woods, so you have the opportunity to walk all that way through the jungle coming across a variety of animals and birds.
The IB has no electricity. They do not provide food as well. The guides are ready to cook, if you provide ingredients.
There are also a couple of Islands within the jungle where you could stay. Vettikkunnu Island has a cottage where as Bamboo island has a bamboo top hut. Both the places have no electricity. They do not offer food either.
Before embarking on a trip to Parambikulam, you need to know what is included in your package deal. Are they offering food? Check with them if they are supplying you water. There is plastic ban in the sanctuary, so may not be permitted to take in water bottles. Do you have to carry own food? Have a clear answer to all these questions. Otherwise you will have a hard time in the middle of the forest.
Do not carry alcohol to there. There is a ban in place within the sanctuary.
How to reach
Parambikulam is in the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, so you can reach here from both states.
The nearest town is Pollachi in Tamil Nadu at about 38 kms from here. The route is Anaimalai to Vettaikaranpudur followed by Sethumadai and Topslip. Past Top Slip is Kerala Check Post.
The Eco Care Centre is located at Anapady, further along the road. That is where the tent accommodations are.
From Palakkad, travel to Anamalai and follow the same path.
From Cochin or South Kerala, there are two choices. The scenic route is the jungle path from Chalakudy to Valaparai and from there to Aliyar and Sethumadai.
The alternative is the usual, crowded highway and the dusty streets - Thrissur, Vadakkencherry to Vettaikaranpudur and the forest path there on.