Travelling from Kottayam to Kumily, the landscape starts to change, with steeper winding roads, tea plantations appear as you near Kumily.
Although Munnar, about 4.30 hours away, is the commercial centre of some of the worlds highest tea growing estates, with the TATA company (the largest tea producer in the world)owning most of the land. It isn't possible to see around a tea factory in this area.
We were able to visit a tea plantation and factory a few kms outside Kumily.
We watched the women clipping the leaves, using special shears attached to a collection box, which was emptied into a large sack worn across their backs.
Inside the factory, the smell of drying tea leaves was quite overpowering. We also saw the processes of shredding the leaves, then grading by size of leaf, before they were funelled into sacks for delivery.
Outside again, the women were taking a tea break. I asked if I could take their photo, which they agreed to, they also offered me a drink of their tea, which was hot, strong and sweet!
On the outskirts of Kumily are to be found Spice plantations and gardens.
We first visited a plantation, where we saw peppers, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, jackfruit, mimosa flowers and coffee beans all growing in their natural habitat.
The Kallumakal (Abraham) spice garden was well worth a visit.
Owned by the Abraham family, the rambling gardens contain familiar, and unusual spices and herbs, with a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes.
Its totally organic, with natural forms of pest control.
The owner and his family were very knowledgeable about their produce, and were keen to show us the various spices and herbs, encouraging us to smell and taste various clippings. He also had a few pots hanging from trees, that held honey.
It's possible to visit as part of an organised tour, or just turn up..no entrance fee, but a donation of 50 - 100 rupees, for the upkeep of the garden, is well worth it.
The nearby town of Kumily is worth a visit, either to see some local life or to do some shopping.
Most of the craft shops are Kashmiri owned, and have an assortment of goods on sale. (see my intro and shopping tips)
The market and assorted food shops have a wide selection of dry and fresh goods, for snacking on.
I was lucky enough to witness a parade while i was in Kumily. Local sari clad girls carrying platters of petals, Kathakali characters and drummers, musicians added to a colourful procession.
We also saw many male pilgrims, in and around Kumily. Dressed in black, they were en route to Sabrimala, the temple of the deity Ayyappan.
Although there are estimated to be over 750 elephants living in the park, you aren't guaranteed a sighting.
We nearly missed seeing these creatures, as our boat was heading back to the shore. Luckily, the boats captain spotted movement in the nearby trees, and pulled the boat up in time for us to witness a family group, lumber down to the waters edge.
We spent a good while here watching them feeding, drinking and bathing.
The baby elephants were very entertaining, as they played and bathed .
For more pictures of elephants please click onto my other pics on this tip
Near the entrance to the wildlife park, we were alerted to a group of people looking excitedly up a tree.
Curled up in the branches was a large python!
We thought that we had had a rare sighting, but on chatting to others later, it would appear to be a more or less permanant fixture.
It was quite an awesome sight though.
During our visit to Periyar, we spotted quite a variety of birds.
Brightly coloured Kingfishers darting about, Cormorants, herons and some unidentifiable species.
In the distance, we could see birds of prey soaring over the hilly terrain.
Binoculars can be hired from the wildlife office.
Perched on top of the tree trunks sprutting from the water, we spotted cormorants, with their wings outstretched. They do this to dry their feathers in the early morning sun.
As we floated quietly along, past these sinister looking birds, the sun was starting to burn through the mist, leading to quite an eerie atmosphere.
The early morning boat trips depart around 7am. The air is cool, so bring a fleece or jacket.
I found the morning mist hanging over the lake to be very atmospheric.
When the lake was made in 1885, forests in this area were flooded. Evidence of this can be seen in the many tree trunks that jut out of the water.
. Cormorants can often be spotted, drying their wings in the early morning sun. Balancing on top of the tree trunks, they provide an eeirie sight!
The 26sq km artificial lake, is surrounded by forest, grasslands and rolling hills.
2 hour boat trips offer a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Even if you don't see elephants or any of the other inhabitants of this vast parkland, it's a pleasant way to pass a few hours.
A guided hike of 2a3 hours cost 500 roepies for the whole group you're going with.
We didn't see a lot of wildlife (some monkeys) but the walk was very nice (some good scenery).
The walks leave at 7.30 am, 10am and 2pm.
Prices have gone up. At the gate to the sanctuary at the park entry post. You have to get your ticket. When I went it was 300 roepies for foreigners. Indians pay 25 roepies.
Keep in mind that a boattrip or a guided walk cost something as well and it is prohibited to walk in thge sanctuary without a guide.
You can schedule a guided hike through the wildlife sanctuary at the same lodge looking building where you buy your boat tickets. You will be provided with a guide and leech socks. The area is jungle so it is humid and moist. Just looking at the ground you can see leeches all over the place....you'll appreciate the socks and tobacco powder!
The hike takes about 3 hours and the views are amazing. You may see some elephants, sambar, wild boar, buffalo, etc.
Enjoy the boat ride around and watch the animals..:)
7 AM, 9.30 AM, 11.30 AM, 2 PM and 4 PM.
The forest Department and The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Ltd conduct boating trips from Thekkady
Main trekking area in Thekkady are :-
Kurisumala near Kumily, Pullumedu, Ottakathalmedu near Kumily, Grampi near Vandiperiyar. The forest Department conducts daily trekks from the boat landing station at Thekkady to the Nellikkampettt area abd Manakkavala.
Starting time 7 AM
Fare Rs 10 + entrance fee.
Booking can be made with the Wild life Preservation Officer, Thekkady.
The forest department , Thekkady offewrs a facilities for elephant rides through the Jungle.
Time 10 am to 5 pm.
Duration 30 min
Fare Rs 30 \person
Tickets are available from the Wildlife Information Counter.