Travelogue: Safari in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve


Anuja Pradhan


On a recent trip to Kerala with friends, I visited one of the state’s lesser known sanctuaries-Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. Located around 100kms away from Coimbatore, Parambikulam is spread over 643 square kilometres of wilderness. The pleasant drive to the sanctuary took us past quaint villages and endless rows of coconut trees. Upon nearing the Reserve, the terrain became mountainous with steep, rocky turnings leading us up past Top Slip Reserve (which lies in Tamil Nadu), and on to Parambikulam. I was very pleased to see that forest department officials checked all vehicles for liquor, ammunition, and other illegal objects before allowing us into the Reserve.


Since we hadn’t booked a jeep safari in advance, my friends and I ended up on a three-hour, 18-person bus safari. The drive into Parambikulam, surrounded by great wilderness, would’ve been serene, if it weren’t for our enthusiastically noisy co-passengers. It was surprising to see well-educated adults carelessly disturbing the peace and quiet of the forest without a second thought. The driver and naturalist accompanying us seemed accustomed to this behaviour and didn’t even bother to ask for silence.


Trying to ignore the noise, I focussed my attention on the imposing trees around. It might just be my imagination but the trees seemed wilder here. Their branches refused to follow conventional growth and spread out in all directions as the roots gripped the ground with ferocity, allowing them to stand tall at seemingly impossible angles.

Our first sighting in the jungle was of a Nilgiri langur up a tree, some way off. The long-tailed monkey went about its business unconcerned as we looked on in awe. A little further down the road we spotted a rat snake slithering across the road. The bus slowed down to allow the snake to cross and it scampered off to the side of the road, over a rock, and out of sight. We then continued making our way up hill and deeper into the forest. The bus stopped at a few places so we could photograph the beautiful Parambikulam wilderness from a height. We looked down on a canopy of dense jungle and the serene waters of a lake within the Reserve, and stood mesmerised. In that peaceful moment, our otherwise noisy companions were silent as well, taking it all in.


Further on the safari we saw peafowl aplenty, a langur, some spotted deer, a barking deer fawn that skipped away from us, butterflies in a dance of love or a war (I couldn’t tell), and dragonflies ruling the skies. I also noticed a striking pair of dogs that must have some wolf in them.


Higher up in the mountains, we came across a local settlement. Four different indigenous tribes reside in the Park area, and the government does its bit in educating and employing the locals. We saw a surprising sign that claimed there was 100% literacy rate within Parambikulam Tiger Reserve-a great initiative by the local government. Lunch was a simple home-cooked meal on banana leaves at a small restaurant in the village, and then the safari vehicle started its journey back to the Park gate. A few minutes drive away from the village, our vehicle driver stopped to speak to a local who informed him that a tiger had been spotted a quarter mile away! That’s when I realised these people were actually living in the realm of the tiger. Astounding!

Once outside the Park gate, we were surprised to see that our safari adventure hadn’t ended. We came across a herd of spotted deer leisurely crossing the road ahead of us. We also stopped by a pair of tiny langurs who were just as interested in us as we were in them. One of them even tried to get in the car! And lastly, we saw a few Nilgiri langurs up in the trees, as a final farewell from the wild.


If you happen to visit Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, make sure you plan in advance so you’ll have the option of going trekking and kayaking in the Reserve. There are some interesting Forest Department-run eco-lodges within the Reserve that would make for great stay options. Alternatively, stay at a resort at the beautiful districts of Pollachi or Palakkad nearby.


In the end, even though we didn’t see any big predators, the trip to Paramabikulam was extremely rewarding as we were reminded of the beauty and importance of nature.