“Not many animals on the island. Just some King Cobras, their babies and crocodiles that occasionally visit the island. They don’t trouble the visitors ma’am – not as long as you do not walk into the bushes behind the tree hut”
Said the friendly forest guide when we asked them if it is safe on the Peruvari Island Nest where we had booked a stay to tick one item off my bucket list – “Sleep in the jungle one night”. Thus began our one day excursion to one of the jungle camps hosted by Goverment of Kerala in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.
The fact that hailing from Wayanad has made me a complete wildlife fanatic and the sight of seeing elephants on the road instills thrill and not fear was not lost on my travel companions. While they kept hoping we do not run into something large and wild, I was hoping against hope for better than the usual spotting of deer and bison. In the end, they clearly won and we saw mostly the usual stuff during the wild life safari. But what did make a difference in our lives and left an unforgettable experience was the stay at a remote island in the reservoir – The Peruvari Island Nest.
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Why Peruvari Island Nest
Earlier, while toying with the idea of where to stay in Parambikulam, we were left with 2 choices – The Peruvari Island Nest or the Veetikunnu Island. The Veetikunnu Island was at least at 1.5 hours rowing distance from the shore and apparently had lesser facilities out of the two and the fact that I was accompanied by city bred folks did not help me win my argument on “the more remote, the better”. So I finally raised my hands in surrender, gave in to their wishes and we zeroed in on the Peruvari Island Nest which is at about 30 minutes rowing distance from the mainland and safely perched on concrete pillars away from any reptiles or unwanted visitors from the wild.
The perks of booking a stay at one of these island getaways is you get to travel in your own vehicle for the jungle safari if it has adequate ground clearance and as long as you are accompanied by the forest guide. The guides are mostly from the local tribes, have a vast knowledge of the terrain and have a great eye for spotting wildlife.
After a beautiful drive through some scenic route from Pollachi to Parambikulam(which I fondly call the drive through the “Tunnel of Trees”), we reached the Anamalai Tiger Reserve security check. Here we were requested to fill out some forms and pay a fee amount before we began the ascend to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve area. The 2018 monsoons that drowned almost the whole of Kerala had not spared the roads leading to Parambikulam. After what felt like an eternity, we covered the last 30 kms and reached the Security office in Parambikulam where we were assigned a guide for the forest safari.
The boatmen expertly rowed a long and sturdy bamboo raft for about 30 minutes before we reached the island that was our home for the night.The island is home to ample reptiles including crocodiles and the very poisonous King Cobra and several species of birds. The larger animals however do not normally reach the island due to the distance from the mainland. However, the mention of King Cobras alone was sufficient to send my travel companions into a shock and keep their feet as far away from ground level as possible after sundown.
We carried our luggage to the island hut and after inspecting the place for the presence of any other living creature which may have set camp ahead of us, we heaved a sigh of relief at finding nothing and went down to the little kitchen where the guide and boatman were sorting the supplies and preparing to cook for the night. They expertly made a quick black tea and set it up on the bench by the lake side for us to enjoy while we engaged with them in friendly banter on stories about the jungle and the wild, of snakes, tiger encounters and nature of wild animals.
Fact check : Did you know that a fully grown tiger marks its perimeter that goes up to about 8kms in the forest. Also, when a tiger is in the area, the monkeys give out warning cries loud enough for most animals to know about the presence of the beast in the vicinity.
Hear me Roaaarrrrr…..
While the sun set and the sky slowly turned into distant hues of orange and red, a distant trumpeting of a solo tusker occasionally broke into the silence of the forest. Soon, the sound of crickets reverberated in the air and we were ready for dinner. Despite the summer heat, the temperatures came down in the evening owing to the tree cover – and long with it, rained down the moths in various sizes and shapes attracted by the light above us. After generously spraying some bug repellants all over, we sat down and enjoyed a peaceful dinner over a trillion stories under a starlit sky and retired for the night.
Mornings are special on this island because you wake up to the sound of peacocks and several birds that I do not have a name for. While the mist above the lake cleared and the sun steadily went above the horizon, we worked our cameras for some amazing shots. After taking a quick shower in the cold natural water and munching on some fruits that we bought along with us for breakfast we started packing up and getting ready to return. Soon we were saying good bye to this beautiful island and on the raft rowing back into civilization.
Facilities at Peruvari Island Nest
This Government of Kerala owned and run property is one of the few options you have for stay at Parambikulam. You can find the complete details of available options by visiting the official website here – https://parambikulam.org/
The Island Nest can be reached via a bamboo raft that is operated by the guide and a boat man. They also stay over at the facility on the island. Food is not a part of the package and hence you would need to buy some supplies before heading off to the island. We managed to buy some at the small town in Parambikulam which the ever so polite guide and boatman graciously cooked and served us for dinner.
The island is small and is surrounded by water from the nearby dam reservoir. The small tree hut can accommodate up to 5 people and is well maintained. The bathroom and facilities are neat and modern and quite a notch above what we expected given the fact that this is a govt run facility and pretty remote from urban areas. The place is powered by solar panels in an effort to be completely eco friendly. There is no water heater or ceiling fan – however we did not feel these were needed either. The cool breeze through the windows eased the summer heat and a splash of cold water in the morning was refreshing.
Best Time to Visit Parambikulam
June – November : While Parambikulam is a yearlong destination, it is pretty obvious that the place is known for its scenic beauty during the monsoons or the period following the rain falls when all is green and pristine. If you are visiting during the rainy season, remember to carry saline solution to ward off those leeches that will be found in plenty in the damp forest areas.
December – May : Wildlife sightings are however known to be the best during Jan – April months due to limited water availability and animals moving towards the water sources. But this also means that you would see a much drier forest due to teak being the most prominent tree in this forest range.
Packing your bags for a jungle trip is quite unlike you do it for other trips. Ditch the colorful flowing summery dresses for active wears in deeper shades to blend with the forest and strong and sturdy hiking boots. Bug repellents are a must and load battery and power backups into your backpack. And girls, ditch the accessories, you don’t need them in the wild.
How To Make Your Reservation
Head over to https://parambikulam.org/ for complete details on pricing and various accommodation options. If the idea of staying in a remote jungle is not your forte, there are various other options of stay available here for couples, families, adventure/nature enthusiasts and honeymooners.
Enjoy the journey to the wild, create memories and leave nothing behind but your footprints and tire marks and preserve the sanctity of our forests.
Do not forget to save these pins to your travel board and before we sign off, here are some Tiger Fun Facts. Bet you did not know most of them!
- The tiger is the biggest species of the cat family.
- Tigers can reach a length of up to 3.3 metres (11 feet) and weigh as much as 300 kilograms (660 pounds).
- Many subspecies of the tiger are either endangered or already extinct. Humans are the primary cause of this through hunting and the destruction of habitats.
- Around half of tiger cubs don’t live beyond two years of age.
- Tiger cubs leave their mother when they are around 2 years of age.
- A group of tigers is known as an ‘ambush’ or ‘streak’.
- Tigers are good swimmers and can swim up to 6 kilometres.
- Tigers usually hunt alone at night time.
- Tigers have been known to reach speeds up to 65 kph (40 mph).
- Less than 10% of hunts end successfully for tigers
- Tigers can easily jump over 5 metres in length.
- There are more tigers held privately as pets than there are in the wild.
- Tigers that breed with lions give birth to hybrids known as tigons and ligers.