Neither had I spoken to anybody nor anybody to me. We traveled in silence the entire night and reached Thekkady, early the next morning. I had seen a newspaper headline, ‘Two days nature camp at Thekkady,’ organized by Environment Conservation Group, Coimbatore and had enrolled myself for the study tour.
On reaching Bamboo groove, an Eco-lodge and experiential learning center run by Kerala Government, the accompanying, unfamiliar faces rushed to their allotted bamboo huts, only to be out in a moment carrying arms like I have never seen before. Yes, they had cannon like lenses attached to cameras, the tripods, the monopods, the binoculars, the questions, the rush…And I, without a camera and a little knowledge on wildlife stood blinking and wondering—what an amateur like me doing here?
It wasn’t long before I felt comfortable with the group members though. They were eager to share their knowledge, appreciated curiosity, and welcomed questions. After a tasty breakfast of appams and egg curry, we met TK.Sajeev, Nature Education Officer, at Periyar Tiger Reserve. He accompanied and guided us through a trek, the Periyar tiger trail, which to me will remain forever as one of my favorites.
First halt on the trek was to enlighten us on Western ghats and Satpura hypothesis. That was a great start. He had all our attention. Then followed mind-boggling information on wild pigs, elephants, coral and chestnut trees, birds, praying mantis, spiders—our eyes grew only wider and wider.
We watched a series of documentary movies later that day. The one on vulture specifically, I am sure, had an impact on all of us who were watching and the plenty images of ‘cordyceps’ on large screen gave me goosebumps!
At 6:30 am the next day, we were up and ready to go boating. It felt too crowded at first at the boarding point, but once on the boat and into the river, it appeared like we were the only humans chasing wildlife.
Bless the man who came highly prepared with multiple cameras, lenses and other equipment. He handed over the binoculars to me—an act that I am eternally grateful for—because now, I can differentiate between an Indian shag and a cormorant. Over the next 45 mins, we spotted some extraordinary creatures. Let me show you some in pictures:
If there was a plan of action after all the exposure we received, it was in this bit—Group discussions. It was an intense discussion on whether small steps by people can bring the necessary change in attitude. TK Sajeev highlighted on how motivated individuals can take part in various projects undertaken by Periyar Tiger Reserve as volunteers. He also mentioned that their website-http://periyartigerreserve.org/home.php has regular updates on upcoming projects.
Though still an amateur—considering my knowledge in wildlife, I have gained some insight that makes me feel much closer to nature now, than I already was.
Note: An activity at Periyar Tiger Reserve that does not include trekking, spotting, clicking and guessing is…Shopping! ‘Eco shop’ at the entrance of Bamboo groove is your place to buy good quality honey, collected and bottled by native tribes. For those of you wanting to enhance your knowledge on the flora and fauna of PTR, in the same shop, there is a book on Periyar Tiger Reserve that you can buy released by the Forest Department, Kerala.