I’ve passed the half-way point of my managment training with RAXA Collective and since our focus is conservation tourism part of my training has been understanding what the Periyar Tiger Reserve has to offer. I recently had the opportunity to experience the overnight Tiger Trail, probably the very best that PTR has to offer. This was made even more interesting by joining a pair of experienced travelers who were here to enjoy Kerala’s biodiversity. Needless to say I had very high expectations!
I wasn’t disappointed. I also had more than one surprise. The first piece of excitement was during our 24 kilometer hike in the reserve when we came across not only fresh paw prints but a freshly clawed tree trunk, evidence of recent tiger traffic in the area. During the hike we had the good fortune of meeting a group of Tribals who had just gathered some wild honey, which was quite a tasty treat. While rafting on the lake we also saw Elephants, Indian Gaur, Sambar deer, Nilgiri Langur Monkeys, and very beautiful birds.
The lakeside location of the Tiger Trail campsite is a priviliged one for viewing wildlife, not to mention purchasing fish from Tribal fisherman for our dinner. At sunset we had the surprise sighting of a sloth bear fishing for its own dinner. (As you can see from the photo below we kept our distance: according to the forest guides the sloth bear is the carnivor that they’re afraid of, not the tiger!) The site is surrounded by an “elephant trench”, and during the night one of the guides woke us to see a group of porcupine scavanging around the trench perimeter. He quietly told us that porcupines are one of the tiger’s favorite prey. Here comes the surprise: the silence was broken by the sound of a tiger’s roar!
These heart-felt experiences characterized the Tiger Trail for me. My personal lesson was to think about how we’d gone in search of a tiger and although present, it had shied away from us; and the animal that we should rightly be afraid of came within view. We crave a closeness with nature, and often it shows up in ways we least expect it!