Tourism Event in Thekkady

Entrance to the Tourism Event

Entrance to the Tourism Event

This past weekend Cardamom County was the venue for a Thekkady Destination Promotion Council (TDPC) event to promote the activities available in Thekkady and Kumily. At first I thought it was just going to be like other conference events I had witnessed in my 3 months here, but I soon realized I was wrong. The first evidence of my misconception came when someone asked me if I was coming early to see the elephants before the guests arrived.  I was completely surprised by the question but of course I responded, “yes!” quite aware that this event was becoming a lot more interesting than I had previously thought.

The two elephants were standing at the entrance to the property. They were dressed with ornate headdresses and a rider holding an umbrella, which is typical of festival elephants. This was my first up close view of caparisoned elephants, and it was quite a breathtaking sight.  The drummers and rows of ladies holding candles and flower petals all added to the effect.

While I was attempting to document everything I was seeing with hundreds of photos, someone asked me if I wanted to sit on one of the elephants and hold the umbrella. It took me less than a second to say, “YES!” For the next 30 minutes I had the pleasure of sitting on Mira, a 27-year-old Asian Elephant, welcoming guests to the event. Being on Mira taught me something about elephants that I would have never have known otherwise – they have very strong ears and they love to flap them! The power of her ears knocked me off balance a few times and I almost dropped the umbrella. It was an amazing feeling being so close and sharing an experience with such a majestic animal.  It is a moment of my life that I will not soon forget.

Greeting Incoming Guests With Mira

The commencement of the event was a presentation by the Deputy Director of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Sanjayan Kumar, about the eco-tourism offerings of the reserve and its importance. It was an engaging and informative presentation that gave insight into all of the programs and initiatives of the reserve, such as moving to only battery operated vehicles for guest transportation to and from the reserve entrance and the boat landing. The presentation showed how hard the tiger reserve works to promote eco-tourism and conservation. In fact, the reserve hopes to soon get community members more involved in the conservation efforts of the park through a volunteer program. As a part of my internship here at Cardamom County I have had the opportunity to help the Periyar Tiger Reserve with the development of this program. I have worked on cultivating a list of areas where volunteers can contribute and helped create an orientation guide for future volunteers. Hopefully in the coming months this program will be ready to start welcoming the first batch of PTR volunteers.

The remainder of the night was full of local Kerala food, tribal dances, local songs, and much more. It was not the type of event I was expecting, but it was a happy surprise that made for a memorable night.

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