Awake stupidly early and wonder aimlessly down to the park entrance where you meet hordes of Indians and tourists battling at the ticket counter. It’s elbows out and hope for the best as you attempt to secure your ticket before the main gates to the park open.
Either walk the four kilometers to the office where you book your boat ticket or share an autorickshaw with fellow tourists. If you choose the second option then be prepared to hold on for sheer life as the gates open and your rickshaw driver takes incredible pleasure out of racing his vehicle as fast as he can over the speed humps and through corners as he attempts to be the first rickshaw to the office. All the other rickshaws will also be taking part in the race, horns blazing. We came third.
Get dropped off by the barricade and then have to take part in a one kilometer race to the office. Fortunately most of the Indian visitors lack stamina so you’ll reach the ticket man in good time. Hold the celebrations though because you may find out that you’re at the wrong ticket office and on arrival to the one your supposed to be at you are a long way back in the queue.
Take part in another queue scramble as you attempt to get a ticket for the earliest leaving boat. Get frustrated by some late arriving locals who decide to work their way down the line attempting to negotiate someone else to buy them a ticket. Watch as the situation starts to get a little heated.
Finally with top deck of the boat secured, wonder down to the dock. Find yourself in the front seat and admire the wonderful scenery, if little wildlife, as a big group of Indian men attempt to make as much noise as possible.
It was an experience for sure. At 7:30am the boat finally departed and although the noise on the top deck at times was a little bit to much, it was on the whole a very pleasant two hours. Setting off early meant that the sun had only just risen and was attempting to break through the trees. A thick fog hung over the lake. It felt as if we were setting off into a new world.
As for animal sitings, I saw a mongoose, wild boar, wild deer and loads of birds. It wasn’t perhaps the tiger or elephant extravaganza that some would have hoped for but I was prepared for that. Periyar is renowned for being the most popular park but people not seeing a lot. However the scenery was enough to make the trip worthwhile.
The boat trip was nice enough but the accommodation I secured made it all worthwhile. I stayed in a tree house with an incredible garden and only a couple of other unoccupied huts hidden away in the trees. Essentially I had the whole place to myself. It was separated from the road and the rest of the accommodation by a winding dirt track. Outside of total peace and quiet, the garden also had its own watch tower, which looked over the boundary of the park. From the tower I saw a family of wild boar and a mongoose climbing trees attempting to catch birds. I had already seen wild deer in Pushkar. Despite my enjoyment of the park the accommodation did make a slight mockery of it.