My friend and I did the two night, three day Tiger Trail which is a trek led by several guides and an armed guard.
On the first day we met our guides and they provided us with leech socks. The leeches are really bad in the forest, especially in rainy season. We were lucky enough to avoid getting any underneath our socks but they are persistent so be careful. We trekked through the forest to our campsite and all along the way, our guide described the plants and animals we were seeing. That day alone we saw deer, bison, bats, giant squirrels, a snake and a bunch of local birds. OH YEAH, we also saw a mama elephant and her baby! We were impressed that within an hour we had a wild elephant spotting. The guides were very up front about the possibility that we would not see some animals and that it would be near impossible to see a tiger, so we were pleasantly surprised by how much we saw. People going to the reserve to see tigers should not hold their breath, tigers are very rare and mainly come out at night and are certainly not just hanging around during the day. I don't think the tiger part of Periyar's name suggests that there are heaps of tigers running about, more that they are working towards preservation of the existing population....just a note for the many complainers in the review section.
Our camp was quite rudimentary but nice. We had a tent with a sleeping pad and sleeping bags and it was clean. The bathroom is just the jungle nearby. There were two cooks who made fantastic food-- some of the best we had in India. One day we were able to buy fish from the local fisherman to supplement our meals, which was a nice way to give back to the community.
The hiking itself was pretty easy, with a few challenges. I'm sure the guides adjust the hike difficulties as necessary but we found it was really manageable. We did hike up one mountain which was tough but the view was well worth it.
We continued to see animals and learn about the area over the three days. The guides were amazing, very attentive and so knowledgable and passionate about their jobs and the reserve. We loved ours and would recommend giving a tip if you do go. They work hard to make the trip extra special and safe!
If you get the chance to do this trip, do it! It's a great way to see more of Periyar away from the huge crowds. There is a lot to be seen there if you just get off the beaten path for awhile.
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