Thekkady got a major face-lift in 2012 when a modernized information centre was opened at boating-landing-site. A state-of-the-art building with new ticket counters, information displays, and modern eco-shop were opened at the time. A newly designed self-guided nature trail (pugmark trail), and an office complex were also inaugurated in October 2012. The forest department offers several trekking programs but pugmark trail is unique in that it is self-guided, although much shorter. Most of the trekking programs start at different locations around the boat launching site although a few including the pugmark trail starts elsewhere.
It is not possible to get trekking tickets inside the park. For that, one has to visit the forest department office (aka Ecotourism Centre) located between Kumily and the park entrance - when coming from Kumily, the office is on the left at Ambadi Junction. The centre offers many trekking-only (half-day and full-day) and overnight camping+trekking programs (one-day and two-day in tents or cottages). Some treks also include a stretch of bamboo rafting in the Periyar River. Same-day tickets are not usually available for most programs - each program is conducted with groups of 2 to 4 tourists and two or more forest personnel go with each group - there are limited number of groups per program per day. Pugmark trail is the only exception as that trail is self-guided. When we went, same day Nature Walk & Green Walk (two of their half-day treks) tickets were sold out, but next-day tickets (7AM & 2:30PM - Rs 300pp with a Rs 1200 minimum for a half-day trek) were available. Also, got Pugmark Trail (self-guided) tickets for same day at Rs 100pp.
Pugmark trail is a nice ~3KM stroll. The starting point is in front of the “Office of the Deputy Director, Periyar Foundation” building. To get there, when coming from Kumili, take the first left after park entrance and drive up to the building - there is a direction marker indicating the building location but it does not say anything about the trail. Once you get there, there is a sign-in sheet as well as a waiver sheet that needs to be filled up. Parking is outside the gate. Pugmark Trail is not a loop and so you basically walk back the same way once you reach the end of the route - there is a marker identifying the End but it is also obvious as the trail ends on the road that runs through the park - saw black monkeys, mountain squirrels, and a bunch of birds - also several endemic trees on either side of the trail are marked.
Nature Walk start-point is near the boat launching site. For all treks from this site, they check whether your park entrance tickets are valid for the day. If not, you will need to get it renewed - thankfully, renewals can be done at the Forest Department counter in the boat-launch area. There is a small Forest Department hut near the start point and there is a little paperwork (signing the waivers) as well. A guide and a trainee goes with you for the 3-hour trek and each group is limited to a guest-size of four. We hiked in our own group along with the two guides. The start of the trek involves crossing a small marshy area - the place was overflowing with bi-colored frogs (a small endemic species - they go down to the water during the night and go back to the forest as daylight falls - some get stamped and/or gets eaten by boars and such) . As the trek progressed, we were lucky to see wild boar, goar, rat snake (right on the hiking trail), plenty of birds, elephant herd (other side of the river bank), etc. The guides were very experienced and guided us through a different route in order to avoid us getting caught on the path of the elephant herd. They are quite flexible and adjust to your needs - with another group, they stuck to the preset trail as the group did not mind the risk of potentially having to wait indefinitely until the coast is clear.
The reporting point for Green Walk is Bamboo Grove - to reach there, from Forest Department Office (EcoTourism centre - the place were you get the trekking tickets), going back to Kumily, take the next Left (there is a stone wall on the opposite side of the forest department building, and one can follow that as well). After the left, there is a small bridge to cross and follow the same road till you reach an open ground with a small Forest Department thatched hut on the right. The trek is similar to Nature Walk in some regards although the terrain appeared flatter and there was a lot more tribal presence in the area. Saw antelopes, sambar deer, bison, and an elephant herd with baby elephants (nearer this time). Also saw several birds including the Emerald Dove. Park entrance closes at 5PM for new tickets - but for people with existing tickets, it is open till 6PM - so re-entering the park after the Green Walk trek was not a problem.
- Thekkady Boat Safari - Review.
- Thekkady Trekking - Pugmark Trail, Nature Walk & Green Walk - Review.
Last Updated: 01/2015.