In the vicinity of Thekkady, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of India's best animal parks for spotting elephants, bison, wild boar, oxen, deer, black-faced Nilgiri langurs and lion-tailed macaques (two kinds of monkeys), and many species of birds. The best viewing period is March and April, when other watering holes have dried up and wildlife, including leopards and tigers, is forced to approach the lake to drink. Still, you have a good chance of seeing animals resident October through May.
Lake Periyar, its many fingers winding around low-lying hills, is the heart of the nearly 303-square-km (117-square-mile) sanctuary. Forget exhausting treks or long safaris. At this sanctuary, unlike any other in India, you lounge in a motor launch as it drifts around bends and comes upon animals drinking at the shores. Be prepared: Indian children (and adults) love to scream and shout at wildlife sightings. On a quiet trip, elephants hardly notice the intrusion, although younger pachyderms
will peer at you out of curiosity and then run squealing back to their elders when your boat comes too close. If you're brave-hearted, you can spend a night doing a night trek (Rs. 1,000 per person), staying overnight in a jungle lodge. If you do go out in the forest, be prepared for leeches on the ground, especially during the monsoon. For information about treks in the park, which start at 7 every morning, contact the Wildlife Preservation Officer. The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), which has an office Ernakulam, Kochi, can also help you plan.