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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Nature-gazing in Thekaddy

Impressions of India - 5:

I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, through Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

Please do take a moment to log and/or e-mail me your reactions and comments? Given the slow upload speed, each post takes around 3 hours straight to get online (not counting image-selection and -editing time), and knowing that lots of you are reading and enjoying it will add great fuel to my fire!

Thekaddy, 2 hours' drive south-west of Munnar and its amazing tea plantations, has many more nature-gazing opportunities - spice gardens and tusker trails, Periyar (Tiger) Reserve and expressive families of roadside monkeys.
You can take an elephant ride through the Tusker Trails Spice Garden, but you won't see or learn nearly as much about how all our spices grow as if you are guided through it on foot. This is coffee on its bush, with its heady, jasmine-fragrance white blossoms which make the air intoxicating.
I put the 'Tiger' of Periyar Reserve in brackets because, although they are there, and I saw tiger poo to prove it, they're also very shy, only generally come out at night and can smell us humans coming a mile off. So you're about as likely to actually see one as you are to win the lottery. Possible, but terrible odds. Which suggests they should really just call it the Periyar Nature Reserve to avoid disappointment and encourage visitors to fully-appreciate all the other natural wonders to see.

It's South India's most popular wildlife sanctuary, covering 777 sq km, and all the entry and guided tour fees go towards the 'Tribal Tracker Eco-Development Committee' and preserving and studying all the animals within. It's home to bison, sambar deer, nilgiri langur apes, bonnet macaque monkeys, wild boar, over 1,000 elephants and, at the last count, 46 tigers.

My personal guide Mani, from a 'tracker tribe' like all the other Reserve rangers, was expert at spotting barely visible, motionless animals (where I generally needed some movement to lock in). He also communicated his own enthusiasm so effectively (in hushed, awed tones, David Attenborough-style and with a gentle hand touching my arm to still me), that as our 2-hour early morning tour progressed I found myself getting just as excited about spotting tiny far off birds (such as racket-tailed drongos, white-bellied blue flycatchers and velvet-fronted nuthatches) as him.
Luckily I had a longish lens with me - a 300mm - which allowed me to see some detail in what was, to the naked eye, often just a distant dark blob. It was particularly thrilling to watch blonde-haired Langur Apes having breakfast and swinging through the trees.
Then we saw the giant squirrel, giant indeed but also with red and blue fur. It too was having breakfast, munching on nuts and then swinging by its big fluffy tail from the branches.
Herds of Sambar deer made frequent appearances too, gazing back at us with almost as much interest as we were gazing at them. 
When Mani spotted these delicate, tangled spiders, hanging in the crook of a tree trunk like a hairy armpit, he pulled a bunch out to show me. 
Then, en route to my second Thekaddy hotel, my driver drove me to and stopped beside this tribe of roadside monkeys, which he'd seen hanging out in the same spot many, many times before.
I just love this one below - 'Kids eh?!' The mum looks like she's wearing blue eyeshadow & has her eyes closed long-sufferingly, the little one having his ear bitten also has such a human expression, & the other adults facing in left and right complete the triangle.
And some more plastic-eating - looks like candy floss, sadly not nearly so sweet!
Next Post:

Kidnapped by 2 lovely children on the beautiful, white-sand fishing beach of Mararikulam's fishing beach, near Alleppey, and led to see their homes among the palms where they gave me some village water (whoops, but I survived!) and a piece of sweet jaggery pancake.


  1. what an adventure! not easy to photo animals eh..though the 'kids eh' made me smile.

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  3. That giant squirrel looks like something from the Beatles film, The Yellow Submarine. Never have I seen a more surreal animal.

    The elephant opens with major impact and the apes in the trees look very sombre.

    The family of apes by the roadside appear to be taking everything in their stride. I know of several human families much the same. As to their occasional polymer based diet, it does project a slight note of tragedy. This doesn't detract from their photogenic integrity, in fact it probably adds to it.