Thekkady is home to Kerala’s most visited wildlife sanctuary, the Periyar Tiger Reserve, set in an area of 777 sq. kms. Thekkady lies about 4 kilometres from Kumily, the nearest town and five hours and 180 kms away from Ernakulam, up on the Western Ghats. The oldest tiger reserve in the country, the Periyar Tiger reserve is a watershed for two important rivers, Pamba and Periyar. It gets its name from the latter and provides a residence to two great pilgrim centers, Sabarimala and the Managala Devi Temple. With a forest cover that has a combination of tropical evergreen, moist deciduous, highland grasslands and semi evergreen forests, the Tiger Reserve is home for the elusive tiger (45 recorded live here), 62 species of mammals that includes large populations of Elephants and Indian Wild Gaur, 320 species of birds, 45 reptilian species, 160 species of butterflies and nearly 2000 varieties of flowers. Endangered and endemic species include about 19 butterfly species endemic to the area, groups of lion tailed macaques, the Travancore Flying Squirrel, Salim Ali’s fruit bat and the Nilgiri marten. Tourists can take in a view of the reserve by getting on the regular sightseeing boat service that ply the Periyar catchment lake at the entry to the Reserve. Treks, long and short; camps into the forest reserve; bamboo rafting on the lake, border hiking are some of the great ways to experience the jungle and its many secrets.