Posts Tagged ‘wildlife of periyar national park’

Part I: Lured by Images of South India

August 19, 2017

I have two back-to-back tours in India taking place January 2018.  Both of the tours are led by Arvind Singh, organized by Kelley McHenry, and both tours offer daily Hatha yoga, which I will be teaching.  In today’s post, I am sharing my favorite photos from my last trip to South India.  We will be revisiting the places below in the January 2018 travels. These trips to India will be the last I will be offering in India, only because I hope to offer yoga retreats to various areas.

I can’t capture the entire trip with these few photos, but hope to give you an idea of the beauty that is INDIA (in this case, South India).  I hope the photos will be of interest and lure you into considering joining me in January.  Or perhaps the photos will offer you an opportunity to do some armchair travel!

South India Tour with Daily Hatha Yoga takes place January 2-January 18, 2018. I am happy to announce that this trip is definitely happening.  Registered participants are already purchasing their flights.  Registration is open through the end of August 2017 View Full itinerary

Periyar Park is a reserve for the Asian elephant.  How I love this park and the elephants living there!  In the evening, the elephants in the park gather at the edge of the lake to get their fill of fresh water.  We watched them from our boat, from the middle of the lake.  In this photo, a baby is coddled and protected by two females.  The next day, we visited the park again in the early morning.  Three naturalists from the park guided us on a walking tour.  I never imagined I would walk in elephant territory, but my group and I did just that.  We got pretty close (at least I think we were close!) to these massive and lovely wild creatures.  Seeing them was thrilling!


The photos in this blog are not in chronological order of the tour.  The photo below was taken in Mumbai, at the start of the trip.  Mumbai is not considered South India, but it is where we fly into and is a short flight to two of our destinations: the UNESCO World Heritage historical caves of Ajanta and Ellora.

Mumbai is vast.  It felt like a cultural center to me, lively and thriving. I loved visiting the Taj Hotel and the house where Gandhi lived for a while.  I was fascinated by his personal library, which still sits intact in his home.

IMG_0428The people of India are bighearted, friendly, beautiful inside-and-out, welcoming, and the children, in particular, are adorable.  Seeing the children and their proud, loving families is a great joy to experience in India:  L1340459



L1340599Below: School kids enjoying Shiva’s Butterball (as this boulder is called).  You can see a path worn on the stone surface where the kids are playing.  The worn path is most likely created from thousands of years of kids sliding down, as two of the school girls are about to do.

L1340576When I think of South India, I think of the numerous ancient stone carvings of the temples.  Mahaballipuram has impressive stone carvings, as do the caves of Ellora and Ajanta.  It is a singular and unforgettable experience to walk among such massive carvings!




L1340313During the journey, we stayed in some wonderful places.  The most unique overnight stay is on the houseboat in Kerala.  We relaxed and enjoyed being rocked by the waters.  The rooms are deliciously cool thanks to the air-conditioning (I don’t really like AC, but so appreciated the comfortably cool boats!).  In the afternoon, we got into smaller canoe-like boats and floated along smaller river ways to see the many houses and people living along the banks of the river.

L1350299L1350279We attended Kerala’s signature performance and classical form of dance, drama, and music called Kathakali.  It is an art form that is more than 400 years old.  Below you can see one of the Kathakali performers.  We had our own intimate and private performance. On this day, we all wore our new colorful Indian clothing.  In the second photo below, you can see our festively dressed group gathered around one of the actors from the Kathakali performance.


12933011_1348191141863221_6997846868358269616_n-1And lastly is a photo of Maria.  We did a South Indian cooking course with Maria in her home kitchen.  I discovered Maria on line and asked Arvind to please include a cooking course with her.  After a little hesitation (Arvind had never met Maria and didn’t have much of an idea of what the experience would be like until he further researched), Arvind agreed to include Maria’s cooking course in the itinerary.  The food was some of the best we had ever eaten in South India!  She appeared to be a magician, an alchemist of sorts, as she blended her spices and demonstrated how to put the various dishes together. To top off the experience, her husband sang Hindi love songs from various movies for us as we ate our delicious dinner.  As we ate, serenaded by Maria’s husband George, Arvind’s head swayed to the live music.  Between bites of food, Arvind sported the satisfied smile of a Cheshire cat.


  • Click here for a link to see incredible on line images of the Ajanta and Ellora caves.
  • It is so difficult to fathom how the stone sculptures and caves were carved, that some people have theories of an advanced civilization being involved in making them. Though I do not subscribe to this theory, it is fascinating to watch the following video clip to see how intricate the temples are at Ajanta and Ellora. View video
  • View one of my most popular blog posts on India: 10 Reasons Why I Love India
  • This trip is organized by Spiritual India Journeys.

PART II is coming your way next: Rajasthan!










Take a Walk on the Wild Side

May 23, 2016

While in South India a little over a month ago, we really did take a walk on the wild side.  India is a land of extremes.  Summer temperatures can exceed 38 degrees Celsius.  Just two days ago, during one of the longest heat waves in India, India hit a record temperature of 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 Fahrenheit) in the north-western town of Phalodi.

In this land of extremes, I learned about and saw a fascinating variety of animals.  We visited Periyar National Park, a dense tropical forest, a refuge for the native wild Asian elephants.  From a boat on Lake Periyar, we saw elephants come to the lake to drink one evening.  It was an exhilarating experience.  The anticipation of and then actually seeing the elephants in the wild, made us (those sitting near me and myself) giddy and silly, so much that the uptight French tourists on the other side of the boat were giving us dirty looks because they wanted “Du Silence”!  Of course, their disapproving looks only made things worse and we became uncontrollably giddier.  (Yikes, the French tourists ended up at our hotel that very same evening and I am sure they had very strong opinions about us when, at the dinner table, a cicada dropped onto one of my group participant’s clothing  and caused great alarm!  She had never seen a cicada before and had no idea what sort of insect was clinging tightly to her!)

On the following day, in the wee hours of the morning, we were led by three guides/naturalists through the dense forest on foot, where again we saw the elephants and a rich variety of wildlife.  The guides really knew their birds and animals, but they struggled with their English.  Still, they managed to teach us about the wildlife around us.  Later, I did some research on the wildlife of Periyar Park in South India. With the guides’ information and what I found on line, below are some fascinating facts about South Indian wildlife (wildlife habitat of the animals below ranges beyond Periyar National Park):

Dense forest in Periyar Natinal Park

Dense forest in Periyar Natinal Park

A wild Asian elephant:

  • They eat 130 kg-169 kg of vegetation per day!
  • In Periyar National Park, water hyacinth becomes an important food source for elephants when grass dies in the dry season.
  • The tip of the trunk is prehensile for easy grasping of grass and other leafy vegetation.
  • An elephant drinks 100 liters of water every day just to survive.  Tourists who come to Periyar Lake by boat can always expect to see the elephants come to the water’s edge in the evening to quench their thirst.
  • As you can imagine, elephants produce prodigious amounts of dung.  Butterflies feast on the dung, benefiting from the minerals found on it!  There were many colorful butterflies throughout Periyar National Park.
A clump of dry elephant dung

One of our guides proudly displays a clump of dry elephant dung

  • The adult females create a mobile fortress for the baby elephants.  This way, the calf stays safe from the Royal Bengal Tigers.  Mother elephants are fiercely protective of their young.
Baby is in the middle of the elephant fortress

Baby is in the middle of the elephant fortress

  • Female elephants gather to witness births and to witness the first steps of the baby calf!  The calf does not walk immediately, but within hours it will be walking underneath its mother in its early infancy, never losing contact with her body.
  • The elephants stay in herds because an extended family increases chances of survival.
  • A bull can weigh as much as 6 tons (the largest Asian bull ever recorded weighed just over 7 tons).
  • When compared to African elephants, the Asian elephant is slightly smaller and has smaller ears. Elephants are excellent swimmers, using their trunks as snorkels.


Smooth-Coated Otter:

  • These Asian otters are larger than other otters and have shorter coats and fur-less noses.  We saw them swimming in Lake Periyar.
  • They are used for commercial fishing in Bangladesh.  They are bred in captivity and trained to chase fish into fishing nets.
  • Otters can stay underwater for 8 minutes.
Please Note: Otter photo is not my photo, taken from the web

Please Note: Asian Otter photo is not my photo, taken from the web


  • Happy to report I did not see a cobra in the wild.  I did not even see the occasional snake charmer working to collect some money.   Snake charmers are being outlawed these days.  A ban has been in effect since 1991, but only recently is being enforced by the government.  Apparently the government views snake charming as offensive to the culture, a bit backwards.  There was a news article that talked about how upset the snake charmers are.  Some 800,000 snake charmers are up in arms over the now enforced ban and recently took to the streets to protest the loss of their livelihood: article
  • Cobras are snake eaters!
  • The venom from one cobra bite can kill 10 humans.  I read one account that the venom from one bite can kill 26 people. Look on line and you will see a variety of numbers.  Even if the number were just one, it would be a terribly frightening statistic.  Cobra venom is neurotoxic and spreads extremely quickly throughout the bitee (I just made up that word..Cobra is the biter and the victim is the bitee!).

Giant Squirrel:

  • Ok, so when the guide pointed out the Giant Squirrel up in a tree overhead, we didn’t understand him at first.  I truly believe the word “squirrel” is one of the most difficult English words to pronounce for non-native English speakers.  And besides, even if we did understand, the animal we saw up in the tree could not possibly be a squirrel.  We were in disbelief.  The giant squirrel is a beautiful creature.  It mostly stays up in trees, where it is safe from predators.
  • One single leap from tree to tree measures a span of 6 meters or more.
  • The Indian Giant Squirrel is only found in tropical forests.
  • And Indian Giant Squirrel has the cutest round ears and a “hand” with an inner paw for gripping.
  • They weigh over four times more than our common Western squirrel.  The Indian Giant Squirrel weighs up to four and a half pounds and the average squirrel we see in America and Canada weighs about one pound.
  • They are omnivorous, eating flowers, fruit, eggs, and insects.
  • An Indian Giant Squirrel group is called a “dray or scurry”.  We did not see a scurry of squirrels and I am relieved that our guides did not have to use the expression “a scurry of squirrels”
Indian Giant Squirrel (Photo is not mine, and was found on line)

Indian Giant Squirrel (Photo is not mine, and was found on line, but I wanted you to see its adorable ears and human-like hands.)

This is my photo of the Giant Squirrel

This is my photo of the Giant Squirrel


  • Found in Wikipedia: “Macaques have a very intricate social structure and hierarchy. If a macaque of a lower level in the social chain has eaten berries and none are left for a higher-level macaque, then the one higher in status can, within this social organization, remove the berries from the other monkey’s mouth.”
  • Their diets consist mostly of fruits.
  • The number one fruit for the macaque are the figs from the Ficus tree
  • Macaques can live in social groups of 30 members.  The leader is generally a female.
  • Males tend to the young.
  • Macaques can swim (and occasionally can be seen soaking in hot springs in Japan).

I caught this one yawning!

Golden Langur:

  • They use all four legs and tail for balance.
  • The langur and the forest deer have a friendly relationship:  The langurs hang out in trees and disturb the red silk cotton flowers, which then fall to the ground for the deer to feed on.
  • The langur feasts mainly on leaves, but also eats fruits, grass, and flowers.
  • They live in groups of up to 40 individuals.
  • They are capable of jumping over rivers.  They can jump about 10 meters.  They have to jump rivers because they cannot swim!


There are countless frogs in Periyar Park.  There were so many that we had to dodge them so as not to crush them under our boots.  There is also a seemingly infinite variety of birds in the park.  Here is a list I found on line (Some in our group got photos of the blue flycatcher.  It is other-worldly!):

Dee birding!

Dee birding!

About 265 species of birds can be seen in the park, including migrants. Endemic birds include the Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiri wood pigeon, blue-winged parakeet, Nilgiri flycatcher, crimson-backed sunbird, and white-bellied blue flycatcher.   Other birds include the black baza, spot-bellied eagle-owl, Nilgiri thrush, little spiderhunter, rufous-bellied hawk-eagle, brahminy kite, great hornbill, Sri Lanka frogmouth, Oriental darter, and black-necked stork.

View link to see the variety of wildlife in the park (not all birds and mammals are listed in this blog, for example, we saw kingfishers, wild pigs, sambar, and spotted deer)

Frog Dodging!

Frog Dodging!  All those blurred black lines are frogs jumping (hard to see, but seriously, there were thousands and I am afraid to say that we stepped on more than a few).

We saw a fair number of cormorants and egrets.  The egrets eat fish and the many frogs we were trying so hard not to step on. The egrets appear to be the ambush specialists as they can stand still for hours and wait for a fish to appear.


  • Cormorants are aquatic birds whose feathers are not waterproofed!  That is why they often perch with their wings outspread (in order to dry their feathers in the sun).
  • Cormorants have no external nostrils so they breathe through their mouths.
  • They cool off by fluffing their throats.


  • Last but not least, the termites!  Some 100,000 termites can live in one colony.  They clear up dead wood and turn it into compost for the soil!





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