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Exploring the Untamed Beauty: A Journey through Parambikulam Tiger Reserve: Article by Austin Ajit

It was a nice sunny day when we went to the Parambikulam tiger reserve. It’s a protected safe haven for animals and is a part of the vast expanse of forests that is the Western Ghats.Parambikulam was founded by Narayanan Nair in 2009. It is located in Palakkad, in Chittoor Taluk. It was originally a teak plantation because teak furniture and wood were very popular and used widely. It was actually planted by the British! But it soon became a protected area, due to the huge amount of biodiversity and wildlife in that area.

We came through the Anamalai forest side, in Tamil Nadu. When we first arrived, we had to go up a seemingly infinite road of steep curves, hairpin turns, etc. It was a mixture of mesmerizing and terrifying, as every turn threatened to throw us off-road! The view was spectacular! Hilly mountains arose in the distance like giant round boulders and there were trees and grass as far as the eye could see! As we had come in the dry season, most of it was dry and barren. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t see anything at the moment. I saw only saw Malabar hornbill (only a glimpse, as it flew fast) and an oriental dwarf kingfisher.

But, when we crossed the Tamil Nadu area and entered into Kerala, there was an abrupt change from a dry forest to a lush green wonderland! There were bamboo clumps (when bamboos grow close to each other and get tangled together, creating a clump) and teak trees (the main kind of tree in the area). There were these trees that had bright orange-red flame-like flowers. Once the flowers bloom the tree sheds all the leaves. It is known as “Flame of the Forest” to the locals and its scientific name (like all other scientific names) was pretty unpronounceable. It’s called ‘Butea monosperma. I know it’s super weird.

There were seemingly endless black langurs. They seemed docile enough. I saw a couple of baby ones too! When we arrived at the camp, we stopped temporarily at the main area, because we had to get a forest guard to come with us. Soon forest guard uncle came, and we went on into the jungle! We saw loads of wild boars. Fun (and ironic) fact: A group of boars is called a singular even though there are multiple wild boars!!! We stopped for a second in front of the forest Guard uncle’s home. Nearby was a lake, in which Appa, Amma, and I splashed around in. We saw small needle-like fish. Apparently, there were 40 species of fish there and some crocodiles! There was also a bamboo boat set on the bank. After thoroughly making sure my slippers and shorts were soaking wet we continued into the forest.

When we finally got to the place where we were staying, it was afternoon. It was a treehouse, built on many small trees! It seemed to be made of bamboo (obviously painted bright green). There was only one treehouse, with one more being constructed. It was a bit scary, because since it was built on trees, if an elephant walked under us and even slightly touched the house, it would come crashing down! Plus, elephants did regularly come this way!

There was a beautiful lakeside view, and I saw a small brown heron hunting for fish on the banks! I watched as it used its long, slender legs to navigate the banks. Apparently, the river was called’ Sholayar‘. Soon the little heron flew away. I sat on a chair and read a bit of my books, before gazing at the scenery. Egrets and kingfishers darted at the water in the distance hoping to catch a fish. The shrill sound of peacocks filled the air. I even saw my first ever wild gaur who was lying under a tree on the opposite bank! The gaur was followed by 3 more, and soon an entire herd was there! I saw huge splashes in the water but didn’t see who was making them. Most likely a big fish. I even saw a Brahminy kite for the first time ever (I had only seen black kites)! Inside of the tree house was nice and cozy, but the sounds of the construction of the nearby treehouse kinda disturbed the serenity.

After a while, it was lunchtime! We went to a house-like area, (painted with bamboo, which is a recurring theme!). Since we were still in a forest, trees dotted the area. Amma and I saw a Malabar giant squirrel, a colourful squirrel that is HUGE! Soon we entered and sat at the table, and ate nice yummy food there. It was chicken curry, chapatti, rice, vegetables, different vegetable curries, and papad. It was delicious. There was also a bunch of chickens behind the house, and also lots of monkeys, trying to grab a morsel of food. They were driven away There were monkeys on bushes, on cars, and trees, some even managed to (temporarily ) get inside!

Then we went on a safari on a big bus. The first stop was at the Parambikulam dam, which was pretty close to our treehouse ( a walkable distance!). Did you know there are three dams in Parambikulam ?! And, there are also three main rivers called ‘Parambikulam, Sholayar, and Thekkady ‘!

Then we went deeper into the forest, and the first animal we saw was: A wild gaur! Followed by more wild gaurs. Trust me, these fellas were everywhere and were the most common animal I saw. Then the bus stuttered to a start, and we continued on. It was soon a dense forest. A beautiful lake was on one side; a steep cliff on another. We saw MORE wild gaurs, who seemed to be everywhere at every time.

Soon we came to stop No.2, which was ‘THE BIGGEST TEAK TREE IN THE WORLD: The Kannimara. It’s the biggest teak tree ever, and is 450-500 years old! It was one old fella! The tribal myth says when someone tried to cut it down, it bled! It’s called a ‘virgin tree’, because it has never been cut down! After taking a ton of photos, we went back to the bus and continued the safari.

We also saw another Malabar giant squirrel, who was enjoying himself, nibbling on fruit. This time the squirrel was pitch black! The Malabar giant squirrel has multiple forms when it comes to coloration, from a blue and purple design to a creamy brown, maroon, whitish, and black! We saw a couple of peacocks, birds and a lot of other creatures! Then we went to a view spot high up a mountain. It was a steep incline, but it was worth it! I accidentally spilled some water while going up. When we reached the top we could see miles away! We saw faraway mountain peaks, which were super tall! It reminded me of Smaug’s mountain from THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (the prequel to LORD OF THE RINGS ). It was outstanding! I saw a flock of birds flying near the distance. The trip downwards was more bumpy than the one up and I was bouncing on the seat! After that, we did some more jungle exploring ( or jungling, as I call it ), before arriving at a beach-like area. We soon boarded these wooden boats powered by 4 MEN ! That’s how many people were on the boat. One person said he saw a tusker ( a male elephant) on the shore. Everyone else craned their neck to try and see the elephant, and some people saw it. Sadly I didn’t. I saw more needlefish, but that’s all.

Then, the final stop was a small village area. I drank some tea and some sweets, before going into a small building. There was a small stage, where actors were getting ready. There were elegant paintings of wildlife on the walls, like peacocks, squirrels, etc. Soon, some people began to bang drums, and they performed a folk Dance . of the local tribal people! Parambikulam has 4 major tribes (Kadar, Malasar, Muduvar, and Mala), all of which are pretty cool! In fact, most of the guards here come from these tribes!

After a long day in the jungle, the bus comes back to our treehouse. We went and freshened up (the water was freezing, but in a good way. It actually came from the river.)had dinner enjoyed the night sky and in the calm and quiet forest, I enjoyed my reading.

The next day, we went on a small trip with the forest guard uncle in our car. And we see (more gaurs) and tons of peacocks! We even saw two dancing on the road with a female nearby! It blocked the path but we didn’t mind. We watched them as they spread their tail feathers and DANCED! We also saw many deer including one with the biggest antlers I’ve ever seen! The weird thing is, normally when I go to a forest the first and most common animals I see are deer but here, I didn’t see them until the last second!

We went back to our tree house and then had YUMMY breakfast, Soon our trip was over and we sadly had to go home. Before going we got a bamboo – stick and a book showing all the butterflies of Parambikulam! Then we went back down the road, and drive back home.

About the author

Austin Ajit, a ten-year-old from Bangalore, India, defies expectations with his extraordinary interests and talents. He is a young naturalist, author, avid reader, storyteller, and child artist. Austin actively engages in wildlife conservation forums, draws inspiration from renowned naturalists, and passionately advocates for nature. With a knack for drawing and painting, he brings his love for nature to life through captivating artwork. Austin has already published three books, including “Grandma and Austin’s Plant Kingdom” and “Austin’s Dino World.” His works enchant readers with imaginative storytelling and vivid illustrations. At such a young age, Austin is a shining example of how passion and talent can make a positive impact.

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