India Travel Tales

TALE: Kerala wild safari

Pachyderm Palace

Pachyderm Palace

After a week of 35°C heat on the north Keralan coast we headed up to the mountains, through the uncountable lush green shades of the tea and teak plantations, a legacy that has proved one of the less sinister and more profitable ones left by the British. As the jeep climbed the hills we could feel the air cooling and the atmosphere relaxing around us.

Our destination was Wayanard, the nature park on the border of Kerala and Karnataka, famous for its 200+ wild elephants. We arrived at the Pachyderm Palace, hoping to spot the name sake of our hotel for the next few days. Being in Wayanard at the beginning of October, just as the rainy season was coming to an end, meant that we had the hotel (and, as we found out the next day, the nature reserve also) to ourselves. Our host greeted us and immediately sent us off to have our pick of the rooms (we chose the double room with a balcony over- looking the hotel jungle like grounds) while he served up some kingfisher and roasted cashews. Venu had been working at the Palace for over 5 years, with 4 guest books full of glowing reviews (proudly shown off) and too many stories to prove it (recounted over dinner for our amusement).  

How many did you see?

Not one!

(Vigorous head wobbling from the guesthouse owner ensues)

But I am seeing over 200 in the park, roaming, wild and happy.

I don’t believe it. Deer, deer and more deer, a few monkeys, some wild chickens and a peacock, that’s it.

Wild chicken are nice.

I didn’t come all this way there to see some bloody chickens.

OK, come with me. Thomas, fetch the jeep. First we are eating some fresh pumpkin curry with some of my coconut sambal, just as you like it, and I am making cooked tropical fruit with homegrown honey for desert. Your boyfriend has a sweet tooth I think. And a Kingfisher, certainly! Then I am taking you out for night safari. No one comes to Pachyderm Palace and goes away without seeing our famous residents!

And so we went out, in the driving rain, our dedicated host, hanging from the jeep holding what looked like a search light lifted straight from a wartime movie and his son straining his eyes up front. I felt bad. True, we had been out to the nature reserve twice, and paid the obligatory jeep and guide fee twice and we had not seen the only thing that had brought us to stay at Venu’s guesthouse, a place so out of the way that he knew not seeing them would mean a disappointing memory for us and a bad review for him. Not good for business. And so we drove, and drove, around the roads just on the edge of the nature reserve, our hearts racing (mostly out of guilt) until, just as we’d turned around for the sixth time and conceded it was time to go home, there he was, a loan male, munching away his supper of green bamboo, not at all bothered by the storm or spectators. A beautiful, wild, Indian elephant just 20 meters away.

Pachyderm Palace; a homey lodge located right next to the gate of the park, with top notch Keralan food, spotless rooms and perfect location for early morning treks.
Tholpetty, Wayanad Nature Reserve, Kerala India
2000-2500 rupees per person including meals
Make reservation through the Tourist Desk in Kochi

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