The boat safari is one of the most popular activities at the Periyar Reserve. And 5 years ago, I recall we had gone on the safari on a beeg boat. At noon, if I am not wrong. This trip, we were outside the Reserve at 5:45 am because the guide had informed us tht the ticket counter opened at 6 am and we may not get any tickets if we were late. It was a cooold day and both of us stood, shivering, outside the counter till after 6:15 am because no one turned up to issue the tickets. I was cold and the Arien was bored and we headed back to our car so we could at least be warm. The Arien also decided to have Chai. It was after 6:45 am when we were armed with our tickets.
We then drove into the reserve to park the car. The Yeah 🙂 look on our faces soon changed to the bewildered :O look when we saw the other tourists run from the entrance to the other counter that sold us our boat tickets (a distance of more than 2 km). Everyone ran as if their life depended on tht ticket or boat ride. We did not understand what the fuss was all ’bout considering we all had tickets and so we sauntered in. Well, one learnt why very quickly. Apparently, the first ticket hardly matters! Yes, I am right. The second ticket is the one that gets you a boat. So, how fast you run to the counter, fill in details, and get your ticket and are assigned the boat, determines when you will get to go on the safari. We waited a loong looong time and I vented, ranted, and cribbed. A lot. Made no difference.
Another point to note, they collect data such as your home address and contact number etc for every tourist who travels on the boat safari. This is something new. (We did not provide these details 5 years ago). I think it is because of the periyar tragedy where the boat capsized and most of the folks died. Identification must have been tough because most of the folks were tourists. Again, this was not something I knew – I was cribbing and it was the Arien who informed me.
The mood improved slightly when we finally got onto the boat. The Arien got busy taking photographs, some of which came out ok while others were slightly blurry. In the last trip (5 years ago), we hardly saw any animals. This time, we saw elephants, a lot of birds, the popular cormorand, and a couple of otters.
A guide accompanied us on our safari and kept up a running commentary on the birds and animals that we saw. Not too many and some of were so far that we could hardly make out what it was. He spoke in malayalam. The Arien mentioned the names of the birds for me — he is very knowledgeable ’bout this. I am still a learner and frequently embarrass him with my gaffes 🙂
It was quite cold in the morning but now the sun was up and we really longed for a cup of chai or something – it has been hours since we left the resort. People were clicking pics left, right, and center. The Arien cribs ’bout the snaps that he has taken everytime and that happened this time as well.
While it was not a fantabulous trip, it was ok. To be honest, I would not advise anyone to go on that safari until the process improves or changes. We had planned to go on that safari more than once during this trip but dropped the idea after this one experience. I think more effort should be put in to streamline the process and make it more customer-friendly. This experience left me feeling cheated.