Has anyone been to Gavi near Thekaddy? Would you recommend it? Is it significantly different from Periyar Wildlife Reserve (which is fairly closeby)?
Firstly I have never seen any wildlife in and around Thekkady - Periyar reserve, on the three ocassions I have been there - 1984, 1999 and 2009 - I have only seen domestic cows, goats and buffaloes. If you are going there to see wildlife, I'd give the whole area a miss, and go instead to Mudumalai or Bandipur. I believe the Periyar side of the sanctuary is mismanaged by the Kerala government, the extent of the mismanagement is fathomed by the recent disaster at Thekkady in the Periyar reserve when a whole boat capsized, killing 45 visitors to the wildlife sanctuary. Gavi ecotourism is also run the Kerala Government and is mismanaged to the same extent. At breakfast there was no place to sit down and eat, and we were asked to adjust by sitting on the floor by the "Manager". We finally managed to get a table and chair after arguing with the manager, who was useless, and instead one of his staff took the initiative and got us a place to eat. After breakfast we were taken on a narrow jungle trail that had fresh tiger cub and adult tiger paw prints on it by a forest guide from Gavi ecotourism. As the only defense against the nervous mother tiger seemed to be an umbrella that I was carrying, I asked the guide what to do if we encountered the tiger on this remote, completely deserted jungle path. The guide said to just stand still, and the tiger would leave us alone. At that instant, i went from being eager to see a tiger to praying feverishly that we wouldn't encounter one. Seeing a tiger from a jeep or elephant back is one thing, and coming face to face with one when on foot, on a foot wide jungle trail with only 3 people in the party and no one for miles around, is a completely different proposition.
We were also severely bitten by leeches, this was made worse by the guide pulling the leeches off our legs by brute force, instead of putting salt on the leeches which would make them retract their sucker cleanly. As it is my legs were covered in blood from the forceful removal of the leeches. When I got back to the Gavi office, there was no offer of first aid for my wounds, I doubt they even have a single first aid kit on the premises.
And yes, all we saw during this whole 2 hour long trek was one solitary monkey at a distance of about half a kilometre, however, we saw plenty of cows and goats.
Ecotourism is a good concept, however, in the hands of the Kerala Government it is but a mangled implementation, and I sincerely believe due to the complete absence of any safety or first aid procedures, you would be putting your life in jeopardy by visiting this place.
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