Located by the side of the river Periyar, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the main attraction of Thekkady. Spread over an area of about 777 sq km with about 360 sq. km of which is thick evergreen forest, the sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. However, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary can also be recognised as one of the natural treasure houses of some of the rare species of flora and fauna. The flora of the park includes over flowering plants, grass species, species of orchids and the only South Indian conifer Podocarpus Wallichianus. Apart from the tigers, the fauna of the park includes wild elephant, gaur, sambar deer, wild boar, Nilgir Tahr, lion tailed macaque, bonnet macaque, Malabar giant squirrel, flying squirrel, tiger, jungle cat, sloth bear, hornbill, stork, woodpecker, kingfisher, raptor, cormorant, grackle, darter, cobra, viper, krait, monitor lizards, frogs, toads, masheer (famous and endangered game fish of India) and otter. Noted for its geo-morphological diversity of wildlife and scenic beauty, the Reserve attracts visitors from all over the world. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar river adds to the charm of the park. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar remains the large herds of wild elephants that come down to the lake’s edge.