Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nature Beckons you....Listen to her whispers.....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eravikulam National Park....Munnar

A Male Nilgiri Tahr A View from the Park

Eravikulam National Park in Munnar is world famous and information about this park is easily available.Still I thought I would share my experience of the numerous visits to this magnificient abode of the endangered Nilgiri Tahrs.


Neelakurinji......Blooms once in 12 years only.Next season 2018.....

Eravikulam National park is siruated in Idukki district of Kerala and is roughly 145kms from Cochin.From Munnar town it is 15km away.The park is around 97 in area.The endangered Nilgiri Tahrs live here and the park is also famous for the "Neelakurinji" (Strobilanthus Kunthiana) flower which blooms only once in 12 years.The last time they were in full bloom was in 2006.

Neelakurinji(Strobilanthus Kunthiana)

The Nilgiri Tahrs are ungulates seen mainly in Nilgiri Hills and southern Western Ghats.It is also known as Nilgiri Ibex or just Ibex.In Malayalam it is called 'Varayadu".It belongs to the goat family.Around 800 of them roam the terrains of the Eravikulam National Park.The park is made of high rolling hill plateau with an average elevation of 2000meters.The highest peak south of Himlayas,Anaimudi(2690m),is within the park.

Eravikulam National Park

The raod from Munnar to Eravikulam is in good condition and on both sides you can see tea plantaions.There is a beautiful ground on the left side with a nice pitch in the middle.A serene river flows around the ground.Plastics are prohibited inside the park and a nominal fee is collected to enter the park.
On way to the Park....

The Nilgiri Tahrs are slow movers and photographing them are quite easy.With a medium range zoom lens good pictures can be taken of the Tahrs.The females outnumber the males and sighting male Nilgiri Tahr is a rare opportunity.The calving season is in February and the Park remains closed for visitors for 45 days from Feb 1st onwards.

View from the Park....

The other animals found in this park includes the Gaur,Indian Muntjack,sambar Deer,golden Jackal and Jungle cats.132 types of birds have been recorded from this place.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trekking the Agastya Mountains

The Abode of sage Agastya

Agastya seen from the Boat

Agastya mountains are part of the Western ghats and borders Tamil Nadu and Kerala.It is a pilgrimmage center for Hindus and special permission is required from the forest department to visit the mountain.Agastyarkoodam(peak) is one of the highest peak south of Himalayas.Trivandrum in Kerala and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu are the nearest big towns.
Bambooed...Near Kombakkani

Agastya mountains can be accessed from both Tamil Nadu and Kerala side.The Agastya mountains are known for their abundance of rare medicinal plants and herbs.The Agastyamalai Biosphere Reserve harbours rare flora and fauna.

Small Boat ....on Neyyar Dam

We started our journey from Neyyar Dam from the Kerala side.We obtained the necessary permission from the forest department.A Kani tribesman was sent along with us as guide.We boarded a boat at Neyyar Dam at 9Am and reached Kombakkani,a 30 minute ride.Then the trekking started.It was quite hot since we were still in the plains.Our destination was Cheria Meenmutty waterfalls which was around 15 km away from Kombakkani.Meenmutty is a Malayalam word which means "end of way for fish".The fishes can no longer swim upstream as the water cascades.There are many such Meenmutties in the jungles of Kerala.
Scene near Cheria Meenmutty...

When we started from kombakkani it was quite dry and no trace of water could be seen.But once we reached Cheria Meenmutty we were welcomed by a beautiful waterfalls and crystal clear water.We all had a refreshing bath in the river.
Our idea was to trek further and stay at Valia Meenmutty(Big Meenmutty)which was a further 10 km uphill.It seemed that nature didnt want us to go any further since it rained very heavily.We got into the comforts of a forest rest house at Cheria Meenmutty and spent the night there.

Chembadutha Snake

The heavy downpur changed the face of the Cheria Meenmutty waterfalls.It became brownish in color and the amount of water gushing down was considerably increased.It is dangerous to dip in the river at such occations and we stayed by the shore.

Evernthough I have named my trip as 'Trekking Agstya Mountains' we returned the next day.This time we didnt climb the Agastayrkoodam.

Agastyaarkoodam..Much closer...

On the way back we were greeted by a baby Chembadutha snake.This is definitely elephant country but unfortunately we didnt bump against a herd!(or fortunately).I am impatient to make another trip to the beautiful Agastya Mountains....

Meenmutty waterfalls..Before the Rains

After the Rains....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Silent Valley National Park

My Dream Fulfilled

I have always dreamed of visiting the Silent Valley National park situated around 80kms from Palakkad(or Palghat)in Kerala.Eventhough I am a Keralite living in Trivandrum I never had the opportunity to visit my dream park earlier.I completely enjoyed my trip to Silent Valley and is having tremendous memories of the park whih turned out to be more breathtaking than what I thought.

The Park

The Silent Valley National Park is the core of the Nilgiri International Biosphere Reserve.Its a small park with a geographical area of just 90 Sq.KMs.The park came into existence in 1980.The Silent Valley was rescued by naturalists and environmentlists from inundation by their relentless struggle against the construction of a dam in the 70s.The Kerala Govt abandoned their plan to construct the dam and a great rain forest was rescued.Today we can take our children to this park and show them the beautiful forest.

Getting there

The Silent Valley National park is around 80 km from Palakkad and around 450km from Trivandrum.The visitors center for the park is at Sairandri and decent lodging facilities are offered by the forest department.Since there are no tarred roads the best option is to hire a jeep from Sairandri.Take permission from the Forest office at Sairandri and a guide is send with you to visit the park.

The Name

The park got its name because of the conspicuous absence of Cicadas.You dont hear them sing in Silent Valley.But my forest guide tells me that now a days they do hear them sing!

Fauna and Flora

Silent valley boasts of tremendous variety of animals and plants.Most of them are endemic to the park.At least 16 species of birds are labelled as thretend by the Bird Life International.The rare bird species seen here include Ceylon Frogmouth ,Great Indian Hornbill,Long-Legged Buzzard,Red winged crusted cuckoo,pale harrier and many more.The Hornbill is the State bird of Kerala.There are at least 34 species mammals in Silent valley which includes the threatened Lion Tailed Macaque,Nilgiri Langur,Malabar Giant Squirrel,Nilgiri Tahr and Hairy winged Bat.Apart from this there are at least 730 species of insects in the park.The flora includes 1000 types of flowering plants 108 species of Orchids and 100 ferns.

My Experience

We hired a jeep from Sairandri and started our trip to the park along with our friendly forest guide at around 9 am.The 20km journey to the center of the park takes around 2 hours and the muddy road gives you a bumpy ride.We saw a few Lion tailed macaques and malabar squirrels on the way.We could also see a snake meandering its way into a thicket by the side of the road.A tall watch tower greets us at end of our journey.We climbed the tower and the scenery around us was extraordinary.

Kunthi River

I havent seen a more pristine and crystal clear river than the Kunthi river at Silent Valley.The dam was proposed to be constructed across this river.Thanks once again to all those involved in preventing the Kerala Govnt from building it and today one can take a refreshing bath in this serene river.The Kunthi River runs across the park and drains in to the Bharathapuzha.Thre is a hanging bridge across the river in the park.There is a forest office near the watch tower and with the "jungle Orchestra" one can hear the cries of different animals and birds.

Momories of Silent Valley

We returned to Sairandri by evening and with prior permission we could have arranged for a stay in the park itself.Our trip was fantastic and we enjoyed our close encounter with the Silent Valley.I am sure about one thing......this is not my last visit to the great Silent Valley!


Hanging Bridge

View from Tower

Kunthi River....Nicely it flows

26 Kms to Silent Valley