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Enchanting Kerala


ISSUE: 195


Silent Valley National Park

It is one of the few bio hot spots in the world. And it is home to a rich biodiversity, sustained in an ecosystem, which is fragile and needs to be handled with care. With a total area of 237.5 sq km and a core area of 89.54 sq km, the Silent Valley National Park located in Palakkad district of Kerala is unique in many ways.

Mukkali, the entry point for Silent Valley National Park is on the Mannarkkad - Attappady route and is about 20 km from Mannarkad. The office of the Kerala Forest department at Mukkali controls the access to the national park and permission for entering the national park can be obtained from the Wildlife Warden's office at Mannarkad or from the Assistant Wildlife Warden's office at Mukkali. Entry to the national park is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Visitors are permitted to go up to the forest station at Sairandhri, the entry point to the core area of the Silent Valley National Park. One can trek the 23 km from Mukkali to Sairandhri or go by jeep. One would be traveling through the buffer zone of the national park in the beginning, which would pass through farm lands, and plantations of coffee, eucalyptus and teak. On the way to Sairandhri itself one would come across quite a bit of birdlife and also animals like langurs, herds of spotted deer, sambar, elephants and the Malabar Giant Squirrel.

Before reaching the arched entrance, welcoming visitors to the Silent Valley National Park, one can proceed to the '23 Waterfall' by taking a deviation. It is a spectacular waterfall; but the approach route to the site of the waterfall is a bit difficult to negotiate on foot, and it is the only possible way to reach the waterfall. The motorable road ends with Sairandhri, which has a forest station.

On reaching Sairandhri, the forest station, visitors can relax a bit and proceed to explore the nearby River Kunthi. It is a crystal clear river and a bath in its water is refreshing and rejuvenating. On moist rocky surfaces of the river banks, one can sometimes see butterflies of a particular species, sitting in large numbers. The area is also a good location to spot the endangered Lion-Tailed Macaques.

The forest watchtower at Sairadhri is a great attraction for visitors. From the top of this 30 m high watchtower, one can enjoy a large portion of the valley's core area. Great views of hill ranges and the sight of River Kunthi flowing like a silver streak are enjoyable sights from the watchtower. In the evenings, if lucky, visitors can watch big cats like tiger and leopard that come to the river to drink water.

It was the British who coined the name 'Silent Valley' in 1847 because of a perceived absence of noisy Cicadas. Another story attributes the name to the Anglicization of Sairandhri and a third story, refers to the presence of many Lion-Tailed Macaques, Macaca silenus.

Terrain, vegetation and wildlife
The Silent Valley National Park situated in the north-eastern corner of Palakkad district, rises abruptly to the Nilgiri plateau in the north and overlooks the plains of Mannarkkad in the south. Most of the park lies within the altitude range of 880 m to 1200 m. The valley areas of the park comprises tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. The hilly areas above 1000 m are in a South Western Ghats montane rain forests region. Above 1500 m, the evergreen forests begin to give way to stunted forests, called sholas, interspersed with open grasslands. Sispara is the highest peak in the Silent Valley National Park.

The River Kunthi descending from the Niligiri hills above from an altitude of 2000 m flows about 25 km through the valley. Locally known as Kunthi puzha (puzha in Malayalam means river) the river never turns brown; it is crystal clear, perennial and wild. The river sustains about 13 species of fish.

The Silent Valley is a veritable treasure house and a gene pool of tropical flora and fauna. The fauna here comprises most of the peninsular mammals. They are Lion-Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri langur, Bonnet Macaque, tiger, leopard (Panther), Leopard cat, Fishing cat, common palm civet, Small Indian civet, Ruddy mongoose, Stripe-necked mongoose, wild dog, sloth bear, Otter, Small Travancore Flying Squirrel, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Indian Pangolin (scaly anteater), Porcupine, wild boar, sambar, Hairy winged bat, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, gaur and elephant. There are nine species of bats, rats and mice.

Bird species numbering nearly 200 have been recorded at the Silent Valley. They include the rare ones like the Indian Black Crested Baza, Bonelli's Hawk Eagle, Rufous Bellied Hawk eagle, Shaheen Falcon, Short-Eared Owl, Peninsular Scops-owl, Ceylon Frogmouth, Great Indian Hornbill, Nilgiri Laughing Thrush, house martin, and Malay Bittern etc. About 170 species have been recorded of which 31 are migrants. The most abundant bird here is the black bulbul.

Butterflies and moths are varied and plenty. There are more than 100 species of butterflies and more than 200 species of moths. Quite a few of them are extremely rare and endemic. About 25 rare species of frogs are also found here.

The flora of the valley include about nearly 1000 species of flowering plants, 108 species of orchids, 100 ferns and fern allies, 200 liverworts, 75 lichens and about 200 algae. A majority of these plants are endemic to the Western Ghats.

Located in the core of the Nilgiri Bio-reserve, the Silent Valley National Park is probably one of the most magnificent gifts of nature to mankind. It is a unique preserve of tropical rain forests in all its pristine glory with an almost unbroken ecological history. The park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats montane rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forests in India. It is an absolute paradise for things in their wildest form.

Getting there :
Vehicular transport is allowed only up to Mukkali, nearly 24 km from the Park. The rest of the way has to be covered on foot up to the source of the river Kunthipuzha which flows through the valley before merging into the Bharathapuzha (River Nila, the longest in Kerala and believed to be the life force of the State).

Nearest bus station: Mannarkad (32 km)
Nearest airport: Coimbatore (120 km)

  Topics: Wildlife   Palakkad   Hills  

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