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KERALA TOURISM NEWSLETTER

ISSUE: 197

JANUARY 2010

Eravikulam National Park

A national park in the high ranges of Kerala, the Eravikulam National Park is situated in the Kannan Devan Hills of the southern Western Ghats. The wildlife park with an area of 97 sq. km. can be reached via Munnar, the famed hill station of Kerala. Located in the Devikulam Taluk of Idukki district in Kerala, after reaching Munnar, you need to take the road going to Rajamala to reach this national park.

Before we explore the attractions of the Eravikulam National Park, it would be worth the effort to understand a bit of its history. During the colonial days, the High Range Game Preservation Association managed the current park area as a game preserve for the erstwhile Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company. The local tribal members of Muduvan community, known for their tracking skills were employed as game watchers. They are the original inhabitants of the Kannan Devan Hills in which the national park is located. The area was taken over in 1971 by the Kerala Government and declared as a sanctuary in 1975. It was upgraded to a national park in 1978 in recognition of its unique ecological values. The planter community and the Muduvans continue their association with the protection and management of the park.

The national park is a protected area and is divided into three regions - the core area, the buffer area and the tourism area. Visitors are allowed only to the tourism area that is in Rajamalai, the region lying beyond the road entry into Eravikulam.

From the entrance of the national park, you are taken inside on eco-friendly vehicles. As the vehicle carrying you and the forest personnel climbs up the winding tarred road, the sprawling tea plantations on your left would become more visible and so would be the panoramic view of the valley. Upon reaching the checkpoint, after alighting from the vehicle you are allowed inside the park only after completing the mandatory checking of your belongings. The only motorable road inside the park passes through the southern extremity inside the tourism zone (Rajamala) to the Rajamallay tea estate.

Entering the visitors' zone of the national park, you will find a vast rocky façade, towering above you, which is an edge of the high rolling plateau comprising the core area of the park. Walking on the pathway going further up, you can check-out the rolling hills interspersed by tea plantations on the eastern side. It is a vast view that sometimes gets completely obscured by sheets of mist and at times thick white clouds floating like cauliflowers.

As one keeps moving inside the park, you would notice sudden popping up of heads from grassy slopes or a pair of prominent horns from the edge of a rock watching your movements. These are the crowd pullers of the national park - the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. The Nilgiri Tahr is endemic to the southern Western Ghats. Once a shy animal, the Tahr over the years became less apprehensive to human presence. These days you can watch them at a close distance and would love opportunities to photograph them and can enjoy close observations. The fully grown male is known as a 'saddle back' and is much bigger and darker than the female and has a silvery saddle like patch on its back. Its predators include wild dog, leopard and tiger.

The main area of the national park comprises a high rolling plateau with a base elevation of about 2000 m from mean sea level. The park comprises mostly of high altitude grasslands and with sholas (stunted group of evergreen forests) located in the valleys and folds of the park. You would also find several perennial streams crisscrossing the park that originate in the sholas. Shrub lands are seen along the bases of the cliffs.

Standing inside the visitor zone of the park, you could spot the Anamudi peak, which is the highest (2695 m) south of the Himalayas. Turner's valley, which splits the national park roughly in half from northwest to southeast, is the deepest in the area. Those who love the sight of high altitude plants would appreciate the presence of orchids and balsams in abundance in the park. Besides the Tahr, perhaps the crowning glory of the park area is the once-in-twelve-year flowering spectacle resulting from mass flowering of the shrub Neelakurunji (Strobilanthus Kunthianum). This phenomenon was last recorded in 2006.

Besides the day visits in the tourism zone of the Eravikulam National Park, those who are keen to undertake trekking in this national park can go for the 'Gouldsbury's Trail,' named after J . C. Gouldsbury, former General Manager of Kannan Devan Tea Company. This is a trekking program inside the buffer zone of the Eravikulam National Park. The trek would take you through rich forest wealth and would have opportunities to enjoy wonderful sights, smell and sound of diverse plants and animal life.

When it comes to faunal wealth in the park area, giving company to the Nilgiri Tahr are the rare Nilgiri marten, ruddy mongoose, small clawed otter and dusky striped squirrel. Elephants make seasonal visits to the park area.

If you happen to be a birdwatcher, then the park area is a dream come true. The park is home to about 120 species of birds, which include endemics like black and orange flycatcher, Nilgiri pipit, Nilgiri wood pigeon, white-bellied shortwing, Nilgiri verditer flycatcher and Kerala laughing thrush. And if you favour wings of lesser form, then the endemic butterflies in the shola-grassland ecosystem of the national park like the red disk bushbrown and Palni fourwing would be of interest, which are among the 100 odd butterflies listed inside the park. And you would be lucky to spot a unique inhabitant of the park - the Atlas moth, the largest of its kind in the world.

The national park comes with an amenity centre run by the eco-development committees and eco-shop that sells different products, the benefit of which goes for the conservation of the national park.

Options for staying are available in the nearby town of Munnar, which is about 13 km from the park. By staying in Munnar, besides the Eravikulam National Park, you can also visit the nearby wildlife destination of Chinnar and also visit en route to Chinnar the sandalwood forests at Marayoor. As far as travel by road is concerned, Munnar is well connected from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The park remains open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. It will remain closed during the breeding season of the Nilgiri Tahrs that usually occurs between January and March, every year.

Getting there:

By road: Eravikulam is about 13 km from Munnar.
Nearest railway stations: The nearest railway station is Aluva, about 120 km from Munnar and Ernakulam, about 130 km from Munnar.
Nearest airports: Madurai, about 142 km and Cochin International Airport, about 150 km.

District Tourism Promotion Councils KTDC Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society BRDC Sargaalaya SIHMK Responsible Tourism Mission KITTS Adventure Tourism Muziris Heritage saathi nidhi Sahapedia

Toll free No: 1-800-425-4747 (Within India only)

Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Park View, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India - 695 033
Phone: +91 471 2321132, Fax: +91 471 2322279, E-mail: info@keralatourism.org.
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