The Unesco listed Western Ghats are home to a wide species of flora and fauna. One could take a tour of a number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to experience the presence of wildlife around this region. Here is our pick of the best seven reserves.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
The Thattekad bird sanctuary is located near Cochin and is a birdwatcher’s paradise, particularly for the denizens of the Malabar Coast. Morning is the best time for spotting these avian beauties. Early morning walks in and around the Sanctuary also provides a wonderful scenic ambience for a hike in the forests replete with hills, bubbling brooks and waterfalls. One of the more popular birds that can be spotted here is the Ceylonese Frogmouth, a nocturnal bird that can be discovered in the mornings with nearly opened eyes, inviting easy clicks for the shutterbug. Other denizens include the Malabar hornbill and the giant Malabar squirrel.
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Mudumalai Tiger Reserve
In the Nilgiris’ foothills, the 321-sq-km Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is like a classical Indian landscape painting given life: thin, spindly trees and light-slotted leaves concealing spotted chital deer and grunting wild boar. Also here are around 50 tigers, giving Mudumalai one of India’s highest tiger population densities. Overall the reserve is Tamil Nadu’s top wildlife-spotting place. You’re most likely to see deer, peacocks, wild boar, langurs, jackals, Malabar giant squirrels, wild elephants (the park has several hundred) and gaur (Indian bison).
Periyar Tiger Reserve
South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary, Periyar, also called Thekkady, encompasses 777 sq km and a 26-sq-km artificial lake created by the British in 1895. The vast region is home to bison, sambar, wild boar, langur, 900 to 1000 elephants and 35 to 40 hard-to-spot tigers. If you dig deeper and do a trek led by a tribal villager, the hills and jungle scenery make for a rewarding visit.
Eravikulam National Park
This park, 13km from Munnar, is home to the endangered, but almost tame, Nilgiri tahr (a type of mountain goat). A safari bus will take you into the Rajamala tourist zone where the likelihood of a sighting is high. The park is also home to Anamudi, Kerala’s highest peak (2695m), though it was closed to climbers at the time of research.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
About 60km northeast of Munnar, this wildlife sanctuary protects deer, leopards, elephants and the endangered grizzled giant squirrel. Trekking and tree house or hut accommodation within the sanctuary are available, as well as eco-tour programs like river-trekking, cultural visits (two tribal groups inhabit the sanctuary) and waterfall treks. For details contact the Forest Information Centre in Munnar.
Parambikulam Tiger Reserve
Possibly the most protected environment in South India – nestled behind three dams in a valley surrounded by Keralan and Tamil Nadu sanctuaries – Parambikulam constitutes 285 sq km of Kipling-storybook scenery and wildlife-spotting goodness. Far less touristed than Periyar, it’s home to elephants, bison, gaur, sloths, sambar, crocodiles, tigers, panthers and some of the largest teak trees in Asia. Post monsoons would be the best time to visit.
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Encompassing part of a remote forest reserve that spills into Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Wayanad’s landscape combines mountain scenery, rice paddies of ludicrous green, rubber, cardamom and coffee plantations. The 345-sq-km sanctuary has two separate pockets – Muthanga in the east bordering Tamil Nadu, and Tholpetty in the north bordering Karnataka. Three main towns in Wayanad district make good bases and transport hubs for exploring the sanctuary – Kalpetta in the south, Sultanbatheri (Sultan Battery) in the east and Mananthavadi in the northwest.