Activities, exploration and sights in and around Munnar
Munnar is a quaint hill station set amidst India’s highest tea gardens. You are surrounded by seemingly endless stretches of lush tea gardens, placid lakes, mist pirouetting in the valleys and the soaring mountains peaks. Thick rain bearing clouds drift over meandering streams that give birth to waterfalls with sparkling mountains water and abundant wildlife sanctuaries. Most of the native flora and fauna of Munnar have disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation. However, some species continue to survive and thrive in several protected areas nearby, including the new Kurinjimala Sanctuary, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley and Amaravati reserve forest, the Eravikulam National Park and Anaimudi and Pampadum Shola National Parks.
Munnar is also famous for a rare species of wild orchid called ‘Nilakurinchi’ that grow in the area and bloom every 12 years. At this the hill slopes around Munnar turn violet. Munnar is also home to a reclusive breed of mountain goats called the Nilagiri Thar and small herds can be spotted foraging in stretches of grassland or climbing adroitly up steep rock inclines outside the town.
Guests could also opt to go on picnics at numerous scenic spots, visit a tea factory and view at close quarters how fine blends of tea are produced and taste them. You could also rent a bicycle and ride on paths that wind through some picturesque and challenging terrain. Other activity options include boating in the lakes around Munar and paragliding.
Guests may opt to visit many of the wildlife parks in the area filled with a fascinating variety of flora and fauna. TnU conducts both day and night safaris to these parks. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including the nilagiri thar, the grizzled giant squirrel, the nilagiri wood pigeon, elephants, gaur, the nilagiri langur and sambar deer.
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar National Park is a sanctuary famous for its dense evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savanna grass lands. The park is home to herds of elephants, sambar deer, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed macaques and nilagiri langurs. The most attractive feature of Periyar is the herds of wild elephants that gather around the artificial lake formed by the Mullaiperiyar Dam across the Periyar River. The Thekkady region around the park is a heaven for natural spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove.
The sanctuary ensures the long-term protection of the unique biodiversity of the area, especially Strobilanthes Kunthiana (the Nilakurinji flower) and its habitat around Kottakamboor and Vattavada villages.
Eravikulam National Park
Annaimudi Shola National Park
This is a protected area composed of Mannavan, Idiyara and Pullardi Shola forests.The Anamudi Shola National Park provides valuable contiguous wildlife habitat connectivity to the other wildlife parks that surround this protected area. This national park forms part of the Anamalai sub-cluster, which was recently nominated for consideration for World Heritage Site status under UNESCO's World Heritage Programme.
Pampadum Shola National Park
The smallest national park in Kerala adjoins the Allinagaram Reserved Forest within the proposed Palani Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and protects a moderate amount of montane evergreen shola forest. The evergreen trees and the water sources are the habitat of various birds and animals. The keystone species here is the highly elusive and endangered, endemic small carnivore the nilagiri marten. Leopards and Indian wild dogs are sometimes sighted at dusk and dawn. Substantial numbers of tigers also live in the park. Species of birds found here include the nilagiri wood pigeon, white bellied short wing, scaly breasted lorikeet, blue rock thrush, blue capped rock thrush, nilagiri flycatcher, black and orange flycatchers. Studies have been made on various rare medicinal plants in the park and the unique richness of uncontaminated ‘ humus’.
Chinar Wildlife Sanctuary
The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the rain shadow region of Western Ghats and is home to a large number of plants and animals. Due to the significant variation in altitude and rainfall, Chinnar has a wide array of habitat types like deciduous forests, dry thorn scrub, riparian forests, shoals and grassland containing about 1000 species of flowering plants and a repository of medicinal plants. The sanctuary has recorded the largest number of reptilian fauna in Kerala including the mugger crocodile. With 225 recorded species of birds, it is one of the richest areas of south India in avian diversity. The riverine forests support a healthy population of the endangered grizzled giant squirrel, the pride of Chinnar. The famous and extremely rare white bison has been recently reported. Other important mammals found are elephant, tiger, leopard, guar, sambhar, spotted deer, nilagiri thar, common langur, bonnet macaque. The phenomenon of butterfly migration occurs in the period between the monsoons. A watchtower in the sanctuary offers an unbelievably beautiful view of the sanctuary- vast expanses of green forests extending to the nearby state of Tamil Nadu and far away mountains. The sanctuary, a trekker’s paradise, is situated about 60 km away from Munnar.
Two groups of tribes, Muthuvans and Hill Pulayas, inhabit the sanctuary in 11 hamlets or ‘Kudies’. The sanctuary provides livelihood options for the tribes and helps in maintaining their cultural heritage. Archeologically significant megalithic burial sites consisting of dolmens and cysts are found near some settlements. With the launching of the eco development program, successful efforts have been made for evolving a model of biodiversity conservation in a human dominated landscape.
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
hooded oriole, greater racket-tailed drongo, black drongo, bronze drongo, rufus treepie, grey-bellied cuckoo, greater coucal, common hawk cuckoo, Asian koel, yellow-billed babbler, thick-billed warbler, lesser yellow nape, Rufus woodpecker, brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, and streak-throated woodpecker, the Malabar grey hornbill and the white-bellied blue flycatcher. Other species often spotted include: collared scops owl, Indian cuckoo, greater flameback, jungle owlet, Malabar woodshrike, crested serpent eagle, rusty-tailed flycatcher, blue-throated flycatcher, brown-breasted flycatcher, orange-headed thrush, black–naped oriole, eurasian golden oriole, large cuckooshirke, white-rumped needle tail, flame-throated bulbul, heart-spotted woodpecker, small minivet, rose-winged parakeet, Asian paradise-flycatcher and the pale-billed flower pecker, India’s smallest bird.
BIRDING IN MUNNAR
Munnar is a destination that avid birders and nature lovers will find great delight in. The Western Ghat mountains of which the Palani Hills of Munnar are a part, contain very distinct flora and fauna and it is the most species-rich eco-region in peninsular India; eighty percent of the flowering plant species of the entire Western Ghats range are found in this region. Above elevations of 1600 m you will find the shola-grassland mosaic, habitats exclusive to the Western Ghats. The cool and moist climate, high rainfall, and variety of microclimates brought about by differences in elevation and exposure support lush and diverse forests. The trees generally form a canopy at 15 to 20 m, and the forests are multistoried and rich in epiphytes, especially orchids and are home to a profusion offascinating avian species.
Most of the native flora and fauna of Munnar have disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation as a result of the growth of plantations. However, numerous species continue to survive and thrive in many protected zones nearby: Kurinjimala Sanctuary, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley, the Amaravati reserve forest, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park , Pampadum Shola National Park and the proposed Palani Hills National Park.
Popular birding hotspots
Rajamalai (Eravikulam National Park)
The terrain in the park consists of high altitude grasslands interspersed with sholas. Tickell's and Tytler’s Leaf Warblers, Large Billed Leaf Warblers, Indian Scimitar Babblers, Black and Orange Flycatchers, Nilgiri Flycatchers, Blue Rock Thrushes, Eurasian Blackbirds, Bonelli & Black Eagles, White Cheeked Barbets, Pacific Swallows, Malabar Whistling Thrushes, Velvet Fronted Nuthatchs, Grey Junglefowl, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon are some of species that have been spotted by birders here.
In the general areas around Munnar birders have reported sightings of over 21 species including the Malabar Parakeet, the Indian Roller, Loten’s Sunbird, Plum-headed Parakeet, Steppe Buzzard, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Scarlet Minivet, Plain Flowerpecker, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Hill Myna, Jungle Myna, Pacific Swallow and the Pompadour Green Pigeon, the Crimson-backed Sunbird, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and Black-and-Orange Flycatcher besides Red-rumped Swallow, Greenish Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Fork-tailed Swift, Common Chiffchaff, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Dusky Crag Martin and Tickell’s Leaf Warbler.
The High Range Club
Exploring the area around the High Range Club, you are most likely to be able to spot the Grey-breasted Laughingthrush. Other species include: White-browed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Tytler’s Leaf Warbler, Little Grebe, Indian Swiflet and House Swift,: Golden–fronted Leafbird, Purple Sunbird, Ashy Drongo, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and Common Tailorbird, the White-breasted Water Hen, Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Moorhen, and Brown Shrike, the Nilgiri Pipit, White-bellied Shortwing and Broad-tailed Grassbird. Grey Jungle Fowl, Pied Bushchat; Oriental White Eye, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Blackbird, and Plain Prinia may also be spotted in the area.
The best means of getting around Munnar besides walking is to look around for bicycles. Trails lead out of town through undulating tea plantations, past gurgling brooks, past pastures with seemingly indolent bovines. The air is bracing throughout the year except during the monsoon and life here resonates with a different rhythm. As one heads further away from the town, you are wrapped in a stillness within which the little things of everyday life here assume a special significance. Men and women tending to the tea bushes, the joyous orchestration of bird calls, giggling children on the way to school, the peal of a distant church bell, strangers look you in the eye and smile.
The roads that wind through the estates are reasonably good, however the further one goes from Munnar, they tend to get pretty rough. You will need a mountain bike or at the very least a basic multispeed. You will not have assistance in terms of repairs and it is prudent to check on the condition of your bicycle before venturing out.
There are numerous lakes, forests and streams around Munnar that are great picnic spots and it might be a good idea to pack a little hamper as you embark on your ride. Some of the streams are great for fishing.
- Suryanelli: Distance: 42 km.
- Periyar: 20km.
- Madupatti – 14km.
- Kundala –
- Anamudichola –
Some of the destinations have camp sites where one can spend the night, at the others it best to return to Munnar before sunset. Fishing gear can be hired locally.
Forest excursions on a four wheel drive vehicle
From hotel to Mannavam shola and drive thru the forest to Marayoor and return to the hotel - estimated time - 6 hours…
b: From hotel to Pazhathottam to Vattavada and return to hotel – estimated time - 5 hours. (Drives chargeable in addition to other applicable tariffs and on demand)
Short treks(5hr) – Kolukkumally, Letchmi, Sevemally
Hard trek-(8hr) – Meesapulimally, Chinnar