Sunday, May 26, 2013

Valparai – Places of Interest - I

Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary
Outline:
The Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1976, and renamed Anamalais (Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary) in 1987. In 1989 three areas, totaling 108 sq. kms. were demarcated and its status upgraded to that of a National Park.
The topography affects the rainfall pattern over the Park giving rise to diverse habitats ranging from dry scrub and savannah forests, moist decidous and wet evergreen forests, to high elevation grassland interspersed with sholas.
Elephant, Gaur, Wild boar, Chital, Sambar, Muntjac and Giant Squirrel are quite commonly sighted. The Leopard is the more visible predator in this Park. The four species of primates found here are the Common and Nilgiri Langur,and the Bonnet and Lion-tailed macaque. The bird life is rich and varied and the Malabar whistling thrush, Grey jungle fowl, Malabar and Great pied hornbills, Ceylon frogmouth and Malabar trogon are all found here.

Introduction & History
The Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most picturesque reserves of the south. Its boundaries encompass both the dry, eastern (rain shadow) slopes and the wet western (windward) slopes of the Western Ghats. As a consequence this area once supported rich and varied vegetation including extensive forests of teak. As a potential source of revenue this attracted the attention of the colonial administration and by the 1840s sustained logging operations began to strip this area of it's teak forests. A chute was built down which the logs were slipped into the Ponnani River for transportation to Bombay. This was the origin of 'Top Slip' where the present day tourism complex is situated.



Although there was some awareness that this clear felling was unsustainable and efforts at regeneration were made as early as 1856, it was only in 1915 that a proper working plan was adopted. The author was a British forester called Hugo Woods. By all accounts Woods was one of those charismatic 'characters' that peppered the administrative landscape of the Raj, whose commitment to the areas under their charge did much to mitigate the excesses of colonial exploitation. The indigenous Kadar tribals still tell of how Woods would go for a walk, his pockets filled with teak seeds and, as he moved through the area, poke holes in the ground with his walking stick and plant the seeds. In his Plan he recommended that clear felling be stopped and coppicing be adopted to allow the forest a chance to regenerate. Forestry operations continued until 1977 - selective felling alternating with clear felling followed by regeneration.

Hugo Woods lived in a small cottage, recently renovated, called Stuart Cottage and is buried, as per his wishes, amidst a teak plantation on the slopes of Mount Stuart. On his gravestone is carved the epitaph "Si monumentum Requiris Circumspicel" (If you are looking for a memorial, look around).
In 1976 the Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary was established, to be renamed Anamalais (Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary) in 1987. In 1989 three areas totalling 108 sq. kms. were demarcated and upgraded to the status of National Park. Although all felling had been halted by 1977, thinning continued until 1994.

Apart from being one of the finest repositories of the biotic wealth of the southern hills, these forests have also been home to several indigenous tribes. Today about 4700 of these live in 36 settlements scattered through the forest, a few within the park boundaries but most on the peripheries. These tribes are the Pulaiyars, Malasars, Malai Malasars, Muduvars and Kadars.
Location & Geography
Latitude: 10°12' - 11°7'N
Longitude: 76° - 77°56'E
Location: The reserve is situated in the Anaimalai Hills of the Western Ghats, part of the erstwhile Coimbatore South Forest Division in Coimbatore District of the state of Tamil Nadu.

Area 

Wildlife Sanctuary - 958 sq.km.
National Park - 117.10 sq.km.
Physical features
Altitude: 

The elevation varies from 340m to 2400m(1100 - 7874 feet) and covers an area from the foothills of the Ghats consisting of dry scrub forests to the rolling grasslands, interspersed with pockets of true sholas in the upper reaches. Numerous rocky streams traverse the wet evergreen forests clothing the middle hills and flow during the rainy season. Pools of water in these streams are the major source of water for wildlife and this park has a marked absence of natural waterholes. The Forest Department has constructed a number of check dams at strategic places to help the fauna tide through the drier months.



Climate

Annual rainfall: The annual rainfall varies from 800 mm to 4500mm

Temperature: The temperature varies from a high of 35°C in the lower altitudes, in summer to a low of 0°C in the higher elevations during winter.

Ranges

The Anamalai Tiger Reserve is a significant segment of the Western Ghats, which possesses many endemic species and is a unique ecological tract rich in biodiversity. The IGWLS, declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1976, falls within three taluks of the Coimbatore District namely Pollachi, Valparai [Vaalpaarai] and Udumalpet with six territorial ranges - Pollachi, Vaalpaarai, Ulandy [Top Slip], Manamboly, Udumalpet and Amaravathi. The forest tract of the Anamalais exhibits a wide diversity in terrain, elevation and climate thus supporting diverse vegetation with striking differences - from luxuriant tropical evergreen forest to thorn forest and scrub jungles. 



The Anamalai hills are a continuation of the vast Western Ghat mountains that run southwards through Travancore [Thiruvanandapuram] - Cochin [Kochi]. On the west, they are cut off from the Nelliampathy hills by the valley of the Thekkady river and on the east, from the Palani hills by the valley of Pachiar. The northern slopes descend precipitously to the cultivated plains of Coimbatore. This is separated from the Aiyamalai and Bolampatti hills of the Coimbatore division, which connect on to the Nilgiri hills by the break in the Western Ghats, known as the 'Palghat gap' which is about 50 kms wide.



The ATR is managed by the Field Director, Pollachi and falls within the administrative control of the Coimbatore Forest Circle headed by the Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore. The sanctuary has six administrative ranges -

Pollachi :: Range Head Quarters at Anamalai Farm :: 109.72 sqkm

Vaalpaarai :: Water Falls :: 171.50 sqkm

Ulandy :: Top Slip :: 75.93 sqkm

Manamboly :: Vaalpaarai :: 138.76 sqkm

Udumalpet :: Udumalpet :: 290.18 sqkm

Amaravathi :: Amaravathi Nagar :: 172.50 sqkm

Altitude: 

The elevation varies from 340m to 2400m(1100 - 7874 feet) and covers an area from the foothills of the Ghats consisting of dry scrub forests to the rolling grasslands, interspersed with pockets of true sholas in the upper reaches. Numerous rocky streams traverse the wet evergreen forests clothing the middle hills and flow during the rainy season. Pools of water in these streams are the major source of water for wildlife and this park has a marked absence of natural waterholes. The Forest Department has constructed a number of check dams at strategic places to help the fauna tide through the drier months.

Vegetation

The Anamalai Reserve encompasses a startling diversity of vegetation and the key to understanding this lies in the topography of the area. The mountains run in a north-south direction and the rain-bearing monsoon winds are southwesterly. As a result, the western (windward) slopes and the higher eastern slopes receive copious precipitation while the middle and lower eastern slopes fall within the rain-shadow. This is reflected in the great variation in rainfall figures (see above) which in turn affects the vegetation.



This ranges from southern thorny forest confined to the foothills and goes up to approximately 600m in the area where rainfall is lowest. Southern tropical, dry deciduous forests occur in areas having rainfall of approximately 150cm and at heights ranging from 300 m to 1000m. Dry savannah forests, tropical moist deciduous forest and tropical wet evergreen forests are also found within the boundaries of this park. The upper reaches are clothed by southern montane wet temperate forests and occur at altitudes of 1350m and above, and are characterised by rolling grasslands interspersed with true sholas that occupy the drainages. Among the dominant tree species are Palanquin ellipticum, Rhododendron, Hopea , Dalbergia, Teak, Venteak, Terminalia, Acacias etc.



Fauna

Mammals



Elephant (Elephas maximus), Gaur(Bos gaurus)Wild boar (Sus scrofa),Chital (Cervus axis), Sambar (Cervus unicolor), Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) and the Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica) are quite commonly sighted. Of the predators, althoughTiger (Panthera tigris)Leopard(Panthera pardus) and the Dhole (Cuon alpinus) are found here, the Leopard is more often seen. Alarm calls by Chital and Sambar are quite a regular feature once the sun sets.



The Chowsingha (Tetracerus quadricornis), Mouse Deer (Tragulus meminna), Sloth Bear (Melurses ursinus) as well as the Large Brown flying squirrel (P.petaurista philippensis) are also found here.





This park is home to 4 species of southern primates which in itself is a testimony to the wide range of vegetation found here. The Common Langur (Semnopithecus entellus) and the Bonnet Macaque (Macaca radiata) are creatures of deciduous forests, while the Nilgiri Langur (Trachypithecus johnii) and the Lion tailed macaque (LTM)( Macaca silenus) are creatures of wet forests, the latter being restricted to evergreen patches between 600-1500m (2000 -3500 feet). The appropriately named LTM, is a black monkey, and a long grey mane frames its face. The tail has a distinct tuft at the end, very prominent in adult males. 



The Nilgiri Langur is a striking creature, totally black except for long silvery hair framing a black face and the forest resounds with its booming calls at dawn and dusk. The range of both these monkeys , which are endemic to the Western Ghats, overlap throughout the Park, though the Nilgiri Langur has a wider distribution and can been seen in the tourism zone in Karian Shola.





Birds

The Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary is a veritable paradise for bird watchers. One awakes to the melodious song of the Malabar whistling thrush and the strident calls of Grey jungle fowl. The shola patches such as Karian Shola , Anakundi and Varagaliar sholas are filled with calls of parakeets, barbets, hill mynas, and Malabar grey hornbills. 



Secretive Laughing Thrushes lurk in the undergrowth while the canopy, especially fruiting fig trees can come alive with mixed hunting parties and one may even be rewarded by the sight of a flock of Great Pied Hornbills. Other birds one may be lucky to spot are the Ceylon frogmouth and the Malabar trogon.



Reptiles

The rich and varied vegetation provide perfect habitat for a variety of amphibians and reptiles including colourful tree frogs, flying frogs, cryptic toads etc. The king cobra, krait, python, vine snake are amongst a wide variety found here. Amongst the turtles are the forest cane turtle, the rare Travancore tortoise & star tortoise. Flying lizards, Chameleon, Forest Calotes may be spotted by a keen visitor.



Tourism

Travel by road from Coimbatore to Pollachi (40 km) to the Wildlife Warden's Office for visitor permit and then by road to Top Slip (35 km), or to Udumalpet (40 km – Amaravathi and Udumalpet range), or to Vaalparai (65 km – Vaalparai and Manamboly range)



The ideal months to visit the Park are May to January. Entry time is between 6 am and 6 pm. The Park has a large tourist complex at Top Slip that houses many cottages, rooms, and dormitories for visitors. Visitors can get around the park by trekking and a safari van.

The Parambikulam Wildlife sanctuary Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is another attraction which also offers similar Wildlife safari experiences and has to be travelled via Topslip from Pollachi or Anamalai. The Kerala Border Checkpost personnel only allow Batches of 18 People into the Border to accommodate one batch of Safari Tour. Hence one has to wait for other Vehicles & Tourists to join to make up the number. This may not apply if the visitors plan to stay in the Parambikulam Sanctuary

Topslip:



The area of Topslip has been designated as one of the Tourism zones in Anamalai Tiger Reserve. The word Topslip derives from its name from the fact that previously, timber logs in the area were slipped from hilltops to the plains below. It is an important tourist spot visited by thousands of tourists from all over the country and world. They are attracted by the beauty and grandeur of this pristine tract of wilderness. As a part of awareness and outreach programmes, van and elephant rides are conducted at Topslip.



Van Safari:

The van safari takes one into the deep jungles of the Topslip and Kozhikamuthy elephant camp where one can witness elephant feeding if the times are right. If lucky, it is also possible to sight a large cat.
Kozhikamuthy Elephant Camp:

The Kozhikamuthy Elephant camp lodges 21 kumki elephants (captive and trained elephants) which are responsibe for taming and training of newly captured wild elephants and as well as to lead away wild elephants that stray in to tea gardens and human settlements.

Trekking Trails in Topslip:

The landscape of the Anamalais has for centuries attracted the attention of nature lovers and serious trekkers. There are several peaks, Pandavarai, Perumkundru, Akkamalai, Thangachimalai, Tanakamalai, Pachapalthittu to name a few. The Tamilnadu Forest Department offers trekking and overnight camping facilities at Topslip.
Route
Distance (K.m)
Expected Duration (Hours)
Difficulty
Route Number
Topslip – Sarkarpathy – Ambuly Illam – Topslip
6
2
Moderate
Route #6
Topslip – Kolumbanmalai – Topslip
8
2
Moderate
Route #3
Topslip – Kozhikamuthy Vayal – Kozhikamuthy Elephant Camp – Topslip
15
3
Moderate
Route #4
Topslip – Magazine Mount Start – Topslip
6
5
Moderate
Route #5
Topslip – Pandavarai – Topslip
15
6
High
Route #2
Topslip – Karianshola
5
7
Very high
Route #1
Varagaliar – Perunkundru – Varagaliar
20
8
Very high
Route #7
Best time to visit 
Throughout the year (except June to August)

Connectivity

Nearest airport : Coimbatore, 75 kms away

Nearest railway station : Pollachi, 35 kms away

Accommodation & Facilities

The only accommodation available is Forest Rest Houses and dormitories. Bedding and linen is provided, but it is advisable to take a sleeping bag and towels. Some lodges have running hot water, otherwise a bucket of hot water is provided on request. Electricity is erratic, so one is advised to take candles and matches. The caretakers of the various lodges prepare simple and tasty Indian food. There is a small canteen at Top Slip where one can also get omelettes, dosas and 'meals' and buy mineral water, toilet paper, cigarettes and other knick-knacks. There is also a small store where one can buy essential groceries, some vegetables etc.



The IGWLS is managed by the Wildlife Warden (Wildlife Warden Office, 178 Meenkarai Road, Pollachi, Ph: 04259-225356) and falls within the administrative control of the Coimbatore Forest Circle headed by the Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore. Phone Number of Reception Office for Visitor Information is Ph: 04259-238360

By road from Coimbatore to Pollachi (40 kms) to the Wildlife Warden's Office and then by road to Top Slip (35 km), or to Udumalpet (40 kms - Amaravathi and Udumalpet range), or to Vaalparai (65 kms - Vaalparai and Manamboly range) Entry time is between 6 am and 6 pm. Department vehicles are available for wildlife viewing. The ideal time to visit the Park is between May and January. Plenty of accomodation is available at different ranges of the Park from 2-bed rooms to 20-bed dormitories.
For reservations and more information, contact

The Field Director,
Anamalai Tiger Reserve,
178, Meenkarai Road,
Pollachi - 642 001.
Tel: +91 4259 - 225356.

The tariffs are:

A class: Rs 300 for a suite for single occupancy and Rs 500 for two persons & Rs 150 for extra person

B class: Rs 200 for a suite for single occupancy and Rs 300 for two persons & Rs 100 for extra person

C class: Rs 100 for a suite for single occupancy and Rs 150 for two persons & Rs 50 for extra person

Dormitory: Rs 20 per bed

Visitors are normally taken by Forest Department bus for a drive through the forest roads. The bus also stops at one of the elephants camps - Kozzikamithi, where one can go for a short elephant ride and watch domestic elephants being bathed and fed. Special permission is required to visit the Anakundi or Varagaliar Sholas to see the LTMs.

Tamil Nadu Forest Department offers basic to semi-luxurious accommodation at Topslip to suit different budgets.

Name
No. of Suits
No. of Beds
Wood House
2
2
Chital House
2
2
Ambuli Illam
4
2
Bison House
5
2
Hornbill House
2
2
Mount Stuart Rest House
2
2
Tree Top
2
2
Pillar Top
2
2
Bamboo Hut
1
2
Dormitory 1
1
20
Dormitory 2
1
16

Clothing and accessories


Khakis and greens - cotton for the summer and some light woollens for the winter. Good pair of trekking shoes (one needs to get permission from the Wildlife Warden for trekking.) Leech socks essential if one is planning treks, post monsoon. Covering one's shoes liberally with tobacco or snuff also helps keep them away! In summer, there aren't too many leeches around, but their absence is adequately made up for by ticks.

2 comments:

snowfaldam said...

Nice post..
I request you to add more pic should attract all over world. [Aanaimalai tourist spot ]

Haritha said...

Every aspiring junior economist should read Atlas Shrugged. It's eerie how spot on she was in predicting things to come.

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary Resorts