Saturday, December 19, 2015

Silent Valley National Park, Palakkad, Kerala

Silent Valley National Park, Palakkad, Kerala
Silent Valley National Park is a national park with a core zone of 236.74 square kilometers (91 sq mi) (making it the largest national park in Kerala). It is located in the Nilgiri Hills, within the Palakkad District of KeralaSouth India. This region was explored in 1847 by the botanist Robert Wight, and is a setting for the epic Mahabharata.





This park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats mountain rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forest in India. Contiguous with the proposed Karimpuzha National Park (225 km2) to the north and Mukurthi National Park (78.46 km2) to the north-east, it is the core of the Nilgiri International Biosphere Reserve (1,455.4 km2), and is part of The Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km2), Western Ghats World Heritage Site, recognized by UNESCO in 2007.







Plans for a hydroelectric project that threatened the park's rich wildlife stimulated an environmentalist social movement in the 1970s, known as the Save Silent Valley movement, which resulted in cancellation of the project and creation of the park in 1980. The visitors' centre for the park is at Sairandhri.
The Silent Valley National Park with an area of 237. 52 sq km is located in the Northeastern corner of Palakkad district. It rises abruptly to the Nilgiri Plateau in the North and overlooks the plains of Mannarkkad in the South. Extremely fragile, a unique preserve of tropical evergreen rain forests which is a veritable nursery of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.
The core of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is the Silent Valley National Park. Despite its name, the Silent Valley (the clamor of Cicadas is conspicuously absent here) is a rich storehouse of biodiversity. It is a true Garden of Eden for students of life sciences, professional scientists and field biologists.
Perhaps, nowhere else can one find such a representative collection of Western Ghats biodiversity - more than 1000 species of flowering plants which include about 110 species of orchids, more than 34 species of mammals, about 200 species of butterflies, 400 species of moths, 128 species of beetles of which 10 are new to science, about 150 species of birds including almost all the 16 endemic birds of southern India.





The River Kunthi descends from the Nilgiri hills, from an altitude of 2000 m above sea level, and traverses the entire length of the valley and rushes down to the plains through the deep gorge. The River Kunthi never turns brown and is always crystal clear, perennial and wild.
The evapo-transpiration from these forests is much higher than from any other surface. This cools the atmosphere, helps easy condensation of water vapour, causing summer rains in the plains.
The Silent Valley National Park is a unique preserve of natural rainforests. It houses a rich mosaic of varied habitats. Out of these springs the amazing variety of life forms some of them endemic to the Western Ghats. The Valley exudes a quite grandeur, a mystery half revealed and half concealed that is part of a story older than mankind, for this rainforest probably dates back to 50 million years.




Historically it’s a paradigm of people’s movement to protect the forest. For the last three decades this pristine forests are protected and managed by the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department and the result is evident from the succession of the secondary grass lands in the valley.
Steep escarpments and ridges on all sides ensured that this plateau remained unsullied by man, thereby preserving its rich bio-diversity. The multi-layered canopy harbors a variety of plant and animal species, many of them hitherto unheard of by Science. A new frog genus supposed to be of the Jurassic era was discovered in the year 2003. It is no wonder then that scientists have described Silent Valley as ‘the richest expression of life on Earth’.




It has etymological connotations to the absence of noisy insect cicadas that are generally abundant in tropical rain forests, although now, cicadas form an integral part of the forest. The local names of the valley and the river that flows through it, resurrect the grand tale of the Mahabharata. In the local lingo, Silent Valley is called Sai-randhi-vanam or Sai-randhiri (synonymous with Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas) and the river is called Kunthipuzha (synonymous with Kunti, mother of the Pandavas).
Nature’s Bounty
Cut-off from civilization and commercialisation, Silent Valley is an ideal destination for nature lovers, researchers and gutsy trekkers. Undulating mountains and lush greenery greet the eye at Silent Valley.  View from the watch tower at Sairandhri is panoramic and the entire valley below appears to be a wavy green enormous carpet. A silver line that runs through is the Kunthipuzha.
The interpretation centre at Sairandhri imparts information on various rare species of orchids, plants and animals.  Kunthipuzha is a 2 km downhill trek over a suspension bridge. With fresh elephant dung strewn around on the path leading to Kunthipuzha, it is the nearest one can get to wild elephants. Lone male tuskers are a dangerous proposition as can be judged from the frenzied paths they pave through thick foliage. However, there is no danger from them unless of course, you bump into them.  








The most famous resident of the park is a medium sized species of monkey, called the lion tailed macaque. Other animals include tigers, leopards, snakes, Malabar squirrel, Nilgiri langur and the Malabar laughing thrush. The only nest-building snake, the king cobra is a prized possession of the park. Vibrantly coloured butterflies, fluttering their enormous wings create an artistic mosaic, which is a sight to behold. Early mornings and evenings are the best time to spot animals. 
Silent valley was once a battlefield, when the proposed construction of a dam on the river Kunthipuzha by the Kerala government for its hydroelectric project, constituted headlines in almost every national daily in the late 1970’s. The dam was to submerge the verdant valley together with its prized fauna. The debate between environment and development attracted international attention and continued for over a decade. Scientists, researchers, ecologists and nature lovers the world over united to preserve Silent Valley and a ‘Save Silent Valley campaign’ was launched. Their efforts paid off, when in 1984, Silent Valley was declared a national park. Today, the park is well conserved and has been declared a biodiversity hotspot. Two of its prized animals, the lion tailed macaque and the Nilgiri langur are listed in the IUCN’s (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) red list of threatened animals.







The Silent Valley National Park is adjacent to the Attappadi Reserve Forests to the East, the Palghat and Nillambur forest divisions in the West and South and the Nilgiri Forests in the North.
Silent Valley is a rectangular tableland enclosed by a high contiguous ridge along its northern and eastern borders, and by a lower, irregular ridge along its western and southern borders. It is flanked by steep escarpments to the south and west, which descend some 1,000 m to the plains of Kerala, and by sheer cliffs to the north and east which rise a further 1,000 m to the Upper Nilgiri Plateau. Kunthipuzha river flows southwards through the entire 15 km length of the Park, dividing it into a narrow western sector of less than 2 km and a wider eastern sector of 5 km. The valley is drained by five main tributaries of the Kunthipuzha, which originate near the eastern border and flow westwards. Only a few minor streams drain into the Kunthipuzha from the western sector. The river is uniformly shallow, with no floodplains. Its bed falls from 1,861 m to 900 m over a distance of 12 km, the last 8 km being particularly level, and with a fall of only 60 m.
Kunthipuzha is one of the less torrential rivers of the Western Ghats, with a pesticide-free catchment area. The soil is blackish and slightly acidic in the evergreen forests, where there is good accumulation of organic matter. The underlying rock in the area is granite with schists and gneiss, which give rise to the loamy laterite soils on slopes. The total area is 8,951.65 ha. The Park is contiguous to the proposed Karimpuzha National Park (22,500 ha) in the north and to Mukurthi National Park (7,846 ha), Tamil Nadu, in the northeast. The altitude ranges from 658 m to 2,383 m.




Most of the Park lies between 880 m and 1,200 m (Anon. undated). High peaks such as Anginda (2,383 m), Sispara (2,206 m) and Kozhipara (1,904 m) occur in the northern part of the Park. Four main types of vegetation can be recognized: Tropical Evergreen Forest, Subtropical Hill Forest, Shola forest and grasslands which are restricted to the narrow sector west of the Kunthipuzha and to the higher slopes and hill tops in the eastern sector. Seven new plant species have been recorded from the Silent Valley, as well as many rare, endemic and economically valuable species, such as Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum, Pepper Piper nigrum, Yam Dioscorea spp., various beans Phaseolus spp., a pest-resistant strain of Rice (species unknown), and 110 plant species of importance in Ayurvedic medicine (Nair et al. 1980).
Significance of Silent Valley National Park
·    Exceptional Ecosystem diversity from moist deciduous, semi evergreen, evergreen and shola      forests to montane grasslands.
·   Effectively protected, representative example of evergreen forests in India.
·   Exceptional species diversity and endemic value of evergreen and semi evergreen communities.
·        Significant population of Lion Tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Langur
·        Important watershed of Bharathapuzha
·        Potential for wildlife research and education.
·        Contiguous to Mukurthi Tahr National Park, Reserve forests of Attappady and near    Amarambalam area, a key component of a major conservation complex in the Western Ghats and Nilgiri Biosphere reserve.
·        It comes under Project Elephant area
·        Embodiment of nature conservation spirit in the country
Location
Major portion of Division is in the Mannarkkad Taluk of Palakkad District. A portion of the buffer zone is in Nilambur Taluk of Malappuram District. The area lies within the latitudes 11o, 2’ N and 11o, 13’ N and longitudes 76o, 24’ E and 76o, 32’ E.
Nearest town is Mannarkkad. The Division head quarters is situated at Mannarkkad. Head quarters of two Ranges viz. Silent Valley and Bhavani are at Mukkali, which is 20 km away from Mannarkkad.
History
For brief details, please refer
Geography
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Climate & Rainfall
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Rivers
For brief details, please refer
Tribes
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Challenges
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Zonation
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Fauna & Flora
For brief details, please refer
Travel Tips
·   Visiting here is not as simple as we think! You need to get prior permission from the forest department in Mukkali on paying entry fee.
·   At Mannarghat there is a PWD Rest House for which the reservation authority is the District Collector, Palakkad. There are also many small lodges.
·        You have to take a guide who knows the park very well with you.
·        Always stay with the group.
·        Smoking is prohibited in the park.
·        Try to switch of your mobile.
·   Keep quiet if you really want to improve your chances for seeing wild animals.
·  Remember that animals are ultrasensitive to sound, odour and color. Clothing should be in neutral colours that blend with nature.
·        Avoid heavy perfumes and deodorants.
·        Liquor, loud music and littering are not allowed.
·        Plastic carry bags and plastic bottles are not allowed inside the park. Stick to cloth bags or rucksacks.
·        Take your camera along for some cool clicks.
·   There is no other private lodging facility available anywhere nearby. Hence it is best to book / plan your accommodation in advance.
·   Also one of the important facts to be remembered is about the LEECH (Atta in Malayalam) it would be in huge numbers from start of the forest. We should be very careful with them as they would easily get in to our foot and we may not feel their bite, but it will suck our blood without our knowledge and become a huge leech within seconds. To avoid this, visitors are instructed to apply Powdered Salts over their foot / legs. Leech proof socks and comfortable hiking boots would be a good option.
·        Carry food and water and leave no waste inside the park or enroute.
·        Take some precautions to avoid leach bite – Tobacco Powder, Salt etc
·        Always follow the directions from the park management.
·   Procure all required permit slips from the forest department office at Mukkali, before entry into the park.
Trekking
For brief details, please refer
Best Time to Visit
The Silent Valley National Park is a heavy rainfall region with the places in the higher altitudes getting the highest rain. The average rainfall in the region varies between 2800 and 3400 mm. The park receives most of its rainfall during the southwest monsoon from June to December.
The relative humidity is considerably high during this season with the maximum at times going to 95%. April and May are the hottest months while January and February are the coolest months, though not much difference in the temperature is experienced.
Entry Fees
Entry Fees
Entrance Fees Indian Citizen
78.00
Still Camera
38.00
Video Camera
300.00
Foreigner
355.00
FDA Bus Ticket (Including entry fee)
Adult
325.00
Bonafide Indian Student
280.00
Foreigner
600.00
Safari Jeep
Jeep Rent (for 5 persons including entrance fee)
1715.00
Contact
Wildlife Warden
Aranyakam 
Silent Valley Division
Mannarkkad
Palakkad-678582
Phone: 04924-222056
Asst. Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley
Office of the Asst. Wildlife Warden
Silent Valley National Park range
Mukkali-678582
Phone: 04924-253225
Asst. Wildlife Warden, Bhavani 
Office of the Asst. Wildlife Warden
Bhavani range
Mukkali-678582
Phone: 04924-253125
Accommodation
For brief details, please refer
Connectivity
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8 comments:

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