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Valley of Silence
There exists in India, a
tropical evergreen rain forest with an unbroken evolutionary history of 50
million years. 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 harbours 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 Ďthe richest
expression of life on Earthí.
Valley is a virgin, fragile forest, nestled in the mountain folds of the
Nilgiris in Southern India. In Godís own country, Kerala, Silent Valley is
surely Godís own abode. 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).
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 Sairandhiri is panoramic and the entire valley below
appears to be a wavy green enormous carpet. A silver line that runs
through is the Kunthipuzha.
interpretation centre at Sairandhiri imparts information on various rare
species of orchids, plants and animals. Kunthipuzha is a 2 km down hill
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.
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.
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 1970ís.
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 ĎSave Silent Valley Ď 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 IUCNís (International Union for the Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources) red list of threatened animals.
Doís and Doníts
As the park and adjoining areas are declared
polythene free zones, polythene going in must find its way out. Animals,
which are unfamiliar with polythene and plastic may choke on them and die.
The forest abounds in leeches. These 1-inch long, dark-brown thread like
creatures latch on to any open area of your skin and bloat on your blood.
If possible, wear high ankle leech proof jungle boots. The experienced
forest guards however, roll up their trousers till their knees to easily
spot leeches clinging on to their skin.
Procure all required permit slips from the
forest department office at Mukkali, before entry into the park. Mukkali,
23 Km from Silent Valley, is the starting point. A forest guard
accompanies each group as a guide and also ensures that no damage is done
to the fragile flora and fauna. It is also safer to stick to your group.
Silence pays, as chances of sighting animals are heightened. Do not be
disappointed if you donít see animals, as they are shy of humans. Be
patient, observe keenly and you will find the forest teeming with various
Information for Trekkers
Only serious trekkers
find their way to Silent Valley, as trekking in this undulating terrain
with thick vegetation is no cakewalk. Trek to Poochipara (Catís rock, 7-Km
steep climb from Sairandhiri) takes 3 hours. Trekkerís are allowed to
stay in the five camps of the forest department set deep inside. Trek
routes can be chosen based on the duration of stay (1-4 days). A 4-day
trek route starts from Mukkali and goes through
Sairandhiri-Poochipara-Walakkad-Sispara and Anginda. Trekkers must procure
all requisite permits from the forest department office at Mukkali or from
the Wildlife Warden at Mannarkkad. For treks starting from Mukkali, all
permits and payments are made at the forest department office, Mukkali. A
guide-cum-cook accompanies trekkers through the trek route for the entire
Silent Valley is situated
in the northeastern part of Palakkad district, Kerala. The nearest town is
Mannarkkad (66Km). Bus transport is available to Mukkali(23 Km). You can
hire a private jeep from Mukkali to Sairandhiri or trek right up. Jeep
takes 1 hour while a trek uphill takes between 4-5 hours. Visitors are few
as the place is totally non-commercialised. Forest officials are helpful
Entry fee per visitor is
Rs 20/-. Private jeeps from Mukkali to Silent valley and back cost Rs
also take your own vehicle with permission from forest officials (Vehicle
entrance fee-Rs 100/-). On the way uphill you see the Karivara farm
inhabited by the Mudukar tribes of the Attapadi forest reserve.
The forest guest house at
Mukkali has dormitories and 3 rooms. The inspection Bungalow at
Sairandhiri has 4 rooms with solar powered electricity. Room rent for a
couple at both places is Rs 400/- and rooms are quite basic.
There is no other private lodging facility available anywhere nearby.
Hence it is best to book your accommodation in advance.
Coimbatore (68 Km)
Coimbatore (68 Km), Palakkad(106 Km)
Best time to visit:
September to March
Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley National Park, Mannarkkad, Palakkad, Kerala,
Pin-628582 (Tel: 04924-222056) Email-
Assistant Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley National Park, Mukkali P.O,
Palakkad, Kerala, Pin-678582 (Tel: 04924-253225).