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Friday, September 04, 2009

Silent Valley National Park is not really silent!!

An event of days gone by...last December during my solo all india motorcycle journey...

I had ridden to the tiny forest town of Mukkali in the Palakkad district of Kerala. This is the place where all tourists halt before they move ahead into the Silent Valley National Park, a strict forest department zone and no civilization can live inside. Located in the south-west corner of the Nilgiri biosphere, in the Kundali hills of the Western ghats, Silent Valley is one of India's smallest yet richest national parks.


As I made my way into the national park (using a forest jeep), I was surprised at why this forest was named 'Silent Valley', as I could hear a cacophony of jungle noises. It was early in the morning, but past wake-up time for the denizens of this forest. In a short while, I noticed a paradise fly catcher, racket-tailed drongo, emerald dove, Nilgiri woodpigeon, Malabar whistling thrush and a kite. But, my luck stopped there and I could sight no more birds. Instead I was admiring the dense canopy of trees, which did not allow sunlight to hit the jungle floor. My jeep driver and guide informed me that I would be able to spot more wildlife during lunch time when visibility gets better and the animals get active. After an hour and a half, I made way to Sairandhri, the end of my jeep journey and 23 kms into the Silent Valley National Park. It is standard procedure to allow tourists only till Sairandhri and to go beyond, one needs special permission from the wildlife warden at either Mukkali or Mannarkad.


An interesting fact about Silent Valley National Park is that it is a rare rainforest. It is comparable to the rainforests of the Amazonian basin, of Panama and one more rainforest in South East Asia (though not sure of the name). Thus, it forms a rare breed of rainforests that harbour a rare set of wildlife. In fact, there are a lot of animals that are endemic to this place and still more are on the endangered list, but survive only in this small park. The reason this national park along the valley of the Kunti river has survived is due to impenetrable ridges and cliffs of the Nilgiris that guard this forest from three and a half sides and thereby prevented human invasion :-). A lot of new wildlife species is still being discovered thanks to the rich diversity of this region. Let's hope this stays that way.


Coming back to my experience....There is a watchtower at Sairandhri that is about 4 floors high. I could see an amazing view of the entire Silent valley with the river Kunti flowing through it. It was lush green all around. After getting down from this watchtower, I trekked a short distance (say 30 minutes) that took me to the bridge across the Kunti river where I believe one can spot tortoises, but my luck was against me even here. 


My luck started changing on my return jeep ride. Visibility had gotten slightly better in spite of it being 11AM and the outside world being bathed in abundant sunshine. I spotted a large group of the endangered Lion Tailed Macaque, but was cursing my fate as the dim light didn't allow me take a good photograph of this marvellous animal. Couldn't switch on flash too as it is against Wildlife photography etiquette. Apart from the Lion Tailed Macaque, I spotted the Nilgiri Langaur and the Malabar Giant Squirrel who made by day better by providing photographic poses for a good 10 minutes.

Silent Valley is a great place for the true bird lover. It is a place to see the Lion Tailed Macaque. It is a place where one can study butterflies. It is a place where people research on orchids. A rare wonder! Hope mankind allows it to flourish!

To see India through the eyes of a motorcyclist's lens, visit the album below.
my solo all-india motorcycle journey


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