Mukurthi National Park: A Treasure Trove of Nature near Ooty - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Friday, December 07, 2018

Mukurthi National Park: A Treasure Trove of Nature near Ooty

Bhavani Amman Temple - the source of the Bhavani River inside Mukurthi National Park

The birthplace of our peninsular rivers, the Western Ghats is made up of many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to preserve this sensitive ecosystem. One of the lesser explored national parks in this belt is Mukurthi National Park. Bordering Kerala and part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reseve, Mukurthi National Park covers a good section of the shola grassland and forests, pine forests and shrublands in the Western Ghat mountain range of Tamil Nadu. It is sandwiched between Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and the ancient rainforests of Silent Valley National Park in Kerala.

Bonnet Macaque near Upper Bhavani backwaters in Mukurthi National Park, Tamil Nadu

Part of the UNESCO world heritage site ecosystem, Mukurthi National Park with its many lake systems, backwaters, tiny streams and rivers and dense shola forests is a treat to the eyes. Add to it the Asian elephants, the Royal Bengal TIger, the Lion Tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Indian Gaur, Nilgiri Tahr, Leopard, Civet, Wild Dog and many other exotic species of animals, birds, butterflies and flowers and you have a sensational home for biodiversity.

Indian Gaur inside Mukurthi National Park

The best part about this national park is that one can experience all of this at very close quarters during a trek deep in the jungle. Unlike the other national parks that allow jeep safaris, Mukurthi National Park allows only jungle trekking and that too in the company of armed forest guides and naturalists. And while you are on your birdwatching trek or wildlife walks, you can stop and take notice of some of the highest peaks (8000 feet plus) of the Western Ghats, which fall in this national Park.

Valley of flowers like effect seen at Mukurthi National Park, Tamil Nadu

These peaks and the valleys below it are the starting point of the Billithadahalla, Pykara, Kundah, the Mukurthi and the Bhavani rivers. A lot of streams that join Silent Valley’s Bhavani Puzha also originate here. This fragile ecosystem is also home to some of the most colorful butterflies found in the Western Ghats, such as the Blue Admiral, the Indian Red admiral, Indian Cabbage white, Hedge blues, Rainbow trouts and Indian fritialliary. If you are a butterfly lover, you are bound to love this place.

The specialty of this national park lies in the fact that its flora and fauna share a lot of endemism and similarities with that the Himalayan varieties. And the different treks inside this national park will show you that from very close quarters. So if you are a trekker and love mother nature, you will be at home here.

At the Upper Bhavani backwaters in Mukurthi National Park

The sad part is that not a lot of people know about this national park and there is hardly any good reference point on the internet. In a way, it is good for the wildlife as the get to live an undisturbed life and on the other, we get to miss out on a treasure trove of nature.

Cauliflower Shola Forests inside Mukurthi National Park, Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Forest department does offer day trips to the Upper Bhavani backwaters and which give you a fleeting glimpse of the beautiful jungle, but the best way to experience this national park and its rich ecosystem is to stay inside at one of their forest rest houses for a few days and go on daily treks into different parts of this biodiversity hotspot. While this might work out to be a bit on the expensive side, it certainly gives you an unparalleled jungle experience and this is something that is worth every bit of the money that you spend.

There are many trekking options available, but the most famous trekking route is the 52 km and 4 day trip from Bangitapal via Sispara, Pocchiparai and Silent Valley National Park. I have done this route 12 years ago and I have to say that it is simply out of the world. The 18 km trekking trail from the trekking shed to Nadugani via Kengerkundi comes a close second.

Nilgiri Tahr at Mukurthi National Park, Tamil Nadu

If you want a rich experience of Western Ghat’s biodiversity and if you have the time and money to share, book a place inside the Mukurthi National Park,do small treks to prepare your body and then attempt the long downhill trek to Silent Valley National Park for a once in a lifetime kind of experience. The lush greenery and the richness of fauna and flora will certainly bowl you over! And do make sure to take your best photography gear with you as the birds of paradise, the exotic butterflies and the colorful reptiles and amphibians will keep you trigger happy.

Lion Tailed Macaque seen inside Mukurthi National Park, Tamil Nadu

For Bookings:
Reach out to the office of the wildlife warden at Ooty or any of your nearest District Forest offices for guidance.

Wild flowers blooming inside Mukurthi National Park

Nearest Airport:
Coimbatore, about 140 kms away.

Vast stretches of Shola forest inside Mukurthi National Park, Tamil Nadu

Nearest Railhead:
Ooty via the Nilgiri Mountain railway (the Nilgiri toy train) network.

Nearest city: Ooty

Best time of the year:
All months except the rainy season.

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