The Hidden Gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Hidden Gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Bonnet Macaque poses in front of Manimuthar falls, Tamil Nadu

It is home to a rich array of wildlife. It is home to umpteen seasonal waterfalls. It is home a diverse range of forests. It is home to many reservoirs, dams, water bodies and hydroelectric projects. It is even home to some hill stations and tea estates in small pockets. I am talking about the hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, a vast expanse of pristine nature and wildlife in the southern extremes of the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu.

It is home to more than a 100 tigers, but hardly anyone in the wildlife circuit seem to be aware of this destination. It is contiguous with the pristine Agastyarmalai biosphere reserve and hence shares the same amazing ecosystem. This ecosystem gives birth to many rivers, waterfalls, flora, fauna and a diverse landscape ranging from tall mountain peaks in the Western Ghats to plains pretty much at mean sea level. It is home to some seriously wet evergreen forests on the windward side and some seriously dry deciduous forests on the leeward side.

The scenic Manimuthar village of Tamil Nadu in India's deep South

This diversity makes it a perfect home for a wide range of animals ranging from the endangered King Cobra, lion tailed macaques, tigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, Nilgiri langurs, Grey Langurs, slender loris, Nilgiri Tahr, wild dog, jungle cat, Malabar giant squirrel to a wide variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians and other mammals.

The gorgeous forest waterfall inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

It is part of the river sanctuary that is considered a hotspot for its wide range of endemic flora and fauna. This river sanctuary forms the catchment area of 14 rivers and streams (Thamirabharani, Ganga, Ramanadi, Karayar, Servalar, Manimuthar, Pachayar, Kodaiyar, Gadananathi and Kallar), which in turn give birth to seven major dams – Karaiyar, Lower Dam, Servalar, Manimuthar, Ramanadi, Gudananathi and Karaiyar, which in turn form the irrigation backbone for this region.

The lush green scenes of Kalakad Mundathurai Tiger Reserve

These rivers, dams and waterfalls are the ones that usually attract visitors of this moderately hot region. While the dams make for great picnic spots, it is the waterfalls (Manimuthar, Agastyar and Vana Theertham) are loved by all for their herbal waters, cooling effect and for the sense of relaxation that they bring to everyone. But, amidst all these big water bodies lies a lot of wildlife that are given a miss even by the locals. For a long while, even the forest department never provided any infrastructure.

Gorgeous Manimuthar Waterfalls inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

While this helped retain the pristine status of this ecosystem, it remained relatively hidden from the outside world. Recently, the Tamil Nadu forest department has formed a KMTR Eco Tourism division that provides accommodation inside this tiger reserve and offers guided wildlife walks and treks to different areas within this diverse forest.

A pit stop inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

If you like hidden destinations and off-beat trails, you have to explore this tiger reserve. If you love nature, traditional Tamil Nadu villages with ancient temples, waterfalls, dams and lot of wild action, you will have to visit Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve and the entire region.

A Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve Pit stop moment

This part of India’s deep south is one of Tamil Nadu’s best kept secrets and KMTR is a jewel in its crown. In addition to a waterfall, wildlife and nature holiday, you will get a proper rural Tamil Nadu experience that will be authentic and untarnished. And that’s what makes this hidden gem even more special. Do remember to check it out on your next holiday.

On the offbeat trails inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

How to make bookings:

For day visits, one can get entry tickets at the forest check post, but if you are looking to stay overnight or you wish to go deeper into the forest, you will have to book in advance by booking on KMTR Eco Tourism website or by calling the KMTR forest office.

Two wheelers are not allowed towards Manjolai. 4 wheelers are allowed provided you get the permits at least a day in advance.

Scenic forest road leading to Manimuthar Falls and Manjolai Tea Estate, Tamil Nadu

How to reach here:

By air:

The nearest airports would be Thiruvananthapuram (120 kms away), Tuticorin (80 kms away) and Madurai (180 kms away). Out of these three, Thiruvanthapuram would have the best connectivity with the rest of the country.

By train:

Tirunelveli would be your closest major railway hub. An hour’s drive from there will take you to KMTR. There are also multiple passenger trains that ply daily between Tirunelveli and the various locations of KMTR.

By road:

KMTR is well connected by road, be it the Kalakad side, the Manimuthar side or the Papanasam side. All three routes are well connected with Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Where to stay:

You can stay at any of the following options:

1) Forest Bungalows managed by KMTR tourism inside the tiger reserve

2) Palace home of Singampatti Zamin

3) Homestays in the surrounding villages or

40 Guest houses, lodges and hotels in the surrounding villages and towns

Best time to visit:

The best times to visit are during the South West monsoon months of June, July and August and the winter months starting November through February. The rest of the year would be fairly hot.

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) Ponmudi, offbeat hill station of Kerala, about 3 hours away

2) Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli – 7th century cosmic wonder, about an hour away

3) 1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple, about 30 minutes away

4) Karaiyar Dam, about 30 minutes away

5) Tenkasi temple, about an hour away

6) Manjolai tea estate, about an hour away

7) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple, about 2 hours away

8) Kanyakumari temple, about 90 minutes away

9) Varkala, the cliff beach of Kerala, about 3 hours away

10) Punalur to Shencottai Mountain railways – the lesser known mountain railways of Kerala, about an hour away

11) Kallidaikurichi, the village of the saaral season, about 30 minutes away

12) Agastyar Falls, about 30 minutes away

13) Thenmala forest, about 2 hours away

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