The best place to see the rare Lion Tailed Macaque in the wild - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Sunday, April 05, 2020

The best place to see the rare Lion Tailed Macaque in the wild

Lion Tailed Macaque - Mother and Baby

It ranks among the rarest and most threatened primates. It is endemic to the Western Ghats of South India. It is a rainforest dweller that prefers the upper canopy of tropical moist evergreen forests and rainforests. There are fewer than 4000 of them in the wild. I am talking about the lion-tailed macaque, a small to medium black monkey with an outstanding silver-white mane.

Lion Tailed Macaque at Pudhuthotham Tea Estate, Valparai

The lion-tailed macaque is usually arboreal and prefers the dense canopies of rainforests, thus making it difficult to be spotted let alone photographed. Even if you end up going on wildlife safaris to some of its best habitats, you might return without a sighting. But, there exists a place where one can get get sure shot sightings of this rare primate.

Located on a popular wildlife migration corridor and surrounded by the forests of Parambikulam tiger reserve, Anaimalai tiger reserve, Aaliyar reserve forest and Chinnar wildlife sanctuary, is a private tea estate called Puduthotham (Puthuthottam) tea estate. A large group of lion tailed macaques have made this tea estate their home for the last few decades and have let go of their arboreal nature for tea estate roof tops and compound walls.

The rare Lion Tailed Macaque at Pudhuthotham Tea Estate

It is here where you can see and experience this endangered primate and its behaviour in close quarters. You can see them jumping between trees, foraging for food and interacting within their social circle. The wild action at Puduthotham tea estate is not just limited to lion tailed macaques, but you can also spot large herds of wild gaur, hornbills, woodpeckers, paradise flycatchers, racket-tailed drongos and even Asian elephants, thus making it a hidden wildlife gem.

Do visit right after breakfast (around 9 am or so) for the best sightings at this offbeat wildlife destination!

Lion Tailed Macaque in monochrome

Best season to visit:

Valparai is open all year round, but it looks the best during the monsoons when all the waterfalls are in full flow, the terrain is lush and the wildlife action is aplenty.

The summer months of March through May would be the peak season and hence it might be prudent to make advance hotel bookings if you are planning to visit in this season.

The monsoon months of June through November can offer a bit of trouble in terms of heavy mist cover, landslides, poor visibility, etc. But, this is also my favorite season. Carry a raincoat and wear good waterproof boots to make the best of this season.

The winter months of December through February can get a bit chilly. Do remember to carry your warm wear with you.

Gaur at Pudhuthotam Tea Estate, Valparai

How to reach there:

The nearest airport is at Coimbatore, about 120 kms away. The drive from the airport to Valparai should take you about 3 hours on a good day and may be a bit more on rainy and foggy days.

The nearest railway station would be Pollachi, about 48 kms away, though Coimbatore railway station, about 120 kms would offer much better rail connectivity.

Valparai is well connected by good quality roads. If you are driving from Pollachi side, you will have 48 kms of winding ghat roads and if you are driving from Chalukudy in Kerala, you will drive through about 40 kilometers of cloud rainforests.

If you are driving from Bangalore, Valparai is about 470 kms or 10 hours away.

Puduthotham tea estate is just a 10 minute drive from Valparai on the Valparai-Pollachi road.

Grey Malabar Hornbill at Monica Garden Tea Bungalow, Valparai

Where to stay:

The nearest place to stay would be the hill station of Valparai. Many hotels can be found here catering to a wide range of traveler budgets.

I recommend staying at colonial bungalows inside tea estates. My favorites place to stay are the Stanmore and the Monica Garden Bungalows managed by the Woodbriar group. These might be a bit on the expensive side, but make up for with absolutely gorgeous settings, lip smacking food and great service.

Black Rumped Flameback (Lesser Golden-Backed) Woodpecker at Valparai

Where to eat:

The nearest place to eat would be Valparai town, though options might be few. You will certainly find many shops serving hot tea and home made chocolates though.

It might be prudent to tell your hotel or guest house about your itinerary so that they can cook your meals for you. That way, you can enjoy good hygienic food at a great location.

Stunningly muscular Adult Male Gaur at Puduthotham Tea Estate

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The unsung hill station of Valparai

2) The majestic Athirampally waterfalls – the shooting location for many Indian movies

3) Anaimalai Tiger Reserve – one of the most dense national parks in Southern India

4) Parambikulam tiger reserve – a stunning wildlife holiday destination

5) Monkey Aliyar Falls

6) Aliyar Dam, Sholayar Dam and other vast water bodies

7) Nallamudi Poonjolai

8) Chinnar wildlife sanctuary

9) The drive/ride from Valparai to Chalakudy through cloud rainforests

10) The tea estates of Valparai and around

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