Silent Valley National Park
Silent Valley National Park, Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley Division, Mannarkkad, Palakkad, Kerala 678582, India
A mysterious rainforest where the crickets never screech, where nature preserve itself without human touch.
Location of Silent Valley National Park
More about Silent Valley National Park
Silent Valley National Park, one of the last and rare undisturbed rainforest of Western Ghat Mountains is located in the Nilgiri Hills in Palakkad District of Kerala State in Southern India. This national park is 236.47 square kilometres, the second largest in Kerala.
Silent Valley is at the core of the Nilgiri Biosphere and is a World Heritage Site, recognised by UNESCO in 2007. The park is completely enclosed by a ring of hills and remains an ecological island with its own unique micro climate. The park is neighboured by Attappadi Reserve Forests in the east, vested forest of Palghat and Nilambur in west and south, and extended by Nilgiri Forests in the north.
The geography of the park and its surroundings
The valley areas of the park are in a Tropical and Sub-tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion. The hilly areas above 1,000 meters are in the rain forest region with huge trees and thick undergrowth. Above 1,500 meters, the evergreen forest gives way to stunted forest scattered with open grassland. The area above 1,500 meters is of great interests to ecologists as the rich biodiversity here has never been disturbed by human settlements. Several endangered species and even new plant and animal species are discovered here.
The altitude in the valley varies from 658 to 2,328 meters. Soils are black and slightly acidic due to the good accumulation of organic matter in the evergreen forest.
Kunthipuzha- the river that divides the park
The Kunthipuzha river drains the entire 15 km of the park from north to south into a much larger Bharathapuzha river, 50 km away. Kunthipuzha divides the park into a narrow eastern sector with the width 2 km and a wider western sector of 5 km. The river is characterised by its permanent crystal clear waters which flows through whole year.
The river is uniformly shallow with no flood plains or bends. Kunthipuzha is one of the least torrential rivers of the Western Ghats. The main tributaries of the river- Kunthancholapuzha, Karingathodu, Madrimaranthodu, Valiaparathodu and Kummaathanthodu originates from the upper slopes of the eastern side of the valley.
The local name Sairandhrivanam and its connection to Mahabharatha
The Silent Valley is called ‘Sairandhrivanam’ by the locals and is well tangled in the stories of the epic Mahabharatha. As per the epic, the exiled Pandavas (five brothers who are the major characters in the epic) and their wife Draupathi wandered into a region of forest where a deep green river took its course cutting through the forest- the present day Silent Valley. It is said that Sairandhri is another name of Draupadi, hence locals calling the place ‘Sairandhrivanam’ or Sairandhri’s Forest.
The name of the river Kunthipuzha also reflects the name of the mother of Pandavas- Kunthi. Kunthipuzha means Kunthi River in the local language Malayalam.
Movements to protect Silent Valley from Hydro Power Project
Silent Valley has a very eventful history compared to the rest of the parks in the country. The region was a centre of hot debates and protest since 1970’s between environment conservatives and the government.
The history of the park goes way back to 1888 when the region was declared a reserved land under the Forest Act and later notified as Reserved Forest by the then Government of Madras in 1914. In the later half of 1970’s, the Kerala State Electricity Board decided to construct a Hydro Power Project in the region across the river Kunthipuzha, and in 1980 when this region was declared as a National Park, the area of the Hydro Project was excluded. This started a nationwide protest and discussions which resulted in the board dropping its plans.
Subsequently in 1984, the project areas where included in the areas of the National Park and in 1986 the park was declared the core area in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
In recent times, Silent Valley once again has occupied a spot in the hot debates due to the approval of Pathrakkadavu Hydro electric project in 2007, wherein the project area lies dangerously near to the reserve areas of Silent Valley National Park.
Wildlife found in the park
This extremely beautiful and fragile park is home to amazing flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. The park has a strong wildlife population with many endangered species. They include- Elephants, Tiger, Lion-tailed Macaque, Gaur (Indian Bison), Wild boars, Panther, Sambar deer, Nilgiri tahr (unique species of wild goat), Malabar giant squirrel etc., among many other. The largest population of Lion-tailed Macaques lives in the park, perhaps due to the abundance of their favourite food- Jackfruit.
In addition, 120 species of birds including hornbills, 11 species of snakes including King Cobra, 19 species of amphibians, 9 species of lizards, 100 species of butterflies, 400 species of moths are also recorded in the park area. In 2003, a new frog genus supposed to be of the Jurassic era was discovered in the valley.
ExploringSilent Valley National Park
The park is divided into four parts- Nillikkal, Sairandhri, Poochipara, and Walakkad. Only Sairandhri is open for general visitors. Mukkali is the entry point of the park where the forest office is located. Private jeeps and buses which are used to get visitors into the park are available from there. Vehicles are allowed only till Sairandhri watchtower (23 km from Mukkali) after which visitors have to hike to Kunthipuzha, 1.5 km away.
The roads to Sairandhri
The safari rounds begin from 8 AM to minimise disturbances of the animals. The allotted vehicles moves slowly during the 23 km drive and stops in-between allowing visitors to take photos. The road is unpaved and terrain, making the ride very bumpy. Animal sightings are rare but the thick vegetation of the evergreen forest, sometimes covered in pitch darkness and mists is enchanting.
The 22 km of the safari is through reserve forest where you will see a plantation of teak, coffee, pepper etc. The plantation is called Karivara farm, the Mudukar tribes of this forest are engaged in these plantations thereby protecting their livelihood without migrating to nearby towns and cities. The safari ends at the watch tower in Sairandhiri.
The watchtower at Sairandhiri and Kunthipuzha river
The panoramic view of the entire valley below appears like an enormous green carpet from the watch tower that is located 1,050 meters above the sea level at the end of the drivable route. The river Kunthipuzha runs through like a silver line down below. To see Kunthipuzha and the suspension bridge, one has to hike down. If you are carrying mineral water, you must empty the bottle and fill it with the pristine water which flows here. There are not many times you can get hold of water as natural as the ones found in the Silent Valley areas.
The reason behind the name Silent Valley
One of the peculiarities about Silent Valley is that it is devoid of crickets. The park will be unusually quiet, except for the hustle of leaves and birds singing. In the middle of the night after birds retire for the day, it will be dead silent except for the movement of the leaves. This is also believed to be the reason why British named the park Silent Valley when the botanist Robert Wight discovered the area in 1857.
Best time to visit Silent Valley
The Silent Valley National Park is a heavy rainfall region, averaging between 2,800 and 3,400 mm of rains. The park receives most of its rainfall during the monsoons from June to December, however rains are expected throughout the year. The average temperature varies from a peak 23-29 degrees in summer months (March- May) and much lower 4-18 degree during January and February. The ideal time to visit will be right after the monsoon rains, that is from October to May.
Although its possible to access the valley during the rainy season, it pours when its rains in Silent Valley. Torrential tropical thundering monsoons renders the air heavy with humidity and covers the whole forest area in mists.
More trekking options from Silent Valley
For the general visitors, the entry is restricted after the suspension bridge across the Kunthipuzha in Sairandhiri. For travellers who seeks more adventures, there are other multiple options available but you need to get prior permission from the Forest Department Office to do so (its extremely hard to get the permissions, generally restricted to researchers and ecologists with valid reasons). Contact either of the below offices and check on the details- Wildlife Warden, Aranyakam (+91 4924 222056)/ Asst. Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley National Park range (+91 04924 253225)/ Asst. Wildlife Warden, Bhavani range (+91 4924 253125).
The first option is to trek to ‘Poochipara’ (cats rock), a 7 km trek from Sairandhiri. Another 4 day trek route starts from Mukkali and goes through Sairandhiri, Poochipara, Walakkad, Sispara, and Anginda. A guide cum cook accompanies trekkers for the entire duration.
There are two other small treks also available for which the information will be available from the forest office. First option is Bhavani River Trail- a guided tour along the sides of rive Bhavani covering 6 km. The second one is Karuvara Waterfall Trail which takes the visitor to a marvellous waterfall covering a distance of 8 km.
Getting to Silent Valley National Park
Public transportation is more than enough to reach Silent Valley. The nearest railway station is in Palakkad (Palghat railway station) and from the nearby Palakkad Bus Station there are buses to Mannarkad. From Mannarkad, there are buses to Mukkali where the forest office and the entry point to the Silent Valley National Park is located.
Do note that Mannarkkad is the last town with accommodation before reaching Silent Valley. If you want to stay in Mukkali itself, reserve the rooms in advance at the Forest Department Rest House by calling their office.
You will need to take tickets from the office to enter into the park. You can either use the minibus or rent out jeeps to enter into the park. Private vehicles are only allowed till the forest office at Mukkali.