Eravikulam National Park - 5 Things to Know Before Visiting
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About Eravikulam National Park
See endangered Nilgiri tahrs at close quarters, immerse in the amazing nature.
Eravikulam National Park (also known as Rajamala) is a 97 square kilometre national park along the Western Ghat Mountains of Kerala aimed at protection of Nilgiri tahr, a type of ibex that is endemic to the region. This is the first national park of Kerala and it houses the highest peak outside of Himalayas in India- Anamudi at a height of 2,695 meters above sea level.
The main body of the park consists of a high plateau with a base elevation of 2,000 meters. The sharp escarpments and cliffs on all sides of the park make the area an isolated table land with an unique climate. The unsuitability of soil for agriculture, inaccessibility, and extreme climate has helped the area to remain free from human access.
The terrain in the park consists mostly of grasslands scattered with stunted tropical montane forest (locally called sholas) and Shrubland. The park is divided into three regions- the core, the buffer and the tourism areas. Visitors are only allowed in the tourism area- Rajamala where one can observe Nilgiri tahr at close quarters.
History of Eravikulam National Park and current administration
The area now called Eravikulam National Park was a hunting ground for British officials and Local Kings. After the British rule, it was managed as a game reserve by the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company. It was taken over by the Kerala Government in 1971 and was named Eravikulam- Rajamala Wildlife Sanctuary to protect Nilgiri tahr. It became a national park in 1978.
The national park is now administered by the Munnar Wildlife division which also runs the nearby Mathikettan Shola National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park, Pampadum Shola National Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and Kurinjimala Sanctuary.
Animals present at the national park
Twenty six species of mammals have been recorded in the park including the largest surviving population of Nilgiri tahr. The other mammals include gaur (Indian bison), barking deer, sambar (a large deer native to the Indian Subcontinent), golden jackal, jungle cat and wild dog. Tiger and leopard are the major predators and elephants make seasonal visits. In addition to the mammal population, 132 species of birds, 101 species of butterflies and 19 species of amphibians have been recorded at the park.
Exploring Eravikulam National Park
The park is an ideal place for seeing bio diversity of high attitude tropical montane forest- grassland ecosystem. Visitors are taken to Rajamala, at the top of the plateau in buses provided by forest department and given an opportunity to experience the rich variety of flora and fauna in the region. Spotting endangered Nilgiri tahr is very common in Rajamala area.
The safari buses will take the visitors near to the top of Rajamala, and the last 2 km needed to be hiked up. At the top, there are sitting areas from where one can get the views of serene beauty of nature spreading over thousands of acres below the plateau. The tea plantation creates neatly packed patterns, the mountain of the Western Ghats spreads like waves in the ocean, the Anamudi peak at a distance wanting to be conquered. Depending on the season, one will also be able to see many springs with cold, pure, and crystal clear water originating from the mountains.
The 2 km stretch is also where visitors comes in close contact with Nilgiri tahrs. You will be able to see and take photos of males, females and calves. It is not encouraged to touch them or feed them, avoid creating any noice, and do not chase them. It is a protected species and visitors must keep that in mind while there. Although you will be able to see herds of Nilgiri tahrs roaming around regularly, there are only 700+ of them left in the area.
Anamudi- one of the tallest peaks in India
Anamudi, the highest peak in India outside Himalayas stands at the core area of the national park. From Rajamala, you can only see it at a distance, standing majestically watching over the valleys below. The entry to the peak is restricted and will need special permission from the Wildlife Warden at Munnar. The name Anamudi translates to 'elephant's forehead' as the peak resembles an elephant head.
Neelakurinji- the plant that blossoms every 12 years
The grasslands and forests of Eravikulam National Park is rich in Balsams and Orchids. Neelakurinji- a shrub that is seen commonly in the park blossoms every 12 years covering the region in blueish purple colour. The blooming season is a treat for the visitors and in every season millions of travellers, from inside and outside the country visit the area just to witness the phenomena. Nilgiri Hills in the region got its name from Neelakurinji Flowers. The name Nilgiri translates to ‘blue mountains’.
In the past, the bloom occured in 2006. The next next blooms are expected in 2018 and then in 2030. Kurinjimala Sanctuary adjacent to Eravikulam National Park is fully dedicated to the protection of Neelakurinji. During 2006 bloom, visitors damaged many areas covered in Neelakurinji and as a result the sanctuary was formed to protect the plants.
The annual closure in February and March
Every year the park closes for visitors during February and March as it is the calving season Nilgiri tahr. There are only 700+ Nilgiri tahrs remains in the region and the closure is done to avoid disturbances to the the newborn calves.
The mating season of the tahrs is between June and August and after a gestation period of six months the females give birth in the period of February and March. The newborn calves are very vulnerable to disturbances and diseases, the primary reason for the park to be closed for visitors. Around 70 new calves are born every year and some do not survive due to the attack of diseases, and predators such as wild dogs, leopards and tigers.
Other activities around the park
In addition to the regular safari, there are multiple adventures provided by the park management. These programmes needs to be booked in advance. For more informations relating to the trips, contact the officials- Wildlife Warden Munnar (+91 4865 231587) or Forest Information Centre Munnar (+91 4865 231587). For bookings and queries, you can also checkout the park’s official website.
One day tour
This programme will take one through Flower Garden, Tea Museum, Eravikulam National Park, Lakkom Falls, Marayoor Sandalwood Forest and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Guides, food, tea and snacks will be provided during the trip and the journey starts from Munnar Wildlife Division Office.
Hike through the Neelakurinji trail
A soft hike through the misty tracks of the Nilgiri thar and Neelakurinji filled grass lands. This hike is conducted everyday in the mornings and evenings and takes around three hours to complete. The starting point is at Eravikulam National Park
Cascade walk near Lakkom falls
The crystal clear water originating from the core zone of Eravikulam National Park flows through Lakkom falls to Pambar River, one of the east flowing rivers of Kerala which joins the much larger Kaveri River in Tamil Nadu. The walk allows the visitor to hike through the beautiful forest paths winding along the waterfall. The duration of the hike is an hour and starting point is Lakkom falls.
Best time to visit the park
Excluding the months of February and March, park is open to the visitors rest of the year. It is much recommended to be there in the morning around 7 so that the rush can be avoided. The park is very popular, hence people flock to the area. If one does not come early, you might have to queue up for a long time to get the entry tickets and to board the bus. There is an option to book the ticket online, it will save a lot of time.
Reaching Eravikulam National Park using public transportation
The park is situated in Idukki District of Kerala State in Southern India. It is located 10 km from Munnar Town- the tourist hotspot. From Munnar, take the bus heading to Marayoor as the park is located midway to Marayoor, in Munnar- Udumalpet highway. The nearest major railway station is in Aluva/ Ernakulam from where there are direct buses to Munnar. Aluva and Ernakulam are connected with most of the other parts of the country.
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What Visitors Say About Eravikulam National Park
Unfortunately we couldn't see any Nilgiri Tahrs this time but still the views were great. Definitely a top attraction near Munnar. The entry fee when we went was Rs.200 per person. It includes a bus ride to the top and back. Not meeting any Tahrs was a bit of a disappointment but we hope to catch them next time. Would have given all 5 stars if we could have met the legendary Tahr.
While lions are generally considered the king of the jungle, at Eravikulam National Park Nilgiri Tahr- the endangered ibex is the real king. They roam around freely, doing their business, not scared of humans at all. They dont even mind us and pose nicely for photos too! Apart from the Tahrs, the view here is breathtaking. Expect long queuing at the ticket counter and in order to get on to the safari buses (we waited more than an hour) unless you reach early in the morning. There are only seven buses that shuttles back and forth from the entrance to the peak and there were more than 300 people always in the queue. The safari bus takes you through amazing scenery, starting with tea plantations and then steep hills with waterfalls to the top of the plateau. At top you can walk around for about a km and half checking out the tahrs and the views. The tallest peak of India outside of Himalayas- Anamudi is a part of the national park and you can view it in its entirety. Its massive and looks just like an elephant. There is a waterfall that drops from top of the peak and it looks gorgeous falling in its tiny droplets from the sides of the large rocky Anamudi.
At this national park you can see beautiful goats and have an absolutly stunning view over the mountains. Only downside is that you have to line up for an hour to get the bus leading to the peak