Kerala, better known as ‘God’s own country’, holds a special place in the traveller’s map of India. Its unique geographical attributes make it the first choice for any nature lover. There is an alluring charm about Kerala and its clear blue skies, exotic backwaters, lush tea and spice plantations, thick foliage and a long coastline. Well connected to all the major cities in India, it offers an array of opportunities for travellers to explore.
Ecotourism is quite famous and growing at a rapid pace in Kerala. The state has some twelve wildlife sanctuaries in protected forests spanning the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Annamalai Hills. The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is one such. Together with Eravikulam National Park, Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary and the Indira Gandhi Sanctuary, it forms an integral part of the protected forests of Kerala.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is situated 18 km north of Marayoor in Idukki district of Kerala. It falls in the rain-shadow region of the Western Ghats. It has a wide array of vegetation including deciduous forests, dry thorn scrub, sholas, grasslands as well as riparian forests along the Chinnar and Pembar rivers flowing through the region. The placid environs of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary are the natural habitat of a gigantic range of flora and fauna. The sanctuary has 34 species of mammals, 52 species of reptiles, 245 species of birds, around 156 species of butterflies and 965 species of flowering plants.
As many as 42 species of fishes and about 22 amphibian species are observed in the Chinnar and Pambar rivers here. One can find spotted deer, slender loris, wild elephant, crocodile, leopards, gaur, tufted grey langur, the Indian star tortoise and the endangered grizzled giant squirrel apart from a number of birds, insects and medicinal plants in this sanctuary. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary hosts the largest population of the vulnerable Mugger Crocodiles in Kerala. The famous ‘white bison of Manjampatti’ has also been reported recently from Chinnar.
The sanctuary is also great for trekking, be it river-treks, waterfall treks (to the Thoovanam falls) or cultural treks (the sanctuary is home to a number of tribal groups). One can take a nature trail to the watch tower or even camp at Vasyappara. The fresh, blossoming and expansive Marayoor sandalwood forest close by is another delightful attraction.
Although Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is open all through the year, the best time to visit it is during the winter months. The sanctuary is easily accessible by road. It is situated about 60 km northeast of Munnar on the State Highway 17, which passes almost through the middle of the sanctuary for 16 km. Besides a dormitory, there is provision for a tree house or hut accommodation within the forest.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal retreat to relax and experience nature up and close. Wake up to the mellifluous twittering of yellow-throated bulbuls. Watch herds of gaur and elephants amble past in front of your eyes. Admire a host of avian species and animals as they gambol through the many hillocks, rocks, plains and cliffs interspersed within the forests.
Observe nature’s creations in all their wilderness for a truly enthralling experience to cherish and a precious lesson to take back home: that life is simple, not easy. Nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and lovers of life rejoice. Because you have found your next travel destination.