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The Blue Mountain range is the queen of South Indian landscapes, with stunning locales, green slopes dotted with streams and waterfalls, vegetation and flowers in bloom, pretty lakes, the notable blue haze and rolling mountains that include 20 peaks above 2000m. The Nilgiri plateau is ringed by forested areas and green vegetation cover, making this region renowned for its wildlife and bird species. Recognized by UNESCO as the Niligiri Biosphere, the region boasts of a number of national parks and sanctuaries. Home to some of the most popular hill stations, the Nilgiri region is almost synonymous with the tall eucalyptus trees and tea and spice plantations. The pleasant whiff of these is almost sensed before one starts circling the hills and stays with you like a soft scented reminder of where you are.
Nilgiri means Blue Mountains, and are called so due the indigenous blue haze as well as the blue Strobilanthes flower that blooms once in 12 years. The Nilgiri region is spread across three southern states of India, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerela.
How to reach
Rail – Ooty or Ootacamund is one of the most popular hill stations of this region and fairly easily accessible. It has its own railway station. Air – Coimbatore is the best airbase to arrive at if flying. Road – Good road connectivity networks most of the important destinations such as, Ooty is well connected via road, to Coimbatore, Bangalore, Mysore, Calicut, Tirupati and Cochin.
What to see
The pristine forest cover, a mix of the evergreen sholas and grasslands, give excellent advantage to the flora and fauna of this region. Coupled with a great many streams, water bodies, lakes and favorable climatic conditions make it a biosphere that hosts varied ecosystems that survive and thrive well here. Let’s first take a look at the different national parks and sanctuaries that are the main attractions for the wildlife lovers.
1. Mudumalai National Park – North west of Coimbatore, this Park has a high diversity of wildlife. With 55 mammal species, 227 bird species, 34 reptile species and 50 fish species, this Park has an envious record of its throbbing wildlife.
2. Mukurthi National Park – West of Ooty, this Park was created utmost for the preservation of the Nigiri Tahr. Other animals here include, the elephants, Bengal Tiger, Nilgiri Marten and Nilgiri Langur. Birds include the endangered, laughing thrush, woodcock, whistling thrush, Nilgiri flycatcher, Nilgiri Pipit, kestrel and more.
3. Silent Valley Park – Located in the Palakkad district in Kerela, supports a rich biodiversity. It provides shelter to about 16 threatened bird species, including the Malabar parakeet, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Nilgiri blue robin and more. The threatened lion tailed macaque is found here, along with the Nilgiri langur, Malabar giant squirrel and more.
4. Nagarhole National Park- Located in Karnataka the Park is a declared Tiger Reserve.
5. Bandipur National Park – This wildlife treasure trove is also a Tiger reserve and located in Karnataka.
6. Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary – Situated in Kerela, this sanctuary is home to the tiger, bison and many more wildlife and avian species.
7. Satyamangalam Wildlife sanctuary – A Tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu this sanctuary acts a link to the other national parks and sanctuaries.Notably, the Nilgiris are home to species that are endemically found here, and interestingly have been named after the region. The shiny black Nilgiri langur and its sholas forest companion the long tailed macaque thrive in this region. The famous Nilgiri Tahr is the only wild goat that inhabits a region south of the Himalayas. The Nilgiri marten, giant squirrel and birds such as the hill mynah and nightjar take shelter here. Besides, the Nilgiris encompassing a wide range of parks and sanctuaries, there is much more to see and be enthralled by here. Take a look at some of the main destinations of this region, which will mesmerize and leave you asking for more.
1. Ooty – Undoubtedly, the first destination on this list, Ooty is a popular hill station amongst all tourists. The beautiful hilly landscapes, the natural Botanical Gardens and the Ooty Lake not only make Ooty a wildlife and avian hotspot, but also deservedly crown it with the coveted title of being the ‘Queen of Hill Stations.’
2. Doddabetta Peak – The highest peak (2635m) in the the Nilgiris, it is known for the spell binding views that it offers. Visit the observatory and the Telescope House for better far away views.
3. Pykara – The Pykara lake is encased around the shola forests, enhancing the beauty of the landscape. The lake is a popular picnic spot, whereas the Pykara river also makes for excellent views along with the gushing waterfall and Pykara Dam.
4. Avalanche Lake- 30 km from Ooty, the route and the lake will enthrall, entice and mesmerize you with absolute breathtaking views. Some other beautiful lakes in this region, include the Emerald Lake, Porthimund Lake and Glenmorgan reservoir and dam (and the tea plantations here also provide amazing views.)
5. Dolphin’s Nose Viewpoint – 12 km from Coonor this jaw dropping rock at 1000m gives you cliff hanger views of the gorge and valley below. The Catherene Falls can be seen from here.
6. Elk Falls – The perfect getaway that will ignite your senses, this stunning waterfall in Tamil Nadu 7km from is a must visit spot for all nature lovers.
7. Nilgiri Mountain Rail – And it is in the mountains, that the journey is more exciting than the destination. Welcome and board the Mettupalayam to Ooty rail and enjoy the gorgeous views outside your train window. Chugging along the line, passing the scenic views and a great way to travel for those who tend to get car sickness on hills, this mountain railway is a treat for all.
8. Conoor – After Ooty, Connor is the next popular hill station of the Nilgiris and less populated thatn the former. Enjoy the splendid mountains, waterfalls, trekking and serenity of this town. The ethnic tribes of this area are the Todas and Kotas, each of which bring along a rich history and past. Visit some of the quiet settlements and villages along these routes to experience their culture.
We organize wildlife tours to the national parks, birding areas, and you may choose to club these tours with the landscape tour as well. However, the landscape tour will be as follows.
Day 1 – Arrive in Ooty by mid- day and check into the hotel. After a hot lunch, we proceed to the Botanical Gardens and Ooty lake. Have an enjoyable dinner before retiring for the night.
Day 2 – We start today for Doddabetta and reach the highest point of the area. After a lunch in the mountains, we head towards the beautiful Pykara Lake before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Day 3 – We start for Conoor today and watch the myriad landscapes en route and around the hill town. The full day will just fly past here till we return back for the night.
Day 4 – Enjoy a late breakfast and indulge in shopping and more sight – seeing of the surrounding areas. You may catch the train to Mettupalayam before continuing with your onward journey.
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