Green Holiday Silent Valley National Park

The best way to see India's evergreen tropical rain forest is by trekking and camping with an experienced local guide
Lion-tailed Macaque   Photo PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay
Lion-tailed Macaque Photo PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Tucked inside Kerala&rsquos Palakkad district, the Silent Valley National Park, is a tropical rain forest, which saw one of India&rsquos earliest protests by environmentalists and concerned citizens to stall a proposed hydel power project.

According to local belief, this was here where Draupadi (who took the name of Sairandhri when the Pandavas were supposed to say in anonymity during their exile) and the five brothers had stayed for some time. Hence it was earlier called 'Sairandhrivanam' and the river which runs through the forest was named Kunthippuzha after Kunthi, their mother.

Apparently, with the absence of cicadas, the forest tract was bereft of any sound and hence became known as the Silent Valley. Declared a national park in 1984, it became a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It also became a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 when the Western Ghats earned the citation.

According to the state&rsquos forest and wildlife department, the forest here is a &lsquobotanist&rsquos paradise&rsquo with nearly a 1000 species of flowering plants, 107 species of orchids, 100 ferns and fern allies, 200 liverworts, 75 lichens and about 200 algae. Many of these floral variety are endemic to the Western Ghats. The department also lists the presence of 34 species of mammals, 292 species of birds, 31 species of reptiles, 22 species of amphibians, 13 species of fishes, 500 species of butterflies and moths, besides a multitude of lower forms of animal life. One of its most prominent residents is the Lion-tailed Macaque.

The best way to explore the national park is to go camping inside and explore the forest at leisure albeit with a guide. Vehicles go up to Mukkali, which can be said to be the base camp for explorers. One of the popular trails inside the forest leads to a place called Bommiyampadi. There are eco-tourism packages which include a guided walk through the forest with a night stay. You may also inquire with Kerala Tourism about the various nature camping programmes in the company of people who are well acquainted with the forest and guide you about the importance of the flora and fauna. However, since trekking and camping inside the forest is dependent on weather and other factors, it is advisable to check with the state tourism department before planning. The best time to visit the park is between December and February.

Getting There The national park is located about 20 km away from Mannarkkad in Palakkad district. The nearest rail head is Palakkad. The nearest airport in Kerala is Kochi International Airport, about 180km away by road. You may also fly in through Coimbatore airport in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which is about 160km away.

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