The core of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the Silent Valley National Park is probably one of the most magnificent gifts of nature to mankind, a unique preserve of tropical rain forests in all its pristine glory with an almost unbroken ecological history. Thanks largely to its difficult terrain and remoteness, the extent of degradation is minimal in comparison with other sanctuaries.
Silent Valley National Park also known as Sairndhri Vanam (the forest in the valley) is located at southwest corner of Nilgiri hills, Palakkad district of Kerala in South India. It rises abruptly to the Nilgiri Plateau in the north and overlooks the plains of Mannarkkad in the south. The Silent Valley forest was declared a national park on 15th November 1984.
Sairandhri Vanam, meaning the forest in the valley, as referred to in the Mahabharatha and the River Kunthi give a mythological dimension to the National Park. The Silent Valley is seldom silent but it has an inexplicably unique character about it, what with the dense forest, the music of the birds and its quitet majesty.With an area of close to 90 sq.kms, the park is situated in the north-eastern corner of the Palakkad district. It rises abruptly to the Nilgiri plateau in the north and overlooks the plains of Mannarkkad in the south. The river Kunthi descends from the Niligiri hills above an altitude of 2000 m and traverses the entire length of the valley finally rushing down to the plains through a deep gorge. River Kunthi never turns brown; it is crystal clear, perennial and wild.
The forests belong to the biogeographical class of the Malabar rain forests and harbour about 1000 species of plants. The flowering plants here include 966 species to 134 families and 599 genera. The dicotyledons are 701 in number, distributed among 113 families and 430 genera; monocotyledons are 265 distributed among 21 families and 139 genera. The 5 dominant families recorded from Silent Valley are:
- Orchidaceae with 108 species belonging to 49 genera, Febaceae with 545 species representing 26 genera,
- Rubiaceae with 49 species representing 27 genera and
- Asteraceae with 45 species representing 25 genera. Many of these are rare and endangered and some are now lost elesewhere
The following are some of the new specieis and genera recorded recently from Silent Valley – Hedyotis silentvalleyensis, Kanjaram palghatensis, Porpax chandrasekharanhii, Silentavelleya nairii, Nydnocarpus pendulus etc.
New species of orchids recorded are:
- Oberonia bisaccata, Liparis indiraii, Eriatiagii, Ipsea malabarica, a ground orchid rediscovered after a lapse of more than a century and
- Scutellaria oblonga and Anodendron rhinosporum, two Sri Lankan plants have also been recorded.
The valley has a fair representation of all peninsular mammals. They are lion – tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, bonnet macaque, tiger, leopard (Panther), leopard cat, fishing act, common palm civet,small Indian civer, brown plam civet, ruddy mongoose, stripenencked mongoose, wild dog, sloth bear, otter, flying squirrel, Malabar gaint squirrel, Indian pangolin (scaly anteater), Porcupine, wild boar, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, gaur and elephant.
Birds include rare such as Indian black-crested baza, bonellis’ hawk eagle, rufous bellied hawk eagle, shaheen falcon, short-eared owl, penisular scops owl, Ceylon frog mouth, great Indian hornbill, Niligiri laughing thrush, house martin, rufous bellied shortwing, Malay bittern etc. About 170 species have been recorded of which 31 are migrants.The fauna include a number of possible new species, a few very primitive animal groups, notably Ceacilians (limbless amphibians) and some rare small mammals such as the Peshwa’s bat and heary-winged bat.Butterflis and moths are varied and plenty. There are more than 100 species of butterflies and 400 species of moths. Quite a few of them are extremely rare and endemic.
The Silent Valley is a veritable treasure house-a gene pool of tropical flora and fauna. This has to be protected from human depredation and cherished for all times to come.
Major Wildlife Attractions:
There are at least 34 species of mammals at Silent Valley including the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque, Niligiri Langur, Leopard, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Tahr, Peshwa’s Bat (Myotis peshwa) and Hairy-winged Bat. There are nine species of bats, rats and mice. In addition to the above-mentioned ones, almost all the animals inhabiting Peninsular India are also seen here. To mention a few -Tiger, Leopard cat, Jungle cat, Fishing cat, Common palm civet, Stripe necked mongoose, Ruddy mongoose, Small Indian civet, Wild boar, Brown palm civet, Wild dog, Barking deer, Mouse deer, Sloth bear, Otter, Flying squirrel, Malabar giant squirrel, Porcupine, Sambar, Gaur and elephants.
There are around 170 species of birds have been identified, of which 31 are migrants. These include rare species like ceylon frogmouth, great indian hornbill, Indian black crested baza, Bonellis hawk eagle, Rofous bellied hawk eagle, Shaheen falcon, Short eared owl, Peninsular scop’s owl, Ceylon frog mouth, Nilgiri Wood-pigeon,, Nilgiri laughing thrush, Rofous bellied short wing, Malabar Parakeet, Malabar Grey Hornbill, White-bellied Treepie, Grey-headed Bulbul, Wynaad Laughing Thrush, White-bellied Shortwing.
Among the 35 species of reptiles identified, Calotes rouxi, Salea horsefielda, Calliophis nigrescens are endemic. The endemic species of frogs found here are Bufo silentvalleyensis, Micrixalus thampii and Ansonia rubigina. Homaloptera pillai is an endemic fish found in the waters of Kunti River. The insects include Gellia kuntiae, Oxylobus silentius, Lanceonotus mukkaliensis, Tricentrus syrandrikae. More than 100 varieties of butterflies and 400 species of moths had been identified.
Visitors are allowed only up to Sairandhiri, the dam site 23km from Mukkali. There after trekkers need special permission from the Conservator of Forests; Northern Region; Palakkad, to venture on to one of the several trekking routes. The terrain is rough and one has to be vary of the leeches. The 7km trek from Sairandhiri to Poochappara 1376m above sea level takes around two hours.
Best Time to Visit:
The period between October to May is considered the best time to visit this place.
How to Get there:
Air: The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (in neighbouring Tamilnadu State), about 55 km and at Kochi.
Rail: Thrissur (24km) and Coimbatore ( 55km ) are the nearest railway stations for reaching the park. Palghat or Palakkad (80km)
is also a convenient rail head.
Road: Regular buses are available from Palakkad (80km) to Mukkali. Bus transport is only up to Mukkali, nearly 23 km from the park. The rest of the way has to be covered hiring a van or a jeep from Mukkali or on foot up to the source of Kunthi river, which flows through the valley before merging with the Bharathapuzha (Nila).Â Echippara is the headquarters of the sanctuary.
General Info / Tips:
There are rest houses where tourists can stay within Silent Valley national Park. Palakkad town nearby has many hotels, guesthouses and cyber cafes so you can stay in touch with the world, even in the quiet retreat of Silent Valley.
The climate at Silent Valley National Park is warm in summer and pleasant in winter. The temperature rises to a maximum of around 35°C in June and drops to a moderate 20°C in December. The Southwest monsoon lasts from July to September and brings heavy rainfall to Silent Valley. The humidity can reach 95% and the rainfall during the year can reach over 1600 mm.
Leopards, Gaur, Elephants, Ceylon Frogmouth