Situated in the rain shadow area of the Western Ghats, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is
Situated in the rain shadow area of the Western Ghats, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary isamongst the most visited tourist destinations in Kerala. The sanctuary is just 60km from Munnar city, and the Rajamallay-Udumalpet Road cuts through the sanctuary, dividing it into almost two equal parts.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The eco-development committee situated next to the Chinnar forest checkpost organises various activities for tourists. One can hire trackers-cum-guides, who live in villages nearby, at the checkpost. The fee is about ₹100 per day (you may want to tip them generously). One can visit the sanctuary anytime of the year, but since Chinnar falls in the rainshadow of the Western Ghats, it can get very hot and dry during the monsoons.
One of the things to do here is to drive for a few kilometres along the road to Udumalpet. Right next to the Chinnar checkpost is the Tamil Nadu checkpost, and beyond that the entrance to Indira Gandhi Wild-life Sanctuary. You can also drive in the opposite direction, towards Marayoor. In either case, the drive is fraught with sights of birds and butterflies. Chinnar is especially rich in Lepidoptera (an order of insects comprising butterflies and moths, amongst others), and it also has around 225 recorded species of birds, including peafowl, bulbul, flycatcher, kingfisher, drongo, bushchat, hoopoe and rarer species like the green-billed malcoha.
There is also a strong likelihood of witnessing animals crossing the roads. You can spot the common mongoose, larger mammals such as elephants and gaur, several species of deer including sambar and chital, and in the evening hours, perhaps a leopard or even a tiger. One can also see the highly endangered grizzled giant squirrel on the trees near the Chinnar checkpost.
The area is famous for occasional sightings of black panthers. However, it must not be forgotten that this is an elephant country and walking on the road, or even driving at night is dangerous. The sanctuary does not offer any conducted safaris into the wilderness. However, the forest department organises eco-tourism programmes here, wherein you will be accompanied by guides.
These include a 3-hr-long river trekking (Indian ₹225; Foreigner ₹600) held from 6.00–11.00am & 3.00–6.00pm, a 2-hr-long trek to Thoovanam Waterfall organised from 6.00–11.00am & 3.00–6.00pm, and a 3-hr-long trek to dolmens (pre-historic monuments made of two or more upright stones) found near Chinnar. This trek (Indians ₹225, Foreigner ₹600) is held from 7.00–10.00am & 3.00–6.00pm.
All these activities can be signed up for at the checkpost. You can also book through the Eravikulam Wildlife Warden’s Office, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Treks are also organised till the machans (watchtowers) that have been built at various parts of the sanctuary. Two of these treks are till Koottar and Karakkad. There is a more elaborate trek to Vasyappara, which involves a 1.5-hr-long uphill. This starts in the afternoon and the group usually reaches the destination by nightfall. There is a hut at Vasyappara (Tariff: ₹3,500 for two and ₹1,000 per extra person), where night halt is arranged.
In the early hours of the morning, the view from the top of this hill is stunning, and down below, one often sees a large number of animals grazing: elephants, gaur and various species of deer.
The less adventurous can opt for an easy walk to the watchtower near the Chinnar checkpost, from the top of which you get a panoramic view of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is also home to the tiger, leopard, wild boar, grizzled giant squirrel, Malabar giant squirrel, bonnet macaque, grey langur, Nilgiri langur, Slender loris, Nilgiri tahr, sambar, porcupine, wild dog and jackal.
The sanctuary has 52 species of reptiles, of which two are boas, two are elapids, four are viperids and 16 belong to the colubridae family. Ampheiesma beddomei, a rare snake found in Western Ghats, and the saw scaled viper (Echis), are also present. The Chinnar and Pambar rivers have about 14 species of fish. Garra mullya, Barilius gatensis and Danio aequipinnatus are aplenty.
WHERE TO STAY
Tourists can book in advance a stay at any of the forest department options at Chinnar (contact Wildlife Warden’s Office, Munnar PO Tel: 04865-231587, Cell: 08301024187, 08547603199). Tree Top Huts (at Koottar, Karakkad (Tariff: ₹3,000 per day for two, inclusive of two meals W chinnar.org) are a good option in Chinnar. Simple vegetarian food is served here and field guides are provided. Log Huts at Thoovanam, Jellimala, Churilipetty, Paambar and Koottar (Tariff: ₹2,000 for two, ₹500 per extra person) are fully equipped with modern amenities. Near the Chinnar Forest checkpost, there is a dormitory with 35 beds (Tariff: ₹150 per bed). There is no electricity in Chinnar, except for a few hours every night. Rooms are lit using solar energy. Reservation at all of the above options are done via the Wildlife Warden’s Office.
WHERE TO EAT
There are no restaurants in Chinnar. One has to eat at dhabas operating on the Tamil Nadu side, which, however, is within walking distance from the Chinnar checkpost. Spartan fare, often cooked over an open fire in your presence, is offered in these eateries. The food is not expensive.
Six kilometres down the road to Udumalpet is the Amaravathy Dam and the Tamil Nadu Forest checkpost. Another 6km along the road, lies the Amaravathy Crocodile Farm, which is a rearing and research centre for crocodiles, managed by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department.
When to go Open all year round except from January–March
Chinnar WLS, Marayoor P.O
STD code Munnar 04865
Location In Idukki District; running contiguous to Eravikulam National Park in the south, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary in the north and Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary in the east
Distance 60km E of Munnar, 180km E of Kochi
Route from Kochi NH49 to Munnar; SH17 to Chinnar via Marayoor
Air Nearest airport: Kochi (150km); Taxi costs ₹10–12 per km
Rail Nearest railhead: Aluva (100km)
Road Chinnar is 60km from Munnar. It takes two hours to navigate the hillroad