The valley of silence

Silent Valley
Silent Valley. Photo: Praveen Elayi

A trip to Silent Valley, one of the few remaining rain forests in the world, is a pilgrimage for the nature lover. The silence of the forest, where not even crickets are heard, masks the abundant life that thrives below the cocooned meshes of the evergreen foliage. It is a trip that takes you through verdant forests watered by a virgin river that flows merrily without a care- a trip that reminds you to care for nature to keep it unblemished and pure. Silent Valley is also a place where you can revel in the beauty of the rain that feeds the Kunti River, which flows for 20 kms or more, untouched by humans. The overhanging greenery bestows freshness that lifts the spirits and puts life back into a weary traveller. Silent Valley is the core area of the Nilgiri biosphere, which is a World Heritage site. About 20 kms away from Mannarkad, in Palakkad district, lies Mukkali, the gateway to Silent Valley. One can stay here at facilities arranged by the Forest Department on prior booking. From here, one needs to hire a jeep provided by the department to travel further into the forest. The 23-km travel through the forest is an experience that brings one closer to one’s natural roots. The plantations that greet you at the onset slowly make way to semi-evergreen forests where mountain squirrels and lion-tailed Macaques abound. As the cold increases, you know that you are deep in nature’s territory, the cold pacifying your tired senses in soft caresses. On the way, you are greeted by small rivulets and waterfalls that giggle on your arrival with glee. Keep your cameras ready because this is where there are abundant sights and sounds to savour. The journey ends at the banks of Kunti River. Perhaps this river is the only virgin river in India that has remained untouched by humans and their wayward ways. A hanging bridge stands as a mute reminder of how a mass movement of environmentalists prevented a hydro project from destroying the beauty and fecundity of this forest years before. That movement helped the unique set of fauna and flora to flourish. When you watch the green stretch of unbroken forest from the watchtower on the banks of Kunti River, you perhaps realise how well fought that fight was and how priceless the victory of those nature lovers was. The eerie silence of the forest perhaps would then nod in agreement. Silent Valley, located 40 kms away from Mannarkad town in Palakkad District, gives the wildlife aficionado an insight into the beautiful flora and fauna of the Western Ghats. The sanctuary, which extends to an area of 90 sq. kms, contains India's last substantial stretch of tropical evergreen forests. The pristine Kunti River, a tributary of Bharathapuzha, flows through the Silent Valley. The park is home to a staggering array of 1,000 species of flowering plants, 107 species of orchids, 100 ferns and fern allies, 200 liverworts, 75 lichens and about 200 algae, 128 species of butterflies and 35 species of reptiles. Many of these are endemic to the Western Ghats. The liontailed macaque, one of the most endangered primates of India, is a huge draw at the park, where you can also see elephant, tiger, leopard, wild dogs, Flying Squirrel, Barking Deer, Sambhar deer, Gaur and Nilgiri Tahr.

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