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Indira Gandhi National Park

 
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© Sumit K Sen 2005
Karian Shola, Top Slip

Images


Introduction

The 958 km2 Indira Gandhi National Park (IGNP) and Wildlife Sanctuary {formerly known as the Anamalai (Anaimallai) Wildlife Sanctuary} lies in the Coimbatore District of Tamil Nadu at the southern part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in the Anamalai Hills. Separated from the Nilgiri Hills by the Palghat Gap on the north, the Park is contiguous to the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) to its west and to the Eravikulam National Park (Kerala) and Chinnar WLS to its south. 

The tourist zone and main birding area is at Top Slip (740m).

IGNP is an Indomalayan Malabar Rainforest and the Tropical Humid biome comprises primarily of wet evergreen, sub-tropical evergreen, moist deciduous, dry deciduous, semi-evergreen and montane-shola grasslands. The terrain here is thickly wooded hills, plateaus, deep valleys and rolling grasslands.  Altitude ranges from 340m to 2,510m and annual rainfall varies between 800 mm to 4500 mm . Both southwest and northeast monsoons occur here.. The area is drained by several perennial and semi-perennial river systems like the Kallar and Sholaiar rivers and contains man-made reservoirs such as Aliar and Thirumurthy. The main geological formations in the area are horneblende-biotite and garnetiferous biotite gneissus, charnockites and plagiodase porphyry dykes. Soil on the slopes consists of sandy loam.


 

Vegetation:

The complex topography and rainfall gradient contribute to a striking diversity in vegetation which comprises a mix of natural and man-made habitats. The former includes wet evergreen forest and semi-evergreen forest, montane shola-grassland, moist deciduous, dry deciduous, thorn forests and marshes. Tropical wet evergreen forest is found at an altitude of 600m to 1,600m. Tropical montane forests occur at higher elevations and are interspersed with montane grasslands, forming the shola-grassland complex. Many parts of the original evergreen forest now contains introduced teak plantations. Bamboo stands and reeds occur in the natural forests. Forest cover is provided by Hopea parviflora, Mesua ferrea, Calophyllum tomentosum, Vateria indica, Cullenia excelsa and Mangifera indica, Machilus macrantha, Alstonia scholaris, Evodia meliaefolia, Ailanthus and Malabaricum and Eucalyptus grandis. The area is the only home of Podocarpus wallichianus, a South Indian species of conifer.

Avifauna:

Top Slip's outstanding rainforest patches hold a number of South Indian endemic birds. Some, such as the Wynaad Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Trogon, White-bellied Blue Flycatcher and Black-throated Munia are best seen here. Other key birds include a large breeding population of Great Hornbills, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Red Spurfowl, Grey Junglefowl, Malabar Parakeet, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Oriental Bay Owl,  Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Indian Swiftlet, Brown-backed Needletail, Rufous Babbler, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Great Eared Nightjar and Large-billed Warbler. Many of these birds can be seen on the 1km track from the edge of Karian Shola to the watchtower overlooking a reservoir.

Other than birds, IGNP is home to one of the world's rarest primates, the Lion-tailed Macaque. Top Slip also has a large concentration of the endemic Nilgiri Langur and the lucky can spot the Indian Chevrotain and the rare Brown Mongoose. Asian Elephants are plentiful and are not the best mannered here. 

How to reach:
IGNP is best approached from Pollachi, a fair sized town south of Coimbatore. The usual route is to travel by road from Coimbatore to Pollachi (40 kms) to the Wildlife Warden's Office and then by road to Top Slip (35 km), the entry point to the ParkThere are regular buses from Coimbatore and Palani to Pollachi and there are two buses a day from Pollachi to Top Slip leaving Pollachi at 6 am and 3 pm. The bus returns to Pollachi at 8 am and 6 pm. Hired cars/taxis are also available at Pollachi. 

Nearest airport: Coimbatore (75 kms)
Nearest railhead: Pollachi (30 kms). From Pollachi there are trains to Coimbatore & Dindigul

Entry formalities:
1. If you are visiting the park for the day you can go directly to Top Slip (Entry INR 50). The Sethumadai checkpost is the entry point to IGNP.
2. In case you plan to stay at Top Slip, accommodation must be booked in advance at the:
Wildlife Warden Office
, 178 Meenkarai Rd, in Pollachi. 
Open Monday to Friday between 9 am to 5 pm. Tel: 04259 222-5356.
3. Park
entry time is between 6.30 am and 6 pm.

Park details and tips: 
1. Private vehicles can drive in the park. Top Slip is best enjoyed if a car is hand at all times.
2.
It is possible to walk around the park. You must have a Park Guide with you and you are allowed to walk in the park for a maximum of four hours for INR 70 per person. 
3. There is provision for a conducted bus ride from the Park Reception Office and riding elephants may also be available.
4. Local food and refreshments are available at the facility run at the Tourist Complex, Top slip.
5. Ticks and leeches can be a serious menace, specially in the summer months. Carry protection and stick to tracks.
5a. Many lone male elephants at Top Slip are known rouges, travel on foot with a guide.
6. Accommodation in the Park is very basic and it is best to carry sleeping bags and emergency supplies.
7. A booking at a particular guesthouse may not assure you of accommodation at it. The final allocation decision is left to the Department staff at Top Slip.
8. A provision shop functions near the reception area and reasonably stocked for necessities.
9.Tourism seems to be low priority at this Park - be prepared for inadequate support from Forest Deptt. staff. 
10.Top Slip can have hordes of noisy holidaymakers, specially during winter holidays - beware!
11. The only surefire way to see birds like Wynaad Laughingthrush, Sri Lanka Frogmouth and Oriental bay Owl is with the assistance of local guides. Tell them that you want to see these birds. We used Arumugam & Murugan with very satisfactory results.

Contact:
The Wildlife Warden
Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary,
178, Meenkarai Road, Pollachi - 642 001.
Tel: 04259 222-5356.

Where to stay:
There are Forest Rest Houses at Topslip Varagaliar, Amaravathi, Sethumadai. The Ambuli Illam Guesthouse, at Topslip, 2km from the reception center, is the best place to stay. It has a restaurant. We stayed at the Mt. Stuart Resthouse which was beautifully located but without electricity, food and water. The Public Works Department (PWD) Rest houses at Udumalpet and Amaravathi, Electricity Board (TNEB) Rest House at Attakatti. Accommodation is usually limited to only one or two nights at a location. 
Alternatively, one could stay at Pollachi  or Coimbatore where there are several places to stay and do day trips to Top Slip. Sakthi Hotel , Coimbatore Rd, Pollachi has rooms for INR 370- INR 750. with A/C ( Tel: 04259 2223060). Hotels like City Tower and Surya International have been recommended at Coimbatore.


Longitude: 76°00' - 77°56' E; Latitude: 10°12' - 11°07' N

Temperatures: Min 2°C (winter); Max 25°C (summer)

Best Season: Between May to June and October to February                      

References:

- Birds of Southern India - Richard Grimmett & Tim Inskipp. Helm Field Guide
- A Birdwatchers' Guide to India - Krys Kazmierczak; OUP

Websites
Biodiversity of Western Ghats – Ranjit Daniels
 

Sumit K Sen
Kolkata, India

 

   
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