Overview - Western Ghats
In Peninsular India, primarily comprising of the Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu lie the Western Ghats – India’s oldest mountain range and one of the most biogeographically rich places in the world. It’s biomass goes toe to toe with that of the Amazon and species diversity is similar.
Demarcated by the Deccan plateau of Central India on its Northern Side, the habitat of the Western Ghats consists of Tropical Rainforests, Deciduous Forests, Shola Grasslands, Scrub Forests as well as Montane Forests.
Why are the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Hills so important?
- It houses 3500 Plant species, of out which 1500 species are endemic to the area
- 75% of all Amphibians of India occur here.
- More than 50% of all Reptiles of India are found here
- More than 300 species of Butterflies of India occur here
- Over 100 species of Mammals
- Almost 600 bird species of India out of which 28 species are endemic to the area.
The altitude of the Western Ghats reaches up to 1600m above sea level.
Best Time to Visit Western Ghats
Anytime from November to the mid-May is a good time to visit the Western Ghats
Highlight Species - Western Ghats
Key Places of Interest
The following places are some of the key places of interest that are included in the Western Ghats :
1. Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary – Goa
An IBA (Important Bird Area), it is covered with Tropical Evergreen Forest, Semi-evergreen Forest & Moist Deciduous Forest. The habitat is hilly with several rivulets which occur in the Sanctuary. It is located in Southern Goa and is the 2nd largest wildlife sanctuary of Goa.
2. Nagarhole National Park – Karnataka
Probably most visited National Parks of South India, Nagarhole National Park is part of the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve as well as a part of the larger Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
These Moist and Dry Deciduous forests are home to large mammals such as the Indian Elephant, Gaur, Royal Bengal Tiger & Indian Wild Dogs. More recently, people from all over the world flock here in the summer for photographing a rather bold male Melanistic or Black Leopard. Nagarhole is also an IBA – Important Bird Area and over 300 bird species are recorded here including some of the endemics of South India.
3. Thattekad / Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary – Kerala
These fragmented Southern Indian Moist Deciduous and Tropical Evergreen Forests of the Western Ghats close to sea-level, are rich in biodiversity and the Sanctuary is one of the best places for birding in India. It is bordered by the Periyar River on the South-western side and its tributary the Pooyamkutty river on its Northern front.
4. Erivakulum National Park – Munnar, Kerala
Nestled at 2000m above sea-level in the Western Ghats mountains, is Erivakulum National Park – covered in the remaining high elevation Shola grasslands interspersed amongst the Montane forests of South India.
Over 200 species of birds exist here with interesting butterflies, mammals, amphibians as well as reptiles.
5. Valparai – Tamil Nadu
An absorbing view of gentle green hills, low-hanging clouds and a silence broken by the echoing song of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, Valparai Plateau is one of the most beautiful travel spots in South India. The Anamalai hills are heavily fragmented with Tea and Coffee estates, yet the landscape teems with wildlife of all kinds. Gentle but beastly Gaur greet you in the tea-estates as you drive in and great birding hotspots can be located in and amongst these inhabited areas across Valparai.
The altitude ranges from 1200m to 2600m, and the forest type here is Moist Deciduous to Evergreen Forests. There are Shola forests visible from here at the higher reaches where elephants and tigers dwell.
6. Ooty, Kotagiri & Coonoor – Tamil Nadu
Ooty is known as the “Queen of Hills”, nestled right in the Nilgiris. It is a rather popular tourist destination, however the biodiversity hotspots are there to find and it’s birds galore in these Evergreen forests.
Ooty and its nearby areas have a lot of birding to offer. Shola forests and grassland are to be seen but never touched as they remain strictly protected owing to their limited availability. The Nilgiri Biosphere has around 3300 plant species of which 132 are endemic to the area, and 08 out of 175 orchid species are endemic as well.
Types of Safaris - Western Ghats
Boat Safaris : Rivers like Kabini and Kaveri in the Western Ghats have access to Boat Safari.
Jeep Safaris :National Parks, like Bandipur, Nagarhole, Kabini, and many more in the Western Ghats have the Jeep Safari
Walking Safaris : Walking Safari is the best way to do the birding. Walking safari is mostly done on the outskirt of the National park.
How to reach Western Ghats
By Air : The major airports to reach the Western Ghats are: Kochi, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Goa.
By Train : The major railway stations in the Western Ghats is Mysore, Coimbatore, Kozhikode, Kochi, Bangalore and Panjim Railway Station.
By Road : Western Ghat is well connected with all the major cities of all the state where this fall on. National Highway NH 73 passes through the ghats. People can travel from by road from the low-lying coastal region to Deccan plateau through the Western Ghats.