Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala forms a seamless whole with four other forest reserves. It also offers a wide range of habitats owing to ranges in altitude and rainfall and is home to ancient archaeological sites and a wide variety of plant and animal species.
The 90.442 sq km Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the eastern part of the high ranges of the Southern Western Ghats of Kerala. It is considered as one of the unique protected areas of the Western Ghats due to its ecological, floral, geomorphologic and cultural significance. The habitat types range from high attitude shoal-grassland to dry thorny scrub jungle. The Sanctuary is also contiguous to Eravikularn National Park, Kurinjimala Sanctuary and the Anaimudi Shola National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary of Tamil Nadu
Due to the significant variation in altitude and rainfall, Chinnar has a wide array of habitat types from deciduous forests to Sholas and grasslands. It has about 1000 species of flowering plants and is a well known repository of medicinal plants. There are 114 native flora present in this Sanctuary. Albizzialathamii, a critically endangered tree has been recently reported from the dry forests.
Chinnar has recorded the largest number of reptilian fauna in Kerala including the Mugger Crocodile. With 225 recorded species of birds, it is one of the richest areas of south India in avian diversity. There are 239 butterfly species reported so far in this protected area. The phenomenon of butterfly migration occurs in between the monsoons
The riverine forests support a healthy population of the endangered Grizzled Giant Squirrel -the pride of Chinnar.
The Sanctuary is well known for its natural habitats of star tortoises. The famous and extremely rare White Gaur has also been reported here. Other important mammals found here are the elephant, tiger, leopard, sambar, spotted deer, Nilgiritahr, tufted grey langur, bonnet macaque etc.
The terrain is highly undulating with altitudes ranging from 500m at Chinnar to over 2300m at Njandalamalai. The area is drained by two perennial rivers – Pambar and Chinnar. The Sanctuary is situated in the rain shadow region of the Ghats, getting rains mostly during the North-East Monsoons (October-December). The higher altitudes are cool and a must visit for butterfly enthusiasts.
Two groups of tribes, namely Muthuvansand Hill Pulayas, inhabit the sanctuary in 11 hamlets or kudies. The sanctuary provides livelihood options for the tribe and helps in maintaining their cultural heritage. Archaeologically significant Megalithic burial sites consisting of dolmens and cysts are found near some settlements.
Ancient cave paintings can be seen at the Alampetty-Jellimala hillocks of the Sanctuary. These 11 settlements have a significant impact on the forests around them and vice versa. With the launching of the eco-development programmes, successful efforts have been made for evolving a model of biodiversity conversation in a human dominated landscape.
The focus of the programme is to minimize the impact of local tribal communities on the sanctuary by involving them in its management and providing alternate means of income generation.
- Trekking to the cultural sites (dolmens and cave paintings).
- Trek to Thoovanam falls.
- Trek to Chinnathoovanam falls
- Trek to Vaayumala Rock painting cliffs
- Trek andstay at log houses at Churulipetty, Koottar, Pambar, Thoovanamand Jallimal
- Trek andstay at tree top hut Karakad
- Group camping at ‘Squirrel house’- Alampetty.
- Group camping at ‘Night jar’ –Chinnar.
- Group camping at ‘Star tortoise hall’ –Chinnar.
- Trekking andcamping at Vashyapparamud house
- Chinnar wild safari
- Ethnic Restaurant at Alampetty
- Vanajolsna Restaurant at AmenityCentre –Chinnar.
- Interpretation programmes at ChinnarandKarimutty.
- Eco shops at Karimutty and Alampetty.
Chinnar is accessible from Kochi (178 Km) and Coimbatore airport (115 Km) along main roads. The Munnar-Udumalpet road passes through the sanctuary up to Karumutty, Marayoor, Munnar, the major tourist centre, is 60 Km away from Chinnar. The nearest town is Marayoor (16 km).
Source: Inputs from Forest Information Centre, Office of the Wildlife Warden, Munnar, Kerala Forest Department.