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The Naturally Diverse and Huge Western Ghats
Western Ghats, also known as Sahyadri Range is an assortment of 39 World Heritage Sites spread across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It covers a total area of 7,953.15 square kilometers and encompasses within itself tiger reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and reserved forests. Exploring the Western Ghats and its many rivers, mountains and rain forests is a mammoth task as they occupy about 160,000 square kilometers in totality. It is considered a global biodiversity area for a good reason. For one, it hosts several endangered mammals such as the Malabar spotted civet, lion-tailed macaque, tigers and the Asiatic elephants. Diverse life-forms are found in abundance here with over 5 thousand species of amphibians, birds, mammals and beautiful flowering plants such as orchids.
The Western Ghats are actually a range of mountains that form a cluster parallel to the Western Coast and are older than the Himalayan Range. It is, therefore, no surprise that it hides in its belly such eco-diversity. The Western Ghats are vital for India, in that they are instrumental in timely monsoon for most parts. It is this timely monsoon that fuels the various species of plants and animals to flourish.
The Prominent Peaks and Hill Ranges of the Western Ghats
The Western Ghats are subdivided into several smaller mountain ranges. Some of the well-known ones are Cardamom Hills in Thekkady, Kerala; Anaimalai Hills in Munnar, Kerala; and Nilgiris in Ooty, Tamil Nadu.
The above hill ranges are well known tourist destinations. Apart from these, there are also other popular hill stations like Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar and Matheran.
The highest peak in the Western Ghats lies in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border and is known as Anamudi, which stands tall at 8842 feet above the seal level. Kudremukh which is 6,110 feet and Mullayanagari, which is 6,317, are popular trekking destinations in Karnataka. Kalsubai in Maharashtra is another huge peak that stands 5,427 feet tall.
As the peaks of Western Ghats cover Tamil Nadu it rises to an elevation of 2000 meters. The elevation increases further as we move to Palni Hills and Kodaikanal in the same range. The neighboring Nilgiris and Ooty form a major tourist destination. These hill stations have a strong flavor of the British Raj with the vast expanse of tea gardens. The region has remained a popular retreat owing to its pleasant weather. It offers respite from the hot and humid weather in the low-lying regions of the state.
Coming to Karnataka, in the southern part of the Western Ghats is Coorg where one can find coffee plantations in abundance. The sweet smell of moist wood and spices fill the atmosphere in Coorg. The region is also a popular trekking destination owing to the thick green rain-forests and hilly terrain.
The Wealth of Nature Hidden within Western Ghats
Western Ghats hides within its belly a huge cache of natural wealth that comprises of many natural reserves and reserve forests, 14 national parks and 2 biospheres. There are also several tribes that have long lived in conjunction with the gift of nature here. Elements such as sacred groves are a part of community conservation throughout the Western Ghats.
There are several World Heritage Sites that form the perfect platform for eco-tourism, especially in Kerala. Munnar’s Silent Valley and Eravikulam National park as well as Thekkady’ Periyar Tiger Reserve are some of them. The site of wild animals by the calm backwaters is a site to behold.
The Natural Uniqueness of EravikulamNational Park Deserves a Special Mention
Neelakurinji or Strobilanthes Kunthiana is a shrub flower that is found in abundance in Eravikulam National Park. The flowers are so rare that they blossom only once in 12 years. Such is the glory of these Neelakurinji that the last time they blossomed in 2006 over 500,000 visitors (over 3 months) were right there to witness it. Every day, over 8 thousand tourists visited the spot. Thanks to the visitor management measures in place, the ecological balance was maintained throughout the period. Among other pleasures of visiting EravikulamNational Park is watching the endangered wild mountain goat, ungulates and Nilgiri Tahr.
Western Ghats are a Birdwatcher’s Paradise
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka is home to approximately 500 species of birds. For those who love shooting the birds with their cameras, grey-breasted laughing thrush, white-bellied short wing and broad-tailed grass bird, and Nilgiri wood-pigeon form food for lenses. In all Western Ghats plays host to over 508 species of birds.
For a nature lover, there is nothing that compares Western Ghats when it comes to serenity that covers this tough terrain. It truly deserves to be in the World Heritage List so that it is conserved for posterity.