Silent Valley is not the average reserve, nor is the average forest.
Never tampered with human intervention, it is the best bit of tropical rainforest, one of the last frontiers of unique bio diversity on earth.
People in Kerala know it as the protective sphere of Lion tailed Macaques (monkeys).They are rare, on the verge of extinction and their future survival is intimately tied to the uninterrupted existence of Sirendhri forest of Silent Valley.
That is one of the many reasons why nature lovers all over India went berserk when the government tried to force a dam into existence, which would have wiped out a significant chunk of this forest.
Populist movements to protect Silent Valley went on for several years during the late 70’s and early 80’s without ever being silent. Government not only abandoned their plans, they even declared it as a National Park in 1983.
Silent Valley is a great genetic library of nature, worked out over millions of years of trial and error. Is it not silly of man to finish it off in one giant swoop?
An intricate network of trees, shrubs and grasses make up 90 sq kms of the designated core area of Silent Valley National Park. They form evergreen, semi evergreen and leaf shedding forests. The buffer zone includes 148 sq kms of surrounding woods in the areas of Mannarkad, Attapady and Kalikavu.
Kunthi River is the main water source. Even as a stream it is a significant presence. In addition, there are several other streams.
This rich repository of life is the last place on earth where several species endemic to Western Ghat ranges are left to survive.
Some of the animals / birds found are –
Tiger, Leopard, Elephant , Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Bonnet Macaque, Leopard Cat, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat, Common Palm Civet, Small Indian Civet, Nilgiri Tahr, Wild Dog, Sloth Bear, Otter, Flying Squirrel, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Scaly Ant Eater, Porcupine, Wild Boar, King Cobra, Cobra, Viper, Krait, Rat Snake, Brown Palm Civet, Ruddy Mongoose, Stripe necked Mongoose, Sambar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Gaur, Tree frog, Ceylon Frog Moth, Great Indian Hornbill, Nilgiri Laughing Thrush and Indian Chameleon.
How to reach
Silent Valley is about 60kms north of Palakkad. The wildlife headquarters is at Mukkali, about 18 kms from Mannarkad.
The Assistant Wildlife Warden’s office at Mukkali deals with advance booking for sanctuary visit, treks and accommodation.
Visitors are not permitted to take their vehicles past Mukkali. Further travel is only by the vehicles provided by the Forest department (a mini bus and several jeeps).
Advance booking is necessary for most activities. This is one of those places where you must call while making travel plans.
What to do
If you are hoping to see lots of animals at Silent Valley, it is less likely to happen. No doubt there are plenty of animals. However they are inside the forests where visitors are not allowed. Still you may see a few.
That does not mean that a visit to the valley is dull. The atmosphere is pristine and energising. A part of you will feel connected to what is around.
One of the popular activities is Sairandhri trip. First part of it is a 23 kms vehicle ride through the forest to the watch tower. The view from the top of the tower is spectacular. The second part of Sairandhri trip is the walk (about 1.2 kms) to Kunthi River.
Karuvara waterfall is about 5 kms from Mukkali. Guided tours from Mukkali are arranged for small groups (3 -5) and even for individuals.
They also have a couple more treks. Trek to Boomiyampadi requires overnight stay.
The core area of the national park is left undisturbed.
Visitors are not permitted there. Also visiting hours are limited to 8 AM till 1 PM.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is between December and April.
It rains heavily from June till September. Although the rains reduce, they still continue through October and November.
Even though it can rain up the hills any time during the year, there is better visibility during the sunny months.
The wooded areas are notorious for leaches. During rains, expect more of them. On the plus side, the hill station / forest experience is full on during days of heavy rain and mist.
Day time temperature hovers around 20 degree centigrade. It may go up or down for a couple of degrees. Nights are usually between 8 and 14 degrees. December is the coolest time of the year and April – May the hottest.
The inspection Bungalow at Mukkali is the only accommodation available. It is run by the Forest Department. There are a couple of rooms, two small dorms and a small hut.
Silent Valley is fit for a day tour, unless you have serious trek plans that require multiple days. Permissions are hard to obtain though.
You can stay either at Palakkad or Mannarkad. Palakkad is a better choice since there is more variety and supply. There are also more restaurants.