The Mudumalai National Park lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains) about 150 km north-west of Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu. Sharing its boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala, the sanctuary is divided into five ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota.
My visit to the National Park was all too brief. Approaching from Ooty we had to first wait at the Kallahatty check post for the road down into the valley to be opened, which happens promptly at 6am.
We arrived at 5am, and was hoping the guard would open the gate a little earlier, but alas he was deeply engrossed in brushing his teeth for 20 minutes right up until 6am. He was certainly going to stick to the rules !
Our tour of the National Park was by open top jeep, along a series of well made up dirt tracks, there wasn’t the opportunity of any off-roading as such. Although it was early in the morning, wildlife sightings were a little thin on the ground aside from some deer, peacocks, the obligatory monkeys, and some smaller birds.
The highlight for me came by way of one of the smaller creatures to inhabit this landscape.
This is the Indian chameleon (Chamaeleo zeylanicus), found in Sri Lanka, India, and other parts of South Asia. Not by any means rare, but quite hard to spot amongst all the foliage. Great credit must go to my guide who no doubt knows what to look for and where, but without him this little chap would have passed me by…
The protected area is home to several endangered and vulnerable species including Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur and Indian leopard. There are at least 266 species of birds in the sanctuary, including critically endangered Indian white-rumped vulture and long-billed vulture. Sadly, on this visit at least, all these animals proved illusive !
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