Why I love the Western Ghats of India 13


Ten reasons why you must visit Western Ghats

I have always enjoyed my geography classes during school. And drawing, shading and marking maps has always been a personal favourite. Perhaps that is why I am addicted to adult colouring books right now. But that is an aside.

BR Hills Western Ghats

BR Hills- one of my favourites

Everytime I think of the Western Ghats, I remember my class when we used to mark and colour the western stretch of India on the map,  all the way from the tip of Tamil Nadu to Kerala and right up to Goa. And then there was the Eastern Ghats as well.

KMTR Western Ghats

Manimuthar Dam in KMTR

I used to have two different shades of brown – the darker and bolder one was used to mark the Western Ghats and the lighter shade was for the Eastern.

Valparai forests Western Ghats

The misty forests of Valparai

I love the Western Ghats. Period. I was introduced to it as a three year old when we used to drive from Chennai to visit Sringeri and then we stayed in my grandfather’s coffee estates in Chikmagalur. And the fascination stays even today. There is an element of nostalgia every time you think of it irrespective of whether it was a road trip or a train journey.

Sringeri Western Ghats

Sculptures in Vidyashankara temple in Sringeri

I have traversed the Western Ghats several times and it has almost become an annual pilgrimage.Some statistics from the Wikipedia – the 1600 kms long unbroken chain of mountains occupies an area of 160000 sq kms. There are about 39 individual sites that make up this World Heritage Site including reserve forests and national parks.

 

Western Ghats - River Kali

The River Kali in Dandeli

But then there are mountains and mountains and there is the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And personally I think there is more to it as, than just hills stitched together forming ranges, peaks and valleys.

Goa Western Ghats

Devils Canyon in Goa in the wilds

Here is a post on why it is so special to me and the reasons you must visit the Western Ghats in India

The woods beckon.

BR Hills

BR Hills in BRT Sanctuary

The green cover is all encompassing. From evergreen tropical rain forests to deciduous jungles to shola forests, the dense canopy here can take you to a different world. It is not just about tiger tourism.

Kabini, Western Ghats

A tusker in Kabini

From elephants to big cats, wild dogs to langurs, sloth bears to wild boars, the forests are home to wildlife. And there are several endemics which are found only here.

Wildlife Western Ghats

Looking away – the Nilgiri langur

Snakes and frogs, mongoose and civets, flying squirrels to giant squirrels , this is a wild lifer’s paradise.

Goa western ghats snakes

On a wild reptile trail in Goa

The flora is exotic and endemic. Be it the ferns or the fungi, lose yourself in a world of woods and trees.

orchids, valparai,monsoons

Orchids in Valparai

And then there is my personal favourite – birds. The birds of Western Ghats are special – resident, migratory and the endemic. Almost 500 species are found here.  I have seen varieties of bulbuls, hornbills .sunbirds, flycatchers, thrushes and melted away like Keats listening to their songs.

Ganeshgudi birds Western Ghats

Blue capped Rock thrush in Ganeshgudi

There are some exclusive birding destinations as well – one of my favourites being Ganeshgudi on the banks of the River Kali in Karnataka.

thattekadu birds Western Ghats

Srilankan Frogmouth in Thattekadu

And as for wildlife destinations – my personal recommendations are KMTR – Kalakadu Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary and Bandipur and Nagarhole forests separated by the River Kabini. There is BR Hills and Valparai as well, which you must not miss. The forests of Goa are another favourite.

Iconic Mountain Ranges

We have grown up talking about the Himalayas and the Alps, the Atlas and the Andes, but in a very special way, the Western Ghats has its own special iconic ranges too.

KMRT Western Ghats

The Western Ghats at Kudrevatti above Mundanthurai range

The Sahyadris, the Annaimalais and of course, the Nilgiris, where the West and the East meet.

BR Hills Western Ghats

Grasslands of BRT

And then there is the Cardamom Hills and B R Hills and the highest peak is Anaimudi in Kerala. Trek, camp, relax – how can anyone not be beckoned by the mountains ? Another reason for you to visit Western Ghats.

Springs and streams

A mountain spring forms into a tiny rivulet murmuring through the woods and becomes a little river. The Western Ghats has given many a river its source. The Cauvery’s little birth place in Coorg is called Talacauvery.

Athirapally Falls, Western Ghats

Athirapally Falls

The Tungabhadra, the Krishna, the Godavari , the Zuari, the Mandovi and my very own Tambiraparani – all have their origins here and their tributaries run amok in the hills, charting their own courses.

Kudrevatti Western Ghats

Kudrevatti In Tamil Nadu where the rivers are dammed 🙂

They are confined in dams or they gush as cascades.  Look anywhere around you and you will find a river nearby. So if you love the water, you will definitely want to visit Western Ghats.

Where oceans meet the mountains

The Western Ghats run parallel along the coastline of India and some of the most virgin beaches meet the mountains here. Karwar in Karnataka is so beautiful, almost oblivious of its own beauty as it stands perched between the oceans and mountains.

Devbagh, Karwar, sunsets, beaches, go explore

Sunset in Devbagh, Karwar

The coastal plains along Kanyakumari, located in the Southern most tip of India also comes to my mind. Some coastal towns in Goa, Karnataka and Kerala are my favourite haunts.

Kanyakumari Western Ghats

The Western Ghats end at Kanyakumari

Tea or coffee or spices

The British destroyed these forests and created plantations here . And you see the mountains carpeted by tea, coffee and spices. Even today plantation tourism is one of the biggest draws. The coffee plantations of Malnad or the tea estates in Nilgiris with the spice plantations are tourist destinations .

Coffee Coorg Western Ghats

Wake up and smell the coffee in Coorg

Coorg, Chikmagalur, Saklespur, Munnar, Wayanad, Valparai are some of my favourite towns.

Munnar tea western ghats

Tea and mist in Munnar

Take an early morning walk – watch the mist play with the mountains and relive the colonial era in some of these towns.

Heritage in the hills

A temple in the forest, a fort atop the hills, ancient ruins and monuments call me here. You wonder who built these shrines in the middle of a dense canopy of trees with crickets murmuring all around you. I am lured to heritage sites in general and all the more reason, when they are built in a pretty setting.

Western Ghats Coorg

Interiors of the old Nalknad Palace in Coorg

Coorg has some palaces and temples tucked away in the jungles, there are ancient temples in the Goan forests.

sringeri 086

Sringeri in Karnataka is one of my favourite spiritual destinations, where Adi Sankaracharya established his mutt in the South on the banks of the Tunga Bhadra . It was my very introduction to the Western Ghats.There are several temples around like Hornadu set deeper in the forest.

forests-ruins

The Hoysalas built several temples along Malenadu and some of them are still in ruins, in dense forests and in coffee estates.

Hoysalas, Western Ghats

Sculptures in ruins in a coffee plantation

Padmanabhapuram palace in Kerala – Tamil Nadu border talks about the legacy of the Travancore kings.

Padmanabha puram palace Western Ghats

Set amidst the mountains, Padmanabhapuram palace is an ode to beauty

Ancient Jaina sites, cave temples, monoliths, churches – they are all scattered in the mountains and forests here. There is a spiritual mystique here that can only be experienced.

Cultural experiences

Western Ghats may be an unbroken chain but they span different states and each region has its own little culture. Festivals and traditions change from region to region. There are several lores and legends here. Some destinations have their own tribal culture too – Nilgiris, BR Hills, Coorg.

A house of the Todas in Nilgiris

A house of the Todas in Nilgiris

While most tourists are wrapped in the natural beauty of the Western Ghats, very little attention is paid to the myriad cultures in the region – something that has always personally fascinated me.

Flavours of the Western Ghats

When you think of travel, you think of food. And it forms a part of the culture of the region. There is a unique culinary spread across the Western Ghats as every region or state has its flavour. Coorg’s speciality is different from Malenadu.

Western Ghats flavours

Neeru Dosai – one of my favourites.
Pic Courtesy Prathap Nair

The towns spread across Maharashtra or Goa offer a different cuisine from that of Kerala or Tamil Nadu. You can taste everything from coastal delights to seasonal produce here.

Western Ghats

Fish is one of the delicacies along the coastal states. Pic courtesy — Prathap Nair

However,being a vegetarian, I am never disappointed as i can relish some of the local preparations here

Tourism for everyone

So it does not matter if you do not want to hike in the mountains. The Western Ghats beckon every kind of traveller, including lazy ones like me, who are content to meditate upon nature and do absolutely nothing.

Birding Western Ghats

Crested serpent eagle in Kabini

The bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts flock here, there is fishing and angling and there is even water sports and river rafting for the adventurous.

Rafting Kali Western Ghats

The Kali is a great river for water sports

You can just chill in hill stations, sip coffee or tea, visit temples in the forests or focus on living traditions and tribes living here.

Travel Kodaikanal Western Ghats

Watching the mist in Kodaikanal

However I will just go for long walks in the mist or read a book and sip ginger tea.

Destination for all seasons

In the summer you can run to the hills and sing The Sound of Music and look for tigers in the jungles or in winters, you can imagine like Ruskin Bond, that there are ghosts melting away in the cold , brooding mist.

Mist Kodaikanal Western Ghats

Can you see ghosts here ?

But my favourite time of the year is monsoons, or perhaps to be right, precisely just after the monsoons.

Masinagudi-green

The forests are scrubbed well after a refreshing bath and they wear a new coat of green. The birds start beginning to sing. The waterfalls are in full flow and the rivers are smiling, coursing down the valleys..

Western Ghats waterfalls

Gushing waterfalls invite you to Western Ghats

And so, you get the general drift. The best time to go is right now !! So, what are you waiting for ? Visit Western Ghats right now.

 


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