Though Tamil Nadu is known for its rich Dravidian heritage, mightily classical kingdoms and magnificent temples, many must understand that the state has a few top-of-the-line wildlife and nature adventure travel destinations for explorers. Ooty, Masanagudi and Valparai are the most visited among them. This blog will discuss the biodiversity of Tamil Nadu, Important birding and wildlife destinations to visit and natural wonders you must add to your itinerary.
Tamil Nadu has various forest types, such as tropical dry evergreen, moist deciduous, thorn, and rain forests. The lowland forests are comparatively dry and sparse, while the mountain forests of the Western Ghats are rich in vegetation and unique wildlife. Ongoing scientific research reveals new plant species and other discoveries, implying that there is still much to be explored and discovered in this area.
Tamil Nadu has a rich and diverse natural history that goes back thousands of years. Evidence of early human settlements from the Stone Age era has been discovered in the region. The Western Ghats, a formidable mountain range older than the Himalayas, contributes significantly to the area’s biodiversity. Throughout its history, Tamil Nadu has been impacted by various dynasties and empires, which have left their marks on the use of forests and wildlife. Tamil Nadu’s natural history comprises geological formations, ancient rock art, traditional practices, and conservation efforts to safeguard its unique ecosystems.
1. The Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary is situated at the base of the Nilgiri Mountains and is renowned for its wide range of wildlife, including but not limited to Elephants, Indian Gaur, Tigers, and Leopards. Although sightings of tigers and leopards are infrequent, you can conveniently reach this reserve from major cities like Coimbatore, Ooty, and Mysore. It is advised to visit from October to May, and you can explore the destination through activities like jeep safaris and forest trekking.
2. Annamalai Tiger Reserve, which includes Valaparai and Indira Gandhi National Park, is my favourite place for Wildlife Photography. I have added a video of one of my Valparai expeditions below. Located in the Western Ghats, this reserve is home to animals such as Indian Gaur, Dole, Asiatic Elephants, Nilgiri Langur, and the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque. Additionally, it is the best spot in South India to see and capture photos of the majestic Great Indian Hornbill. The ideal time to visit this area is October to March. The nearest city is Coimbatore, and driving to the park can take up to 3 hours.
3. The Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is at the southern end of the Western Ghats ranges, mainly in the Kanyakumari district. While the biodiversity may be similar to Mudmalai, the landscape is distinct. Visitors should consider flying into Tuticorin airport and plan their trip between November and March for the best experience.
4. Guindy National Park is an urban park located within Chennai city. It is India’s eighth-smallest national park. The park is an extension of the Raj Bhavan grounds, previously called the ‘Guindy Lodge’, which functioned as the official residence of the governor of Tamil Nadu. The park is an excellent spot to observe and capture photos of Blackbucks. Spotted deer is the only other I remember seeing there.
5. Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary are a coastal reserves with mangrove forests. It is a good place for birdwatching enthusiasts. It is home to various migratory birds, including flamingos, painted storks, and pelicans. The sanctuary is easily accessible from Nagapattinam, and the best time to visit is between November and February.
If you’re interested in birdwatching in Tamil Nadu, there are several excellent destinations to consider. One of India’s oldest water bird sanctuaries is Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, which attracts resident and migratory birds, including pelicans, flamingos, and spoonbills. Another option is Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary, located on the border of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states, which offers similar birdlife to Vedanthangal. Suchindram Theroor Birds Sanctuary in the Kanyakumari district is also known for migratory and resident water birds. If you’re looking to spot western ghat’s endemics like black and orange flycatchers, Nilgiri thrushes, and Nilgiri flycatchers, then Ooty is the perfect place to visit. And for low-land birds, consider checking out Manasagudi. To learn more about the best birding destinations in India, feel free to check out my two videos below.
The following are some popular hill treks in South India that offer moderate-level difficulty and scenic views. The Nilgiri Hills Trek covers Coonoor and Kotagiri, starting from Ooty. The best time for this trek is from September to May. The Kolli Hills Trek starts from Semmedu and takes you through Agaya Gangai Waterfalls. The best time for this trek is from November to February. The Palani Hills Trek begins at Kodaikanal and takes you through lush green forests. The best time for this trek is from October to March. The Meghamalai Trek offers panoramic views of tea plantations, waterfalls, and dense forests, with the starting point being Chinnamanur. The best time for this trek is from October to March. The Yercaud Trek takes you through the Yercaud Forest, starting from Yercaud, and the best time for this trek is from October to March.
The following list contains handpicked collections of Wildlife Resorts and Nature Lodges in Tamil Nadu that offer naturalists and safari guides.