If you’re a wildlife enthusiast and are looking for a tryst with nature, then the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park located at Top-Slip is the place to be.
Located about 90 km from Coimbatore, the Indira Gandhi National Park in Tamil Nadu is an untouched piece of paradise on earth. The National park is spread across 2 states – Tamil Nadu & Kerala. The park on the Kerala side is called Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary and Eravikulam National Park.
Ensconced between the beautiful Annamalai Hills it is known for its unique forests habitats which range from wet evergreen forest and semi-evergreen forest, shola-grassland, moist deciduous forests, dry deciduous forests, thorn forests and marshes, spread across the Karian Shola, grasslands and Manjampatti Valley.
The Park is home to some of the most exquisite wildlife in India. You can spot wild Elephants and baby elephants, Gaur, Nilgiri Tahr, Sambhar Deer, Malabar Squirrels, Nilgiri Langoors, Orioles, owls, nightjars, bablers, shrikes among many others. If you’re lucky you may even spot the great Indian Hornbill, which is truly a sight to behold. You can also go on the sloth bear trail if you’re keen on getting acquainted with them.
The Park is serene, peaceful and an ideal getaway from civilization. The cool and crisp air gives such a high that you actually consider quitting your job and moving to the hills forever.
Ideally a trip to Topslip or Parambikulam should be for about 2-3 days. Depending on your capability and interest you can choose the 4km trek, 8km trek, 14 km trek or longer (also depending on the weather conditions). The forest dept. organizes the treks and sends along a ranger with you so you don’t get lost. Be prepared to encounter some leeches on the way. Those suckers really know how to get to you, so carry some salt or Dettol for easy combat.
Accomodation for Parambikulam can be booked online on the government website. For accommodation at Topslip, bookings can be taken over the phone through the Chief Wildlife Warden’s office at Pollachi. The accommodation ranges from Tree Top houses, to log cabins to small rooms or tents based on your budget and the availability at the Park. At night, if you look out your windows you can actually see the sambhar deer or Gaur ambling along the road and staring back at you with their beady eyes. The sight is such a thrill.
For food, the Forest Dept. has a Mess running with the basic 3 meals to satiate hunger; otherwise there is no food for miles, so it is advisable to carry along some snacks and fruits. Also, two wheelers and alcohol is strictly prohibited in the park (why they clubbed those two on the sign board is a discussion for another day).
Apart from the treks, you can also take some time out to visit the Thoonakkadavu Lake and the Parambikulam Dam. The lush greenery surrounding the lake is breathtaking.
For those interested in just a day trip, the Kozhikamudhi Elephant Camp is a must see. Known for its ‘Kumki’ elephants (wild elephants that are trained in captive), the elephant camp is a treat for children for they can get up-close with the elephants and get to feed them.
Of the two National Parks, Parambikulam is definitely more organized and planned. But if you really want to go on the untouched trekking routes or hornbill trailing or following the sloth bear, then Topslip is a better bet.