Tamilnadu (India)

We were on the second leg of our fortnight long trip to Tamilnadu. This southern state of India had already given us an extensive idea about the grand structures that this region could boast of. Now it was our turn to visit the mountains, the Nilgiris to be precise, and experience the beauty of the verdant hills, lush green tea gardens, magnificent wild life, rivers, dams and peaks…..to put it in one word…the scenic splendor.

One fine winter morning we reached Coimbatore. We were to stay there for a couple of days, see around the place and then drive up to Coonoor and then continue till Ooty. Coimbatore is almost a mini metro with all facilities but nothing much to see around for a tourist. But we found that within 100 kms of the city there was a wildlife sanctuary and a few picturesque spots associated with the lovely rivers and dams of the region. Since I’ve never been very lucky while visiting wildlife sanctuaries, I was a little skeptical about visiting this one. But our hotel concierge suggested that it was the right season to visit the place; even if I wasn’t lucky enough to spot any animal, it would be worthwhile to drive down the beautiful roads and experience the lush greens.

 Not bad, I thought and off we went to Polachi, another small town south of Coimbatore from where we would be driving up to Top Slip, the entrance to the Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, presently named as Indira Gandhi National Park. We would be driving around inside the park and as suggested by the park authorities, we took a guide along with us whose services would be needed if we wished to spot some rare birds that made this sanctuary their home. Escorted tours on buses and on elephant backs are also available on request but we decided to stick to our car. As we drove on the designated track flanked by wooded hills and lush grasslands, our guide pointed out the various trees and shrubs from evergreen, tropical and deciduous grasslands that made up a picturesque scenery. The park even has a large concentration of the native Niligiri Langur, but we couldn’t see one. Rather our guide performed his duties well as he showed us a few very rare birds;  the Indian Hornbill, Wynaad Laughing Thrush and the Sri Lankan Frogmouth, only to name a few. Absolutely beautiful, but trying to get a proper photo, took away a lot
of our time. Asian elephants are also found here but are considered to be quite ill mannered, even though the one we spotted and photographed looked to be quite peaceful.


(Laughing Thrush)

On our way back to Coimbatore we took a detour from Polachi to see the Aliyar Dam. Basically a picnic spot for visitors to Coimbatore, the dam on the River Aliyar is just beautiful, surrounded by the hills of the Annamalai range; the sparkling blue water looks majestic. There are gardens around the dam and we walked around the place that gave a wonderful view of the surroundings.


Next day, we left for Coonoor, a picturesque hill station at the foothills of Nilgiri. Coonoor’s beauty lies totally with acres of tea garden that are spread around the region. A place of total peace and serenity, Coonoor is blessed with almost everything that nature has to offer. Hills, ravines, cascading waterfalls and a number of manmade look out points makes a short visit to Coonoor worthwhile. For those who are obsessed with the greens, Coonoor’s Sim’s park can be a wonderful place to soothe the eyes.

Located almost in a ravine, this huge area has thousands of different species of flowers, plants, trees and shrubs. Spending a few hours admiring nature’s greenery we headed for a dekko of the other attractions of Coonoor. We reached the Dolphin’s nose. As its name suggests,
it’s a unique rock formation, jutting out of a hill and facing the gorgeously green ravine. The view from here is awesome; with a few beautiful waterfalls and the cool climate makes it a hot spot for visitors. We were told that till the time Bollywood wasn’t obsessed with overseas locations, Dolphin’s nose was a popular choice for a lot of films.  We agreed to that fact because it is a place that looks to be straight out of a green picture postcard, with streams and falls cascading down thousands of meters to meet a river below….absolutely majestic. The only problem that we faced was the crowd. Pushing and jostling to get to the extreme end and pose for a photo. The fussy photographer in me could not even get a full shot of the place and hence, till today I remain without a full photo of that beautiful place. Lamb’s rock and Lady Canning’s seat were the other two look out points offering similar views.

(Sim's Park)

Our drive to Ooty started with much enthusiasm about being able to see the blue mountains of India. Nilgiris, as it is called, is the range of mountains that stretches across the western border of Tamilnadu touching both the states of Karnataka and Kerala. As we climbed up, the hill looked absolutely blue, reason; the eucalyptus vegetation on the hills exhales a sort of aromatic air. When this air comes in contact with the hilly mist, it produces a sort of blue tinge across the hills that make the mountains look blue in colour…indeed very beautiful! This theory also solved the mystery of the Blue Mountains in Australia as the Eucalyptus here is the same species as in that country.


Ooty’s attractions are also limited to a beautiful botanical garden where we spend lot of time just relaxing on the grass and admiring the flowers and plants. Every year, during summer, a flower festival is held here that showcases the variety of flowers that grows here. Ooty Lake is another location, once in high demand for film shoots. It still draws a lot of crowd because its surroundings are marvelous and a boating activity on the lake is highly sought after. There are pedal as well as row boats available on hire on hourly basis and it was lovely to go around the lake admiring the beautiful scenery around.

Ooty’s main attraction to some was surely Doddabetta, the highest peak of the Nilgiris and amazingly accessible from the town. And we were
certainly was among those who wanted to climb up the peak and cherish the scenery. Apart from the mind boggling view from the peak, Doddabetta even has a wonderful telescope house that offers much nearer views of the hills. True, the place has become a bit touristy with stalls and horse rides along the roads. But I guess it is obvious for any place to make maximum use of its location and popularity.

Next day we were scheduled to drive down to Coimbatore and plan the last leg of our visit where we would be visiting the end of mainland India, Kanyakumari….another beautiful place that has put India on the international tourist map.  

 (Ooty Lake)

(Doddabetta telescope house)