Where in God’s name is this place located and how did I ever get here??
The answer to the first bit I gathered over the internet but I am far from figuring the latter part of the question. Nonetheless I am really glad that I did take this road less travelled!!
During the preliminary planning for my backpacking trip to Tamil Nadu, I came upon the name of Mundanthurai tiger reserve. Considering the one month trip and my chief focus on the coastal town and cultural/temple cities, I did not want to venture deep into the Nilgiris or the Western ghats (Ooty and nearby places) to save on travel time. This reserve being about 35 kms from Trinulveli (a major road junction) which is a further 85 kms from Kanyakumari fitted the bill perfectly. And to add to the attraction was the fact that this place was completely off the common travel/backpacking circuit.
A bit of research and a telephone call followed by an email to the deputy director and wild life warden, Ambasamudram was all it took to book a room in the government forest guest house.
Boarded the bus from Kanyakumari at 8:00 am (Rs. 55/-)(Ask for bus leaving for Ambasamudram). Reached Ambasamudram at 11:15 am. Hired a rickshaw (Rs. 30/-) for the Deputy director of Forest’s office which is located about 1 km from bus stand. The staff was very friendly and immediately gave me a print out of my email and a booking confirmation letter with the DD’s signature (Same to be presented at the check posts).
I hired the same rickshaw all the way to the rest house. The other alternative would have been to take the rickshaw to Pappanasam (the first forest check post about 10 kms from town) (Rs. 100/-) and the wait for a bus going towards Kariyar dam. He charged me Rs. 500/- and enroute we also made a detour for the famous Agasthiyar falls, which is also a religious centre.
After Pappanasam check post the entire journey is uphill and very scenic. Mundanthurai rest house is about 10 kms from the first check post.
The rest house is a one storeyed structure on the bank of the river. The rooms are very basic with attached bathrooms (Hot water arranged in buckets by the caretaker). This place is surrounded by monkeys during the day so the main door has to be kept closed at all times.
Met the forest range officer, Mr. Selvan Lal in the evening to get a better idea on the activities available and places to be visited. This reserve being spread out over a large area, and having more than one entry points, the possibilities for trekking activities are confined to the nearby environs only.
Mr. Selvan was most helpful and accommodating. Despite having had a long day on the field, he spent more than an hour sharing information and explaining the inner workings of the range office. Later he offered me his jeep for a night safari and not only that, the next day, he even took me with him in the field as he went about setting up all activities. Later when was off to the office, he placed a jeep and some of his anti-poaching watchers at my disposal. A more generous and kind soul I have yet to meet and I must admit that without his help it would have been quite difficult for me to get around.
In the jeep we first went to Kariyar dam. There is a boat service (Rs.30/- per person) which ferries people across to the stupendous Banatheertam falls. Later we went to one of the view towers (3 kms from the rest house). This is the only place in the entire area where you can get cellular signal.
We then headed back to the rest house for a brief halt, got our lunch packed and headed towards Servalar dam. The views from this dam are absolutely exquisite and breath taking. The plan was to head towards Kodamady, the last check point on this route, which also has a guest house, a drive through rough tracks leading into one of the most pristine and least visited sections of the forest.
However due to the incessant rainfall a portion of this stretch was blocked due to a heavy deluge crossing the track. Nonetheless, we parked the jeep in this area and headed on foot. Did not get all the way to Kodamady but did visit one of the machaans on the way. The experience of walking through such pristine jungle was for me simply magical and I couldn’t even begin to explain the sheer bliss I felt despite the constant downpour.
1) Language is a major barrier as almost all sign boards are in Tamil and most of the park officials do not understand English or Hindi. However the flip side is that this place seldom has visitors from outside of the state and hence extend a cordial welcome and are very co-operative and helpful.
2) Carry travel essentials (Soaps, towel, mosquito repellent, flashlight etc.). See relevant post regarding travel essentials in this blog.
3) There is no cellular connectivity within the reserve except in a few select locations.
4) DO NOT venture anyplace without informing the Range officer or his subordinates first.
5) Collect information pamphlets from the Ambasamudram office.
FACTS AND TRIVIA
1) KMTR falls within the designated areas in one of the 18 hot spots of the world treasuring some of the least disturbed forests in the state. Hosting India’s unique and rich bio diversity, the KMTR reserve is located in the southern end of the western ghats in the district of Tirunelveli and Kanya kumara. Covering an area of 895 sq. kms. And having an undulating topography with forests beginning at an elevation of 40 meters above MSL and reaching up to over 1800 meters at various places. There are seven major dams and reservoirs in the reserve.
2) The Reserve is home to a wide variety of animals and plants. The animals found in the Reserve include Tiger, Elephant and Lion tailed Macaque. A large number of fresh water fish can be spotted in the Tamirabarani river which flows through the Reserve. Birds and insects are the other major inhabitants of the Reserve.
3) Major waterfalls inside the Reserve are Agasthiyar falls, Banatheerthum falls and Manimuthar falls. Forest Department have identified trekking routes and provides guided trekking thorugh the Tiger Reserve for which one needs to contact in advance(Ph:0462-2552663).
GO THERE FOR : The experience of staying in one of the least disturbed forests in the country. It is completely off the beaten track and is a welcome change for anyone who would like to escape the urban jungle.
Best time to visit Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is during September to January.
HOW TO GET THERE :
Nearest Railway station :
Cheranmahadevi – 20 Kms
Ambasamudram – 15 Kms
Approach by road:
Ambasamudram to Mundanthurai – 17 kms. (See details above as to how I got there).
Kalakad to Thalayanai (For entry from Kalakad side) – 5 Kms.
Forest rest houses and dormitories are at Mundanthurai and Thalayanai. (Rs 520/- for non A/C double bed room in upper Annexure). Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. Call DD(Deputy Director Office) -04634250594
LOCAL GUIDE : Will be arranged by the Range officer.
GETTING AROUND :
It is best to have your own transport when staying within the reserve as most of the places are far flung. I was very fortunate to be offered the jeep by Mr. Selvan.
Even if driving in your own vehicle, consult the range officer for any restrictions. Some places can only be approached with the forest guards acting as guides.
EATING AND SHOPPING :
1) Make sure you have stocked up before departing from Ambasamudram (the last major town). There are no shops within the forest perimeter except for some small general stores selling basic stuff.
2) Apart from the meals served by the caretaker, there is also a canteen close by which offers basic meals.
NOTE (BACKPACKING TAMIL NADU 15.NOV.11 TO 12.DEC.11):
This post is one in a series of posts which relate to my Back packing experience in Tamil
Nadu (from 15th Nov – 12th Dec) and any information provided should be read in that
context. Please refer to subsequent posts for my entire backpacker experience.
Following is the planned sequence of travel :
Chennai-Mamallapuram-Chennai-Kanyakumari-KMTR (Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve)
The basic budget I have targeted is in the mid range segment (about Rs. 1500/- per day).
I found the place in Google maps and while looking for further information I found your post. I am in the process of preparing my own Tamil-Nadu-Trip and found your description oft the Park very helpful. Thanks a lot.
Glad you found the post useful. Wish you a pleasant and memorable trip!
very useful info sir. thank u very much.
A good travelogue. Being a nature lover, I have been wanting to see KMTR for quite some time. I need some essential info and would be grateful if you can share:
1. Can a family stay in the forest guest house?
2. Contact email and phone of the forest officer at Ambasamudram for accommodation request.
Hello Dr. Vijay,
I am glad you found the post informative.
With regards to your questions:
1) Yes, i believe the location is ideal foa a family outing, provided you are willing to make do with basics and have your own transport. When I was staying there I had two families with kids who had stayed for couple of days.
Do not expect any hotel like treatment though.
Divisional Forest Officer /Social Forest Division, Tirunelveli- 627 007.
Conservator of Forest, Tirunelveli Circle, NGO Colony, (RTO Office Back Side), Tirunelveli- 627 007.
Ph : 0462-2552612
Contact Chief Conservator of Forests & Field Director, Thirunelveli Ph:0462-2552663.
Hope you enjoy your stay!
Hi sir. Great post. My husband and I are planning a hiking trip this October. We were contemplating on taking our Rottweiler along. Is it possible sir?
Thanks for the wonderful post and travelogue, it inspire people to go there 🙂
I am also planning an Itinerary to cover a couple of places around Papanasam, Tirunelveli, so wanted help on which of the following water fall or Dams are good enough for a visit & sight seeing.
Manimutharu Dam (Manimuthar Waterfalls)
Karaiyar Dam (Banatheertham Falls)
Thanks in advance.
Hello Sudhan. Thank you for your comment.
All the dams and Falls in this area re spectacular and the beauty lies in them being a bit off the beaten track. I feel the choice of falls you visit should rather centre around your planned itinerary (Your guest house location, your mode of transport – own car or bus/rickshaws, length of holiday).
Wish you great travels and beautiful memories.
Wonderful blog plost.
I am planning to visit this place by end of January 2016. I have 2 questions.
1. Is it a good time to go there during this period for flora and fauns and waterfalls ?
2. Tiger spotting possible ? Our main motive is to spot tiger/s.
Good Day. Thank you for your comment. Yes January is a good time to visit the Reserve. As for tiger spotting, it is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, isn’t it? I was not so lucky during my visit.
Do read the Tips and Getting Around section.
Safe travels and great Memories!
Hello, is February a good time to visit KMR?
im on a road trip by bike. will i be allowed up to the rest house by bike or only 4 wheelers allowed? kindly mail me
Sorry for late reply. Yes the road is navigable by two and four wheeler all the way to the forest guest house.
That’s a very useful post. There are two things I’d like to ask:
1. How crowded is the reserve?
2. Are there any treks/hikes possible?
Thanks for your comment. Regarding your questions:
1) This is one of the off beat places and the only accommodation in the reserve is the IB as mentioned in the post. So,no it is hardly crowded most of the times.
2) Yes treks and hikes are possible. In fact the highlights of this reserve are the walks to the dams and lakes in the environs.However, you need to inform the Forest Officer of your movements within the park and a private car is required,unless the range officer offers his personnel to escort, as it happened in my case.
Safe travels and great memories!
I have been searching for information on Mundanthurai forest, like, location,approach,stay, food, and journey in the forest for spotting wild animals. Your site almost answered all my questions. I am happy as my group of 14 people are going to visit this place this month. My friends want to venture in to the forest in the night, of course, with the permission and help of the forest officials. Do they allow such a journey in the night? We will have our own vehicle. Pl comment.
It will need the approval of forest officer and you may need to have one of the forest rangers going with you for the night trip. All the best and Stay Safe!
Hi, great write up. Thanks for all the information. Does the forest office accommodate groups of say 10-12 people? Also do they have any day jungle safari into the tiger reserve? Thanks
Hi Admin……….. your post will be very nice to see keep continues this, Whoever read this article they are plan to visit there thank you for giving this article.
Can we get a night safari for seeing animals .would u pls provide the contact nos of forest officer and the lodges in the forest…..
Is November December is the best time to visit r not
Very much impressed about the road map furnished. I am basically from Thirunelveli District, but settled in pune for the past 40 years. I have visited Manjolai and Godhyar in 2010, along with my wife and two sons. In Jan., 2017, we have planned to visit the Mundanthurai forest and planned to spend a night there. My sons are coming for holidays from USA and they very much interested in visiting this place. I have noted the Telephone Nos. and the E-mail ID. We will have our own 4 wheeler, so I hope we can cover most of the places you have mentioned. I will appreciate, if you can provide more information. Since my wife don’t want to miss any near by Temples.Thank you once again for sharing your experience.
With warm Regards.
It’s been a while since I visited the place so I guess a lot must have changed since then. I suggest you look up latest information on Trip Advisor or Thorn Tree online.
Safe Travels and Great memories!
Nice write up sir, I was at Avalanche Forest Guest house last week and there was another group from Chennai who mentioned about this place. I was searching about this and happy to find this write up. I wish I can go there by Jan 2017.
Thank you once again for the details.
Thanks Mani. Hope you do get the opportunity to go there someday!
Safe Travel and splendid memories,
A very practical, down to earth presentation.
Thank you very much for the black& white facts.
Indeed you have provided all the guidelines necessary, revealing your thoughtful nature; thanks again.
God bless you to do more travel, to write your experience & to benefit us.
we were thinking this year to travel across the Western Ghats through KMTR on the Bonacaud Servalar Trail ,do you think this would be possible or would it involve days of permits and guides.
!!!! Thanks for any info.