Earlier, I had planned to include all this vital information in my previous post about Neelakurinji trail in Eravikulam National Park. But then I stopped myself, as it would have made the post very long. I would have to either reduce the number of images from that post or cut short on the information. I didn’t want to do any of these. Hence, I decided to do a separate post and try to give every layman information possible to plan a trip to Eravikulam National Park.
Reaching: Eravikulam National Park is 12 kilometres from Munnar town on the Munnar-Udumalpet road. It takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes to reach there on the winding hilly road. Road is good and safe. You can travel by your own vehicle or take a taxi or a public transport from Munnar. Munnar, as we know can be best reached from Kochi (148 kms) on the Kerala side or Coimbatore (175 kms) on the Tamil Nadu side, both of them are the main airports as well as mainline railway stations.
Parking: Park has a parking area for private vehicles. But during peak season on holidays or weekends, you might not find place to park the vehicles in the parking. In that case, one has to park the vehicle on the roadside. When we were there, we found vehicles parked on both sides of road upto more than a kilometre towards Marayoor.
Park Entry: You are not allowed to take private vehicles inside the park, nor are you allowed to walk on foot, except for the designated areas. Visitors to the park are taken inside through buses run by Eravikulam National Park.
P.S. You might occasionally find some private vehicles inside and wonder, how were they allowed! But, there are many tea plantations inside the park. There are few villages too. So, the workers, officers and staff of the tea plantations, as well as villagers are allowed inside. You might find their vehicles.
Timings: Park remains closed in months of February and March. Rest of the months, it remains opened daily from 7.00 am to 4 pm. Interestingly nearby Shola National Park and Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary remain open all the year round.
Online Booking: Daily only 3,500 visitors are permitted inside. Out of these only 75 percent tickets are available online. Rest 25 percent tickets are kept aside for walk-in tourists. There are different tickets for Indians, children and foreign tourists. There are also tickets for cameras (still as well as video), but no tickets or restrictions for mobiles. Its always better to have online booking to avoid any last-minute anxiety.
Entry: Once you reach here, there would be separate windows for online and on spot bookings. On line bookings have to be just verified and print-out stamped here. Queues at the entry gate will be separate for online and current bookings but eventually both queues will converge right at the entrance of the bus. Entry to the buses is perfectly managed by the Eravikulam National Park forest staff, who not just balance the ratio of online and current bookings in each trip but also ensure very strictly that not even a single passenger is extra or standing in the bus. Kudos to them for their efforts. Buses are very frequent but depending on rush, you might have to wait for 15-20 minutes to get inside the bus. Bus which goes with tourists from entry gate, brings back the tourists waiting to come down after their trip from the park.
P.S. While booking online tickets, you will find a time slot. That has been done to avoid excessive number of tourists reaching to the entry gate of the park at any particular time. That does not decide the duration of your stay! Once you are inside the park, you can stay as long as you wish until the closing time. Then you can take any bus coming down to the entry gate from the Rajamala centre, albeit in a queue.
Inside: Buses take you from the visitor centre at the entry gate to the tourist centre at Rajamala. It is a ten minute beautiful uphill journey by bus to Rajamala. Tourists alight from the buses here and then walk inside the park. There is a tar road that goes towards the Rajamala tea estate. That walkable trail on road is roughly about two kilometres. Before that, there is another check point at Rajamala centre, where your belongings are checked to ensure that you are not carrying any food items inside. No food items are allowed, not even fruits on walking trail inside the park. You can carry water bottles. You are not allowed to throw anything here or there. There are sufficient guards keeping an eye over visitors. But we need to understand that this also helps in keeping our environment clean. The last point of the trail is clearly marked. There is a gate and a guard. Even the road ends there. From that point you return back to the Rajamala centre to take bus. You are also not allowed to leave the trail and move inside the forest or grasslands. It can be dangerous. Keep on trail and enjoy the views of tea plantations, Neeelakurinji flowers and Neelgiri Tahr—all what this park is famous for. While walking, always do remember that the all the distance you are travelling further has to covered on return as well. Though it is not at all an issue as neither the distance is too long or it is tough. It can be tiresome only if it is quite sunny. Do keep lot of water with you, although there are a few streams with clear water safe to drink. There are also enough shades and locations to sit and take rest. Few toilets are also coming up shortly on the trail.
Trekking: There are also few trekking routes inside the park besides this normal tourist trail. But separate permissions are needed for trekking inside the park under various conditions. Currently, there is a four kilometre Kurinji Trail being offered as a trek inside the grasslands at a charge of 750 INR per person. This trail gives you an opportunity to experience different types of habitat inside the park such as forest, grasslands, streams as well as waterfalls with better opportunity to see Neeelakurinji blooming and Nilgiri Tahrs along the valley of Anamudi peak, highest peak in peninsular India.
Facilities: Both the reception centre at entry gate of the park and the tourist centre at Rajamala have restaurants, toilets as well as souvenir shops. There is also an exhibition centre showcasing the flora and fauna of Eravikulam National Park. Since this is the year of Neelakurinji, you will find lots of information, images, boards about different species of Kurinji flowers.
Network: As of now, you won’t find any network connectivity inside the park. Mobile phones will be best used as cameras for clicking some excellent shots of astonishing landscapes around.
Stay: Everytime I reach Munnar, like many others, I also become one among those who envy everyone who has any friend or near or distant relative working as a top officer in any of the tea plantations here. Staying at a tea plantation guest house is an experience in itself and comes with many privileges of accessibility in these areas. Well, since this is not going to happen for most of us lesser mortals, closest options available for us to stay are at either Munnar or Marayoor towns. Both of them have ample accommodations available for all pocket types. Staying close to Munnar helps in planning your movement around the hills.
Nearby: Although, there are various places to see around in Munnar good enough to spend more than a couple of days but there is particularly lot for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Pampadum Shola national park and Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary are among them.
I hope, by now your drawing boards will be quite ready to plan the trip. Don’t wait, go ahead! Let us know, if there is any other information you would like to have.
Have you ever been to Eravikulam National Park in Kerala? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section below.
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