A trip to Ooty is incomplete without exploring the tea gardens, the botanical gardens, and its wildlife. And the best wildlife of this region can be found in none other than the Mudumalai National Park. When I was on my annual family holiday to Ooty last summer with my wife and kids, we availed an Ooty sightseeing packages at the cheapest rates. This included local sightseeing tours and also a day at this famous national park.

An overview

The Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary is a part of the Nilgiri Hills and spreads across five ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. Of these, the Mudumalai National Park is the most significant wildlife habitat of the region and is also regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its strategic location between notable forests and adjoining bio reserves make it a rich ecological zone. The park spans a whopping 3300 Sq. Km. and requires more than a day to explore. But since our package included a day trip, we had to make the most of our trip by starting early from Ooty.

Reaching there

The forests of Mudumalai are situated at a distance of 45 KM from Ooty town and took us nearly two hours through the winding highways and views of the hills. There was another route through Kallatty which passed through forests and hairpin bends. We reached Gudalur, the nearest town to the national park, and started our actual tour from there. Private vehicles are not allowed inside the park, except for the initial stretch up to the site of the forest lodges. There are tour buses and Jeeps for jungle Safaris. There were also options for elephant rides. But with my earlier safari experiences, I have learned that Jeeps are the best way to explore and see animals up close.

We were assigned a Jeep with a few other tourists and a safari guide. He was a middle-aged, cheerful man, who had spent his entire life, working in different national parks and conducting tours. He knew every corner of the forest like the back of his hand and could drive with his eyes closed. There couldn’t have been a more perfect person to guide first-timers like us!

The life of Mudumalai

As our vehicle started to roll on the narrow trails, our guide narrated all the details of the park and the animals that we could expect to see. We learned that this protected zone is home to several endangered species like the Indian elephant, Bengal Tiger, Gaur, and Indian Leopard. About 13% of mammals of the Indian wildlife are found in the forests of Mudumalai. Soon we left the clear areas and were passing through dense clusters of rosewood, bamboo, and Arjun trees, with some spice shrubs like pepper and cinnamon, growing in between.

Our guide continued with his information on Mudumalai wildlife. This is also known as an important tiger reserve. Of the current tiger population of the country, at least 50 are found in this national park. All of us instantly started to scan the scrubby wooded areas on each side of the road, hoping that one of the big cats might pop out from behind the trees. But since real-life safaris aren’t like Disney movies, we had to be more patient for a sighting.

By now, we are in the thickest part of the forest. We see groups of langur monkeys and spotted deer. There was also a lone peacock making a dramatic appearance from behind the bushes. We stopped the Jeep and waited for him to move, but it looked like he wanted to display his feathers. But the contraption didn’t seem to work at the moment. After making a strange screeching noise, it ran back into hiding.

The great escape

Suddenly, the Jeep slows down. On asking, I found out that this was the major thoroughfare for elephants and they can run at a speed of 40 KMPH and suddenly appear in front of the vehicles. So it is better to go very slow and ensure safety for all. With a family of 2200 elephants in the park alone, there was always a chance of finding at least a percent of them running around. As the vehicle slowly rolled into open grassland, we saw a herd of elephants, of all sizes, enjoying bath time in a puddle. All of a sudden, a fight broke out between two adult elephants and within seconds, they started running wildly. The moment our guide saw one of them running in our direction, he put the car in reverse and we were rolling backward until we found a place to turn and drive towards the other end. It was all so fast and strange, the children were laughing and so was our guide. He assured that this happens every day and there was nothing to be afraid of.

Soon, our Safari came to an end. We had traveled only 15 KM within the forests but it felt longer. Perhaps, it was the little experiences that we had that made this tour memorable and prolonged. Always remember to book a reliable and licensed car service from Bangalore to Ooty for an optimal experience.