Author – Somnath Roy
Being a passionate traveller who likes photography, trekking and mountaineering, I was yearning to go to the mountains and breathe in some fresh air during this winter. I checked around Bangalore for a location that provides opportunities for trekking amidst scenic landscapes and watching wildlife. I got to know that I should visit the blue mountains of Nilgiris, which offers a breathtaking and piquant view to all mountain lovers across India.
I and my friends reached Ooty, which is known as the queen of hill stations in South India Udhagamandalam or Ootacamund or Ooty in short is a small town situated at a height of 2,240 meters above sea level in Tamil Nadu. The silent green valleys, rose gardens, tea plantations and factories, cottage chocolate units are some of the main attractions and flavors that beckons all hardcore travelers in South India. I was quite amazed to see the small factories operated by people and the way they manufacture Ooty chocolate and the home-made ingredients they use to make all that a success. The Nilgiri Mountain Railways connecting from Udhagamandalam to Mettupalayam adds heritage and diversity to this small hill station.
Monsoons bring in extra torrential rains during the rainy season. So the right time to visit is during winter and summer, which begins late October and prolongs till February giving all tourism enthusiasts abundant time to patrol this corner of South India. Temperature remains mostly subtropical and cold throughout the year, which attracts travelers from cities to replenish themselves from the busy city life.
The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve and its vibrant flora and fauna is something to watch out for as it forms the largest reserve in India. Located at the bottom end of the Western Ghats, it covers the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks in Karnataka, Wynad Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala and Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu. The dense tropical forests on the one side and the beauty of the pine and eucalyptus trees complement to the serene landscape that I wanted to capture in my lenses.
The tropical and deciduous forests across the entire biosphere reserve make it very special among others. Further, the tea and coffee plantations managed by the locals adds to the elegance to the habitat. We could see these forests are across the entire region and not specific to these reserves or the community of the ecosystem.
Although spotting wild animals is a matter of luck, it is easy to catch glimpses of sambar, chital deer, elephants, wild bisons, etc. On the way to the Nilgiris reserve, we saw a lush green landscape completely covered with tea plantations and hardworking gardeners who keep the ecosystem alive and viable. These farmers work in a group of two or three to complete the work during the first half, leaving the rest of the day to go with ease and pleasure.
Looking at the spices and flavor of the Nilgiris we can see that it has plenty to offer tourists and travelers across the nation starting from chocolates, essential oil producing herbs and the different varieties of spices. We get the essence of different varieties of oils like almond, eucalyptus, lemon grass, and others to name a few. I bought some essential oils suitable to my needs and requirements of my family.
Government Botanical Gardens is the best and the most renowned among its peers and treasures both exotic and indigenous plants. I felt the rose garden and the Botanical Gardens in Ooty were the best rated among all the gardens I had visited due to the diversity of flowers and maintenance by the authorities.
The Nilgiris have a wide variety of adventure sports to offer. Mountain biking is a popular sport and there is a special park dedicated to this activity. Horse riding, hang gliding and trekking are other popular sports. The gently rolling mountains and the wide variety of flora and fauna make trekking a popular sport. Doddabetta is the most important peak in the Nilgiri hills preferred by trekkers. Further, angling is a common fishing sport. Goad trout and carp are some of the popular options here, especially at the Pykara lake.
The festival of Badaga community where they pray to Goddess Hethe is a local festival here. Thousands of devotees come clad in white and they enjoy the rituals and dance together. They believe that the Goddess will bestow her boons on their progeny. The Toda embroidery is a form of traditional art in this region. This is slowly being revived again and in common culture, it is an important part of both the wedding and the funeral attire.
There is a lot of diversity that can be explored in the Nilgiris. You could put up a campsite on the mountain or stay in a luxurious five-star hotel. Each climate has a different feel in the Nilgiris ranging from enjoying waterfalls in the monsoons to a clear view of the stars on a summer night. The Nilgiris are easy to travel and explore because the region has been highly commercialized and it is easy to find tour guides or help desks around the region. At the same time, it has places that are unexplored and paths that are not tread on that make them an interesting place to visit.