Ian Lockwood


Into the Anamalais

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Windmills with the Anaimalais and monsoon activity in the background. This is the eastern part of the range near Udumalpet. It was taken in 2006 but also during the South West Monsoon.


To those familiar with the Western Ghats the Anamalais (sometimes spelt “Anaimalais”) conjures visions of vast wilderness areas with varied landscapes and myriad life forms. From the northern plains near Udumalpet and Pollachi a wall of rugged mountains runs east on the same latitude from the Palanis into the Anamalais.  On a clear day, it is a breathtaking view. Douglas Hamilton, the 19th Century British surveyor, artist and adventurer who was one of the first Europeans to describe and sketch the Palani Hills, visited the Anamalais for indulgent bouts of “sport.”

Douglas Hamilton’s sketch co of the “Ibex Hills, Ananmullies.” My guess is that this was based on a view looking east over Karian Shola where there are still Nilgiri tahr to this day. I climbed the peak in 1998 but do not have a comparative view to share. The sketch appears in his classic book on the area A Record of Sport in Southern India…, published posthumously in 1892. It is now available online via Wikipedia, though I have an original obtained from Bangalore’s Select bookstore in the 1990s.

Further west from Udumalpet, a panoramic view of the Anamalais on the Pollachi to Aliyar approach. Combined from six separate images but reduced in size for the web. (July 2006).

Today the area around Udumalpet is a magnet for enormous wind farms generating significant amounts of electricity from wind flowing through the Palghat gap. The ‘elephant hills’ are indeed remarkable for their diversity and large protected areas. But there is also a good deal of modern human-influenced landscapes in the form of expansive tea estates, gigantic hydroelectric reservoirs and forests of teak and eucalyptus. The area has enjoyed protection over many years and today the Anamalais is one of the 2nd largest (the largest in the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve) protected areas in the Western Ghats combing sanctuaries from Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala. In 2009 the large Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded to the Anamalais Tiger Reserve (ATR), giving its protection a higher level of importance. Some of the hiking that we traditionally do out of Kodai is in the ATR and favorite hiking places such as Manjampatti and (parts of) Kukkal are actually in its jurisdiction.

Map showing significant points from the 2010 Anamalais monsoon visit with Lenny. The area included the Anamalais, Palani Hills, High Range and Cardamom Hills. While I work on honing my Arc skills I have stitched together pieces from Google Maps/iPhoto. The insert is derived from a 30 meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the same area as rendered on Global Mapper. Click on the image for the full 20” view.

I have had the good fortune to visit the Anamalais on several occasions over the last 20 or so years. Most of the visits were on trips between Kodai and Munnar, as I passed through Chinnar and the dry thorn forests in the Marayoor valley. In 1993 my cousin Anna and I visited Ragupathy Kannan at his field station in Top Slip where he was conducting a landmark study on the Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis). A few years later I returned to Top Slip and Valparai to photograph Lion Tailed Macaques (Macaca silenus). I had several rewarding LTM encounters in Anaigudi and then the reliable Puthuthottam estate near Valparai. But that was in an era of film before digital equipment was available. Places like Valparai (and even Munnar) were sleepy and neglected by roving tourists. Today, Valparai is changing and is being touted as the next great hill station in Tamil Nadu. This trip, at the end of our summer holidays, was designed to fill in some gaps in my fauna imagery to accompany the Western Ghats landscapes. I was also eager to explore the back road to Chalikudi and make contact with the Nature Conservation Foundation. Lenny came along too and it was a treat to share the places and adventure with him.

Anamalais as seen from near the Udumalpet-Munnar road turnoff. (July 2006).

The original blog post was revised in October 2021to change Anaimalais to Anamalais which is the commonly used spelling.

Written by ianlockwood

2010-08-08 at 11:08 am

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  1. Valparai is truly an amazing place much MUCH better than the commercialized Ooty/Kodai.I’m from Coimbatore(~40 kms from Valparai) working in B’lore & i always make it a point to visit Valparai whenever i go back home!

    Ravi Shanker

    2010-08-11 at 10:05 am

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