Kodaikanal - winter delight
- Submitted by: Vinny, India
- Submission Date: 24th Feb 2007
Kodai is a wonderful off season holiday destination. Hotels give 50% discounts at this time. We flew from Mumbai to Madurai and took a cab to Kodai. Cabs from the airport charge Rs 2000 but you could get one from the city for around Rs 1200. Airport to city is Rs250 so you decide. In Kodai, choose a hotel near the lake this is peaceful and scenic, definitely worth the little extra you will have to pay compared to some other area. We stayed in a heritage stone cottage at the Kodai Club for Rs 1400 for 2 including buffet breakfast. The Hotel Tamil Nadu on the other side offers large deluxe doubles for Rs 490 off-season, but it faces a litter strewn valley and is not the best located ! The best way to enjoy Kodai is to go for long and short walks or cycle around the lake,to Bryants Park, Coakers Walk, Upper and Lower Shola Roads and to the several wonderful view points and mixed forests within 10 - 15 km of the lake. Enjoy the birds, the wildflowers and the cool, fresh air that permits you to walk endlessly without fatigue. Chances of spotting the Malabar giant squirrel and gaur (bison) are quite high in the forests. Must do - walk past TV tower (2100m), La Salette church, Pambar shola ridge on to Pambar shola falls, past Vattakanal (where hordes of Israeli youth stay), ending up at Dolphins Nose (1900m)- a rectangular slab of rock jutting out over the VERY deep valley below. When we went now in Feb 07, we were lucky to enjoy the last of the neela kurinji (strobilanthes / karvy) near Dolphins Nose. The red nilgiri rhododendrons and deep purple Melastoma malabarica were also in full bloom. On this route, you will pass dense montane shola forests, pine and eucalyptus forest, pear orchards along the way with a chance to see thousands of wonderful birds of every hue. We came face to face with a huge gaur near Pambar shola. He sussed us out for 30sec, decided we were harmless, then obligingly posed for photographs before disappearing down a steep incline ! We later learnt that gaur are most ferocious beasts. And here he looked so innocent, just like an elephant sized cow !!! Walk or cycle if you can (you dont feel tired in the fresh, cold weather), to Suicide Point, Pillars Rock view point and onward to Guna caves and Moer Point, then take the return route via Observatory. It is better to walk about 100m ahead of these places, cut across through the forest and get a much better view minus the littering hordes. Above Guna Caves, we enjoyed a pair of Giant malabar squirrels frolicking on the tree tops just below. You can also hire a cab for around Rs 500 to take you to these places. Moer's Point is the start of the old Berijam - Munnar road, now restricted. The DFO at Kodai said permission could only be given by the Chief Conservator at Madras. However, the forest guard observing our interest in nature, did kindly allow us to walk on the road for a little while. Berijam Lake and Kukkal Caves are out of bounds without forest dept permission, however do sneak in to the road leading to Gundar reservoir near the Observatory, as the gate is unmanned and No Entry signs only in Tamil. Lovely walk through aromatic forests till you reach the pristine catchment area. Skip the Shenbaganur museum, it is really decrepit and visitors are not allowed into the orchidarium. The elderly rector in charge said that many instances of vandalism resulted in these restrictions. He did allow us to walk into the beautifully maintained grounds of the Seminary for a little while. If returning to your destination via Madurai, do stop and walk a bit along the steep downhill road along a stream with dense high altitude evergreen forests dripping with ferns, mosses and orchids. Tree ferns grow like weeds ! We spotted several orchid species, on high branches, that we had never seen before. After about 10km the forest changes to deciduous but is still quite dense. Soon you will reach Vattlakundu from where we proceeded to Madurai. Enjoy Kodai at its peaceful winter best from Jan to March.