Kerala's lesser known gem: Silent Valley National Park!

Silent Valley national park doesn't appear in list of top places to see in Kerala. A trip to Kerala often revolves around Kochi, Alleppy, Munar etc. In this post, I will detail about a lesser known destination in Kerala's Palakkad district- Silent Valley National Park.
Above: View of Silent Valley from watch tower
Below: View of suspension bridge across the valley
Here's how I discovered Silent Valley National Park. Several months ago, I booked a ticket to Coimbatore on a Spicejet sale- Rs 1700 round trip per person, cheaper than AC bus tickets.  As the travel date came closer, I had to figure out what to do in Coimbatore- I had already explored most of the places around Coimbatore- Valparai, Kodanad, Connoor, Ooty, Isha Yoga and so on. As I scanned around, my attention went across the border, Kerala. While scanning for possible places of interest in Kerala which can be visited from Coimbatore, I found out about Silent Valley National Park. Some more reading and I decided to go there.
Let me answer some FAQs before sharing our trip experience

1. Where is Silent Valley?
Silent Valley is located deep in the forests, some 25kms away from nearest town, Mukkali.
Mukkali is 200 kms from Kochi, 120 kms from Coimbatore, or 60 kms from Palakkad.

2. What is there in Silent Valley?
Deep forests and pure nature. Nothing else.  There's a triple story watch tower that gives great view of the valley, a 2 km trekking trail that takes you to a small suspension bridge across the valley and Kunti River.

3. Do we get to see animals in Silent Valley?
Very unlikely. This forest is not known for animal sighting. Our drive Basheer said he has been driving here for 30 years but has spotted tiger for only 4 times. Going by that probability, your chances of seeing an animal is very low. Probably to compensate for the lack of real animals, dozens of placards of animals was seen all through the way. Do not go to Silent Valley if animal sighting is your primary objective.

4. Then is it worth going all the way to Silent Valley?
That would be your call. If you're on tight schedule I wouldn't say skip something else and visit Silent Valley. But if you have a day to spare or if you wish to go deep into rain-forests and enjoy some time with nature in its undisturbed form, then Silent Valley visit is recommended.  Visit will take almost a full day, so decide based on time, interest and other factors.

5. Can we drive all the way to Silent Valley?
No. Public can drive till Mukkali only. Forest department has an information centre in Mukkali. From here only designated jeeps and forest department buses are allowed to take tourists further into Silent Valley.


6. What are the timings to visit Silent Valley?
8 AM till 1 PM. (departure from information centre in Mukkali). The 25kms one way ride, plus time to trek and back to Mukkali takes about 5 hours.

7. What would be the cost of visit to Silent Valley?
Private Jeep: Rs 2000 per jeep, max 6 people
If you're smaller group-say a couple, sharing is permitted, if you can find another couple/family. We shared with another family thus the jeep ride cost us Rs 500 per person

There're few department buses that leave at specific timings- 10.30 AM and 12.30 PM. Per seat cost is Rs 400.

Car parking and camera fees extra (I had to pay Rs 53 for a car + 1 camera) and the cost of reaching Mukkali

8. What is the best season to visit Silent Valley National Park in Kerala?
November to Feb is said to be the best season to visit Silent Valley National Park. The park will be closed during March and April. June to Sep visit is possible, but heavy rains can make it complicated and very likely mist will create a white layer compromising visibility.
9. Is Prior reservation needed?
Yes. Highly recommended to call and confirm availability. Because there're only limited number of jeeps and buses, the capacity is limited and may get taken on weekends/holiday season. We had not done any reservation, but on the day of visit we called and checked, thankfully slots were available.

You can call the information centre on ph no 8589895652 and check availability/block your seats. I am told reservation can also be done online, but the website was not opening when I tried. (www.silentvalley.gov.in)

Contact Address: 
The Wildlife Warden
Silent Valley Division, Mannarkkad.P.O, Palakkad,
Kerala, India - 678582 Ph: +91 4924 222056
Email: ww-svnp@forest.kerala.gov.in
Information centre: 8589895652



Stay option:
Visiting Silent Valley will be almost a full day program. Assuming you start from a nearby town, if you reach Silent Valley reception at around 9 AM, you will be back after jeep ride only by 1-2 PM (5 hours total). Then another hour or so to reach your hotel. Will be too late to visit any other destination same day, unless you find few interesting things nearby (there're few more lesser known waterfalls and dams if you wish to explore.
  • We stayed in  Hotel Hill View, Munnarkad, a town 20 kms from Mukkali. Mannarkad has few good budget hotels and lodges. I am not sure of stay options in Mukkali itself- didn't see any hotels but I wasn't actively looking for them either.
  • Other option could be district HQ Palakkad, some 60 kms from Mukkali
  • If you can start very early in the morning, you can even do day trip from Coimbatore- 120 kms takes 3-4 hours- start at 6 AM, reach Mukkali by 10 AM, return at 3 or 4 PM to reach Coimbatore by evening
What else one should be aware of?
1. Leeches. We got a few leeches on our legs which we managed to spot in time and get rid of. It will get worse as rainy season progresses. Keep regular vigil.

2. Google Maps: We entered "Silent Valley National park" in google and it took us to an elephant camp some 12 kms from Mannarkad. That was not the entry point for Silent Valley. Enter Mukkali instead and you will reach right spot.

Our trip to Silent Valley:
After reaching Coimbatore by 9.30 PM Friday, we drove all the way to Mannarkad in Kerala (100 kms from Coimbatore airport) by around 1 AM. Checked in at Hotel Hill View Mannarkad, more about it in a separate post.

Saturday morning at about 8 AM we left from hotel, followed map to reach an elephant camp some 12 kms from Munnarkad. Forest department staff there guided us to Mukkali, which was the right entry point for Silent Valley. We didn't have any prior reservation but when we called we were told slots are available. Had to give our name and number to reserve our slots.

Reached information centre in Mukkali by about 10.45. There was another couple interested in going into the park and department staff proposed that we share the jeep. Both parties readily agreed, as it reduced our expense by half.

We left moments later- Basheer was our driver. He said he has been driving for about 30 years. He gets half the amount we paid (he gets Rs 1000 from Rs 2000 we paid, rest goes to forest department). He doubled up as a guide, showed us tribal huts, bamboo trees, plucked few lemon grass while driving and told us the history of Silent Valley national park- exerpts below
- Silent Valley was originally discovered by British officers- they made a road that would lead all the way to Ooty
- The forest is mix of deciduous, semi-evergreen and every-green
- Trees in the forest were very ideal for use in railway tracks (sleepers). However British officers couldn't find an economical way to transport trees from Silent valley- the only reason the trees are intact even today
- Kunti river passes through Silent Valley. There was a proposal to build a dam against it. But after several protests, the project was scrapped.
- Animal sighting is very poor here. Basheer has seen tigers 4 times in his 3 decade career. Due to thickness of forest and darkness, it is very difficult to spot them. Plus the road passes through the valley with steep hills on one side and deep valley on the other side- not much level surface for animals to move around.

The national park is about 25 kms from information centre. We reached there in about 90 odd minutes. First climbed up the 3 story tall watch tower- thick mist had covered the valley but got some glimpse in between when the sky cleared up. Intermittent rains kept us cool.

Once down from watch tower we trekked about 2 kms to the valley. Only to see the suspension bridge and river below. This was the spot where dam was proposed. Because of rains took most photos from Mobile n GoPro only. There was a refreshment centre but they had run out of milk, so were selling tea without milk. Toilet facilities are available but nothing more than that. Few forest department quarters are also available. Basheer showed us photo of a tiger eating elephant- said it was clicked in the neighborhood in 2013, when a tiger attacked and killed an elephant.

We started by about 2 PM, rode back in his jeep the same way and were back in Mukkali by about 3.30 PM. Wasn't sure what else to do on same day, returned to hotel in Munnarkad, walked around a bit in Munnarkad town and called it a day.

Similar: Zone by Park, Coimbatore

13 comments:

  1. Great to know about Silent Valley National Park.Amazing.

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  2. Hadn't heard of this place before, seems amazing. The view from the watch tower would have been amazing ! Great post 👍🏼

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  3. Good place. Lot of information. We had stayed at forest guest house at Mukkali. Not sure whether it is now open to public or not.

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  4. @Aravind- They are not, usually, unless one has a contact

    @Yogi- Thanks

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  5. So green!!!

    Love those views from the watch tower.

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  6. I have known the place for so long, but is still to visit! Loved the photos! :)

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