A Biodiversity and Tourism Hotspot - The Western Ghats

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The Western Ghats of India

Photo of A Biodiversity and Tourism Hotspot - The Western Ghats by Kopal Goel

Introduction

The Western Ghats is a mountain range, running parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula and is one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity in the world. Recognised as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also known as Sahyadri (Benevolent Mountains). The Western Ghats traverse about 1600 kms from the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti River and stretching southwards to Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Internationally recognized as a region of immense global importance for the conservation of biological diversity, it treasures a total of 39 properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests. Covering only 6% of the land area of India, the Western Ghats contain more than 30% of all plants, fishes, herpeto-fauna, birds, and mammal species found in India.

The Northern part of the range inhibits about one-third of the plants, almost half the reptiles, and more than three-fourths of the amphibians known in India. While, the Southwestern Ghats, hosts the country's largest population of Asian Elephants, Bengal tigers, Lion-tailed Macaques, Sloth Bears, Nilgiri Tahrs and much more.

This lush green high mountain range also influences the Indian monsoon weather pattern, exemplifying one of the best monsoon systems on the planet.

Feeling like you're back to high school geography class? Wait until you find out that the Western Ghats make one of the best tourism destinations in India.

Western Ghats Tourism

Home to more than 500 hill stations and 1000 trekking trails, most of the Western Ghats still stays unexplored and unknown. Curious much?

The average trek length of the Western Ghats peaks is just around 10-11 kms, which can be trekked in a single day, followed by night camping, and descending the next day - much lesser in comparison to the Himalayan treks.

Chikmagalur, district of Karnataka, with 10-12 treks, boasts to have the highest number of trekking spots.

Difference between Western and Eastern Ghats

Oh, the struggle to differentiate them on the geography map test! Who knew you'd be reading about it again?

Well, the Western Ghats runs parallel to the west coast in a north-south direction from the Tapi River to Kanyakumari. But the Eastern Ghats runs in a north-east to the south-west direction, parallel to the east coast from Orissa to the Nilgiri hills, where the two meet.

While the Western Ghats prides in tall peaks which are continuous and can be crossed through passes only, the low elevated Eastern Ghats has been divided into several parts by large rivers.

Weather

Altitude and distance from the equator are the influential factors for the climate of various regions within the Western Ghats. The average annual temperature of the whole area is about 15°C, whereas the mean temperature ranges from 20°C in the south to 24°C in the north. During winters, the temperature at times drops to the freezing point.

Since the Western Ghats are vast and experience a diverse climate, the best time to visit can change from place to place. However, generally, September to May is the ideal time to visit the Ghats.

How to Reach

The Western Ghats encompass many Indian states and cities which are easily accessible by air, rail and road. Pune, being the largest city in the Ghats, has an airport and is well connected to the rest of India by an extensive network of railway lines and highways. Mumbai, Trivandrum, Bengaluru, Coimbatore are also some of the major entry points. Similarly, noted hill stations in the region are also linked to each other as well as with neighbouring towns and cities. Konkan Railways, running between Mangalore in Karnataka to Mumbai via Goa, takes you to a ride through the most landscaping views.

Photo of Western Ghats Solutions, Kavesar, Thane West, Trichy, Maharashtra, India by Kopal Goel

Why Should You Visit?

A perfect amalgamation of nature, wildlife, and culture make the Western Ghats a must visit - a journey of exploration. A tour which is a nostalgic reunion with mother nature while watching the ecosystem, we only read in the books, in reality. From hill stations, tea plantations, coffee farms, sanctuaries, grasslands to lakes, waterfalls, and beaches, the Western Ghats has it all. What more does a traveller need?

Places to Visit & Activities to Do

1. Hill Station Tour: Ooty, Mahabaleshwar, Madikeri, Lonavala-Khandala, Coorg, and the most famous Munnar.

2. Wildlife Quest: Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Silent Valley National Park, Kudremukh National Park, Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park, Kodagu forest, Dandeli and Anshi National Parks inhibiting Black Panthers, Leopards and Great Indian Hornbills.

3. Discovering the Valley of Flowers, the Kas Plateau in Maharashtra which is known to have numerous species of flowering plants.

4. City Tour: Calicut, Munnar, Kottayam, Kochi in Kerala; Pune in Maharashtra; Dharamsthala, Mangalore and Goa.

5. Caffeine Spree: The Western Ghats offer the best places to find coffee and tea plantations and one cannot come back home without loads of coffee and tea for friends and family. You can visit the coffee and tea plantations in Coorg, Chikmagalur, Valparai, Sakleshpur and Kudremukh.

6. Water Sports: Some places which offer great water sports activities are, Munnar, Kerala is known for backwaters, one of the major tourist attractions; Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu and Dandeli and Kali River in Karnataka for white-water rafting.

7. Waterfall Crawl: Some of the most spectacular waterfalls in India reside in the Western Ghats such as the Jog Falls by Sharavathi River, Athirappilly Falls by Chalakudy river, Kunchikal Falls, Sivasamudram Falls, Unchalli Falls and famous Meenmutty Falls.

8. Beach Relaxation: Goa offers the most popular beaches in India; Gokarna and Maravanthe Beach in Karnataka; Alibaug Beach in Maharashtra and many more.

9. Trekking: Kudremukh Trek, Mekedatu Fall Trek, Brahmagiri Trek and Bandajje Arabi Trek, Tadiyandamol Trek are some well-known trekking options in Karnataka; Bhimshankar Trek and Ratangad Trek Maharashtra; Trek to Dudhsagar Falls and Chorla Ghat Trek in Goa; Chembra Peak Trek and Meesapulimala Peak Trek in Kerala and Perumal Trek in Tamil Nadu.

A Budget for the Western Ghats

Accommodation cost per day: INR 500 - 1000 (low end), INR 1300-3000 (mid-range), INR 3000 above (high-end)

Food Cost per Meal: INR 100 - 250 (low end), INR 300-500, INR 700 above (high-end)

Local Transportation: INR 30-100 (buses, auto), INR 200-800(local taxis, rentals), INR 2000 above (private transport)

The additional cost of recreational activities

States of the Western Ghats

Enveloping the Indian states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, the Western Ghats cover an area of 160,000 sq. kms.

Western Ghats Map

Photo of A Biodiversity and Tourism Hotspot - The Western Ghats by Kopal Goel

Western Ghats Mountain Peaks

Anamudi in Kerala, also known as the Elephant Head, is the highest peak (8,842 ft.) in the Western Ghats and second to the great Himalaya-Karakoram mountain ranges.

Some significant peaks such as Mullayanagiri (6,317 ft.) and Kudremukh (6,110 ft.) are in Karnataka; Kalsubai (5,427 ft.), Mahabaleshwar (4,701 ft.) and others are in Maharashtra and Sonsogor in Goa.

Doddabetta peak, Tamil Nadu and Biligirirangans peak, Karnataka meet with Shevaroys, Servarayan and Tirumala range in the east, linking the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats.

Baba Budan Giri mountain infamous for the origin of the coffee plantation in India, Anai Malai, and Cardamom Hills are also located in the Western Ghats.

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