Wild elephants of Meghamalai Green peaks of Meghamalai Meghamalai lake amidst the greenery

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Time Required : October - March

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Meghamalai, Theni Overview

Tucked within the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, Meghamalai in Theni district is the kind of hidden paradise that you read about in books, complete with exhilarating trek routes, breathtaking scenes and an excellent opportunity to take a break from your everyday life in the lap of nature.

Wild elephants of Meghamalai
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The Highwavys Mountain, locally called the Meghamalai, is an undulating terrain of peaks belonging to the Varushanad Range of Western Ghats, in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. Located at an elevation of 1,500 metres above the sea level, Meghamalai is covered in the trademark green of Sahyadri, thus earning the name 'Pacha Kumachi' in Tamil, meaning 'Green Peaks'.

Green peaks of Meghamalai
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Up until recently, the Meghamalai Hills were restricted to private estates of tea and coffee plantations. But now, the vast area of peaceful wilderness is opening up for the tourists gradually, one beautiful location at a time. However, it remains one of the untouched and untarnished destinations near Theni. The landscape here is painted with lush forests and rich tea estates, waiting to be explored. Sudden waterfalls on the way break the green monochrome, and there is always the latent thrill of coming across one of the many endemic species of the Meghamalai Hills.

Meghamalai lake amidst the greenery
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Flora and Fauna at Meghamalai

Flora and fauna are the real treasure of Meghamalai. As you drive into Meghamalai, you can almost feel the wilderness of the location envelope you with its charm and beauty, and its magnificent presence. There is something very irresistible about the forest and its residents here at Meghamalai. Other than expansive tea and coffee estates, pepper, cardamom and cinnamon are some of the other plantations here.  As for fauna, Meghamalai boasts of numerous species of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies. Elephants, leopard, Nilgiri tahr, Indian gaur, barking deer, sambar, spotted deer, langur, macaques, and sloth bears are very common here. With some patience, one can spot over a hundred different types of birds as well, including the Great Indian Hornbills. This forest is also the only home to the fruit bat species Latidens Salim Ali, named after the famous Indian ornithologist, Salim Ali. 

Tourist Attractions at Meghamalai

The main attraction here for tourists is bountiful of nature. Most of the tea estates around are open for you to explore. Among the most popular and frequently-visited ones are Highwavys Estate, Ananda Plantations, Ponsiva Plantations and Field made Estate. There is an artificial lake amidst the plantations and several walkways through the forests for you to discover the unknown. Further uphill is the Kardana Coffee Estate as well.  Among other tourist attractions, you can visit the origin of Suruli River which streams downhill to form the famous Suruli Falls, which is another important Theni attraction. From the origin spot, one can catch a glimpse of the Cumbum Valley and the villages that dot its slopes. You can also pay a visit to Vellimalai, also known as Silver Mountain. Located nearer to Periyar Tiger Reserve, this place is known for its green hilltops and snow-like clouds mysteriously veiling the peaks.  In short, within the forests of Meghamalai, you should be able to take forest jeep safaris, tea estate tours, cycle or trek along the green hills, take a look around the rolling lands and enjoy a fantastic retreat away from the crowd. 

Best time to Visit Meghamalai

The best season to visit Meghamalai is the winter season. From October to March, the weather here is prim-perfect for making a trip. The cold climate wraps around the hills and the valleys like an envelope, thus creating a stunning ambience. Try to avoid July to September, since this is the monsoon season. 

How to reach Meghamalai

The nearest airport to Meghamalai as well as the nearest railway station would be Madurai. You can hire a car, preferably an SUV since the road can be bumpy, and drive to Meghamalai from Madurai or Theni as well. It takes an hour and a half from the main city of Theni and around 3 hours from Madurai by car. There are long-route buses as well from Madurai and even faraway cities like Chennai and Bangalore and local buses from Chinnamanur which leave at 4:30 AM, 6 AM and 10 AM. 

Tips

1. Try to carry with yourself BSNL or Airtel sim for the phone network. Availability is limited in Meghamalai. 2. Always carry light woollens with you, like stoles or not so heavy jackets. The insides of the forests are relatively cool even during the summer months and can get chilly at night.

History of Meghamalai 

Mention of these mountains can be found in the Gazetteer maps of British era, dating back to 1920s. The area was being inspected by British officials for Cinchona plantations, like many other forested areas of India. In the gazetteer's own words, the Highwavys were the least known part of the extended hilly region of Madurai and was infested with wild elephants. The forest was deep and impenetrable, and anyone wishing to enter had to wade through chest-deep waters of Suruli River and then take a steep 10-mile trek through the woods. 

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