Indira Gandhi National Park (IGNP) and Wildlife Sanctuary better known as Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Coimbatore of Tamilnadu. The name Anamalai because the sanctuary is located in the Anaimalai Hills , part of the Western Ghats. Anai means elephant and malai means mountain, obviously there are plenty of elephants in the area.
Anaimalai is a treker’s delight as well as home to some of the exotic wildlife in India including the endangered Lion-tailed Macaque. While Indira Gandhi National Park is in Tamilnadu , the contiguous Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary , Eravikulam National Park and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary sits across the border in Kerala state.
In fact the eastern entry point to Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is located at the fringe of Indira Gandhi National Park.
A place called Topslip (Top Slip) is the center point Indira Gandhi National Park where one has to reach before heading for the trek or safari.
Indira Gandhi National Park is popular among the birders with sighting of over 300 species of avifauna. Birds of Anaimalai include Alpine Swift, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Babblers, Black Eagle, Blue-bearded Bee eater, Brown-backed Needletail, Crested Gohawk, Crested Serpent Eagle, Cuckoos, Dollar Bird, Drongos, Frogmouth, Great Pied Hornbil, Grey Jungle fowl, Hill Myna, Jerdon’s Baza, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Nilgir Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Owls, Painted Bush Quail, Parakeets, Peregrine Falcon, Pigeons, Red Spurfowl, Red-winged crested Cuckoo, Rufous Bellied Eagle, Shortwing, Shrikes, Spot Billied Eagle , Swifts, Thrushes, Treepies, Warblers, White bellied Treepie, White-bellied Shortwing, White-bellied Woodpecker, woodpeckers, Wynad Laughingthrush etc.
If you are having special interests in birdwatching , make it clear in the beginning to your guide. While sighting of the birds depend a lot on things like season and your luck, the guides can of course apply their intuition and sighting experience in guiding you to a more probable place to spot these.
Fauna of this sanctuary includes Bandicoot Rat, Barking deer, Black Naped Indian Hare, Bonnet Macaque, Common langur, Common Otter, Dusky stripped squirrel, Elephant, Flying squirrel, Gaur, Grey Musk Shrew, Indian Flying fox squirrel, Indian Fox, Indian Giant Squirrel, Indian Pangolin, Indian Porcupine, Jungle cat, Leopard cat, Leopard, Lion-tailed Macaque Mouse deer, Nilgiri langur, Nilgiri marten, Nilgiri tahr, Ruddy mongoose, Sambar, Slender Loris, Sloth Bear, Small Indian civet, Smooth Indian Otter, spotted deer, Stripped-necked mongoose, Tiger, Toddy cat, Wild boar, Wild Dog etc.
Sure you are more likely to spot animals like elephants, deers and a variety of macaques than more shy ones like a tiger .
If you are serious wildlife tourist , Indira Gandhi National Park is not in the list of well managed sanctuaries in India to receive you. The attitude of the forest department staff is at the best lukewarm. That’s definitely not because they think the tourists as a disturbance to the wildlife. On top of it the typical noisy groups of weekend picnic crowd does not fit well either. This stands in stark contrast with the sophistication in which the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is managed , which is just a few kilometers west of it Top Slip.
Having said that Parambikulam is no easy walk-in kind of wildlife sanctuary. There are strict regulations in place to limit the number of vehicles ( 30 per day maximum ) entering Parambikulam WLS. So prudent actions like reaching there early, doing advance registration goes a long way in a comfortable tour of Parambikulam.
Back to Indira Gandhi National Park . To be fair with IGNP , they too have some systems and facilities in place for the visitors.
That includes a few guesthouses scattered around the Top Slip area , elephant and jeep safari, a reception center , a canteen and of course the entry ticket counter /check-post at Sethumadai the entry point for IGNP.
For accommodation at Top Slip one has to book at the office of Wildlife Warden at Pollachi ( The Wildlife Warden, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary & National Park, 176, Meenkarai Road,Pollachi, Coimbatore -642001,Tamil Nadu, Tel. 04259-25356 ) . So is for the permission for trekking. After Coimbatore ( about 80 kilometers) , Pollachi (about 35 kilometers) is the nearest major town for Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary. Hotels are available at both the places , but Coimbatore has much more range of choice.
There are a few routes to reach Top Slip. From Pollachi take the road that goes towards Palakkad, in Kerala. After Zamin Uthukuli you reach a junction, the left branch goes to Anamalai. Pollachi to Anamalai town is about 15 kilometers.
Those who are traveling from Kerala side can take the deviation on NH 47 to Pollachi. And then to Anaimalai.
From Palani or Dindigul get to NH 209 and head towards Udumalaipettai (Udumalpet). In about 5 kilometers , after you’ve crossed Udumalaipettai town , you can spot a junction with a road branching out on your left. This leads to Anaimalai.
From Anaimalai town square head straight to Top Slip. It’s easy to get direction from this small town area. Anaimalai to Topslip is about 20 kilometes. This stretch is narrow unlike the Pollachi-Anailamai road. Nevertheless it is very much driveable. A checkpost is located as you enter the Indira Gandhi National Park.
Pay for all and collect your tickets item-wise (entry fee, camera fee, vehicle fee etc). They note down the details ( name , vehicle number etc on a register and you need to sign). It can take a few minutes or more, if there is a crowd.
After this point the ghat section starts. There are many hairpin bends on this uphill road before you finally arrive at Top Slip. The roads are not the best of its kind in the forests. But you can’t drive faster anyway. As you climb up you can see the planes on your left as far as it fades into horizon. You can park the vehicle near the reception at Top Slip , or at your guesthouse. From now own you have to depends on the forest departments’ vehicle, elephant ride, or tour on foot with guide to explore the sanctuary. In other words you can’t use your vehicle inside the park for roaming.
There are local bus services ( not very frequent) from Anaimalai to Top Slip. And of course there are bus services from Pollachi to Anaimalai ( remember, you are still 20 kilometers away from the sanctuary ) . That means having a private means of transport is preferable from a convenience point of view.
Coimbatore has an airport, railway station and bus station with good connectivity to other major cities in south. Pollachi too has a railway station, but not many trains run in this section.