Set 1140m up in the Nilgiri Hills, the MUDUMALAI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, covers 322 square kilometres of deciduous forest, split by the main road from Ooty (64km to the southeast) to Mysore (97km to the northwest). Occupying the thickly wooded lower northern reaches of the hills, it boasts one of the largest populations of elephants in India, along with wild dogs, gaur (Indian bison), common and Nilgiri langur and bonnet macaques (monkeys), jackal, hyena and sloth bear, and even a few tigers and leopards. Of the wealth of local flora, the dazzling red flowers of the flame of the forest stand among the most noticeable. Now that the park is fully operational again, you can explore by vehicle or on foot. Generally speaking, the best time to visit is during and after monsoon.
The main focus of interest by the park entrance at Theppakkadu is the Elephant Camp show, where you can watch the sanctuary’s tame pachyderms being fed and bathed. This is also the starting point for the government safari tour, which is the only way of accessing the official park limits. However you may well see more creatures if you take a private Jeep tour or guided trek into some of the parts of Mudumalai that are outside the state-controlled area. These can be arranged through any guesthouse or direct at Nature Safari in Masinagudi (t0423/252 6340, e[email protected]).