Nestled in the Western Ghats, Meghamalai Hills in Theni district is a paradise on earth. With its rich flora and fauna, lush green tea and coffee plantations, scenic landscape, evergreen forests, salubrious climate, mist-filled air and cloud-capped mountains, the hills are a real feast to the eyes.

Situated at 1,500 metres above sea level, this lesser known tourist spot is covered with massive tea and coffee plantations.

Just a 80 km drive away from Theni, these beauteous hills are an extension of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Very many times, elephants from the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border saunter down to these plantations. This spot is a treasure trove for nature lovers, environmentalists and wildlife watchers.

Meghamalai forest is the ideal home for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies.

Elephants in Kerala reserve forest around Thekkadi migrate to Meghamalai during the Sabarimala season. Large tracts of grass lands, serene atmosphere, sufficient feed and water holes — and above all a place free from human disturbance — lure these wild elephants in Kerala to cross the border and settle in Meghamalai till the end of the Sabarimala season.

Other animals that a visitor can hope to watch are tigers, leopards, Nilgiri tahr, gaur, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar deer, wild boar, porcupine, Indian gaur, Nilgiri langur, lion-tailed macaque, common langur, bonnet macaque, otter and flying squirrel. Ornithologists have identified more than 100 species of avian population like Malabar hornbills, herons, bulbuls, wagtails, flycatcher, kite, spotted dove, robins and number of reptiles and amphibians.

It is not just visitors from the plains but also the birds that are attracted to these high peaks, water-filled dams and crystal clear falls.

Vellimalai, 1,650 metre above sea level, in the heart of Meghamalai, is another major tourist attraction.

It is the originating place of Vaigai river, lifeline of five southern districts. Suruli river also originates from the 180-foot-high Meghamalai falls.

A 600-square-kilometre-wide forest in Meghamalai has been recently declared as a wildlife sanctuary. During a recent wildlife census, forest officials found tigers and leopards.

Grizzled squirrels that are normally found in Srivilliputhur wildlife sanctuary were also sighted in Meghamalai.

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Tourist hotspot

Large tracts of grass lands, serene atmosphere, sufficient feed, water holes — and above all a place free from human disturbance — lure wild elephants from Kerala to cross the border and come down to Meghamalai. Grizzled squirrels that are normally found in Srivilliputhur wildlife sanctuary can also be sighted here