A major conservation habitat of the endangered Neelakurinji flower, which blooms once in 12 years, the Kurinjimala Sanctuary is located about 48 km northeast of Munnar in Idukki district of Kerala.
Spread over 32 sq km, the sanctuary gets its name from the word Kurinjimala which means a mountain where Kurinji blooms. Neelakurinji occurs at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 metres, Neelakurinji has flowering cycles ranging from one to 16 years. Neelakurunji last flowered in 2006.
Neelakurinji shrubs once covered the Nilgiri Hills and Palani Hills. However, plantations and dwellings occupy much of their habitat today. Apart from Nilgris, Neelakurinji grow in grass lands of Eravikulam, Vattavada near Munnar and hills between Klavarai in Tamil Nadu. Neelakurinji are also seen in the Shevroys in the Eastern Ghats.
The forest region was declared a sanctuary on October 7, 2006, to preserve the endangered Neelakurinji flower. The sanctuary also helps to protect the biodiversity in the region along with vegetation at high altitudes that is native to the South Western Ghat regions.
The Kurinjimala Sanctuary has the Ernavikulam National Park and the Annamudi Shola National Park in the east, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary to the north and Pampadam Shola National Park to the south
The sanctuary has high altitude Shola and Montane grasslands with deciduous and evergreen forests at lower altitudes along with Nilakurinji and Shola forests in the valley.
Besides the Kurinji shrubs, the sanctuary is home to endangered animals like the tiger and Nilgiri Tahr. Among the more abundant species are the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, Grizzled giant squirrel, Asiatic elephant, Gaur and Sambar Deer. The sanctuary is a haven for wildlife photographers and wildlife watchers to gaze into the wilderness to witness nature and the animals in their natural habitat.
Due to the difficult terrain, the region is a hotspot for adventure seekers. Trekking and rappelling are very popular activities and attracts a lot of thrill seekers.
With a view to promote awareness about the Neelakurinji shrubs, Kerala forest department organizes Neelakurinji Festival every year in the month of October.The best time to visit the park is between December and April. There are no places to eat in the sanctuary. It is advisable to carry food hamper and water.
The Forest Department also organizes eco-tourism activities along with local tribal communities. The activities are organized to provide means of sustainable livelihood for local communities while promoting tourism.There are no accommodation options in the sanctuary but one can stay at Munnar, 48 km from the sanctuary. There are many budget, mid-range, luxury hotels and resorts in Munnar.