Valparai is a sleepy town in the Anamalai range of the Western Ghats. Long time ago, the place was a dense tropical forest housing a diverse group of wildlife and native trees. Now vast tracts of these forests have been cleared to make way for tea. In contrast to the earlier biodiversity, Valparai now has only one type of flora-Camellia sinensis, also known as Tea. There are stumps of the non-native Silver Oak dotting the estates to give shade to the tea plants. Wild elephants, having had their habitat denuded, often enter the tea gardens.
Neat rows of tea plants are attended by female workers.
The endangered Nilgiri Tahr is sometimes seen by the roadside. It is a sign of hope after driving trough miles and miles of tea estates.
The wetlands seen above are the ones made by tidal activity on the rivers Vidyadhari, Piali and Malta. These wetlands join the wetland ecosystems of the Ganga- Brahmaputra delta, making the vast marshy area of Sundarbans. The name Sundarban means 'beautiful fores'. Some say it got its name from the Sundari trees which are found there.
In the picture above, you can see a couple of brick kilns, which are a rarity now. The bricks of this area are famous for their toughness and long life.
We travelled by boat on the river Ganga, alighting at some settlements .The riverbanks were lined with mangrove trees. There were hugr crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks.
We caught a glimpse of a wild boar near these mangroves. The famous Royal Bengal Tiger eluded us.
The locals believe that Sundarban area is protected by a goddess called Bon Bibi and her brother Jongoli. There are shrines to them in all villages. We watched a dance drama enacted by the locals on the story of Bon Bibi one night.