Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary is the only Sanctuary of its kind in South India declared for the conservation of the flowering shrub Nilakuriji (Strobilanthus kunthianus), that blooms gregariously once in 12 years.
The name of the sanctuary is derived from the word Kurinjimala, which means the mountain of Kurinji flowers. Neelakurinji is a blue flower that grows in abundance in the Idduki and Munnar region. The Kurinjimala Sanctuary is famous for the Neelakurinji Plantation. And Kurinjimala Sanctuary protects the core habitat of the endangered Neelakurinji plant in Kottakamboor and Vattavada villages in Devakulam Taluk, Idukki district of Kerala State.
The area was notified as a Wildlife Sanctuary on 6th October 2006 to ensure the long term conservation of a vast stretch of ‘Kurinji’ habitat that spreads across 32 sq.km at the high altitude rolling grasslands and shola forests of southern Western Ghats. The entire sanctuary falls in the high altitude part of Western Ghat formed of rolling hills with steep valleys.
The new sanctuary is contiguous to the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary to the northwest, Manjampatti Valley in Amaravati reserve forest of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast, Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the west, Pampadum Shola National Park to the south and the proposed Palani Hills National Park to the east. The sanctuary provides continuity and connectivity to these five protected areas.
The Kurinjimala Sanctuary is also habitat for diversity of many rare species of flora and fauna. Much of the Sanctuary is gifted with high altitude sholas and montane grasslands. Evergreen and deciduous forests are also found in the lower altitudes.
Mostly, the sanctuary is formed of grasslands interspersed with Nilakurinji and Shola forests in the Valleys. Large mammals like Elephant, Gaur, Nilgiri tahr and Sambar deer are found here.
The sanctuary was declared by the Kerala Forest Minister Benoy Viswam at the Neelakurinji Fest at Munnar, during the 2006 bloom, massive flowering of Neelakurinji attracted nearly ten lakh (1,000,000) people to Munnar and other places.
The Government notification said that the sanctuary would ensure the long-term protection of the unique biodiversity of the area, especially Strobilanthes kunthiana and its habitat. Private land holdings having legal titles are excluded from the sanctuary area.
The difficult terrain of Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary makes it an enjoyable destination for adventure lovers and trekkers. Every year Nilakurinji Festival is also organized here by the Kerala forest department in the month of October. Eco tourism activities are also organized here along with local tribes in order to provide the tribal communities a means for sustainable livelihood. It also helps in promoting the tourism of the place. The place is best visited between the months of December and April.
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.