The Western Ghats are a collection of heterogeneous geological formations that separate the wet Malabar Coast from the arid interiors of the Indian peninsula. They play a key role in directing the South Western monsoon and providing water to peninsular India’s thirsty plains. Starting at the tip of India at Kanyakumari, the mountains rise abruptly from the sea and plains. The Western Ghats continue in a nearly unbroken 1,600 kilometers mountainous spine and end at the Tapi River on the border between Maharashtra and Gujarat. From Karnataka northwards, the Ghats meet the expansive Deccan Plateau. The northern reaches of the Ghats, called the Sahyadris, are younger volcanic mountains and are a unique physical feature in South Asia. Compared to the southern Ghats these ranges are lower in elevation. The Sahyadris fall in steep, dramatic ghats (steps) to the sea along the Konkan coast north of Goa. It is here, in places like the hill station of Mahabaleshwar, that one can see the obvious reasons for the name “Western Ghats.”

The southern Western Ghats include the Ashumba, Anamalai, Cardamom, Palani and Nilgiri Hills. These hill ranges are made up of very old horsts that were uplifted in Pre-Cambrian times. Biologically rich, the Western Ghats are blessed with high rates of endemism (a term used to describe species that are isolated to a limited area and found nowhere else). In recent years as a global alarm has sounded on declining biodiversity, the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka have been designated as one of 25 “Global Biodiversity Hotspots.” This designation made by Conservation International, one of the leading organizations dealing with biodiversity, considers the two mountain ranges as one critical unit under threat from anthropocentric forces.

In 2012 many key sites in the Western Ghats are named as a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. While the recognition is appreciated the pressure on the Western Ghats from human activities continues unabated. Today mining, human settlement expansion, hydroelectric dams, sprawling estates and introduced species threaten the biodiversity, water delivery capacity and beauty of the Western Ghats.



The Palani Hills are an eastern spur of the southern Western Ghats located in Tamil Nadu. They are named for the temple town of Palani, which is home to the most important Murugan temple in India. The hills form a lofty plateau averaging about 2,000 meters. The slopes are covered in a variety of scrub, deciduous and evergreen forests. The higher hills once hosted large areas of the shola/grasslands. Most of this has been converted to monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, pinus and acacia species. There are notable bird watching sites in the Palanis and there are also significant populations of gaur, Nilgiri langur, Malabar giant squirrels and other mammals. The hill-station of Kodaikanal is the most important settlement in the Palani Hills and is an important tourist site (a fact that has both positive and negatives consequences).


The Western Ghats hosts an impressive number of species that are found no where else in the world. Conservation International has notified the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka as a biodiversity hotspot, a designation given to areas with high endemism under threat from anthropomorphic sources. This album highlights a selection of color pictures of some of those species. Most of the plants, birds, mammals and reptiles here are endemic while others are notable.


The High Ranges of the Western Ghats are a lofty collection of plateaus that contain the tallest mountains in the Western Ghats. They fall in Kerala's Idukki district but are contiguous with the Anamalai and Palanin Hills....


The state of Karnataka hosts the 320 km long portion of the Western Ghats stretching north from the lower slopes of the Nilgiri Hills to the Goa and Maharasthra tri-border. The hills are generally lower...