Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mangroves of Pichavaram

If you are in or near Chidambaram (Cuddalore District, Tamilnadu) and have a day to while away - think no further and head to Pichavaram. The mangrove forest in Pichavaram is one of the healthiest mangroves in the world covering over 1000 hectares. It is the perfect getaway from the concrete jungle we are living in. Covering over a number of islands, the forest houses such rich species of flora and fauna that in turn form an amazing ecosystem.

The mangroves can be explored by hiring boats (motorboats/rowboats) run by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation.

Armed with drinking water we set off for a 2 hour blissful boat ride in a rowboat under the SCORCHING sun. We must be MAD. The boatman regaled us with such wonderful information about the mangrove. His love for the forest was very much visible. He stated, as a matter of fact, that it was the forest that saved a lot of villages from being demolished by the Tsunami that wreaked havoc in 2004.

This mangrove is nestled in the backwaters of 2 estuaries (Vellar and Coleroon). These trees grow in the salty coastal area. They are abundant and dense because of the frequency that the seeds of the trees fall off in the same area and become plants all over again. Pichavaram literally translated means gift from the sea. The boatman talked about the medicinal properties of a lot of plants that grow in this area. He also said that research was being carried on to bring its usefulness to the outside world.

The boatman shared a very unique fact about these mangrove plants. They breathe through the vertical roots rising  above the water and the pores of the roots  take in only fresh water. Any salt that creeps in is shed by the leaves. 

The boatman effortlessly manoeuvred in and out of the few naturally formed canals He told us there were around 4000 such canals and many of them were in uncharted territories. 

When we asked him how deep was the water was the boatman simply laughed and got down off his boat to show that the water was only up to his hip. The water was not more than 3-4 feet deep but he did tell us that one had to be careful of the muddy slush in the water. We took in with silent amazement at the wonders of nature in its primitive habitat. Scurrying little crabs, snails and shoal's of fish caught our attention throughout the ride.

Talking about the birds, the forest is home to many species of native and migratory birds. 

We spotted cranes, egrets , herons, mynas, kingfishers, parrots and a few others.

As we wound our way back to the starting point, there was a strange sense of pang. Such beauty ensconced in a peaceful environment warranted being there for more than 2 hours. But there's always a next time.   

How to reach :-

We drove down from Trichy (nearest Airport) to Chidambaram. It was approximately a 2 1/2 hour drive. Stayed overnight in a hotel and made a few temple visits. The next day we drove to Pichavaram, which is about 16 kms from Chidambaram. If you are driving down from Chennai it must be around a 4 hour drive. The place is also well connected by bus from Pondicherry and Chennai.

Google Maps to the rescue for the route options.

Make sure to visit this wonderful world !

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