Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pichavaram mangrove forest

Pichavaram is a place near Chidambaram, in Cudallore district of Tamil Nadu. It is famous for its mangrove forest. Some websites say it's the second largest mangrove forest in India after the Sundarbans. But others say it is the third, where as the second place is occupied by a mangrove forest in Odisha. Anyway, all that matters is how stunning this place looks. Those who don't know what a mangrove forest is, please google it first. Even I, before reaching this place, believed that mangrove forest is a forest full of mango trees. But it's not ;-)

If you are planning for a trip, you need to schedule only one day to cover this. I with around 10 of my friends went here on a Sunday. As a weekend gap filler, we spent Saturday in Pondicherry which according to me is one of the most over rated tourist destinations in South India. It might be because I was born and brought up in a coastal area of Kerala, the beaches are like an everyday sight for me. Early on Sunday morning we left Pondicherry in bus to Cudallore. It was around 1 hour journey to Cudallore, from where we had to travel another 1 hour to Chidambaram. From Chidambaram it takes another 20 mins in bus to reach Pichavaram. Try to reach Pichavaram by at least 3:00 PM because you will enjoy more during evening when the sun is not at its strongest.

The only activity here is the 2 hour boat ride inside the mangrove forest. Tickets have to be taken at the counter. They allow 6 tourists per boat. Since we were 10-12, we had to hire 2 boats. After settling down, we started our journey into the dark forests. Initially it seemed just like a normal place, as seen in this pic.

Then the width of the path began to taper.

The more we went, the more denser it became and we got to know what a real mangrove forest will look like. It was like a narrow strip of water with mangrove trees overarching us.

Almost all the 2 hours, we were rowing through these waters under the shadows of mangrove trees. The sky was barely visible. The scene was stunning. The breeze inside, the shadows of the trees and the calmness were so soothing to the mind and body.

At some areas, the path was so narrow that the guide has to get down from the boat and push it using his hand. And we had to lower our heads so as to not get knocked by the branches.

I tested the depth of water and it was only some 2 feet which means you can even walk on it. But it was too muddy. The guide also told that the initial scenes of the film Dasavatharam was shot there and he took us in the boat.

After 1 hour of rowing, the guide stopped the boat for us to enter inside the forest and take some snaps. My friends were interested in climbing the trees but I ventured myself a few feet into the marshy land for an exploration and found that it is very difficult to walk. My feet were sinking into the marshes. Also there was barely any space to place your feet since the mangrove shrubs were so thickly populated that their area outnumbered the sand area. Later we continued for another 1 hour of exploration and it was altogether a different experience for all of us. Such was the stunning beauty and calmness of this place that one will feel like going there once again.

Pichavaram is one of the less famous and under rated attractions in South India and I wonder why. As per me it is arguably the best tourist place in Tamil Nadu (I don't believe Ooty, Pondicherry or Kanyakumari are the best). This place is purely for nature lovers and who love calmness and serenity and who prefer less crowded places unlike Ooty and Pondy. Any age group people can try this place. If you are on the devotional side you can also visit Chidambaram Nataraj temple too.

Points to remember:
1. There is a fee for boating which is around Rs.100 and a nominal fee for camera too.
2. Once the boating has started you can give extra money to the guide so that he will take you to some more interior places. It all depends on your bargaining skills.
3. There is a closing time at this place which I believe is somewhere around 4:00-5:00 PM.
4. You can visit here any time during the year. But make sure it is not raining.
5. Buses to Pichavaram from Chidambaram are rare. Once or twice in an hour. So plan accordingly.
6. Have food from Chidambaram itself before coming here since finding a good place to eat is almost impossible.

Please feel free to comment here in case you need any clarification.

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