I wouldn’t be surprised if you tell me you haven’t heard of the Pichavaram Mangroves before. Located in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, around 230 KMs from Chennai, lies this mystical place which happens to be the World’s second largest Mangrove forest (Largest is Sunderbans Mangrove forest of West Bengal, India). This amazing creation of nature is not so popular on the tourist trails which makes it all the more beautiful and worth as it’s natural sanctity is well kept.
Tourism in Tamil Nadu state of India is increasing by leaps and bounds and one of the major contributors to this for both domestic and international tourists is Pondicherry! Who on earth doesn’t love Pondi! The charming French style architecture of the white town, the mouth watering amazing continental cuisine, the followers at Aurobindo Asharam, the peaceful Auroville township and chilled out beaches to sip beers at tax-free rates! It is one of the favorite picks for a chilled out weekend getaway or beach buffs. Not many plan to explore the areas around this lovely town. But then exploring is an adventure and remember, an adventure is always worthwhile!
My trip to Pichavaram!
Phew! This was an epic trip, as I along with my cousins planed and successfully executed a Girls Only Trip to Pondicherry for a week! (With most of them married, it sure is a big deal!) These women had taken out time from their cramped up schedules to chill at beaches and by the pool for self pampering; convincing to join me on a bumpy ride to just see some “plants on water” which would take an entire day wasn’t really easy! But where there’s a will, there’s a a way, and such mystical places always find a way to reach me and vice versa! :p
After spending a couple of days at Auroville, the gang with their packed up bags left for Pichavaram. We did take a number of pit stops for food and pictures! After a long drive(about 3 hours with breaks for 70 KMs) on bearably bad roads with beautiful houses and paddy fields around, we reached Pichavaram by noon.
Welcomed by dark clouds and an ordinary boating stand, we were a little skeptical about the boat rides to the Mangroves. We had booked 2 motor boats, 6 for each and started dressing up wit “jugaadu” weird life jackets when the heavens suddenly started pouring down. A few of us immediately threw open the jackets and denied to take the ride. I along with 6 other daredevil sisters risked to take the adventure when a boat man converted his boat by pulling up (an almost useless) shade.
After a few meters of the ride in heavy rains, we started approaching the greenery and it appeared as a lush green mini island forest on the backwaters. As we went deeper into the forests, we got amazed on seeing the fresh green shrubs hanging above the water, long sticks which appeared like the branches of the shrubs actually happens to be the roots! It was an amazing sight to see a number of rare birds fishing in the marshes while we rode past them.
The boatman knows of the “secret treasures” of the mangroves and offered to take us to deeper “caves” (which weren’t really legal) if we paid slightly extra, now anyway we had embarked on this adventure, so why not go ahead with it, so we agreed to go ahead and he asked us to sit tight and be ready to bend down any moment.
The man turned around the boat and took us to deeper zones where we were welcomed by a canopy of the shrub roots making it a sight to behold. As we proceeded further, the canals started getting narrower and the shrubs denser! We got our heads bumped on the roots a number of times, as we discussed that it wouldn’t be surprising if an Anaconda appeared from out of nowhere as this was exact setting for such creatures, to which our boat man laughed off and said that small snakes might still be spotted! Oh what beauty, it’s a constant mix of pleasure, astonishment and fear. The boatman told us about the movies that have been shot there in a half broken hindi and felt proud to be a local from there.
Check this VIDEO to get a small glimpse of the chills! (click on the term Video)
Had it not been raining this hard, we would have taken the ride to the beach but our boat-captain had totally refused the same! We reached the port back, sipped hot coffee as we dried ourselves and left for Chidambaram.
Chidambaram is famous for the grand Thillai Natraja temple and the market around it. We were stopped at the temple gates as wearing shorts isn’t allowed inside the temple, which made us explore the market and shop for pants! Spent over an hour at the temple and got awed by the brilliant architecture and grandeur! After offering the prayers, and learning about the history of the temple, we drove back to Pondicherry and reached on time for dinner!
A mangrove is basically a shrub that grows in tropical salty waters in the coastal region. Generally the backwaters near the sea get saline due to high tides and emergence with the sea which result in a different form of vegetation. The Mangrove shrubs are said to protect the coastal regions from erosion and apparently Pichavaram Mangroves were responsible to have protected the regions around Chidambaram from Tsunami in 2004. Spread over 1100 hectares, this is like a giant maze created by nature with approximately 4400 small and big water lanes and canals. The roots and branches are unique and gives you a chance to witness a different ecosystem altogether!
This town holds a huge historical importance as it has witnessed the reign of great dynasties for centuries. If you are a culture or history inclined traveler, this place is a gem! There are a number of beautiful temples around the town out of which Thillai Natraja is the most popular. Mythological too, the Thillai Natraja temple holds importance and is considered to represent sky in the Panchbhoot (5 Elements of Nature). Most part of today’s temple was was built in 12th Century AD, is home to spell bounding sculptures and architecture and has a huge sky high entrance gate with many smaller temples inside the main compound. Some people also believe that Shiva resides here and the mangroves were created by Shiva to guard it from some sages and coastal calamities. Whatever be the story, the temple is a must visit to praise the craftsmanship!
Information and tips:
- It is preferable to visit the Chidambaram town and temples before heading to Mangroves as you can witness the real beauty in broad daylight and returning from Mangroves will have you tired and might be late.
- You aren’t allowed to enter the temple in shorts(both men and women) and lungies! So better dress accordingly!
- There is an impeccable amount of mosquitoes in the mangroves so it’s a must you cover yourself well or use repellents. Also carry a bottle of water.
- There isn’t a lot of eating options at Pichavaram, except for a basic restaurant at the boat-stand. Eating at Chidambaram is the best option.
- Boat timings are 8:30 AM to 5 PM for the mangroves and you can choose from Motor or Pedal boats.
- If you are left with time on the way back to Pondicherry, you may stop by at the Silver Beach which happens to be on the way!
So, winters are already knocking and you might have already started planning a short Pondi vacation, remember to keep a day extra and witness magic at its best!! You might thank me later! 🙂
P.s. Due to constant rains, I couldn’t click a lot of pictures, so taken a little help from google to give a better insight of how it looks!