Pichavaram Mangrove Forest.
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest: Pichavaram is located in Chidambaram, Cuddalore District in Tamil Nadu. The Pichavaram mangrove forest is spread over nearly 3,000 acres and joins the Bay of Bengal, around six kilometers away, where it’s separated by a lengthy sand bank. This forest is located between two prominent estuaries, the Vellar estuary in the north and Coleroon estuary in the south. The Vellar – Coleroon estuarine complex forms the Killai backwater and Pichavaram mangroves. The backwaters, interconnected by the Vellar and Coleroon river systems, offer abundant scope for water sports such as rowing, kayaking and canoeing. The Pichavaram forest not only offers waterscape and backwater cruises, but also another very rare sight the mangrove forest trees are permanently rooted in a few feet of water.
Apparently, the forest has 4,400 big and small canals. Astonishing! The small canals are sun-flecked tunnels of roots and branches, some hanging so low that there’s hardly any room to pass through. Except for the swish of paddles, sound of birds, and roar of the sea in the distance, all is silent and still.
Students and scientists from across India come to study the mangrove forest and its incredible biodiversity. Approximately 200 species of birds have been recorded, along with many varieties of seaweed, fish, prawns, crabs, oysters, turtles, and otters. There are around 20 different varieties of trees in the mangrove forest as well.
The trees grow in water that’s 3-10 feet deep in different places. The conditions are quite hostile, as the sea’s tides bring salt water in and out twice a day, changing the salinity. Hence, the trees have unique root systems, with membranes that only allow fresh water to enter. They also have breathing roots that grow up from the water, with pores that can take in oxygen.
Unfortunately, the mangrove forest got damaged by the devastating 2004 cyclone that hit Tamil Nadu. However, if it wasn’t for the forest acting as a buffer for the water, the destruction inland would’ve been severe. The water from the tsunami has affected its growth, requiring protective measures to be put into place. Previously, villagers cut the tree roots to use for firewood. This has now been banned.
How to Visit.
Both paddle boats and motor boats, operated by the Tamil Nadu tourism department, take passengers through the mangrove forest daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. However, it can get very hot in the middle of the day, so it’s better off going in the morning or late afternoon. Rates start from 150 rupees for a paddle boat and 1,000 rupees for a motor boat, and increase according to time and distance traveled.
A trip of at least two hours is recommended to explore the mangrove jungle. If you take a four hour trip in a paddle boat (1,000 rupees) or two hour trip in a motor boat (2,200 rupees) you can see both mangrove jungle and beach. Do note that the boatmen will demand a tip for taking you deep inside the smaller, narrow canals. Motor boats can’t go inside these canals, so make sure you take a paddle boat if you’re interested seeing them. November to February is the best time, particularly for birdwatching.
How to Reach.
Pichavaram is located around 30 minutes from the temple town of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. A taxi will cost around 600 to 800 rupees for a return trip. Alternatively, buses run hourly between Chidambaram and Pichavaram, with tickets costing less than 10 rupees. Chidambaram can easily be reached by train in less than 4 hours and 4:30 hours by bus from Chennai. The nearest airport is in Tiruchirappalli 170 kilometers and Chennai 230 kilometers from Chidambaram.
Chidambaram, Puducherry (Pondicherry), Vaitheeswaran Kovil, Poombukar.