South Indian movie superstars such as Mohanlal, Kamal Haasan and Vishal had their dates with the world’s second largest mangrove forests. The climax scene of Mohanlal-starrer ‘Manthrikam’, the first song sequence of Kamal Haasan-helmed ‘Dasavathaaram’ and the final scene of Vishal movie ‘Thupparivaalan’ made this green patch of land popular. This green wonder is Pichavaram, which is situated in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Next time when you chalk out your tour itinerary, make sure to add this beautiful place to your travel programme.
Many travellers return from Thanjavur in awe of the architectural excellence of the age-old city. But not many know that the spectacular destination of Pichavaram is just a 3-hour drive from Thanjavur. You can also reach this exotic spot by driving for two hours from Puducherry. When the 2004 tsunami gobbled up the shores of Tamil Nadu, a small hamlet blunted the attack of raging waters with tenacity. It was the world’s second largest mangrove forest in Pichavaram, which is on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, which helped the village to keep the tsunami waters at bay. The tangled thick mangroves took the brunt of the vicious waves and protected the land. It may be noted that damages due to tsunami were less in Pichavaram compared to places that didn’t have mangrove trees.
Presently, the world’s tourism spotlight is on this village and is a sought-after tourist destination. Sundarbans, which is on the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh, boasts of the largest spread of mangroves in the world.
Sundarbans of south India
Pichavaram can be termed the Sundarbans of south India and the only shortfall is the lack of the graceful Bengal Tigers and other wild animals. Undoubtedly, Pichavaram is a paradise on earth and every travel junkie will long to be in the cool shade of the verdant mangrove forest, go on a boating spree and indulge in bird watching.
After marvelling at the architectural ingenuity of Thanjavur, one could head to Pichavaram to have a different experience. Thanjavur is a different world altogether with its own unique space for art, architecture and music.
You can leave for Pichavaram early in the morning after staying in one of the many hotels in Thanjavur. After reaching Pichavaram, hire a boat to enjoy the serenity of the region. This patch of land was formed as a result of the Vellar River and the Kollidam River emptying into the Bay of Bengal.
Journey through mangrove forest
The water body of Pichavaram is expansive but safe for boating. A marvellous stretch of mangroves could be found near the starting point of the boating itself. The water body is not deep as people could be seen walking on the lake bed comfortably to catch fish.
The boat ride through the thick mangrove forest is an out-of-the-world experience. The boats will glide through the mangroves giving an opportunity to the travellers to see the tangled mangrove trees in close quarters. As you enter the dense forest, sunrays will strain hard to seep through the vegetation and darkness will descend even during day time. It is indeed a magical world out there. The waterway will be as narrow as a small boat and it’s a surreal feeling to meander through the mangroves.
There are more than 400 boating waterways in the mangrove forest that is spread across 1,100 hectares. A note of caution is that local people may approach you with the promise of taking you to the mangrove forest at night but don’t fall into that trap as it is against the prevailing laws.
Where and how reach
Pichavaram is near Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. Route: Palakkad-Karur-Tiruchirappalli-Thanjavur-Kumbakonam-Chidambaram-Pichavaram. Total distance is 455km.
Nearby places of interest
Thanjavur temple, Chidambaram city and Puducherry (77km). The closest city and railway station is Chidambaram. The airport nearest to Pichavaram is Chennai.
Photos: Praveen Elayi