Nature Parks and Green Places to Visit in Chennai
Green Cover in a City
A city's beauty does not lie in its sky scrapers or its size. A city becomes more presentable only if it has plenty of greenery around. Chennai has its share of green spaces though I would always wish for more.
I have covered three green places that one can visit in and around Chennai. There are more such green places in Chennai and I would be writing about some of those places in future.
The modern Chennai city was built by Britishers during their colonial rule as they needed a base in South India for trading purposes. They might have had a special liking for this region because of the beautiful beaches and the green cover it used to have. The green cover has been shrinking a lot in the last four centuries as the city has developed into a major metropolis leaving only remnants of its erstwhile green glory.
An Oasis in the Middle of Chennai
The name "Semmozhi Poonga" means "Classical Language Park". This place used to be an iconic drive-in restaurant for a century before it got converted into a park in the year 2010. It is certainly a welcome change considering how outdated the earlier drive-in restaurant was. Heritage lovers might disagree with me on this.
The park is located on Cathedral Road near the Gemini flyover. It shares one side of a compound wall with the busy Anna Salai (Mount Road). The park has a total area of 20 acres and once we are inside, we would forget that we are in the middle of a densely populated city.
It is a well maintained park and one can spend a couple of hours or even half a day at the park. It is like a jungle full of trees and there are also many flowering plants. The pathways are well laid and the landscaping is done tastefully. There are plenty of seating arrangements for those who love to sit and spend hours soaking in nature.
We only get items like snacks, ice creams and coffee from the few outlets operating inside. Surprisingly, most Chennai residents would not have visited this park and it continues to remain a hidden jewel with less crowd despite its central location.
White Tiger at Vandalur
Vandalur Zoo is officially called "Arignar Anna Zoological Park" named after a former chief minister of Tamilnadu. This is the largest Zoological park in India with an area of around 1500 acres.
Such a large green cover makes it such a pleasant place in a city otherwise used to relentless heat. Most animals are housed in an environment closer to their natural setting. It is still confinement but we do not see many caged animals here. Even the big cats are allowed to roam in large areas separated by moats from observers.
There are two options for going around the park. One can go by walk or take a hike in their battery operated vehicle. Taking a walk is a nice experience as the long walk would be a good exercise. It take about three to four hours to cover the distance by walk.
If you don't like the idea of walking for hours, the battery operated vehicle is a great option to go around the zoological park in an hour. We would not be able to decide the pace if we are taking the vehicle. Walking should be a better option for the reasonably fit individuals who are visiting the Zoo for the first time.
Lion Safari is another important attraction that takes us closer to where the lions reside inside the park. It takes about half an hour to complete the Lion Safari.
We also have many species such as Bengal tiger, White Tiger, Leopard, Bison, Elephant, Zebra, Giraffe and Hippopotamus.
The huge green cover inside the park makes it a comfortable enough place for the animals as well as the human visitors.There is a restaurant inside near the entry point and the food quality is acceptable. Snacks and ice creams are sold at many places inside. There is also an outlet selling organic products and it is worth paying a visit.
The Nesting Birds at Vedanthangal Lake
These birds are the real globetrotters and they don't even need passports or visas to fly from one country to another.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Vedanthangal is located at a distance of 80 km South of Chennai. The trees in the middle of rain fed lake serve as ideal nesting sites for the migratory birds.
It is said that birds from all over the world visit here. They come from as far as Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many other countries. These birds are the real globetrotters and they don't even need passports or visas to fly from one country to another.
While I am no expert or enthusiast at bird watching, I still can enjoy the sight of many birds at one place. I can't even tell the difference between a Grey Heron and an Openbilled Stork or a Little Egret and a Spoonbill. The presence of thousands of birds at one place is an enjoyable sight no matter whether we know the birds by their names. Carrying a pair of binoculars could be handy to catch a better glimpse of the avian visitors.
Snacks, coffee, tea and tender coconuts are sold outside the sanctuary but for a good meal, one needs to travel a minimum of half an hour before finding a good restaurant. It is a good idea to pack and carry food with us as they usually allow us to have food inside.
The best months to visit are from November to March when the migratory birds visit. But if the lakes stay dry after a failed monsoon, the migratory birds give Vedanthangal a skip. Though such monsoon failures are rare, it happens once a while. Sadly 2018 could be one such year as the lakes are nearly dry now.
Distance from Madras International Airport
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary