A Roadtrip to Pulicat and Sriharikota
Have you ever thought of replacing the traditional New Year celebrations with something different and more exciting? After a night of partying, drinking and eating our hearts out, we needed to do something refreshing on the first day of the year. That was when I landed on a documentary video of the Pulicat Lake. And something told me that this is what we should be doing instead of huddling into a room full of loud music and free-flowing beer. Luckily, some people in our clique are wildlife enthusiasts and absolute nature lovers. The immediate next thing was to book a decent cab from Chennai to Pulicat the next morning. And there we were, on our way to an unusual bringing-in of the New Year!
We took the NH 16 and drove for about 2 hours. The map showed an entrance to the lake from Sulurpet, on the other side of the border. As you turn towards the exit to Pulicat Lake from the highway, the wider roads give way to narrow streets and almost land in the lake.
Pulicat Lake & Bird Sanctuary
The Pulicat Lake lies on the state border with Andhra Pradesh, partly in the Nellore district of Tamil Nadu and the Sulurupet district of Andhra. The lake is not just a lake but a special zone with respect to India’s ecology and economy. The lake area covers one of the largest bird sanctuaries of India that contains brackish water (confluence of saline and freshwater). And, in case you have never heard, the lake island houses the Satish Dhawan Space Center or Sriharikota Range, one of the premier space centers of the country. Before you get excited about the space station, let me take you through the Pulicat Bird Sanctuary.
Needless to say, the sanctuary evolved out of the hundreds of thousands of birds that have been migrating to this vast water-body for years. The main attraction of this lake and our main agenda of this trip was to see the migratory birds, especially flamingos that have been flocking to this huge water body for years.
One unusual thing we discovered about this sanctuary is that there was no official entryway and we could just drive-through the lake area with lovely views of the water on both sides. But, of course, we wanted a closer view so we parked the cab and started walking around. Being early in the day, and holiday time, there was hardly any crowd, which allowed a bunch of storks to roam freely, close to the parking. With golden beaks and pink tail feathers, these were a tad different from the regular storks. On the other side, a flock of egrets was eagerly waiting for fishes to swim to the edges of the water. These two families appeared to be the dominating species of the Pulicat, and the flamingos were not to be seen anywhere.
At another 10 minutes’ walk, further down the park, we spotted a huge flock of something hurdled in one area of the lake. We almost tiptoed, not to scare them away, inching for a closer look. A little zoom on the camera gave us the most exquisite view of a pinkish carpet of feathers. A flock of Greater Flamingos was ducked into the water and feeding on the slugs and snails. The green grasslands around the lake, with the pink and white birds, made for a perfect frame to end the year!
A new start
With that image in mind we left the flocks of feathers behind and as our car headed out of the Pulicat Lake area, the thundering of a satellite launch hummed in our ears and we stopped to catch a glimpse of the rocket. It vanished into the atmosphere, leaving the earth, it felt like a sign for the coming year that would lead us into a new journey and new discovery! It is best if you can rent an air-conditioned cab in Chennai with a driver so that your experience is comfortable and hassle-free.