Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eco-adventure camp catching up

Eco-adventure camp catching up in Chennai
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: Pongal - the harvest festival - beckons the bold and the beautiful to get-together on a holiday on an island and then dare the wilderness in the mountains. Adventure ‘n’ Nature takes you on a twin tour, away from Chennai, across the border into Andhra Pradesh, where you explore the Pulicat Ecotourism Park and the canyons of Nagiri Hills January 14-16.

The Eco-Adventure Camp is organised by Adventure ‘n’ Nature which is a pioneering and premier eco-adventure tourism outfit in Chennai. The tour is organised as mobile-cum-residential camp, with accommodation in tents (separate for families, women and men), by a team of knowledgeable and experienced professionals.

Adventure ‘n’ Nature is a unit of Prakruthi, outwardbound conservation centre that popularised Turtle Walk, a wildlife conservation programme, as a
household activity in Chennai and elsewhere in India.

Dipankar Ghose, a leading name in eco-adventures and outdoor recreation, is the camp director. To him “every excitement comes with absolute safety and total security”.

“The three-day adventurism at Flamingo City, Pulicat and gorge-ous Nagiri would be filled with fun and frolic,” promises Dipankar Ghose.

Wilderness Bound

Pulicat Eco-Tourism Park is an inter- and sub-tidal lake, off the Bay of Bengal, across the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border. It is the second largest brackish water lagoon in the country (after Chilka in Orissa). The 18,440 hectare lagoon has marshes, fresh and brackish swamps with large mud flats and sand flats. Pulicat Lake is 70 km long and the width varies from 1 km in
the north to 20 km as it goes down south.

Pulicat backwaters house 16 islands and 30 villages. The inhabitants are either fisherfolk or agriculturists or are into salt mining. The lagoon supports a rich biodiversity, which includes aquatic and terrestrial fauna and flora. Its rich fauna comprises rare and endangered reptiles, insects, amphibians, snakes, sea turtles, birds and mammals.

It is home to 50 species of water birds, including the flamingo, pelican, painte stork, ibis, spoon bill, pintail duck, teal, terns, harriers, etc. Its aquatic resources include white and tiger prawns, mud and lagoon crabs, mullets, pomphrets, catfish, edible oyster and clam varieties. The flora ranges from natural species like mangroves and endemic herbs to cultivated crops such as cashew, paddy, fruits and vegetables.

Nagiri Hills is part of the Eastern Ghats, where one discovers small canyons, rushes and waterfalls and lo and behold a hamlet called Kambakam (Come -Ba-Come) ever ready to welcome anyone who is itching to dare the wilderness with adventure.

The hills around Kambakam made the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, build his citadel overlooking the Bay of Bengal across the vast Pulicat Lake. One can still find the ramparts of the fort at Kambakam.

Kambakam became a weekend retreat for the British, after Tipu lost to them. It also became popular with the natives. They rode on horses and came on palanquins, to chill out in the perennial pools. The rushes and the springs eased the soreness of the dusty life in what was becoming the city of Madras.


Both the island in the Pulicat Lake and the mountain trail are off NH 5 (Chennai-Red Hills-Nellore-Kolkata Highway). The alighting point for Venadu Island, in Pulicat, is about 70 km from Chennai and Kambakam is another 50 km from this transit.

Camping Trails

Day 1- The group of explorers meet at Drive-in-Woodlands, on Cathedral Road, at 2 p.m. to board the convoy of vehicles to the TN-AP border. Here they cross the Pulicat Lake to the Venadu Campsite, by sail boats. After tea, the budding ornithologists go bird watching into the several rookeries and celebrate the openness of space and nature with Pongal festivity.

Day 2- At the break of dawn, the aspiring naturalists scout for flamingos and pelicans in the mud flats surrounding the island. Fine-tuning themselves to nature and the environment on the island, the group drives through the bund to different locations that combined make Flamingo City. They also join the villagers in the celebration of jallikattu.

Day 3- The early birds set sail to the mainland, to drive into the mountains. They arrive at Kambakam, and after breakfast they climb a trail that cuts through the perennial mountain stream. After astute bouldering and ridge walking, the prospective mountaineers reach the top to bathe and swim in the waterfalls and hidden plunge pools. If energy permits, the excitement would be prolonged with novel adventure games, till it is 7 p.m. and time to return to Chennai. The drive back to the city would be approximately 3 hours.
Published on Jan 5th, 2006,

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