We Found 8 Must-See Places For Wildlife Enthusiasts In & Around Chennai
Chennai’s known for its wildlife conservation efforts as compared to other cities. Zoos, wildlife parks and nature reserves in and around the city are all well taken care of, in addition to that neighbouring areas around Chennai like Pulicat Lake are popular wildlife hotspots by themselves. So if you’re into wildlife and an animal lover check out these places. The list starts with places closest to Chennai and moves further away, with the last one being something we’re sure most Chennai folk haven’t heard of.
Chennai Snake Park Trust
Bang in the middle of the city, the Chennai Snake Park is one of the first zoos to start in the city. Started by renowned herpetologist (reptile guy) and now Padma Shri Award winner Romulus Whittaker in the 70’s, the park houses 39 species of reptiles, including endangered and rare species like the famous Indian Gharial (a crocodile with thin jaws and a pot on its mouth) and the longest python species in the world, the reticulated python. As the name suggests, there are quite a few snakes and the park routinely conducts informative shows about all of these animals to help break the myths surrounding them.
For more about the Chennai Snake Park, click here.
Guindy National Park
Sharing walls with the Chennai Snake Park, the Guindy National Park originally encompassed the Raj Bhavan as well, but is a separate space now. The size of it is hard to comprehend and parts of it are closed to the public, but with passes obtained, you can see black buck, spotted deer and jackals in their natural habitat. It’s one of the few national parks entirely inside a city and is a spot for school excursions and the like. There’s also rescued and old animals being taken care of in captivity too, like elephants and eagles. To really enjoy this place we recommend spending a few hours at the very least.
For more about the Guindy National Park, click here.
Madras Crocodile Bank Trust
Just like the Chennai Snake Park, the Madras Crocodile Bank was started by Romulus Whittaker many years ago. Unlike the Chennai Snake Park, the Madras Crocodile Bank operates fairly independently of the government and as a result, has a far more active management. There’s plenty of things happening at the Croc Bank at any given time, from night safaris to feeding shows and venom extraction from poisonous snakes, you’re bound to see and learn things you’ve never known before. They’re also super volunteer-friendly so if that’s something that excites you, do reach out to them via phone or email.
For more about the Croc Bank, click here.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park
Commonly referred to as the Vandalur Zoo, the Arigar Anna Zoological Park was set up in 1855! Previously the zoo came under criticism for poor living conditions for the animals, since then the zoo has revamped and now features far more open enclosures for animals without cages. There’s even a 74-acre lion park, which you can take a safari ride in to! The Vandalur zoo has the most animals you can see from any entry on this list and is home to some of the most endangered and rare animals. White lions, Himalayan Black Bears, Rheas, Sambar are just some of the exotic species of animals there. In fact, to see the zoo fully we’d recommend spending an entire day here at least.
For more about the Vandalur Zoo, click here.
Coming to the wildlife hotspot side of the list, Pulicat Lake is a great place to spot rare migratory birds like pelicans and flamingoes. It is India’s second largest saline lake and the small salt lake critters are what the visiting bird species feed on. It’s 60 kilometers north of Chennai and is two hours away by road, once there, however, there’s boating and plenty of bird watching to do. Do note that the season to see flamingoes is in December and the heat now is a little overwhelming. We recommend saving this one for after the rains as it comes alive towards the end of the year.
For more about Pulicat Lake, click here.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Think Pulicat Lake but far more concentrated bird populations, the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is one of the smallest in the country at just 80 acres, but is home to large numbers of migratory birds. Birds from Australia, Siberia and Canada, stop over here to feed on the densely populated microorganisms in the lake. With all of those birds there’s an entire ecosystem of other animals too like snakes, wild boar and monitor lizards. The season to come here is from November to March, so like Pulicat Lake we’d recommend saving this till after the rains.
For more about the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, click here.
The world’s second largest mangrove forest lies just four hours south of Chennai. The 1,100-hectare sanctuary is comprised of 40 small islands each filled with mangroves. The salt tolerating capability of the mangrove plant makes the entire place lush and green. With it comes its own rich ecosystem in the form of wildlife. The supporting cast of kites, egrets, stints and other birds are best viewed as you take a boat ride through any one of the 400 water routes available. The rides are cheap and there’s plenty to see, including a cool watch tower that you can climb up to see the whole sanctuary!
For more about Pichavaram, click here.
Giant Fruit Bats At The Government Museum!
Yup that’s right, the Government Museum in Egmore has an entire cave’s worth of giant fruit bats! They’ve been there for centuries now thanks to the massive trees in the museum complex. They feed on fruits like guava and apple right from the trees and in return drop the seeds which continues the cycle of life. There’s thousands of them and they spend most of the day either sleeping or eating. Batman fans can come see the entire population take flight like in the movies around sunset. We love that the bats co-exist so harmoniously with populace around and we think it’s a must see for any animal lover in Chennai.
For more about the Government Museum, click here.