I am a marketing professional holding a postgraduate degree in management. I live in Chennai and have traveled extensively in Tamil Nadu.
GST Road (Grand Southern Trunk Road) is the main arterial road connecting Chennai with Central and South Tamil Nadu. It is a busy road with heavy vehicular movement. Despite the constant sound of moving cars, buses and trucks, there are a few peaceful spots dotted with nature to relax along the GST road.
The picnic spots located within a short driving distance from Chennai (and also close to the nearby Chengalpattu Town) are discussed in this article.
3 Beautiful Picnic Spots on the GST Road
- Vandalur Zoo
- Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
- Kolavai Lake
1. Vandalur Zoo
The official name for Vandalur Zoo is The Arignar Anna Zoological Park. This is the largest zoological park in India, with an area of around 1,500 acres. It is on the GST road 9 km south of Tambaram. The abundant green cover makes it such a pleasant place in a city otherwise used to relentless heat during summer.
Most animals are housed in an environment similar to their natural setting. It is still confinement, but we do not see many caged animals here. Even the big cats can roam free in large areas with moats separating them from observers.
How to Go Around the Park
There are two options for going around the park. One can go by foot or take a ride in the electric car. The long walk is good exercise and an enjoyable experience as well. It takes about four hours to cover the distance on foot.
If you don't enjoy walking for hours, the electric car will take you around the zoological park in an hour. While aboard the vehicle, however, one is not able to decide the pace. Walking is a better option for reasonably fit individuals who are visiting the zoo for the first time.
Animals at the Park
Lion Safari is an important attraction inside the park. A caged vehicle takes us to an open area where lions roam freely. The lion safari takes about half an hour to complete. Other large animals in the park include the Bengal tiger, white tiger, leopard, bison, elephant, zebra, giraffe, hippopotamus and many more.
There is a restaurant near the main entrance serving South Indian food, 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.
Otters at Vandalur Zoo
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2. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Vedanthangal is at a distance of 29 km south of Chengalpattu toll plaza. From the toll plaza, one needs to continue on GST road for 17 km and then take a right at Padalam junction. From there, a village road leads to Vedanthangal.
Many Exotic Birds at One Place
The trees in the middle of the rain-fed lake serve as the ideal nesting sites for the migratory birds. It is said birds from across the world visit Vedanthangal. They come from countries such as Australia, Canada, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. 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, seeing thousands of birds in one place is certainly enjoyable. There are many species of birds to spot, such as the Grey Heron, Openbill Stork, Painted Stork, Little Egret and the Spoonbill. Carrying a pair of binoculars could be handy to catch a better glimpse of the avian visitors.
The local villagers rightly believe that the arrival of birds helps in improving the soil fertility, and they have been playing a major part in conservation efforts for centuries.
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. Pack and carry food with you to enjoy a picnic lunch inside.
Best Time to Visit Vedanthangal
The best months to visit are from November to February when the migratory birds visit. But if the lakes stay dry after a failed monsoon, the migratory birds skip their customary visit to Vedanthangal. Though such monsoon failures are rare, it happens once a while. It is still a good idea to visit after confirming the arrival of migratory birds.
3. Kolavai Lake
Kolavai Lake is in the district of Kanchipuram. The lake is on the southwest side of Chengalpattu town touching the Chennai suburban regions. The lake has been shrinking in size because of rapid urbanization, but it has stayed a perennial lake. Kolavai Lake is a perfect picnic spot to visit early in the morning to watch the sunrise.
There is a small hill nearby from which one can enjoy a beautiful view of the lake. The railway lines run close to the lake, and it is a visual delight to spot a running train cross the S-shaped bend from the hilltop.
Major Source of Drinking Water
Chennai's water scarcity became major news in 2019 after a failed monsoon in 2018. This lake can become a major boon for the water-starved city as a source of drinking water. It continues to be a perennial lake, though a part of the lake has already been lost to rapid urbanization.
Ecotourism initiatives can help in preserving catchment areas and preventing any further encroachments. For now, it is an offbeat destination visited by nature lovers and photographers.
Distances From Madras International Airport
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Picnic Spots on The East Coast Road
Having seen the picnic spots on the GST road, you can check out the picnic spots on ECR.
© 2019 Mohan Babu