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Chennai Attractions

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The city of Chennai has a very active conscience and as a result, the people here are very environmentally alert. There have been many conservation measures taken by the local populace and perhaps it is this that makes Chennai the least polluted of the four main Indian metropolises.

Naturally, wildlife conservation and protection feature high here and you can experience this first hand by visiting the many parks and sanctuaries in and around Chennai.

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Anna Zoological Park

Better known as the “Arignar Zoo”, this zoological park was the first to be established in India, in the year 1855. Today it has battery powered vehicles operating mini safaris on its campus. There is a documentary shown on the TV screen near the entrance which school children find interesting.

There are many places to sit and take a rest, plus enough drinking water fountains. A restaurant of what limited capabilities also runs on the premises. The zoo was carved out of the reserved forests of Vandalur, and has flourished ever since. The elephant ride and lion safari are high points of the visit.

  • Location: 18km from central Chennai. You can take a bus direct from the city.
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Crocodile Bank

Almost 5,000 different species live here. A breeding ground for alligators, crocodiles and turtles, they can all be viewed from a safe distance. The Madras Crocodile Bank was opened in 1976 by herpetologist Romulus Whitaker with a view to protect India's dwindling crocodile population and has more than met success in this endeavor.

Currently almost 26 varieties of endangered turtles are being carefully bred here. The park is lush green and this offers shade to the crocodiles as well as rare species of Indian and African alligators. It is spread out over 3.2 hectares of land.

  • Location: About 42km south of Chennai on the route to Mammallapuram. Should take an hour by car.
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Fort St. George

This fort was built by the British East India Company around 1653 and it still houses the Secretariat and Legislative Assembly. It can be visited from 10:00 to 17:00 every day. St. Mary’s Church is also located here. It was completed in 1680 making it the first English church in Madras, as Chennai was formerly known. The Fort Museum is open from 10:00 to 17:30 and is closed on Friday. It has a scale model of the fort on display, as well as military memorabilia.

  • Location: Northeast part of the city, about 10 minutes drive from central Chennai.
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Guindy National Park

Guindy has the distinction of being the only Indian National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary that is situated in the middle of a town. Set up in 1976 it is spread over about 28sqkm. You can see black buck, chital, jackals, pangolin and a wide variety of Avi fauna here. At one end of the sanctuary sits the Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the Governor of Tamil Nadu, and on the other is the forested campus of IIT Chennai.

The IIT, or Indian Institute of Technology Chennai is among the premier educational institutes of the country. There is a special area for children to learn about the facilities of the national park and all its inhabitants. The elephant and pony rides are quite popular as well.

  • Location: About five km from central Chennai
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Snake Park

This snake park was established in 1972 and has an anti-venom lab. It is open from 08:30 to 17:30 everyday except Tuesday. It is run by the Madras Snake Park Trust or MSPT which was established by Romulus Whitaker the year the park came into existence.

In 1995 it was declared a Medium Zoo by the Central Zoo Authority of India. The preserved specimens in the museum are worth a visit. The park has played an important role in the preservation of pythons in India.

  • Location: Situated in Adyar in the Guindy area and can be reached by Sardar Vallabhai Patel Road. It is also about 15 minutes' drive from central Chennai.
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Thirukkalukundram

Thirukkalukundram is essentially a small temple town. Allow a couple of hours sightseeing at nearby Mamallapuram before you head out to Thirukkalukundram. The main temple complex is open from six in the morning to one in the afternoon and from three in the afternoon to eight at night. The main attraction besides the 'artis' is the ceremonial feeding of two eagles at noon.

According to legend these are saints who were cursed and must fly each day from Benaras (now Varanasi) to Rameswaram. They only stop at this temple called Vedagirishvara enroute. The drive along the Coromandel Coast is very enjoyable.

  • Location: About 65km south of Chennai – about two hours' drive.

Vedanthangal

This houses the biggest water bird sanctuary in south India. One of the most important breeding grounds in India, it is an ornithologists’ delight. The layman will be pleased to see the colourful varieties of birds that nest here for winter.

The birds include species of cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, open-billed stork, spoonbill, white ibis, little grebe, Indian moorhen, black-winged stilts, migratory ducks and occasionally grey pelicans. November to February is the ideal season to visit the sanctuary as this is when most migratory species are visiting.

  • Location: About 80km south of Chennai and 52km east of Mamallapuram.
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