Eco Tourism at Peechavaram, Mangrove Forests
I did a bit of eco tourism a week back (Dec 2009) at Peechavaram, near Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu. Peechavaram is the World’s second largest mangrove forest in the world covering an area of 2800 acres. It is an ideal eco tourism spot of India. Till then I had only read in books and seen pictures of the mangrove trees, it was always very difficult for me to visualize these floating trees. At Peechavaram, I saw them for real… trees floating… their long finger like roots extending into the water searching for a firm grip of land.
The boat man took us to the interiors, through the canals and creeks, the scene was absolutely breathtaking. Many song sequences of different Tamil movies have been shot here, he told us proudly, the most recent one was of Kamal Hassan’s Dasavataram. The huge stretch of the mangrove trees is separated from the sea, The Bay of Bengal in the east by a sand bar. It seems there are 4000 canals encircling 1700 islands.
During the Tsunami of Dec 2004, the loss of lives around this particular stretch of mangrove trees was less compared to other parts of coastal Tamil Nadu. The entire stretch of trees were uprooted and ravaged by the wild waves, but they absorbed the shock and protected the people living around. The boatman narrated how fishermen who saw the approaching tall waves moved in to the mangrove trees escaped the wrath of the deadly Tsunami.
People around now care for these trees more, having learnt the lesson that: If man protects nature, it will protect man from its fury.
This is eco tourism: responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale. It helps educate the traveler; provides funds for conservation; directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and fosters respect for different cultures and for human rights.