The sight of a family of seals staring back at me, through the patchy openings of a thick mangrove forest, with their round and gullible yet inquisitive eyes, was incredibly delightful. At least for those rare moments I was delivered from my certainty of a distinctive existence to that of one where I might be the alien instead: unfamiliar and ready to be accused of trespassing or experimented upon! Thankfully the population of these curious seals is way too less to be a threat to us humans- the constantly burgeoning mass- on the surface of earth. We- my friend, the boatman and I- travelled for some distance, rowing through a narrow waterway between two mangrove islands and them-the family of seals- travelled parallel to our route through the forests on our right. To listen to the squeaks of the little seals was another delight, and I asked the boatman to row the boat closer to the forests.

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The head of one seal: My reflexes aren’t good enough to capture “the” moment; it usually passes by the time I recover from my awe and remember that I need to capture it, nor was my camera pro enough to capture telephoto shots. Hence, the pointer to help find the main object of my focus.

 

Pichavaram is the first mangrove forest I have seen closely in my life. The boatman- a robust Tamil fellow in his early twenties perhaps- told us that the mangroves are not only home to the seals, the fascinating migratory birds, the fishes and crabs but also the only major livelihood alternative to farming for the villagers. They have shaped the lives of the villagers as much as they have for the estuarine biome. If it were not for the mangroves, there would have been irredeemable damage to the villages of the region during the devastating Tsunami on 26th of December, 2004 that ruined many coastal areas in South-east Asia beyond recognition.

What makes it a wonder:

At some places, as we rowed, the route turned pitch dark, the prop roots and branches of the relatively short Rhizophora trees hung over us and some prop roots protruded lower near the ground to interweave with their neighbours, creating some forbidding motifs, all of which reminded me of fictions and movies plotted in the Amazon rainforests and the like: eerie! Numerous unfamiliar small insects and butterflies abounded these zones. Now and then, I spotted small crabs crawling on the roots as well.

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A tiny crab

However, silence is no stranger to me and to anyone who’s familiar with nature’s Continue reading “Pichavaram: the aquamarine charm of Tamil-Nadu”