Guindy National Park: National Treasure, Chennai’s pride

Did you know that the only National Park within a metro’s boundaries in India is in Chennai? It’s our own Guindy National Park. Most of us are well acquainted with the Guindy Children’s Park, as well as the Kamaraj Memorial and Gandhi Mandapam next to it along Sardar Patel road. The Guindy National Park is situated behind these and extends deep inside, enclosing beautiful forests, scrub lands, lakes and streams.

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The Guindy Park was originally a game reserve, following which it was owned by a British citizen named Gilbert Rodericks. Originally measuring 400 hectares, the park, handed over to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department in 1958 now has only 270.57 hectares. The biodiversity within the Guindy National Park is quite amazing, despite being a relatively small area surrounded by houses and habitation.

The vegetation is mainly tropical dry evergreen flora with over 350 species of plants including trees, shrubs, climbers, herbs and grasses. There are over 24 varieties of trees including Amona Squamosa, Atlanta Monoplylla, Feronia Limonia, Azadirachta India, not that I know what those are! Suffice it to say it’s a delight to walk through and explore on a cool morning, enjoying the greenery and the serenity.

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There are large numbers of Chital and Blackbuck that graze in the open grassland, especially near the Governor’s bungalow. Nocturnal animals include the toddy cat, civets, jungle cat, pangolin, and hedgehog. The dense forest, grasslands and water-bodies provide an ideal habitat for over 37 species of birds, some not seen anywhere else in Chennai, including the black chested, black winged kite, honey buzzard and pariah kite. Apart from snakes, certain species of tortoise and turtles- especially the endangered star turtle, lizards, geckos, chameleons and the common Indian monitor lizard are also found here, as well as a large variety of insects and butterflies.

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Entry into this protected reserve is restricted, and one can only go in escorted by a forest ranger from the forests department, that too with special permission. We had the good fortune to do that last September, and were absolutely enchanted by the experience. The ranger was extremely knowledgeable, and had eyes like a hawk, pointing out things that we would otherwise have never noticed! He showed us unique butterflies, insects, birds, the star tortoises. We had a very interesting encounter with a star tortoise- I don’t know who was more interested in viewing the other, he/she or us!

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The ranger also took us past a cobra’s nest in a thicket. Apparently the cobra usually is ensconced on the edge of the thicket and watches visitors go by with a wary eye. The path past the thicket is uncomfortably close as there is heavy brush on the other side, and we felt decidedly jumpy walking past his resting place! He didn’t appear to be around though, so we heaved a sigh of relief after passing the spot! The way through the forest was very interestingly marked by the rangers with stone markers, wood pointers and so on, done in such a way it didn’t spoil the natural look and beauty of the forest.

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We saw a lot of Chital grazing, and then heard some clashing in the forest nearby. The ranger held a finger to his lips and beckoned us forward to where we could peer into a clearing. There were two magnificent male black bucks, fighting to establish their dominance! It was the clashing of their horns that we’d heard. They carried on fighting with grim concentration until they noticed us. Then they simply receded further into the forest to complete their battle! Later, while walking down a lonely path, they suddenly burst out of the forest some fifty feet ahead of us and continued down the oath before disappearing again!

Most people are not aware of this magnificent reserve right here in Chennai. Other than the occasional aircraft coming in to land, one can hardly believe we are in Chennai, except when close to the road as you can hear the muted roar of traffic in the background. For most of the walk, we were far from civilization, although right in the city. Another singular thing was that the temperature inside the park was a good three to four degrees cooler than the area outside!

So the next time you want to get away from it all and recharge your senses with the beauty of nature, take a walk in the park. Guindy National Park! Its something a nature loving Chennai citizen must do at least once.

8 Comments so far

  1. Maruthiah (unregistered) on April 21st, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

    Wow.. Didn’t know this place before. Thanks for the info. do we need to get some spl permission for this.

    Thanks
    Maruthiah


  2. bharat (unregistered) on April 21st, 2006 @ 11:21 pm

    Beautiful pictures. Cudn’t resist this-“Is the bug in the second pic. photoshoped?”

    Good that it’s got restricted entry and not many people know of it. The bucks and chitals can rest in peace.


  3. Gomathi (unregistered) on April 22nd, 2006 @ 7:36 am

    I have heard about this place, but never realized it is so beautiful till I saw your pictures..
    Really amazing…


  4. S Anand (unregistered) on April 22nd, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

    Google Earth has a pretty good view of the park, and IIT Madras nearby. http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Number/258778


  5. Nancy (unregistered) on April 23rd, 2006 @ 10:53 am

    I’ve never been there – it looks as though I should, though. How does one get permission? Lovely pictures.


  6. Jeevan (unregistered) on April 23rd, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

    beautiful photos. our school will take us every year to this park when i was kid.


  7. Ram (unregistered) on April 24th, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

    David,

    Excellent photos.esp the star tortoise.

    hope to visit the park sometime…


  8. Mohan (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2006 @ 2:14 am

    I have twice visited this park, Once I was at Mani Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore 25 Years ago, Again 8 Years ago. Now I felt the same after reading this.



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