A Google search for Guindy National Park would throw up a few results including the one hosted by Tamil Nadu Forest Department. But none of them, even Wikipedia, gives a description of the beauty and rich biodiversity that one can find inside. Many of them in fact confused it with the Children’s Park or Snake Park, both of which are just a small part of it.
The ignorance is probably due to the very strict entry rules and too little information available on how to avail the permission for entry. It was this lack of information and the confusing details given by many, that has inspired me to write about this place. Here I hope to give you a glimpse of the process of obtaining permission and what to exactly expect inside.
Some Basic Facts
Guindy National Park is one of the smallest National Parks in India, situated completely inside the bustling metropolitan city of Chennai. Being the habitat of the endangered black bucks and a few other animals, it is the pristine fresh air and the feel of the untouched nature right inside a metro that makes the place special. Located adjacent to the entrance of IIT Madras it is easily accessible from any where in Chennai; less than an hour from the Railway Station or Airport. Any one wishing for a pleasant morning walk to observe nature from close quarters would definitely love the time they spend here.
The history and geographical details of Guindy National Park can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guindy_National_Park. Nevertheless, to sum it up, it was a forest located on the outskirts of the British Indian Chennai city, in which the Governor William Langhorne (1672–1678) constructed a residence for recreation and sport. In the course of time the area was divided with various institutions including the Indian Institute of Technology Madras which presently shares a very long boundary with the park. The place was taken over by the Tamil Nadu forest department and declared a national park in 1977. Presently it has a walled compound that prevents encroachment and restricts unauthorised entry.
Permission – The Fussier Part
This is the harder part than actually visiting the park, because the number of visitors is strictly limited to 25 a day to reduce the damage to the place. The permission to visit the place is granted by the Forest Warden who is an IFS officer, whose office is located behind the Guindy Children’s Park. You can walk across the Children’s Park or alternately there is an access road passing adjacent to the forest guest house which directly take you to this office. The security might stop you on these road but telling them you want to visit the wildlife warden office should be enough to let you in. You can also call up the office (+91 44 2235 1471) to get some additional first hand information. Here, give a written application which should include the number of persons intending to visit and the proposed date and time. Do take a confirmation from the Superintend or the Range Officer to ensure that the slot you intend to go is suitable and free for the staff. You need to do this because a staff of the park will accompany you through out your journey for your safety who also acts as a guide. Normally they would agree to any day including weekends.
Once your application is accepted you will get a confirmation call from the concerned authorities regarding the same. So remember to enter your contact number in the application and take personal numbers of the concerned persons to tie up any loose ends. We did have some issues of where to report and whom to contact when we arrived but that was sorted out immediately on phone. The authorities and staff were all helpful throughout the process.
Once you get the confirmation just wait for the day you fixed and you are all set to go……..
The Nature Walk : Bliss
Guindy National Park is best
seen on foot. It gives you the time and the setting to observe the finer details about the plants, animals, butterflies and much more. But be aware that the distance can easily add up to 10 kilometres if you decide to criss cross all the available walking trails inside. At times the guide wouldn’t be that patient to take you all the distance. Thus one should plan around 3 to 4 hours for the entire walk and to return to the start point.
It is recommended that you reach this place early morning, just after sunrise and enjoy it as morning walk. You can cover maximum area before it becomes too hot. Mind you, temperatures in Chennai can go up dreadfully high by noon even on days with pleasant and cool mornings. This also will let you watch swarms of butterflies, birds and wild bugs which are active in the morning. Alternately for the late risers, you can arrive late afternoon and plan to be out before sunset.
The most important site is that of the black buck and the spotted deer. They will be in plenty and in their natural habitat. You will find jackals also without much difficulty. You will have to be lucky to spot the rest of the reptiles. Another sure spot would be the different kind of butterflies of varied and vivid colours.
You can explore the lake, which is presently a mud pool but quite long. The park also will surprise you with the rear entry to the Raj Bhawan where the Governor of the state resides.
For the plant lovers it would be a treat to their eyes. Species which you would have just seen in books and television can be seen and felt. The authorities take great care to protect the sandalwood by making concrete rings around it. We also found rosewood, wild lemon and a host of tasty wild fruits. We celebrated our walk picking up the ripe Jambul fruits scattered throughout our path.
I wish the authorities could create a circular trail so that one would not feel the repetition of walking back same stretches of the route. On return if you have the time and energy you can spend more time at the Children’s park. Your return as such would be through it. At the end what you take back home would be wonderful memories; a day where you experienced jungle right in the heart of a metropolitan city, where you could breathe fresh air and enjoy the music of the dancing trees!
Some Practical Tips
- Remember once you enter the gate, barring very few wildlife staff, it will only be you and the guide in the visible horizon. So be self-sufficient for the time inside and ensure your security.
- If you decide to walk the whole park it will take anything more than 3 hours to return.
- Do carry adequate amount of drinking water depending on the number of people in your group.
- It is advised to carry some snacks which you can enjoy inside.
- Do not litter or dump plastic or waste inside this beautiful place. Do save the place for the future generations also.
- There are a lot of edible fruits scattered all around the trails but do confirm with the guide.
- Last but not the least, ensure to empty your bowel before you start, unless you are comfortable relieving yourselves in the open.
Enjoy your trip and have a great time and do get back in case I can be of any further help.