Things to do in Chennai - Tholkappia Poonga AKA Adyar Eco-Park

Timings (explained below as well);

  1. 6 am to 8 am
  2. 4 pm to 6 pm

Straight up, I’d like to dub Tholkappia Poonga or Adyar Eco-Park as one of Chennai's best kept secrets. So secretive that I’m pretty sure more than 75% of the population would have never heard about it. The best part is, its kept low key mostly on purpose because it has a very important ecological role to play for Chennai.

My father (Pictured below at the Adyar Eco Park) is an avid walker and had been telling me about this Park for quite some time now. However, since we live quite far away from Adyar, planning for the same didn’t really take off. Plus, we really didn’t know if the Park was worth travelling to on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Brief History of Adyar Eco-Park

The Adyar Creek and the Estuary on the eastern side of the Thiru. Vi. Ka. Bridge covers around 358 acres. This eco sensitive area which has long been home to several species of fauna and flora had begun degrading due to indiscriminate dumping of waste over several years. Plans were then drafted by the Tamil Nadu Government to revive the eco system with the initial focus on 58 acres of land in Phase I before moving on to Phase II and the remaining 300 odd acres. Phase I, named Adyar Poonga, is part of an inland waterway coming from the Adyar Estuary. Since the area has long served as a storm water outflow for the watershed around the Creek, it was decided this function would continue and storm water coming from the surrounding areas would be diverted to fill the Creek. If successfully revived, the area would again serve as a reservoir for tidal water in times of high tide levels.

This write up will stick to the Phase 1 Park and experience therein.

Sunday Afternoon Walkers:

So Appa and I were passing by earlier in the day when we stopped at the Gate to the Eco Park. The fun part is that most passers-by would assume the park is closed cause the gates are almost always closed. Thankfully there’s a guard behind the gates most of the time. We enquired about the timings and were told that the Park would be open to visitors between

  1. 6 am to 8 am
  2. 4 pm to 6 pm

Now this is quite different from the Timings given on Google so one would expect this to cause issues to the uninformed visitor.

Now, we showed up later at around 430 pm and had no issues getting in. There is a parking lot that looks like it could take around 10 cars (maybe a little more)

There is a sort of a ticket booth where the attendant charges INR 20 per visitor.

Funny part is that one could probably just walk in as well. It’s quite a relaxed place. What was a bit disappointing being that they have no facility to use UPI /GPAY payment methods. And the attendant was short on change. So visitors would note to carry small notes with them.

The Park itself is around 3km in Circumference. There are signs all over the place indicating the walking trail as well as a few stops with the park map (in both English and Tamil).

::: Adyar Park :::
Adyar park!!

There is a "Long Route" and a "Short Route". Visitors are highly recommended to take the Long Route unless you have someplace to be urgently. The signposts indicating the walking path also show the directions to either path. The main difference would be at a certain point where the long route starts. The rest of the Long route is essentially a non-circular track and at the end of the Route, one has to go back in the same direction to the cross roads where the Routes diverge.

There are a few bridges like this one where you get a good view of the surrounding mangroves and birds
Yours truly

The walking route encircles a lake and this would be prime bird watching area art the right times of the year. We saw quite a few birds including a couple of pelicans, several species of storks and ducks (I’m no Bird watcher but you get the gist) as well as a solitary mongoose (indicating that there are several snake species in the Park as well).

Makes for a good nature walk
Birds are deceptively hard to capture on camera
An old Mariamman Temple as well (beware of couples looking for some privacy)
Ambling along a quiet path
What I think are some of the Storm water drains
Some stairways dont really lead to anywhere let alone Heaven
The Park also has large but random statues of snakes and insects
Exhibit B of random statues

Overall it was a very pleasant walk. Bets part was that there were more guards than visitors. This seems to be the overall plan since it’s a sensitive area ecologically. The main focus in terms of visitors seems to be school kids (as an educational tool I guess). But as they say, youth is wasted on the young.

Some Cautionary Points

  1. There are plenty of rest spots but it doesn’t look like there are any drinking water spots (There are several rest rooms and one could probably find a water dispenser there but we didn’t check)
  2. There are snakes. Would be better to wear walking shoes and track pants.
  3. Children would get bored beyond a point. Plus, it would not be a good idea to let them unattended on account of the lake and long winding paths.

But barring these rather minor points, I definitely see this Eco Park and the subsequent expansion into Phase II as a much needed green cover for the city of Chennai as well a place to go and just decompress in the midst of nature.