This one won’t be for everyone however if like me you’re a bit of a reptile geek or a zoo nerd, it’s the perfect way to spend a few days or even weeks!
This zoo has one of the worlds most extensive crocodilian collection and I have never before seen more or even as many mugger crocodiles! It is located nearish Chennai and getting there is going to cost a bit by taxi so I recommend staying fairly close. We stayed at the MGM Eastwoods and even this was a little further away than expected… and to be honest (and this was 5 years ago and it still bugs me now) they are not great at organising transport for you – I booked a taxi for 6:00am and when we went to reception they hadn’t ordered it telling me that I had not confirmed it… Awesome customer service! However I digress…
On our first day in India we had the Irula Snake Walk booked which you can do through the Croc Bank in association with the Irula Snake-Catchers Industrial Cooperative Society… Now there’s a mouthful! If you want to see the snake tracking skills of one o India’s tribes (who used to catch snakes for making products from their skin & food etc. but now catch and release to use for milking venomous snakes allowing them to sell the venom for anti-venom production), see those all important snakes and go for a beautiful walk in the countryside this is the tour for you!
The guys don’t speak much English but they are lovely guys and will find ways to communicate with you. We spent about 4 hours wandering through local farm lands during which time we found a scorpion, Russell’s pit viper, rat snake, domino cockroaches and a keel back snake… Not a huge haul but seeing snakes I the wild is one of the most exciting things to do – especially with people as accomplished as the Irula when it comes to finding them.
When we returned we had a little time to see the zoo as well as watch the Irulas milk some venomous snakes – including the pit viper we had found during our morning walk. This zoo is nice an clean with a great assortment of crocodiles on display. The work which they do with these animals (which are not just Indian species is truly astounding and must be applauded! It is one of the few places in India I would love to go back to!
We then spent some more time there to volunteer as part of my work. We were very hands on handling things such as baby gharials (a dream come true and once in a lifetime experience), prepare and clean enclosures, watch identification techniques and see a preview of one of their training sessions – these guys are very accomplished and had crocodiles trained better than most dogs! There is a charge involved for all of this and usually you need to be able to dedicate a fair bit of time for a volunteering placement, but if this is something you are interested in it is a great way to spend your time and money!
If you are just here for the day think about spending the full day with the Irula snake walk, followed by a visit to the zoo (make sure to see Jaws III who is a spectacular crocodile to see being fed) and rounded off in the evening with a night safari where they give you a guided tour of the place in the dark!
Whilst the crocs really steal the show (along with other animals such as turtles, tortoises and lizards – including some great caiman lizards which we had the chance to feed) other great things about the park include the incredibly naughty macaque which were in the area, but also… and I’d say most importantly – the people! Everyone here was super friendly and welcoming making us feel right at home. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this was the friendliest place we visited whilst we were in India! This really is an experience not to miss.