Out And About Chennai

Every weekend we have the same conversation – what should we do? Not ones for partying or pub-hopping, we end up watching a movie, catching up on chores, and occasionally trying a new restaurant.

We’ve been working on a book about Chennai for a very long time now (more about how long it takes to publish a book later), so in an attempt to check off all the ‘to do’ things in Chennai, we hit three recommended spots. The Vandalur Zoo, The Lighthouse, and the Egmore Museum.

The Vandalur Zoo

The only driver among the five of us rented a Zoomcar, and picked us up at 8 in the morning. The drive to Vandalur took just under two hours, and we packed breakfast to eat on the way. You cannot take any food inside, so eat a heavy breakfast – it’s a very big zoo and you will get very tired very fast!

If the Chief Minister’s photograph with tiger cubs plastered all over the city isn’t enough reminder, here’s some more. NOW is the time to go! The zoo has four 2 month old baby orange Bengal tigers, and the mama is a white tiger. A debate on whether white tigers are actually albino tigers (they’re not) ensued.

The zoo has at least 4 full grown orange tigers, and 4 full grown beautiful white tigers, apart from the cubs. There might be more that we didn’t see!

White tiger at the Vandalur Zoo.
The new mama white tiger. You have to go beyond the main tiger enclosure and turn into a tiny lane that says ‘tiger breeding centre’ to see her.
The new cubs with their giant paws and their adorable faces!
Look at those eyes! This baby was playing with his mum’s paw and she decided to sit higher and out of reach.

You can walk if you wish, but we hired cycles at Rs.15 per hour to get around faster. The only problem with that is the start-stop you end up doing. There are also battery operated vehicles that show you around all the enclosures.

The entire zoo is green and clean, with passionate staff taking care of the animals. It’s not half as commercial as other famous zoos around the world, but is definitely must-do at least once!

Sleepy hippos.
Gorgeous giraffes with brown-black spots.
This ape looked scarily like a human!
The zoo has a large number of birds, including rare ones like emus, cassowaries, African parrotts, and pink flamingos among others. You can see birds finding mates, making nests and feeding their chicks. Very cool!
Not entirely sure what these bears were looking for! Fish?
Asiatic elephants – they had the largest enclosure.
The lake at the zoo is home to thousands of migratory birds.

There’s also a solitary lion (and lion cubs that we didn’t see), leopards, many species of deer, bisons, a butterfly park, a reptiles section, and lots more that we didn’t have the energy to do! Migratory aquatic birds flock to the lake, and if you’re lucky enough to not have hundreds of screaming kids around, the birdsong is pretty overwhelming.

The Egmore Museum

The museum has upgraded many of its sections since I last visited 6 years ago. While it has a good collection, it does leave much to be desired. There’s very little information about the artifacts and historic pieces, and almost no context of time and events.

The bronze gallery has a massive collection of statues from South India. But we don’t know the stories behind them, or where they were excavated/found/procured.
Many of the bronze sculptures were of Lord Siva in various forms.
Remains from the Amaravati Stupa are housed in a dedicated section. This was my favourite part, although I wish there was more information explaining the stories and scenes depicted on the medallions and pillars.
We’re not sure why there’s a massive dinosaur in the middle of the museum, but it’s a big crowd puller. It roars and everything!
A copy of the Magna Carta – how did it end up in Chennai?

The Lighthouse

Now open to public, you have to take a lift upto the viewing area. It’s jam-packed with people and security guards yell at you if you stay more than 5 minutes. Lovely views from up there, and worth doing!

View of Marina Beach from the lighthouse.
The new blocks coming up on Foreshore Estate.

And once again, we have nothing to do at the weekend!