Pichavaram has the only Mangroves which were untouched and undisturbed by the tsunami. I had never heard of this place before and it was never on my list to visit. A friend asked me to visit it as it was on the way. Till then, I had only seen Mangroves on Discovery or National Geographic channels, so on hearing this, I was delighted and made up my mind. 'Do not hire a motorboat hire a boat with oars' and 'do pay the guide a bit extra' were the two most important suggestions I got from him.
I reached Pichavaram at about 8:30 am and purchased a ticket and hired a boat. Within a few minutes, I saw two women in the water, they were moving gradually as if they were searching for something. On asking, the guide said they were catching shrimp/prawns by hand! The second surprise was that the water was only two-three feet deep.
The next 15 minutes I was just out of words as ours was the only boat and the entire area was absolutely serene. We moved into the denser parts of the Mangroves, where the passage turns to be pretty narrow and the boat is rowed by a single oar. This is the most beautiful part of the entire boat trip;
you will be taken to a small cave like opening and through numerous man made and natural canals through mangroves. Crabs are visible almost everywhere and if you like Oysters, you could just pick them anywhere (please don't though)!
If I had hired a Motor boat I would have paid a larger sum and would never have been able to see the narrow canals, so remember, absolutely no motorboats. The place is quite humid, so I was sweating in no time. I did a bit of rowing myself and the entire trip took around two and a half hours. I was absolutely thrilled and content after the boat trip; I loaded my bike with luggage and headed towards Chidambaram to continue my journey to Kanyakumari.
Getting there: Pichavaram is a small village 60km from Pondicherry, towards Chidambaram; January would be an ideal time to visit as a lot of migratory birds would make it their home. The best way to reach there would be by a two wheeler from Pondi, you can hire a taxi as well. A decent bike is about 150-200 rupees/day. A minimum of 3-4 hours is required to complete the boat trip. Do remember to pay your guide an extra fee to get into the dense mangrove areas where the real excitement lies.