Nature Sprinkled With Salt in Tuticorin
In February 2023, we took four amazing people on a coastal exploration of Tuticorin while being situated in the gorgeous oasis that is Aqua Outback. Here is a showcase of the trip, told through images taken by our guests.
Over 5 days we hopped, waded and swam our way into numerous ecosystems that sat right next to each other- the seashore, salt pans, grasslands, mangroves and coral reefs. With porous boundaries separating them, each of these ecosystems is connected by animal movements, the exchange of nutrients and a host of other mind-boggling processes. Yet each is unique and requires a carefully curious inspection to see all that it has in store!
We walked through salt pans early in the morning to escape the midday heat. Most of us had never seen a salt pan before and to actually witness where and how such an integral element of our diet is extracted, was a truly humbling experience. Conditions in the salt pans are harsh and salt extraction requires a lot of manual labour each day. Many of the salt pans that were not actively being managed had turned into natural marshy wetlands perfect for birds!
Our search for the greater flamingos took us through numerous salt pans, a patch of mangrove, scrubland and a wooden bridge loaded with oysters!
A warm flamboyance of greater flamingos.
We did multiple walks along the seashore, sometimes at high tide where we roamed around the higher sandy banks. Other times we waited for the tide to go out to look amidst the exposed rocks for signs of intertidal life.
Presenting our shell studio! As we walked along the beach, each of us picked up remains of creatures we found interesting, mysterious, beautiful or bizarre! We talked about what these animals are, about their life and natural history. As an ode to this beautiful ecosystem, we created an art installation of sorts. No specimens were taken back with us. We left everything we found on the beach for the sea to take back.
The highlight of our time spent in the tidepools was the sand anemones, barnacles, juvenile fish, oysters and several clusters of periwinkle snails. We discussed questions ranging from, ‘Ooooo what’s this?’ and ‘Did you just see that?!’ to ‘What makes the snails want to huddle together?’ and ’Don’t anemones always live along with clownfish?’
Wrist deep in a tidepool following a school of Targetfish.
A cluster of periwinkle snails exposed at low tide.
Even at low tide, this sea anemone has found a spot where it is just about submerged in the water.
We then went snorkelling! Coral reefs around Aqua Outback consist of large, old coral colonies that rise from anywhere between 3-10 metres deep all the way to the surface of the water. Small schools of damselfish, anthias, sweepers, rabbitfish and parrotfish come to say hello as you pass by. Young groupers and snappers are a bit more shy.
A large head of brain coral.
A small cloud of sweepers hides amidst plates of Montipora coral.
Grasslands are an integral part of the landscape in this region. We explored a nearby patch of grassland that has taken over abandoned salt pans. Within minutes of entering the area, we saw a flock of chestnut-bellied sandgrouse, hunting kestrels while being serenaded by collared and laughing doves hiding in the thorny Prosopis trees.
Some of us decided to give kite surfing a try!
An end-of-trip reflection is essential in helping us take in, process and remember all the experiences we have had during our time exploring together. We sat down with some coffee and snacks as we quietly wrote down our highlights from the trip. We then took turns to share. In the process, checklists and sketches were simultaneously being made!
Vydehi’s top 5!
Goodbye and until we meet again.
With heavy but brimming hearts we said goodbye to each other and Aqua. Until we explore together again!
About the program:
From the salt pans rich with shrimp - that attract a flamboyance of flamingos, to the maze of mangroves waiting to be explored, Tuticorin is a saline oasis. Further out on its shores, coral reefs sit majestically in shallow waters. This program is ideal for anybody looking to experience the ocean in all its awesomeness – underwater and on the shore. This program is also perfect for anybody looking to spend time in a unique natural habitat that supports a fascinating diversity of life. The experience is curated to give you plenty of active time in nature, interspersed with moments to stop and maybe read a book in the company of crashing waves. Tuticorin is serene – with gentle to strong winds, a friendly ocean and the warmth of the coast.