Flamingoes, salt pans, kayaking, windsurfing… it appears that Marakkanam is slowly turning from an ‘en route’ to a tourist destination. There seems to suddenly be a buzz around the coastal town, a two hour drive from Chennai and, well, en route to Puducherry.
Surf Turf, for instance, has begun exploring the potential Marakkanam has to offer as an adventure tourism locale. Earlier this month, the company launched ‘The Alampara’, a glamping site spread over 50 acres, on the banks of the backwaters near Marakkanam. The boutique property has four luxury tents from 600sqft to 700sqft in size, a restaurant, and private access to the exclusive sand bar across the backwater.
The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, which already has a boating facility in Mudaliarkuppam, around 30 minutes away, has plans to improve the infrastructure there to attract more tourists to the area and its surroundings. “We are in the process of revamping the beachfront infrastructure there,” says TTDC chairman Sandeep Nanduri. “Shacks, restaurants, changing rooms, and so on will be added in another month. We want to turn it into a camping spot for day vacations. From here, explorations to nearby areas like Marakkanam and the Alamparai Fort will be possible and do happen.”
Arun Vasu, chairman and managing director of TT Group and founder of Surf Turf, says that they offer water sports such as windsurfing, wakeboarding, knee boarding, and waterskiing at The Alampara. “We also take guests on kayak and stand-up paddle trips to see the Alamparai Fort and the salt pans in the area,” he says.
The Fort was built by the Mughals as Alamparai was an important trading centre. In 1760, the British destroyed a major portion of the fort. It was
further destroyed by the tsunami in 2004 and, though it lies in ruins, is still quite popular as a shooting spot. The ancient name for Marakkanam was Soptana and it was one of the main maritime centres in ancient Tamil Nadu.
“This is one of the few untouched backwaters and is a huge nesting area for migratory birds,” says Vasu, adding that in terms of cuisine, the area is also known for its mussels. Marakkanam is also home to the Bhoomeswarar temple built during the Chola period.
While salt pan tours have just begun at Marakkanam, they are also offered in Tuticorin. Tamil Nadu is the second largest producer of salt in India after Gujarat, with Tuticorin, Vedaranyam, and Marakkanam leading theway. “My family has been in the salt business for more than 100 years. I started the tours so people would understand how salt reaches their homes,” says Tuticorin based Arjun Motha, directorof adventure sports company Aqua Outback. As part of the tour people walk through the salt flats, understand how salt is collected, crystallised, and turned into other products like gypsum. Birdwatching is another draw. “We get over 100varieties of birds at Marakkanam — from the grey-headed lapwing to the black-backed gull,” says ArunVasu of Surf Turf. In Goa, tour company Soul Travellingconducts salt pan tours at Ribandar. “We also focus on the conservation of salt pansas only few are left,” says Varun Hegde of Soul travelling.


published 2022-02-06 11:29:00