Chennai Crocodile Bank Trust
Just 14 km from Mamallapuram or 40 km from Chennai makes the Crocodile Bank an easy excursion for sightseeing when staying in either location. It’s located directly off the main highway running between both cities with a parking lot that requires no more work than to turn from the highway into an open space.
On the hot, sunny day I visited, the air was muggy but already a nice crowd of families and locals were milling about inside. Past the ticket booth, signs direct you to follow the rectangular property in a clockwise direction. The snake show is immediate to your left marked with a glossy sign just begging you to come in. So I did.
For an additional Rs, 10 tourists walk through a narrow pathway that dead-ends at the snake pit. Covered earthen pots, numbered in some organized fashion, sit row by row. A snake-catcher stands near open pots replacing and gathering different snakes as needed for the “show”. Irula tribesmen said to be famed snake-catchers, are responsible for this dog and pony show that was actually quite interesting. Watchers, including myself, huddled against the railing which looked down into a generously sized pit. Not more than 4 feet away was the main podium where our MC wowed the crowd with various facts regarding the male and female cobras standing at attention. Hissing, heavy breathing, and a few strikes shook the crowd to attention each time. “Whoa”, the crowd would say in unison. Some ladies turned their heads into their shoulders to keep from viewing the snakes. As the crowd grew, more snakes were brought out to dazzle us. And then like clockwork, one of the handlers brought a snake over to a glass jar where he pierced the fangs into a cheesecloth forcing 2 drops of venom to fall below. In a short time, the show is repeated just as exiting visitors throw money to the MC. Stay as long as you like, there is no pressure from the handlers to exit.
Follow the pathway past marked exhibits of various croc species. The animals are all housed in their natural surroundings in open pools with very little safety blocks obstructing the viewing potential. Several exhibits I walked to allowed me to be within 3 feet of the animals. Had I put my hand in to pet them I might have..
Crocodile Bank is well known throughout India for its conservation work. One of the famed residents is the gharial, a critically endangered breed that while enormous in size, it’s harmless to humans. Keep walking and you’ll discover hundreds, maybe thousands of more reptiles including giant turtles and a separate snake enclosure. Come early to avoid the heat and crowds as families with young kids overrun the place. Outside be prepared for touts aggressively selling odd trinkets. Ice cream and cool drinks are also on sale outside the property gates.
Rs 30 gets you in the door, Rs 15 more for the camera.