Few places can be as striking as the salt flats in Tamil Nadu’s port town of Tuticorin. On these vast expanses of land that seem to extend to the horizon, heaps of powder-white substance dot the landscape. Just when the mind starts to believe that this is the start of a snowy winter getaway, the scorching heat and humid air strongly suggest otherwise — this is not the Himalayas and a closer look shows you that what seems like snow is actually freshly-extracted natural salt.
Heaps of snow-like salt flank a stretch of land in one of Tuticorin’s salt flats
Overlooking the Gulf of Mannar, the town of Tuticorin boasts of being India’s leading salt producer with 30,000 acres of salt fields. The cycle of salt production starts in January and the harvesting takes place all throughout October. During the harvest period, the salt fields transform into a dazzling landscape with little hills of snow-like salt.
A salt flat in Tuticorin merges into the horizon
Although the salt fields always manage to perplex the human visitor, another species nurtures no confusion regarding what the Tuticorin salt flats exactly are — the perfect migration getaway.
Flying in from parts of Africa, southern Asia, the Middle East and southern Europe, greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) arrive at the coastal regions of India, and one of their go-to spots is Tuticorin.
Often photographed standing on one leg, these flamingos find a second home in Tuticorin every year
They find a unique ecosystem in the salt flats of the south Indian port town. Away from the extreme heat of their native places, they find a cooler refuge here, while the receding waters of the salt fields ensure a steady supply of food. The months of September and October witness the greatest influx of these slender-legged birds. Local birdwatchers would, however, be happy to inform that one flamboyance of flamingos has made Tuticorin home.
Greater flamingos are known for being social animals, and can often be found in large groups with several other aquatic birds like painted storks.
A lone painted stork with a flock of flamingos in Tuticorin
Flamingos wading across lakes in search of food is a common sight for tourists in Tuticorin. Occasionally, one might also spot a group taking an elegant flight, exhibiting their brilliant pink plumage. Since this is an experience few visitors would like to miss out on, several resorts (one being Aqua Outback) in and around Tuticorin arrange for flamingo tours during September-October.