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'Ainthinai Arivom' Eco-Educational Camping Trip with ATREE's Agasthyamalai Community Conservation Centre (ACCC), Manimutharu

Updated: Mar 12

camping trip

Camping trip

At Agastya Academy, we recently took our children on a camping trip, focusing on the exploration of the five types of lands. This camping trip evolved into a wholesome learning experience for all our students, thanks to a collaborative effort with the ATREE ACCC. In this blog, let’s see the highlights of the trip through the words of the children themselves.

ATREE ACCC

The mountain view behind the dormitory we stayed at was incredibly charming. The dormitory itself was well-organized, constructed with eco-friendly mud materials. We were delighted to be staying at a sustainable place and also receive delicious and timely meals.

camping trip

Day 1 of Kurinchi and Mullai experience

Looking for Butterflies

Before our firsthand experience with butterflies, Thalavai Anna presented us with an insightful session. The presentation covered various aspects, including the different stages of their life cycle and morphology, showcasing actual cocoons and more fascinating details such as documenting a moth that had not been seen for 127 years.

camping trip

Before attending this camp, we held the belief that moths were always dull-coloured. Our perspective took a fascinating turn when Scientist Thalavai Anna shared that there are more than 15,000 species of moths.

Moths, as it turns out, play a vital role in pollination, surpassing butterflies in significance. Tamil Nadu alone houses 30% of India's moth populations, but these creatures face challenges from monoculture, urbanization, and artificial lighting.

Thalavai Anna also shared intriguing information about butterflies' camouflage techniques for self-protection. We also learned about the six major families of butterflies.

During our trip to Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR), the researchers guided us to spot various butterfly species. The peacock butterfly, in particular, captivated us with its unparalleled beauty. Similar to how humans sunbathe, butterflies engage in sun-basking. We also observed their mud-puddling, which was an exhilarating experience. Anish Anna and R.V. Anna added a jovial touch to the learning experience.

camping trip
Common Banded Peacock Butterfly

Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR)

Our visit to the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) promised to be a short stroll through the Van, but to our surprise, it turned into a 4-kilometer walking adventure. Despite the long distance, the nature walk became an enjoyable experience.

Camping Trip

Few of us decided to document our experience through vlogs, turning the journey into an amusing escapade. Many of us collected feathers, and we encountered a giant millipede, and a tunnel web spider.

camping trip

As thirst began to set in during our trek, worries about the lack of water were eased when Antony Anna assured us of a nearby river. He took our bottles, fetched water, and to our delight, it turned out to be delicious.

During our forest trek, one of us spotted a skull. Antony Anna and the forest officer explained its parts, suggesting it could belong to a sambar that perished two to three months ago. The size of the tooth left a lasting impression, but touching it left our hands with a peculiar smell. A quick wash in the cool waters of a nearby stream solved that.

camping trip

We observed footprints of a leopard's mother, and its cub. Antony Anna educated us about pugmarks. Using leaves approximately 10 cm long, we measured the pug marks, with Anna explaining that we could estimate the age of the leopard by examining them. Our excitement peaked when we stumbled upon pugmarks of bison, and elephants' dung.

camping trip

Elephant dung became a fascinating feast for many insects, and we also encountered wild buffaloes, along with their distinctive hoofmarks'. We also got to witness some Wild boars. As our walk concluded, a burst of energy led us all to run and rush back to the van, concluding our adventure in the Mundandurai Tiger Reserve.

Agasthiyar Falls

camping trip

After camping, we visited Agasthiyar Falls and had a great time bathing in the refreshing waters. We climbed 300 steps to reach the Agasthiyar temple, where we saw brilliant rock structures including a turtle, elephants, Hanuman, and a super realistic dog.

Next, the Annas led us near a temple to clean up plastics. The sight of scattered trash was shocking, prompting us to question our shared humanity and common sense. In that moment, we pledged never to litter again.

camping trip

Later, we visited the Sorimuthu Ayyanar Temple, where we came across a stream and encountered the Thamirabharani Barb, a fish species unique to the region. Surprisingly, despite its distinctiveness, local traditions have led people to abstain from consuming this fish.

camping trip

Finally, they guided us to a nearby rock formation to admire a cactus. Surrounded by massive rocks, we cautiously climbed a slippery surface to discover Euphorbia susan-holmesiae a cactus endemic to that region. Some of us touched it, experiencing a prickly and itchy sensation. It was truly a moment of wonder for us.

camping trip

Later, we visited the ATREE ACCC to learn about environmental conservation. The day ended with a tasty meal of chicken and parotta.

Day 2 of Marutham and Palai Experience

Camping Trip
Adhichanallur onsite Archaeological Museum

Following a much-needed break, on day 2 our first stop was the Adichanallur excavation site. Here, we learned about the historical richness of the Thamirabharani River civilization, which is considered one of the oldest in the world. This information deepened our appreciation for the region's cultural and historical significance. At the site, we observed how our ancestors lived in ancient times. Notably, large pots were used to bury people in a sitting position, along with their belongings like swords, jewelry, and cereals.

Pond Ecosystem

Camping Trip

Then we visited the Arunjunai Kaatha Ayyanar Temple, surrounded by the ancient Neer Marudhu trees, which have stood for over 400 years. Here through various stories we learned about the significance of the presence of Sunnais around a temple.

In the waters surrounding the temple, we engaged in a fascinating study on pond ecosystem, wading in the water and observing various creatures. Our discoveries included baby fishes, floating plants, water scorpions, water spiders, shrimps, nymphs of dragonflies, tadpoles, and an array of other intriguing inhabitants. Notably, we also encountered the Common Bladderwort (Utricularia), a carnivorous plant.

Departure to Teri Reserve Forest (TRF)

camping trip

To learn about the Palai land, we ventured into the Theri Forest where the sand had a striking red colour. As we dug a little deeper, the sand revealed a wet texture, creating a playful environment for us to run around. Antony Anna shared fascinating stories and narratives about the forest, making our time there both educational and enjoyable.

camping trip

Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary

camping trip
Painted stork

Our last destination of the day was the Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary. The villagers here refrain from bursting crackers to avoid scaring away the winged visitors. During this trip, we had the opportunity to collect fossils near a pond where our focus shifted to studying wetland birds. In this serene setting, we observed a variety of wetland birds, including painted storks. A notable sighting was the bar-headed goose, known as one of the world's highest-flying birds, with the remarkable ability to soar at high altitudes, even above Mount Everest.

camping trip

Night Van Ride

camping trip

We had an amazing opportunity for a night ride through the forest where we encountered a python. We also learnt about the python's fascinating behaviour called musking.

We used to be quite scared of snakes before, even jumping at the mention of them in class. However, after our encounter with the python in the wild, our fears have significantly diminished. The snake felt cold, being a cold-blooded animal, and Anna informed us that it was a juvenile female python. Thanigai Anna, proved to be a talented and expert guide in the study of snakes.

During the night ride with our torches, we spotted two green eyes amid the trees. Although we couldn't identify the animal, it added an element of mystery to our adventure. It could have been a leopard or a bear, but the experience left us in awe of the wonders of the forest at night. Ajith Anna took care of us by providing food during this adventure. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the trip and gained valuable insights into nature.

The day concluded with an engaging session led by Antony sir, where his insights and humour enhanced our understanding and left us with fond memories.

Day 3 of Neithal Exploration

Mangrove coastal Walk and Flamingos at Puthalam!

camping trip

Our day 3 began with an enchanting coastal walk at Puthalam, where we immersed ourselves in the beauty of mangroves and wetlands. The vibrant scenes of paint strokes and flamingos were the major highlights here. This exploration continued with visits to salt pans, learning valuable details into local salt production, few of us even got the chance to have a go at the salt panes.

camping trip

We then transitioned to a playful experience on the seashore, marvelling at the shells, dead corals and other sea creatures.

Camping Trip

After our coastal adventure, we enjoyed a hearty lunch at a professor’s house. We were served local fresh fish curry and payasam for dessert; adding an authentic touch to our meals. In that house there were hens and rabbits, which we enjoyed petting and playing with.

camping trip

Vivekananda Rock Excursion

Finally, we went on to visit the Vivekananda rock. Upon reaching the parking area, we found ourselves amidst a bustling crowd, patiently waiting for almost one and a half hours in the heat. The relief was evident as we boarded the boat, with screams of joy echoing around as we put on our life jackets. The boat ride, though rocky, was filled with laughter and fun.

camping trip
Vivekananda Rock Memorial

We finally reached the Vivekananda Rock, we visited the meditation hall, witnessing the Meenakshi Padam and other distinct section of the monument and learned its history. The winds were so strong that some of our friends struggled to keep their caps on, and even an ID card flew away!

After a rejuvenating break with cold drinks, we shopped at the charming stalls along the sea shore. The team at ATREE ACCC generously shared a wealth of information with us, presenting a collection of fascinating cards, including field cards, moth cards, butterfly cards, and bird cards. With a bag brimming with newfound knowledge, and an excursion that was truly enriching, we headed towards the Nagercoil railway station. Our experience was a delightful getaway, and also a treasure trove of insights and a deeper appreciation for the wonders of nature.

To Conclude

ATREE ACCC’s deep understanding of India's biodiversity and ecosystem functions was evident throughout the camping trip. The team's friendliness and the wealth of information shared made the entire eco educational camping trip experience truly educational.

camping trip

The hospitality extended by the ATREE ACCC team was exceptional. From meticulously organized accommodations to delectable meals, every aspect of the camping trip was well attended to. The hands-on learning experiences left a lasting impact on all of us surpassing classroom teachings. We extend our gratitude to everyone at ATREE ACCC, from the snake expert to the cook who ensured that we had delightful meals.

camping trip

With regards,
6th Graders: Dhaswin B, Mithun D, Gugan S, Mithusnaa K, Samyuktha C, Layasruthi V,  vikkasree J, Gautham Adithya, Lakshana B M, Vivirithika K, Vishnu D S, Deepika, Guhan, Sivadeera
7th Graders: Akilesh Kumar M L, Krishiv S.
8th Graders: Sakthivel S, Karunya R, Ruvanthika A P, Puzhaloviyar R B, Abinav Visakan K V, Ritvik S, Vaibhav M Y, Vyshnav M Y
9th Grade: Tharunkumar S
 

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