For me, family weddings serve two purposes. Besides the celebration and cheer, they give me an opportunity to be in a new place and explore it as a travel destination. Take my recent trip to Vijayawada for instance. I was there for a week to attend a distant cousin’s wedding. Between the pre-wedding rituals and the big day, there was a lull period when the younger family members had nothing much to do than laze around. So a few of us decided to take a tour somewhere close by. We had heard a lot about this sea-town on the Bay of Bengal called Kakinada but never had a chance to visit. This vacation gave us the opportunity to explore the coastal side of Andhra Pradesh.
Being tourists we didn’t want to take a chance with our own vehicles and rented a car. We booked a cab from Vijayawada to Kakinada with an expert driver who would know the shortest and the best route and where to stop on the way, etc.
One of the largest cities of Andhra Pradesh, Kakinada developed as a trading hub and its history goes back to the days of the Dutch East India Company. The port town welcomed us with its modern infrastructure, established on the foundation of an old world. If there are historic churches, temples, and mosques, we also found state-of-the-art commercial centers and trendy lifestyle amenities.
The wildlife of Kakinada
I had already looked up on the internet about the famous Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, which lies at a stone-throw distance from Kakinada. We had kept our taxi with us and took the same cab all the way to the sanctuary. It was possible because we could avail a licensed and reliable car rental service in Vijayawada which makes the trip hassle-free.
It took us about 45 minutes to reach Coringa, via the Kakinada-Yanam Highway.
This wildlife reserve sits on the estuary of the Godavari River and houses mangrove forests. The marshlands have evolved as a breeding ground for more than 120 species of rare and endangered birds, reptiles, sea turtles, crocodiles, and similar marine creatures. The mangrove forests are also a treasure trove of exotic plants, flowers, and medicinal herbs.
The best way to explore a sanctuary like this is to take a slow boat ride and try to capture a glimpse of the wildlife in close quarters. Our vessel cruised through the backwaters of the Godavari towards where the mighty river meets the sea. Occasionally, we would spot a flock of painted storks feeding on clams, snails, and small fishes that swim around the banks. And there were kingfishers of all kinds. One of my cousins is an avid birder and left no opportunity to photograph any of these lovely creatures from the closest possible angle. A little further near the thickets of the mangroves we saw a noisy flock of storks hovering over a dead fish and lying next to it was two large crocodiles. These crocs are not the same as you would find in the rivers or lakes. The saltwater crocodiles have lighter skin and less scaly. Our oarsman mentioned that this sanctuary is also a popular spot for sighting the migratory flamingoes and purple herons when they fly down during the winter months.
After an hour-long ride, we took a stroll through the forests, where other tourists were also exploring. One of the major attractions of the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary is a long wooden walkway that runs through the middle of the forest and opens up into a breathtaking view of the point where the Godavari meets the Bay of Bengal.
Before the sun went down we were headed back to Kakinada, where we spent the rest of the evening and night exploring the town and being fascinated by its unique vibes.