With tourist spots across Tamil Nadu finally reopening after nearly eight months of lockdown, travellers have begun planning short getaways to enjoy a break from work and stay at home orders amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While the pandemic continues to make its presence felt, officials at popular tourist destinations across the state are enforcing strict COVID-19 protocols — like social distancing, temperature checks and mandatory mask wearing — to prevent the deadly infection from spreading further.
Here are the tourism spots that have reopened across Tamil Nadu and their COVID-19 guidelines:
Mahabalipuram: Located less than 60 km away from Chennai, the coastal town of Mahabalipuram is famous for its ancient temples, pristine beaches and beach resorts. The place draws millions of visitors every year for its UNESCO World Heritage Site monuments.
With tourism having commenced in the temple town, visitors can now take a tour of the Shore Temple, Pancha Rathas and Krishna’s Butter Ball.
“The public can visit the monuments from 8 am to 5.30 pm everyday. Tickets will be issued from 8 am to 5 pm and the number of visitors will be limited to 2000 per day”, an official from the Mahabalipuram branch of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) told Indianexpress.com.
Tickets can be purchased both online and offline and visitors can pay for the same through cash or e-wallets.
“Temperatures will be checked at the entrance to the monuments and masks have to be worn at all times”, added the official.
Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology: Home to 17 species of crocodiles and 2,000 reptiles, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT), located along Chennai’s East Coast Road (ECR), is popular among the young and the old for housing a wide variety of reptiles such as crocodiles, alligators, snakes, komodo dragons, iguanas, turtles and tortoises.
MCBT is now open for the public, with officials conducting offline tours, night safaris and virtual webinars. Those visiting the zoo and research station will have to undergo a temperature check before entering and will have to wear a face mask for the entire duration of their visit.
Courtrallam Falls: Courtrallam is a town in Tamil Nadu’s Tenkasi district. The town’s most popular landmark is the Courtrallam Falls — a group of nine falls, which were otherwise frequented by tourists from all over the country.
Visitors can now access the Main Falls, Five Falls, Old Courtrallam Falls and Tiger Falls from 6 am to 6 pm everyday. Masks are mandatory and the number of people bathing in the falls will be regulated to ensure social distancing.
Monkey Falls: Located on the Pollachi-Valaparai Road in Coimbatore district, Monkey Falls has been reopened for the public for the first time in eight months. Visitors have been urged to wear masks at all times and sanitise their hands frequently, while staff members have been instructed to check temperatures with a thermal scanner upon entry. About 15 people will be allowed to bathe at the waterfalls at a time.
Nilgiris: All tourist spots in the Nilgiris district — including Ooty Lake, Boat House, Pykhara Boat House, Government Botanical Garden, Kattery Park, Ninth Mile, Doddabetta Peak and Kodanad View Point — have been reopened for public entry. However, tourist spots in forest areas continue to remain closed to the public.
Visitors must wear masks at all times, while sanitisers, masks and gloves have been provided to the staff. Further, ticket counters and seating areas will be disinfected every two to three hours. Tourists are encouraged to book tickets online.
E-pass is mandatory for those visiting the Nilgiris from other districts.
Kodaikanal: The hill station of Kodaikanal in Dindigul district has been reopened for tourists. While visitors are allowed to make trips to the Rose Garden, Bryant Park, Chettiar Park and Kodaikanal lake, forest areas remain closed to the public.
Visitors have to wear masks at all times and their temperature will be checked upon entry.
E-pass is mandatory for those visiting Kodaikanal from other districts.
Kanyakumari: Tourism in the southernmost tip of India, where one can catch both the sunrise and sunset at the beach, has resumed. Visitors can now enjoy a trip to Kanyakumari beach, Kanyakumari boat house, Eco Park, Mathur Thottipalam, Vivekananda Rock from 6 am to 6 pm.
Those found to be violating social distancing norms will be fined by the respective officials.
Marina Beach: India’s longest beach, the Marina Beach in Chennai, has been reopened after over eight months of lockdown. The beach attracts scores of people, right from fishermen and vendors who make a living on the beach, to morning walkers, tourists and the general public who previously thronged the beach everyday.
Following Supreme Court orders, the Chennai Corporation has implemented various measures, such as setting up dustbins around the beach, deploying more sanitary workers, and cleaning up the drinking water area and the public toilets near it. Patrol vehicles and policemen mounted on horses have also been stationed.
Yercaud: Another popular hill station in Tamil Nadu, Yercaud has also reopened for visitors. Tourists can visit Yercaud Eco Park, Annavari Muttal falls, Karumbapatti Zoological Park, Anna Park, Lake Park, Rose Garden, Yercaud Lake between 9 am and 5 pm everyday.
Tourists opting for a boat ride along the Yercaud Lake may have to wait a little longer than expected, as the number of passengers per boat has been reduced to enable social distancing.
Masks are mandatory and visitors have to sanitise their hands before visiting these spots. Temperatures will be checked upon entry and staff has been deployed at various places to prevent crowding.
E-pass is mandatory for those visiting Yercaud from other districts.
Hogenekkal: Hogenekkal Falls, the famous waterfalls on the river Kaveri between Dharmapuri district and Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district, has been reopened for public entry, so long as the water inflow remains below 20,000 cusecs.
Tourists can take coracle rides from Kothikalparai to Manalmedu to view the falls. A total of four passengers, including the coracle operator will be allowed per ride.
Masks are mandatory and visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. However, a visit to the falls is subject to the water inflow.
Covelong Surfing Point: A fishing hamlet along Chennai’s ECR that is popular for surfing, Covelong Surfing Point or Kovalam has been reopened for public entry. Instructors have begun taking surfing lessons on the beach, with surfboards disinfected before and after every use.
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