Things to do in Chennai (Madras)

Take a turtle conservation walk

Every night, between January and April, the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network ( walk 7km (4 miles) from Neelangari beach to Besant Nagar beach, relocating exposed Olive Ridley turtle eggs. The walk is open for serious volunteers to join and lasts from 2300 to approximately 0500.

Check out the crocs at the Croc Bank

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust ( was set up in 1976 to “promote the conservation of reptiles and amphibians and their habitats” and is still going strong. It’s safe to say they welcome visitors with welcome arms. Don’t leave without getting a look at Jaws III; at 16ft, he’s the largest captive croc in India.

Visit India’s oldest bookstore

Higginbothams started life when an English stowaway, Abel Joshua Higgingbotham, set up a bookshop on Mount Road in 1844. Over 150 years later it’s still selling the good word and has the honorable distinction of being India’s oldest bookshop. It’s got a sizable English language section, and worth a visit for the whitewashed colonial visage alone.

Eat George Town’s finest street food

Street food in Chennai is king, and nowhere is it so regal as George Town’s maniacal streets. A newcomer may find themselves overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells, so take the Food Trail tour with Story Trails (, who will guide you to the best eats.

Learn to surf, Chennai style

Thrillophilia ( run four- and eight-day courses that aim to get you catching tubes (or at least standing up on your board) before you leave. They take place on the beach at the fishing village of Covelong 40km (25 miles) south of Chennai, so they’re relatively free of tourists and/or potentially mocking observers.

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