Out of the many different breathtaking places and attractions, the state of Tamil Nadu has to offer, the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is one of the most beautiful, spectacular, and pristine places of all. The national park consists of 12 small and picturesque islands along with some adjacent coral reefs and shallow water territories that are located in the Gulf of Mannar in the Indian Ocean. The park is also the central area for the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve and inhabits a myriad of flora and fauna in its marine, intertidal, and nearshore surroundings.
The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is one of the best places to witness the underwater world as this place boasts of some of the most exotic and wealthiest marine biodiversity. The park has three aquatic ecosystems namely the coral reef, seagrass, and mangroves along with the salt marshes and some particular algal communities which makes the park nothing less than an enchanting place for your eyes to behold. The distinct estuaries, beaches, and forests here further enhance its beauty and showcase the natural wonders in all their glory. Not just this, the park is also a part of the third-largest world’s oceanic division that is the Indian Ocean. Being the first Biosphere Reserve to have been established in 1980, the park occupies an area of 6.23 square kilometers. The 21 islands of Dhanushkodi and Thoothukudi were later declared as National Park in the year 1986
The islands are uninhabited except for Krusadai, Musal, and Nallathanni islands where antipoaching sheds operate. Along the coast near the park there are about 125 villages where over 1,00,000 people reside who are mainly Marakeyars, a local fishing community involved in fishing. Since all the 21 islands of the park come under the Marine National Park sphere, tourism and associated activities are controlled here. Visitors are allowed to a limited area inside the park and to the glass-bottom boat rides. However, a visit to this park will not disappoint you and it is enough to enjoy the bounties of nature and to view some of its stunning creations.
Major ecosystem are the Coral reefs, Mudflats, Beach, Shallow water, and Mangrove. HaloduleUninervis, CymodoceaRotunds, C. Serulata, Coral reefs, Mangroves including Rhizophora muctonata, Avicennia Alba, BruguieraGymnorrhiza, Ceriops Tagal, LumnitzeraRacemosa, etc., are other dominant flora species.
Invertebrates: Lobsters, Shrimp, Crabs, Sea Cucumbers, Molluscs, Bivalves, Polyplacophorans, Gastropods, Cephalopods, Sponge, Scaphopods, Echinoderm, Bottle nosed Dolphin, Sea Horses, Spinner Dolphin, Common Dolphin, etc.
Vertebrates: Blue Whale, Fin Whale, Humpback Whale, Bottlenose Dolphins, Sperm Whales, Finless Porpoise, Common Dolphin, Mink Whale, Gastropods, Butterfly Fish, Parrot Fish, Clown Fish, Snappers, Squirrel fish, etc.
Birds: Crab Plovers, Broad Billed Sandpiper, Red Knot, Red Necked Phalarope, Long Stoed stint, Bar Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Lesser Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Tern, Kentish Plover, Lesser Crested Sterna, etc.
Turtles: Green Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, and Loggerhead Turtle, etc.
The Gulf of Munnar experiences tropical and arid climate with heavy rainfall from the southwest and northeast. December is the coldest month with a minimum temperature of 18 degrees Celsius while the summers are hot with the highest temperature of 35 degrees Celsius.
The best time of the year to visit the park is between the months of October to March as the weather remains pleasant and chances of showers are less.
Nearest Train Station: The nearest railway station is Rameshwaram railway station at about 7km from the park. The station receives trains from all the major cities of the country and is well-connected to a road network.
Nearest Airport: The nearest airport is the Madurai Airport at about 150km from the national park which is well-connected to a road network and taxis are available from the airport to the park.
Road Accessibility : The Gulf of Mannar National Park is well-connected to all the major cities and places by a road network. There are a number of government and privately operated vehicles that frequent the park on regular intervals.