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MARINE NATIONAL PARK
MARINE-GUJARAT

 

Jamnagar has the Countrys first Marine National Park, since 1982

This is one of the rare places in the world where one can look at corals without having to dive down into the water.

One just has to walk in the water, when the tide ebbs,

in about 1 to 2 feet of water and watch this facinating underwater world of corals.

 

The fascinating underwater world of the Marine Sanctury & National Park. 162.89 Square Kilometers of Marine National Park and 457.92 Square Kilometers of Marine Sanctury in the Gulf of Kutch at Jamnagar offers exotic sightings for people willing to go on an adventure trip in this area.
 
Marine National Park in the Gulf of Kutch is situated on the southern shore of the Gulf of Kachchh in the Jamnagar District ofGujarat state, India. In 1980, an area of 270 km2. from Okha to Jodiya was declared Marine Sanctuary. Later, in 1982, a core area of 110 km2 was declared Marine National Park under the provisions of the Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972 of India. It is the first national marine park of India. There are 42 islands on the Jamnagar coast in the Marine National Park, most of them surrounded by reefs. The best known island is Pirotan. Gujarat attracts tourists from all over India.
 
Located on the southern shores of the Gulf of Kutch, this was established in the year 1982, under the Wildlife Protection Act. The landscape showcases varieties of coral reef ecosystem along with the mangrove plantation. One can see six species of mangrove in the Marine National Park of Gujarat. One can see Avicennia marina, Avicennia alba, Avicennia officianalis, Rhizophora mucronata, Ceriops tagal, Aegiceros corniculata.
 
The Marine National Park in Gujarat is also the nesting grounds of varied avian species. From herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills to ducks, gulls and little cormorants can be seen over here. From the world’s four horned antelope, chowrashingha, Dugong, a kind of a seal to the largest herd of blackjacks you can get a glimpse of all the rare species in this Marine National Park.
 
From turtles, shrimp, sponge, eels, sea urchin lurk the Marine National Park is simply colorful and interesting to the nature lovers. The tide is high. Your boat sets off from the jetty and you are moved across the salt water that covers seventy percent of the planet. Your stars align, and in the crossing, you see a pod of dolphins surface for air. If you come during winter, above you spreads a V of impossible length, several thousand migratory birds. Out of the corner of your eye you see something drop out of the sky, a kingfisher swooping down on breakfast. As you near the islands, you see a curious tree, with roots that stick out of the water, mangroves. There are birds wading among the roots, and more packed in the branches.
 
Later, as the water recedes, revealing a vibrant and unique, but terribly fragile eco-system, you step tenderly towards it, finding a veritable underwater forest with creatures of fantastic colors and patterns and textures that you used to want to draw as a child. As the tide turns, the beach floods with more birds than you’ve seen for months, feeding on the bodies of creatures left behind by the waters.

The ocean invites you to meet its family. Go, make friends.

 

Ferry to the islands

Just the ride from Jamnagar to the islands, even before exploring them on foot, is spectacular. Be sure to look out for different kinds of birds in each habitat, as described in the general information section. You might also be able to tour some of the other islands by boat if you inquire.
 
You must ask permission to enter the islands, and we suggest you request a guide, both for the richness of your own experience and for the protection of the sanctuary, since the impact of visitors can be heavy.

 

Background

India’s first Marine Wildlife Sanctuary and first Marine National Park were created here in the Gulf of Kutch in 1980 and 1982, respectively. This was a leap forward in societal and governmental consciousness about interacting with the natural world. The sanctuary covers 458 sq km, of which the park covers 163 sq km. It is an archipelago of 42 tropical islands along the northern coast of Jamnagar district and the southern coast of Kutch.
 
The sanctuary lies in the intertidal zone, between the lowest and highest tide levels, the area that lies below water in high tide, and is exposed during low tide. This gives us a chance to observe the richest diversity of marine habitats in the country, including saline grasslands, marshy areas, rocky shores, mudflats, creeks, estuaries, sandy strands, coral reefs, and mangroves. The latter two are an essential part of not only the local environment, but also the stability and diversity of the planet; they are unfortunately severely degraded in many parts of the world. During the Tsunami in 2004, the few areas that were still protected and had mangrove forests intact made it dramatically apparent how important this was, in comparison to the areas that were open and vulnerable.
 
Some of the finest coral reef fringe islands are found at Pirotan, Narala, Ajad and Positara, often a surprise even to Gujaratis. There are 52 coral species, 42 of them hard and 10 of them soft. Coral is made of millions of colorful little animals called polyps, bound together by algae and other plants, in a variety of intriguing shapes and formations. The polyps breath out carbon dioxide, while the binding plants release oxygen, with a high nutrient turnover equivalent to a tropical rainforest. The rock-like formations provide shelter and safe breeding grounds for various tiny marine species in hiding from larger predators.
 
There are 7 species of mangroves here, performing vital functions such as maintaining the balance between salt and fresh water systems, and protecting the coast from erosion. The mangrove trees can be identified by their peculiar roots, which reach up through the mud and out of the water.
 
The mangroves are breeding grounds for colonies of near-threatened species of birds such as Painted Stork, Darter and Black-necked Ibis. You will find these and other species of birds packed in the branches, ready to feed on the fish and invertebrate that are attracted to the protein-rich leaf-litters of the swamp forest. Other species are waders, such as Avocets and Phalaropes, usually found in shallow waters. A third category can be seen over the open waters, swooping down to catch fish, birds such as Gulls, Terns, Kingfishers, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Palla’s Fish Eagle. There are about 80 recorded species of birds on these islands. Every day at low tide it is a thrill to watch the overwhelming numbers of coastal birds that assemble on the banks to feed on the beached marine life. In winter they are joined by the migratory birds, which can also be seen flying in V-formations over the Gulf of Kutch in flocks of several thousands.

 

At low tide wading in the shallow waters you will also meet

  • giant sea anemone, animals that look like flowers, and harbor shrimp in its folds, the two life forms exchanging food for protection in a heartwarming symbiosis,
  • more than 40 species of sponges, variously colored,
  • starfish, some of whom have a disconcerting ability to drop their arms when handled,
  • sea cucumber, a creature that ejects its body parts to distract a predator,
  • octopus that changes color for camouflage,
  • puffer fish that swell up in defense, and suddenly deflate to escape when trapped,
  • the occasional dolphin in the waters further away,
  • and other charming local residents such as lichen, jellyfish, mollusks, sea-slugs, sea urchins, echinoderms, crabs and other crustaceans, mudskippers, worms. Many of these are decorated with brilliant colors and intricate designs.

 
The beaches of the Gujarat coast are breeding grounds for the Green Sea Turtle and other marine turtles. In the deeper sea of this area lives the whale shark, feeding off plankton, considered the largest fish in the world, now endangered because it is killed for its flesh and cartilage oil.
 
This is one of the rare places in the world where one can look at corals without having to dive down into the water.
 
One just has to walk in the water, when tide ebbs, in about 1 to 2 feet of water and watch this facinating underwater world of corals.

 

         The Marine National Park & Sanctuary area has:

  • Coral Reef
  •   37 species of Hard & Soft Corals
  • 70 species of Sponges
  • 27 species of Prawns
  • 30 species of Crabs
  • 200 species of Molluscs
  • Endangered Sea Turtles like the Green Sea, Oliver Riddley & Leather Back.
  • Porpoise, Common dolphins, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphins.
  • Dugongs (very rare to spot)
  • 108 species of brown, green & red Algae
  • Mangrove forests with Avicennia marina, Ceriops tagal, Aegiceras corniculatum & Rhizophora mucronata.
  • Ray fishes which also include Sting Rays !!
  • 200+ species of Birds
  • There are beautiful islands here where one can see pristine & non corrupted sandy beaches..

 

Pirotan Island

Pirotan Island is about 7 nautical miles from Rozi port. Its around 1 hour journey through the beautiful Chejja creek. You have to board the boat from Rozi port Sailing on the tranquil waters of Chejja creek, taking the curves, with mangroves forest on. Both sides is a wonderful experience..
 
You are sure to see lots of birds also have a chance of spotting playful dolphins, sea turtles, ray fishes..
 
For access to the Marine National Park, one has to take permissions from the Forest Department, The Customs Department & the Port. In case of foreign tourists additional permission from the Police Department is also needed.
 
The fact which makes it worth planning a trip beforehand is that, one has to confirm the tide timings, as the boat can reach the pirotan island only when its full tide, the high tide has a 12 hours cycle…ie; if today high tide is at 6:00 AM then next high tide will be at 6:00 PM.. The tide timings keep changing everyday, As a rule of thumb, the lunar or the Gujarati dates of  5th, 6th & 7th are the most favorable, when the high tide time is at day break One should be able to go to the island for the adventure trip, in the morning and come back in the evening as the Island is so unexploited that no facilities have been developed yet… Not even drinking water is available on the island.
 
The only people there on the island are Forest Guard, Light House people & Mujhavar (Server) at the shrine of holy Saint Khwaja Khizer R.A.

 

Visiting the Pirotan Island in fishing boats is prohibited.

For doing the coral walk, its advised to wear thick soled shoes or sandals, because some of the places in the reef are sharp.  In winter it gets quite cold and the boats available do not have covering, so its always better to wear warm clothes and carry cold creams to protect your skin from getting dry and in summer, lots of sun block cream, cap and dark glasses..
 
For a group of 12 people (Indian nationals) a Basic day trip would cost about Rs. 2500 per person (which includes Permits, Passenger Boat rental, Guide, packed Meals and potable Water – From Rozi port to Rozi port).
 
Pirotan island would re-open from 16/10/2015, with regular day-trips on the dates when high tide would be in mornings..

 

Narara Island:

The Island accessible by road..

One can just drive to Narara, which is about 60 KMS from Jamnagar towards Dwarka; for doing the “Coral Walk” without sailing to the Islands.

Most people do coral walking at Narara only, as not every time one can reach Jamnagar on the favorable dates to visit Pirotan.

The reef at Narara is like Pirotan with similar marine life and birds..

We have to consider the following points with regards to visiting Narara:
 

  • There are 4 tides in a day.. 2 high tides and 2 low tides.
  • High tide occurs every 12 hours..
  • The Coral walk is done in the dry spell between 2 high tides.. Generally it takes 3 and half hours for tide to reach the highest point at Narara on any given day.. and same time is taken for the ebb..
  • You may read this article to understand tides of the sea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide
  • For example, if high tide on 15/04/15 is predicted to be around 3.30AM and then again at 3.20PM – then the coral walk should be started by 7 AM and one should be out of the reef by noon – which is 3 and half hours before the next high tide.
  • A coral walk of about 5 kilometers in the reef generally takes about 3 to 4 hours.
  • For visiting Narara, one has to take permit from Forest Dept.
  • Permit to be obtained on the spot at Narara itself.
  • For a group of upto 6 Indian nationals in a car, entry permit would be Rs. 400 for the group (add 25% extra on weekends & holidays). For each still camera Rs. 200.
  • For a group of upto 6 Foreign nationals in a car, entry permit would be USD. 40 for the group (add 25% extra on weekends & holidays). For each still camera USD. 20.
  • Forest Dept. has kept guides at Narara and one may be got there after paying Rs. 300.
  • For doing the coral walk, its advised to wear thick soled shoes (old sports shoes or crocs), because some places in the reef are sharp.
  • One should take along some snacks and water.
  • Taxi can be hired from taxi operators at additional cost.

The Issuing of Permits for visiting Narara start from 16th October till the first rains.

For assistance in visiting Narara, knowing the coral walk timings of a particular date & retaining an experienced guide, you may contact Mr. Mustak at Hotel President, Jamnagar.

 

Fauna

The fauna found here include: 70 species of sponges are found. Coral 52 species including 42 species of hard coral and 10 species of soft coral. Jellyfish, Portuguese man of war and sea anemones are other coelentrates found here. Arthropods include 27 species of prawns, 30 species of crabs, lobsters, shrimps and other crustaceans. Molluscs like pearl oysters and sea slugsare present. Octopus which change colour are also found. Echinoderms like starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins are present. The fishes found are puffer fishes, sea horse,sting ray, mudskippers and whale sharks which are an endangered species. Endangered sea turtles such as green sea turtles, olive ridleys and leatherbacks are seen here. There are three species of sea snakes. There are dugongs and smaller cetaceans like finless porpoises, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Larger whales such as blue whales, sei whales are seen. Humback, and sperm whales may have been almost wiped out due to illegal whaling by the Soviet Union and Japan. Whale sharks can be found in deeper areas. A surprisingly large scale greater flamingo colony, reaching up to 20,000 nests is known to occur along the gulf. There are 42 islands in the Arabian Sea with coral reefs and the park is situated in one of those

 

 

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