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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Marine Parks: Balancing Eco-Tourism With Conservation

By Parth Sandhya | INN Live

India boasts of several national parks which are hotspots of bio-diversity. Not known to many, India also has several marine national parks which protect marine flora and fauna.

Marine national parks and sanctuaries are established to protect marine plants and animals. We list four marine parks of India.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is located in Wandur National Park, about 30 km south-west of Port Blair, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Popular for ecotourism opportunities, islands like Jollybuoy and Redskin are favourite with scuba-divers and snorkelers.

The national park is natural breeding ground and nesting place for the Leatherback, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Green turtles. Several hundred estuarine crocodiles can also be found here. The coconut crab, roseate tern, black-naped tern and the sooty tern are also found on these islands in great abundance. A unique feature of these islands is the dense mangrove cover.


Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, about 10 km away from the east coast of Tamil Nadu, consists of 21 small islands (islets) and coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar in the Indian Ocean. The core area of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve lies between Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) and Dhanushkodi.

The national park is picturesque for its rich confluence of estuaries, mudflats, beaches and forests. The lush green islands are dominated by mangroves, though flowering herbs, sea grass and seaweeds are abundant.

The Dugong, a vulnerable marine mammal is the most important inmate of the park. The park is also home to Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, finless porpoise, spinner dolphin and common dolphin. About 510 of the 2,200 fin fish species in Indian waters are found in the Gulf of Mannar, making it the most highly diverse fish habitat in India.

The islands in the Gulf of Mannar are uninhabited and access is prohibited. Tourists visiting the marine national park can use glass-bottomed boats to see the marine splendor abundant in this area.

Visiting the islands is dependent on permission received from the Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wild Life Warden. Accommodation and hotels are available both in Rameswaram and Ramanathapuram.

Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park
A spectacular ferry ride away from the mainland in the Jamnagar district of Gujarat, the Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park is a protected marine sanctuary consisting of an archipelago 42 islands. Most of the islands are surrounded by reefs and Pirotan is the most famous of the islands.

The unique thing about this marine park is that it 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. The marine habitats include saline grasslands, marshy areas, rocky shores and mangroves. The fauna here includes dolphins, coral, dugong, the finless porpoise, giant sea anemones, octopus that changes color for camouflage and even the rare puffer fish.

Rani Jhansi Marine National Park
Located in Ritchie’s Archipelago in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park is a hub for ecotourism. Designated as a national park in 1966, the park spreads across three Islands – John Lawrence Island, Henry Lawrence Island and Outram Island. The park is famous for its coral reefs and marine life. Special permit is required to visit this marine park.
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