The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a protected area in ocean which extends from Rameswaram to Kanyakumari. It is the first marine biosphere reserve (BR) in India and spreads over an area of 623 hectares (10,500 km²). The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park (GOM MNP) comprises of 22 islands surrounded by wide spread coral reef areas. It also encloses a shallow water habitat of unique marine biodiversity. Common marine life seen in this region are Sea Cow, Sea horse, Sea Cucumber, Dolphins, sea-anemone etc. Apart from these, the aqua-marine region is the house for many endangered marine turtle species like Green turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, Hawks bill turtle, Leather back turtle and Loggerhead turtle. As many as 510 fin fish species are also seen inhabiting in the waters here including many spectacular coral ornamental fishes.
Apart from animal species, the marine life also consists of different aquatic plants belong to the varieties called Lumnitzera, Ceriops, Bruguiera, Avicennia and Rhizophora. Tree species namely Prosopis is endemic on all the islands. The only prevalent plant species is Pemphis Acidula. Apart from these, 147 species of sea weeds and 11 species of sea grass are also recorded. The five species of turtles and the Dugongs in the Biodiversity area use these plants growing region as their nesting environments.
The Park can be accessed only with glass bottomed boats. So, to boost marine tourism, the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park can provide the services of two fully covered fiber glass boats that would take tourists on an ocean trip to the 22 islands in the Biosphere Reserve. These islands are 21 kms. away from the mainland.
Tourists can view and enjoy the Marine Biodiversity comprising of colorful fish species and aqua marine plants. It also houses animal species including globally endangered Sea Cow (Dugong). The islands have body of water, beaches, sea shore forests including marine components such as algal communities, sea grasses, coral reefs, salt marshes and mangroves.
The populated 10. km long coastal area in the Marine Biosphere is considered as the buffer zone. The 22 islands within the park are of various sizes and structures and account for a area of 6.23 sq. kms. There are also proposals to make all the islands as marvelous biodiversity picnic spots.
Address: Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park 76/1, Madhurai Road, Mandapam, Ramanathapuram, Tamilnadu
Best time to visit: anytime of the year.
Visiting hours: 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm
Closed: Sundays and other national holidays.
Video on Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in Rameswaram