Geography of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
The 220 sq mi. long park is part of the 140 km long and 25 km wide Mannar barrier reef. It lies between 8 degree 47’ to 9 degree 15’ N latitude and 78 degree 12’ to 79 degree 14’ E longitude. The 21 islands vary from 0.6 acre to 321.2 acres. Total area of the islands is 6.23 km sq. (2.41 sq mi).
The place is mainly inhabited by Marakeyars, a local Community mainly engaged in fishing. Almost 125 villages with 100,000 people reside here along the coastal part of the biosphere reserve. These people are mainly engaged in fishing. The Gulf receives annual rainfall of about 900 mm through out the year.
Flora of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
The main types of ecosystems found here are mudflats, beach, shallow water, Coral reefs, island and mangrove. Sea grass bed species like Cymodocea rotunds, C.Serulata, Coral reefs, C.Serulata, Halodule uninervis can be found here. Other sea bed families like Hydrocharitaceae and Potamogetonaceae grow here. The Gulf is rich in mangroves that include Avicennia alba, Rhizophora muctonata, Ceriops tagal, Lumnitzera racemosa, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza. All the 11 sea grasses of India grow here with Enhalus acoroides being endemic. The area has almost 147 species of sea weeds. These sea grass beds are the source of food for the sea mammals. Patch coral reefs occur in the Gulf of Mannar.
Fauna of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is home to the Sea cow, the flagship species of the protected area. The ecosystem is composed of 137 coral reef species where 3600 species of plants and animals are associated. Apart from this, the other marine creatures seen here are Dolphins, Sea horse, Sea cucumber and Sea anemone. The predominant specie on the coral reefs is Halimeda opuntia. Caulerpa, Sargassum, Amphiroa fragilissima, Gracilaria lichenoides etc. The Sandy shores of the islands are the habitats for five endangered marine turtles- Green turtle, Olive ridley turtle, Leatherback turtle, Hawksbill turtle and Loggerhead turtle. The first two breed here as well.
The islands form a good habitat for migratory birds. Nearly 180 birds are found here. The warders and sea birds are the most common here. Lesser sand piper, Curlew sandpiper, little stint can also be seen here. Some of the rare birds seen here are Red knot, Eastern knot, Crab plovers, Bar tailed Godwit, Broad billed Sandpiper, Dunlin, Longtoed stint, Rednecked phalarope, Little tern, Kentish plover, Stone plover, Stone curlew, lesser crested sterna etc. Several large flamingos stay here before returning back.
Dugong, a vulnerable marine mammal is found in the park. 23% of the 2,200 fin fish species in Indian waters are found in the Gulf, making it the most highly diverse fish habitat in India. Among invertebrates, four species, each of shrimp and lobster, 106 species of crab, 17 species of sea cucumber and 466 species of mollusc including gastropods, bivalves, polyplacophorans, cephalopods, scaphopods, sponge and 100 species of echinoderm are found in the Gulf.
Visiting information on Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is well connected with all modes of transport. Manadapam is 150 Kms from Madurai. Tourists can take buses from Manadapam. The nearest railway stations are the Mandapam railway station and Tuticorin. The nearest airport is at Madurai that is 150 km away.