(Last Updated on : 28-09-2012)
The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park is a marine biosphere located along with coasts of Ramanathapuram
and Tuthukudi (Tuticorin) Districts in Tamil Nadu
. The complete Gulf of Mannar abounds in notable marine life covering, 21 Islands and 623 ha. It has a core area of about 560 sq. Kms. It lies lying within the Gulf of Mannar
Biosphere Reserve covering an area of 10,500 Sq kms. It is the first marine Biosphere Reserve in Southeast Asia. The island comprises of estuaries, forests of the near shore environment, sea grasses, salt marshes, beaches, including marine components like algal communities, coral reefs, mudflats and mangroves. The Gulf thus house almost 3600 plant and animal species that include the globally endangered species Sea Cow and six mangrove species common in the peninsular India. The dolphins present here also create euphoria to the tourists.
Geography of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
The Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park lies within 8° 47' to 9° 15' N latitude and 78° 12' to 79° 14' E longitude. The 21 islands are 1 to 10 Kms away from the coast of mainland vary from 0.25 ha (.6 acre) to 130 ha. The total area of the islands is 6.23 km2 (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 ecosystem types 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 are all located here. The different types of mangrove species available in India can be seen here. 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 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, Sea anemone are common here. The predominant species on the coral reefs is Halimeda opuntia. Caulerpa, Sargassum, Amphiroa fragilissima, Gracilaria lichenoides are the other dominant species. The Sandy shores of islands is habitat for five endangered marine turtles, Green turtle
, Olive ridley turtle, Leatherback turtle, Hawksbill turtle, and Loggerhead turtle. The first two breed here too. 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. Several large flamingos stay here before returning back.
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 the railway station at Tuticorin. The nearest airport is at Madurai that is 150 km away.