MARINE NATIONAL PARK – GULF OF KUTCH
The Marine National Park in the Gulf of Kutch is the first ever Marine National Park in India. The Sanctuary is an archipelago of 42 islands within the periphery surrounded by reefs of which Pirotan Island is well known. This Park lies in an inter-tidal zone where high and low tides are experienced. Visitors to the area can have the experience of seeing the bottom of the area when there is a low tide.
The Gulf of Kutch, in which place this Marine National Park is situated is an inlet in the Arabian Sea on the west coast of the country and is famous for the tides that come in daily. The Gulf is about 99 kms. in length and divides Kutch and Kathiawar. The maximum depth of the water in this region is 122 metres.
This Marine National Park was established in 1980 with an area of 270 sq. kms. from Okha to Jodiya. Initially it was a Sanctuary and was declared a National Park in 1982 with an additional core area of 162 sq. kms.
The Marine Park has a very fragile eco sphere. The eco sphere and the biodiversity contained in the Park have been threatened by the cement industries, the coral extraction and oil spillage by the refineries nearby. There are mangroves on the edges of the sea in some of the islands. The sea bottom consists of grasslands, marshy areas, rocky shores, mudflats, creeks, estuaries, mangroves and coral reefs. Some of the best and finest coral reef fringes can be seen in some of the islands like Pirotan, Narala, Ajad and Positara. There are seven species of mangroves in the park and can be identified from the roots.
This Marine Park is the host to the Green Sea eater backed turtle and the rare and endangered Olive Ridley turtles. There are other fascinating sea lives in this park. The sea around Pirotan Island is the natural habitat of corals, dugong and finless porpoise. The other inhabitants within the Park are 108 species of Algae, 56 species of both hard and soft Corals, 70 species of sponges, 200 species of fish, 27 varieties of prawns, 30 varieties of crabs, 3 species of turtles, more than 400 species of mollusks, 3 types of sea snakes, 175 species of birds and 3 species of mammals. Migratory birds come in to roost during winter when the climate is at the extreme in many European countries. The near extinct species of birds like the painted stork, Darter and the black necked Ibis can be found along the mangrove forests. There are three categories of birds that can be found in and around the Park. Some of them sit in packs on the tree branches waiting for their prey, while a second category of waders like the Avocets and Phalaropes that wade around the shallow waters and the third category consist of divers like the kingfisher, gulls, terns, osprey, Marsh Harrier and Palla’s Fish Eagle. When the tide goes out, the sea bed is a place full of life and that includes the sea anemone which looks like a flower and the harbor shrimp, starfish that looks deceivingly lifeless when picked up, the sea cucumber that sheds its parts to deceive their predator, the puffer fish that swells up and then deflates itself while trying to escape and the octopus that changes colour to identify itself with the surroundings. The whale shark is found in the deeper seas feeding on planktons.
PLACES TO SEE IN JAMNAGAR:
- Lakhota Talav: This is a lake where there is boating. There are about 75 species of birds that visit the lake. It is a good place to be in the evenings. There are roadside vendors who sell tea and light snacks. There is a small zoo nearby.
- Lakhota Palace and Museum: This is a fort in the middle of the island. Originally it was used as a fort to fend off invaders and the lake acted as a moat. Now, it has been converted in to a museum with artifacts consisting of armory and muskets, a skeleton of a whale and many other things of the past. There are paintings on the wall. There is an entry fee. The timings are 10.30 am to 2.00 pm and 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm.
- Bhujiyo Kotho: Also known as the Bhujiyo Bastion, this is an armory. The building is maintained well. There is a well and water can be drawn up by blowing into a hole by the side.
- Bala Hanuman Temple: The chanting inside the temple has been continuous since 1st August, 1964 and has been entered in the Guinness Book of World records. It is near the lake.
- Old City: A walk through that part of the city will be an experience. There are a lot of wood and stone buildings.
- Ratan Bai Masjid: It is an old mosque in the old city and has towering minarets. The main door is made of sandalwood and inlaid with mother of pearls.
- Pratap Vilas Palace and Peter Scott Nature Park: The palace was built in 1907 and in 1968 the palace grounds was converted into a nature park. Permission from the royal family is required to visit the palace and the park and can be requested at Darbar Gadh.
- There are many other places of interest in the city.
The best season to visit the Marine National Park is from November to January
The nearest town to the park is in Jamnagar which is about 7 kms. The railway station is in this town. The journey from Jamnagar to these islands is by ferry only. Boats are available from Bedi and Nava ports. The tides are to be checked and information is available at these ports. Jamnagar is 92 kms. from Rajkot. The airport in Jamnagar is 10 kms. away from town. There are a large number of buses connecting Jamnagar to other towns and cities.
There are two guest houses in the park with 60 beds. Permission to avail accommodation can be had from The Director, Marine National Park, Pradarshan Ground, Jamnagar, Gujarat. Other hotels are available in Jamnagar and some of them are:
- Hotel Aram: It is in the centre of the town. For bookings and enquiry log on to: http://www.hotelaram.com
- Hotel Express Residency: Log on to http://www.expressworld.com
- Hotel Keshwaras Residency: Details can be had from this site: http://www.hotelkeshwaras.com
- Hotel Orbi Park Inn: Details can be had from the following site: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hotel President: Log on to : http://www.hotelpresident.in
Permission is required for getting on to the islands. Permission can be availed from the Office of the Conservator, Nagnath Gate, Van Sankul, Ganjiwada, Jamnagar. Guides are also available and should accompany the visitors.