Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is in Andaman and Nicobar.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is a national park of India in Wandoor on the Andaman Islands. Situated 29 km. from Port Blair, the Park is located on the South Western coast of South Andaman, in the Bay of Bengal. The parks boundary runs along the coasts as well as some time along island within the range of latitude between 11°22, 06" and 11° 36 -34" N and longitude between 92° 30.00"W and 92° 40.33' E covering a total area of 281 50 ha (281.5 sq km).
15 islands and several islets of the labyrinth group of islands, like Alexandra, Red Skin, Boat, Hobday, Tarmugli, Grub, Chester, Snob, Bell, Pluto, Malay, Jolly Boys, Riflemen, Twins and parts of Rutland island make up this park.
The reefs were damaged in the 2004 tsunami and the park subsequently closed.
Fortunately the damage by Tsunami was not extensive and the park has been partially reopened. One can visit Red Skin Island. Jolly buoy island is still closed for visitors, but is expected to reopen in Jan 2007.
The park is under the overall administrative control of the Chief Wildlife Warden of the forest department of A&N islands administration. Though the park is uninhabited, there are 8 villages adjacent to the park area with a population of about 3000 (1981 census).
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor was established on 24th May 1983 for the protection of marine life including corals and nesting sea turtles.
The area is dotted with islands, most of them within visual distance from each other. The islands are rocky and most of them are covered with mangroves or tropical forest. Exposed parts of the lands are beaches and rocks faces. Beaches open for tourists are shallow.
Flora and fauna
The area includes vast stretch of enchanting marine waters, bushy vegetated islands, magnificent coral reefs and sparkling sandy beaches and mangroves. Rich marine life consists of variety of coral reefs, colourful fishes, molluscs, shells, starfish, turtles, salt-water crocodile etc.
One can also view a variety of birds like White-Bellied Sea Eagle,Parakeets,Andaman Teal,Heron, Terns, Waders, Swifts etc. To see these one would required more than few hours in the park and thus ant serious birdwatcher should consider taking special permission from the forest department for a longer stay.
Climate is typically tropical. During Oct- Feb is most comfortable. Nights are quite cool and confortable.
June to August is monsoon and practically all tourist activities are closed down due to heavy rains.
Wandoor, a small fishing hamlet is the entry point to the park. Wandoor is about 30 km from Port Blair.
One can reach Wandoor by hired taxi or by bus in about 45 min. from Port Blair.
Local bus service is reliable and offer economical alternative to taxies. Buses are available from and for Port Blair every 30 min. or so. Tickets cost Rs.10 one-way. Local buses ply from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
Tourist Department of Andaman runs 2-3 mini bus trip each day. Return trip costs about Rs.90. The buses start from Andaman Teal House and can be boarded from office of Director of Information and Publicity and Tourism (IP & T), Port Blair.
The general visitors permit you receive on arrival is good for here, but additional fees will apply when hiring a boat or arranging a dive trip since this is a National Park.
To enter the part, you need entry permit. The Forest Department permit costs Rs. 50/person and is available at the counter on Wandoor jetty. Normally only 150 permits are issued each day on first come first serve basis, but in high season the number of permits are sometimes increased by Forest department.
Each camera requires additional permit of Rs. 25.
Apart from the park permit, one needs ticket for the boat ride to Red skin island which is for Rs. 300/person and includes a small boat ride in glass bottom dingy, snorkeling and return.
Plastic bottles and bags are not permitted in the park and one need to deposit money for each bottle carried. The security deposit is Rs. 100 for up to 3 bottles. On completion of the trip, you are expected to show the required number of bottles to the forest official to claim your deposit.
Jute bags are available in the forest office for hire.
Boat operators approved by forest department seems to be the only means to get around. One may explore hiring smaller dingies for moving around the park. Apart from boats in Wandoor jetty which take you in the park, local powered boats are also available at Wandoor beach which take you around for snorkeling in glass bottom boats.
See and Do
Being a Marine park the place does not offer any opportunity for shopping.
Food options are limited. There are few small joints which offer limited options of eating. One can get "puri" (fried Indian bread) and potato / peas gravy etc. for breakfast & lunch. Visitors are advised to bring packed lunch packs from Port Blair.
There are some small eating joints near/ on Wandoor beach (~1.5 km from Jetty) which offer Indian, Chinese and Sea Food.
Packaged water, aerated drinks and fresh coconut water is available in Wandoor. Visitors should carry their own water when entering the park.
Beer or other drinks are not available.
Most of the visitors arrive in the morning and leave by evening. For more enthusiastic visitors Forest Guest house Wandoor offers 2 double room with attached bath and toilet for Rs. 300/600 for 1/ 2 persons respectively. The rest house was under renovation in Dec 2006 and expected to add two more rooms soon.
Simple, fresh food is prepared by the cook, if informed in advance.