I can proudly call myself a well-informed and a well-traveled individual. But that pride was challenged when I recently learned that there is a small coral reef on the Gulf of Kutch adjoining an island which houses the country’s first ever Marine National Park. Neither had I heard of this unique place nor ever visited. So, it was time to turn the newly-learned trivia into a real trip.
I managed to book a licensed taxi from Ahmedabad to Jamnagar for a safe and comfortable ride, and with my children in tow, I headed out to experience the marine riches of the Gulf of Kutch.
Sitting off the coast of Jamnagar is an archipelago of 42 islands, of which only a couple of them permit tourists and explorers. The most popular ones among tourists and permissible ones are the Narara and the Pirotan Islands.
We left the car near the Nava Port and took the ferry that takes passengers to the Pirotan Island. Luckily, the tide was high, which is actually the best time to visit these shallow shores.
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The island was almost uninhabited, except for the park rangers or those who come to work there through the day or operate the lighthouse. But what attracts people here is the rich marine life surrounding the land. The tidal levels kept going up and down, and every time the water receded, it left behind stone crabs and jellyfishes. While the kids were running all around chasing crabs to their sand burrows, I had to be careful not to let them touch jellyfishes. But the park officers there assured us that most of these creatures were harmless and could be touched, provided we don’t scare them away.
The most beautiful part of this quiet little island was the clear sandy beaches with not a single speck of pollutant. One side of the island was covered in thick mangroves, while on the other end sat a small village with an old lighthouse, which we thought of visiting later.
The children and I walked along the beach, watching the tides recede slowly. We tiptoed on the rocky shores, managing not to step on a jellyfish here and a crab there. On closely inspecting in the water, I also saw sea sponges, just the kinds you see on Animal Planet.
As the sun reached overhead, we were greeted by a huge flock of painted storks flocking to the shore for their afternoon meal. With the water levels way below at that time, the sea bed was like an open buffet for these water birds. Some hovered around the beach, pecking on the sand, while another group perched on the exposed corals and kept hunting on the tiny snails and mollusks that swam by. Slowly more birds started flocking in and crowded around the mangrove trees. There were black-necked ibises and darters, storks, and migratory seagulls (they only come in winter months)
The Marine National Park
The best part of this trip was yet to come and it came when we reached the Narara Island. This island is a coral-rich reef and hosts the Marine National Park, India’s first marine wildlife sanctuary. The park was established in 1982 across an area of 458 sq.km, of which the park covers 163 sq.km.
The marine sanctuary sits in the intertidal zone and we were really fortunate to land at a time of low tide. Replete with seagrass beds, mangroves, corals, rocky shores, and a dense network of creeks and sandy lagoons, the Narara Island looked like those fictional islands one would read in a fairy tale.
I found a group of marine researchers exploring the island and joined them for some download on what I could expect there. Apparently, the reefs are homes to octopus, different varieties of fish including my kids’ favorite puffer fish, crabs, sea cucumbers, sea anemones, sponges, and more creatures with names that are difficult to remember. As I was trying to spot some of these marine lives, my children had managed to spot the beautiful sight of the day! In a few arms’ distances, were two huge leatherback turtles standing still half on water, half on hand, while a crab danced on one of their shells.
The kids wanted to take a photo with the turtles and so we did. The quiet beaches, the mystical reefs, and the treasures of the sea made for sheer treats for our mind, body, and soul.
Above all, peeping into the marine world made us realize, especially the children that how important it is to save the seas and the wildlife. Because soon, we might lose them all and the future generations won’t have the kind of experiences that we were lucky to have that day!
- If you are renting a car, keep the car with you all through your trip, since there is not connectivity around the islands.
- Manage to get a reliable car on rent in Ahmedabad so you can travel hassle-free.
- Check for low tide times and keep a buffer of 2-3 hours when you plan to travel.
- Carry your own snacks and refreshments, especially if you have children or elders with you because you won’t find any place to eat on any of these islands.
Disclosure: It is a guest post and all the opinions mentioned here are of the writer.
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The Poor Nomad
(Your Travel Guide)