Gulf of Mannar National Park
Gulf of Mannar Marine Nation Park is the first Marine Biosphere Reserve, in not only South but also the Southeast Asia. Running along with coasts of Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin district, the 3600 species of flora and fauna listed here make it one of the biologically richest coastal regions in the entire mainland of the country. This marine park is full of coral reefs, dugong, turtles, dolphins, and balano-glossus. Kurasadai Islands west of the Pamban bridge, between the mainland and Rameswaram, accessible via Mandapam boasts of a vast expanse of shallow waters. They harbor a wealth of marine life starfish, crabs, sponges, sea cucumbers, algae, and sea cow Permission required from the Fisheries Department for the visit.
Total Area 21 islands and 623 hectares. Annual rainfall 900mm Location along the coasts of Ramanathapuram (Ramnad) and Thoothukkud Nearest Town Maduai 150km, Mandapam, Information Wildlife wadern, Mandapm Phone: 04567-230079.
Gulf of Mannar Marine Nation Park is about 43km south-east of Ramanathapuram on NH49, Just short of the Pamban Bridge. Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, Mandapam, Ramanathapuram District 623501. Open daily 7am to 5.30pm. Guided Tours Wildlife Warden, 76/1, Madurai Salai, Mandapam. Phone: 04567-230079.
One of world's richest marine biospheres, the Gulf of Mannar (or Sethusamudram) is home to about 3,600 rare species of marine flora and fauna. The Gulf of Mannar islands are located 8km from the hinterland and spread over 10,500 sq km, with 560 sq km forming the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. It is believed that the Mannar Reserve consists of 21 coral-rich islands that date back to 10,000 years including estuaries, mudflats, beaches, forests of the near shore environment, endemic mangroves, salt marshes etc. Several endangered species like dugongs have been sighted here besides dolphins, whales, sea cucumbers, sea turtles, sharks, pearl oysters, sparts, herrings, barracuda, sea horses and Gorgonian coral.
Tourists can take leisurely boat rides from Thonithurai (8km from Mandapam) or opt for glass-bottomed boats that provide exciting glimpses of underwater life around the coral reef. It takes 3 days to visit all the islands of the National park. The best time is October to March and prior permission is needed from the Chief Conservator of Forests, Chennai or Chief Wildlife Warden, Mandapam.
Mandapam Beach Park
A popular tourist site with fountains, park benches and recreation facilities for children. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust organizes glass bottomed boat rides from here. Though Mandapam is linked to Rameswaram via the 2km long Indira Gandhi Bridge, it is the historic Pamban Bridge that steals the thunder as the country's first sea bridge, which linked Pamban Island to Mandapam on mainland India. Tourists often stop to see trains chug along over the sea and boats crossing under the cantilever rail bridge. Open daily 7am to 5.30pm Phone: 9443112740.