Blessed with a great diversity of habitats, coral reefs and mangroves, the Marine National Park (MNP) has the distinction of being the first marine park in India. The park covers 163 sq km and is spread over an archipelago of 42 tropical islands. It is situated along the northern coast of Jamnagar district and southern coast of Kutch. The park area is part of the Marine Wildlife Sanctuary which is spread over 458 sq km. An area of 270 km2 from Okha to Jodiya was declared Marine Sanctuary in 1980. A core area of 110 km2 was declared Marine National Park in 1982.
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Situated in the inter-tidal zone, between the lowest and highest tide levels, the park supports a variety of habitats such as coral reefs, mudflats, creeks, mangroves, estuaries, sandy strands to saline grasslands, marshy areas and rocky shores. Coral reefs are the prime tourist attraction of the park. It is the only place in the world where one can view the reefs without diving into the water. As many 52 different coral reefs can be found at the park, of which 42 are hard and 10 soft. Some of the finest coral reefs can be found at Pirotan, Narala, Ajad and Positara.
The mangroves are breeding grounds for some near-threatened species of birds such as Painted Stork, Darter and Black-necked Ibis. Avocets, Phalaropes, Gulls, Terns, Kingfishers, Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Palla’s Fish Eagle can also be found here. Marine animals like Gangetic Dolphins, Giant Crabs, Balooga whales and Giant Leather Back Turtles can also be found here. The park is also home to mammals like jackals, jungle cats and black napped hare. The park supports as many as 108 species of algae, 56 types of corals, 70 species of sponges, 200 of fish, 27 types of prawns, 30 of crabs, over 400 species of molluscs, 175 species of birds and three species of turtles, mammals and sea snakes.
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While on a visit to the park, look out for giant sea anemone which look like flowers and harbor shrimp in its folds, octopus that changes color for camouflage, puffer fish that swell up in defence, and suddenly deflates to escape when trapped and sea cucumbers which eject body parts to distract predators.
Image: Sunilkr05/Wikimedia Commons
BEST TIME TO VISIT KUTCH
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Kutch is as given below. The best time to visit Kutch is also specified.