Breathtaking views of the sea, palm-fringed beaches, and the relaxed island life are probably the first things that come to mind when you hear the name Andamans. India’s very own exotic beach destination, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are all about breaking away from the rut of your hectic lives and getting a much needed break as you chill by the seaside. But this set of 572 islands, most of which are not open to tourists, is as much about nature and wildlife as it is about scuba diving and sun bathing.
Located about 30km from the capital Port Blair, Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is perhaps one of the most diverse wildlife enclosures you’ll come across in the country. The sanctuary, locally known better as Wandoor National Park, is spread over some 17 islands covering a total area of 281 square kilometres.
About Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
Established in 1983, Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is located in the town of Wandoor, which is about 1.5 hours from the capital city of Port Blair. The set of islands that comprise the park are in themselves a visual delight with secluded beaches encasing thick mangrove covers. There is a myriad of lagoons, coral reefs, rainforests, and mangrove creeks which house endangered species such as angelfish, giant robber crab, and lion fish in addition to a wide variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. In fact, the national park is famous for crocodile spotting. But most of the islands are protected and therefore inaccessible.
The three islands that are open for public, however, are, Jolly Buoy, Red Skin, and Boat islands. Each of these can be reached via a boat ride from the Wandoor jetty. To protect the flora and fauna from a heavy influx of tourists, only five boats are permitted to operate from the jetty each day, subject to availability and weather conditions. The boats usually depart between 8.30 and 10.30am. The National Park is closed on Mondays.
The authorities are extremely strict about maintaining the sanctity of the area and its inhabitants. Keep in mind that any kind of plastic is not allowed on the boat safari. Also, you are not allowed to touch the animals and birds.
Permits and costs: The entry to the National park costs ₹50 per person. Taking a camera requires a separate permit that is also chargeable. Only around 150 tourist permits are issued each day, so it is advisable to reach early in order to get a ticket. In addition to this, you have to pay separately to take a boat to one of the islands. The prices start from ₹300 per person and can go up to ₹700 per person depending on whether you’re visiting one island or more. The boat prices also usually include a glass-boat ride on the destination island to witness the coral reefs under the sea.
Why Travel To Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
Spend a relaxing day at Wandoor Beach: Unlike the other touristy areas in the Andamans, the Wandoor beach is relatively untouched, making it a great getaway for those looking to break away from the crowd. The visual from the beach is stunning as you can see the other islands that make up the National Park. Due to its proximity to Port Blair, it can make for a great day excursion. One thing to be mindful of is the fact that the areas surrounding the beach are known for crocodile sightings, so it is usually not advisable to swim in the water. There are a few shacks along the beach where you can get snacks and drinks.