Surround yourself with corals without diving underwater? You can, at the country's first Marine National Park
Narara Island Marine National Park
Narara, India’s first Marine National Park (MNP), is a fascinating world that you can only experience between high tides. Located in the Gulf of Kutch at Jamnagar, Gujarat, this enchanting environment boasts 42 islands, of which 33 islands have coral reefs. There are islands with sandy beaches and mangrove swamps, each a treasure-trove of marine species and a veritable paradise for birdwatchers.
Nature enthusiasts visit to walk among corals, marvel at the mangroves, and spot a multitude of species like octopuses, pufferfish, stingrays, seastars, and sea cucumbers. For those looking to spot birds, you can hope to see gulls, terns, kingfishers, ospreys, harriers, Crab Plovers, and oystercatchers in this region.
Plan Your Trip
The nearest domestic airport is in Jamnagar (52km; 1 hour away).
Jamnagar (52km; 1 hour away) is well connected by train from Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in Gujarat.
Narara Island MNP is a comfortable driving distance from Jamnagar (52km; 1 hour away). It’s easy to hire a taxi from Jamnagar bus station.
best time to visit
Marine life enthusiasts visit Narara Island MNP all year round, although the winter and pre-monsoon seasons are most popular.
- Summer: It will be intensely hot at this time, but This is a good time to photograph birds and sea creatures. Narara receives rain from June/ July to September.
- Winter: Daytime temperatures from October to February range from 18-30°C. This season is the best for birdwatching enthusiasts, as it is visited by a variety of migratory birds.
India’s first Marine Wildlife Sanctuary and first Marine National Park were created in the Gulf of Kutch in 1980 and 1982, respectively. The sanctuary covers 458 sq.km, of which the park covers 163 sq.km. Narara is an archipelago of 42 tropical islands along the northern coast of Jamnagar district and the southern coast of Kutch.
The sanctuary lies in the intertidal zone, so especially in low tide, visitors get to observe the rich diversity of marine life. It is home to saline grasslands, marshy areas, rocky shores, mudflats, creeks, estuaries, sandy strands, coral reefs, and mangroves. Reefs and mangroves, unfortunately severely degraded in many parts of the world, are essential to the stability of the ecosystem, as was seen after the tsunami of 2004, where the few areas that were still protected were those which still had intact mangrove forests.
Most hotels are situated in Jamnagar city, but you will find some options along the road from Narara to Jamnagar.
- High-Range: A twin-sharing room at the Fortune Palace Hotel will cost you around ₹6000 – ₹8000, inclusive of breakfast.
- Mid- Range: Good mid-range options include Express Residency, Nova KD, and Keshwara’s Residency. These charge around ₹2000 – ₹4000 per room.
- Budget: Hotel President, Hotel Celebration, and Hotel Regency offer budget rooms starting from ₹900 per night. There is also a forest rest house located in Theba village, around 8km from Jamnagar, where rooms are priced between ₹500 – ₹1500.
The intertidal zone is a wonderful habitat for marine creatures. Photograph: Deep Vadaliya
Low tide makes for some fine art. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
You'll find different types of coral on Narara's shores. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
An octopus shooting the breeze in the water. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
A colourful tentacle of an octopus. Photograph: Amitgiri Goswami
A Cowrie, a type of sea snail makes for a gorgeous photo. Photograph: Deep Vadaliya
A type of nudibranch, a sea slug found in Narara (Hypselodoris infucata; infucata means 'daubed (with paint)'). Photograph: Amitgiri Goswami
Crabs are a delight to watch on shorelines. Here, a Wolf Crab stops by for a photo. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
Brittle Star, like Starfish, belong to the Phylum Echinodermata (echinos meaning spiny and derma meaning skin). Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
Sea anemone, one of the most common sights in the intertidal zone. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
A Crab Plover keeps an eye out for food. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
Also known as the snake bird, a Darter watches the shoreline. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
A Great Egret working for its meal. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
Whimbrels against the backdrop of activities in the waters of Narara. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
The intertidal zone is a brilliant place to see marine creatures. Photograph: Bhishma Bhatti
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See | Do
- There are four tides in a day: two high tides and two low tides. High tide occurs every 12 hours, and the Coral walk is done between 2 high tides. Generally, it takes 3.5 hours for the tide to reach its highest point at Narara. Make sure you start your visit when low tide starts, as you cannot enter the park during high tide.
- The MNP has coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, mudflats, a network of creeks, and other ecosystems which support a variety of marine and bird life. Here’s your chance to spot pufferfish, Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles, lobsters, crabs, dolphins, rays, jellyfish, starfish, sea anemones, corals, exotic marine flowering plants, molluscs, prawns, sponges, and octopuses.
- Every day at low tide it is a thrill to watch the overwhelming numbers of coastal birds that assemble on the banks to feed on the beached marine life.
- The mangroves, especially, are breeding grounds for colonies of near-threatened species of birds such as Painted Stork, Darter and Black-necked Ibis, so look out for them.
- Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary is not too far from Jamnagar. Visit during the winter to see thousands of migratory birds at these wetlands, a treat for bird watchers and photographers alike.
Good to know
- Jamnagar is the nearest town with ATMs, petrol bunks, pharmacies, convenience stores, and a hospital.
- Collect weather information and details of tidal times from the forest office or online before you visit.
- All major mobile phone networks provide good coverage in the region, including basic data connectivity.
- There are no functional bathrooms within the national park.
- There are no jeep safaris offered at the sanctuary. You have to walk through shallow water to explore the sanctuary. A guide is available on request at the gate.
What to pack
- During winter, carry warm layers, a woollen cap, and a muffler. Wear closed footwear with socks, as it can get quite chilly. The boats in the marine national park are uncovered, so you will need to wrap up to stay warm. Carry cold creams to protect your skin from getting dry.
- In summer, carry a cap, lots of sunblock, and dark glasses.
- For the coral walk, it is advisable to wear thick-soled shoes or sandals, as the reef is quite sharp in some stretches.
- It is preferable to dress in earthy or sky-blue tones.
- Always make sure you have a bottle of water with you when you are out walking so you can stay hydrated.
- Pack binoculars, especially if you are an avid birdwatcher.
- A bird-watching field guide and an identification book for marine species.
- Emergency medication and your prescription medicines.
- A minimum focal length of 250-300mm is recommended to take photographs of birds.
- Carry a macro lens to photograph corals, snails and slugs in the tide pools.
- Carry a wide-angle lens for landscape shots.
- For heavy lenses, carry a beanbag to rest your camera on.
- Knee and elbow guards might come in handy.
- The Dwarkadhish temple, dedicated to the god Krishna, is located in Dwarka, quite close to the marine national park. The main shrine is around 2000 years old.
- While visiting this region, make sure to try traditional Gujarati delicacies like Fafda, dhokla, thepla and hot tea. You will find this fare at your hotel, near the bus stop in Jamnagar, and in roadside eateries. In Jamnagar, Jain Vijay dry fruit kachori, ghugra, and gulkand paan are especially famous.
- This is the place to buy hand-dyed Bandhani saris.
- Make sure to visit Lakhota Lake, and the small palace on an island in the middle, which once belonged to the Maharaja of Nawanagar, and now houses a small museum.
Budget per person
Indian citizens pay ₹50 as entry fees; foreigners pay $10. Prices increase on holidays and weekends. Charges for camera gear are extra. A guide will cost you around ₹300.
Expect to spend approximately ₹4000 per person for a weekend trip, inclusive of a budget stay, transport, and all fees and charges.