In a perfect world, I would go camping every week. The thrill of packing only the bare essentials and immersing oneself in the great outdoors is as liberating as living out a wee-hour dream. And what better experience than camping inside a Marine Protected area? That’s right. This year, I got a chance to spend my birthday at Jahaji, a pristine beach in Rutland Island, which is part of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (MGMNP) in South Andaman Island.
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The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is located 29km from Port Blair city near Wandoor village. The park was established in 1983 with the aim of protecting marine life. It consists of 15 or so islands namely; Alexandra, Red Skin, Boat, Hobday, Tarmugli, Grub, Chester, Snob, Bell, Pluto, Malay, Jolly Buoy, Riflemen, the Twins and parts of Rutland Island. In total, it covers an area of 281.5 sq.km. Jolly Buoy and Red Skin Islands are only two islands that can be accessed by tourists. State transport and private buses and cars ply regularly from Port Blair to Wandoor. The tourism department of the Andaman and Nicobar administration provides transport facilities to reach the park, and private travel agencies also conduct tours. The entry permits to visit Red Skin / Jolly Buoy Islands is issued a day in advance on a first-come first-served basis from the Tourism and Forest Department head office in Port Blair. The best months to visit the park are November to May.