When it comes to National Parks, it is easy to visualize images of wild animals running around within dense forests. But wait, till we introduce you to one of the best marine national parks of India- Wandoor National Park, also known as the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, situated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Spread across 15 islands and covering an area of 281.5 sq km, the awe-inspiring beauty of these magnificent woods shall indeed leave you spellbound!
[Also Checkout: Top 5 National Parks in Andaman and Nicobar Islands]
Standing atop the islands, these are dense forests that seem to be floating in the Bay of Bengal. The scenic beauty of this place is like no other. The vegetation almost soaks in the ocean, while roots of the mangrove trees spread deep down into the sea. Of the 15 islands, two are available to the tourists namely the Jollybuoy and the Redskin Island. While Jollybuoy is famous for the marine species and birds, Redskin is home to a breathtaking variety of corals. A lot of interesting features such as caves and caverns, beaches etc combine to create the magical experience this place has to offer.
The Wandoor National Park has a tropical climate. The average temperature stays around 24˚C to 35˚C, never really reaching the extremes. The extreme conditions here are reached in the rainy season, as this place receives heavy rainfall during the months of May to September and November to mid December. Maximum rainfall received is around 2534 mm.
Best Time to Visit
The rains can sometimes cause heavy damage and prove to be treacherous. Tropical storms during late summer can also cause extensive damage. Hence, the best time to visit is from November to May.
Wildlife & Vegetation
The Wandoor National Park is home to an amazing variety of marine animals, reptiles, birds as well as terrestrial animals. The major attraction at this national park is the coral reef.
Many terrestrial animals can be found at the islands of the Wandoor National Park. These include the Andaman wild pig, spotted deer etc. The spotted deer was brought to the Redskin Islands by the Britishers.
- Marine Diversity
Precisely what these islands are famous for! World’s largest turtle species- the leatherback turtle lives here and can be found during the months of November and February. The Green turtle, the Hawksbill sea turtle and olive ridleys are among other varieties of turtle found on these islands. The Estuarine Crocodiles can be found along the south western coast of southern Andaman. Other animals including the Coconut Crab form an important part of the Wandoor family. Along the shores you can find the starfishes, sea cucumber, anemones, cowries, turbots and spider conch etc.
A little deeper into the sea and you can witness a whole new world that is beautiful beyond imagination: The coral reef and the mind boggling variety of colourful fishes swimming across the blue hue. The fisher here include the black surgeons, brightly coloured parrot green fish, blue damsels, clownfish, silver jacks, yellow butterfly fish and so many more! The lively corals with their peculiar and astounding colourful limestone skeletons present a jaw-dropping beautiful scene that shall remain etched in your memories for years to come.
King cobra, pit vipers, day gecko, krait and the estuarine crocodiles are the major reptilian species found in these islands.
The Wandoor National park is regarded as the bird watcher’s paradise! The Roseate Tern, Black-naped tern, Sooty Tern, Whistling teal, White-bellied sea eagle, Andaman Teal, Reef herons, parakeets are found in these islands.
The vegetation at Wandoor is like none other you’ve witnessed so far. The picturesque beauty of roots soaking in water, the pristine sand of the beaches, trees hanging right down to the sea, the coral lined islands and the densely forested area comprising of mangrove trees will make you fall in love with this place. The landscape is covered with a thin layer of soil, mostly the alluvial kind and the open spaces are layered with creepers and shrubs. Narrow passageways, rocky caves and caverns are present on these islands. Tropical flowers including the orchids and variety of plant species such as the silk cotton tree, bamboo, fern etc add to the scenic beauty of the place. Over 60 species of mangrove trees exist on these islands.
Distance From Nearby and Major Cities
The Wandoor National Park lies at a distance of 29 kms from Port Blair. Distance of Wandoor from other major cities is as follows:
- Port Blair: 30 km
- Kolkata: 1301 km
- Orissa: 1313 km
- Chennai: 1350 km
- Bangalore: 1638 km
- Hyderabad: 1650 km
- Lucknow: 2089 km
- Mumbai: 2271 km
- Delhi: 2477 km
How to Reach
By Air: Flights are available from Calcutta and Chennai to Port Blair.
By Road: Wandoor can be reached easily by road from Port Blair. Several transport buses operated by the forest department as well as private agencies are available between Wandoor and Port Blair.
Within the park, the forest department operates a launch service, that visits the island twice/thrice daily. Canoes can also be rented from the fishermen or from authorized tour operators. It is however, advised that a guide fisherman accompanies you along the boat ride. The entry permit is issued to authorized boats according the number of boats permitted (subject to availability of boats). This is done to avoid congestion and damage to marine life. The tourists can purchase the boat tickets from the authorised operators holding entry permits. A list of the number of permitted boat trips is displayed on the information counter for tourists.
The islands comprising the Wandoor National Park and other islands nearby form the major attraction here. These primarily include the Jollybuoy Island, Redskin Island, Grub Island, Barren Island, Little Andaman Island, and Havelock Island etc.
The Barrel Island is about 139 km from Port Blair and houses the only active volcano in India.
Havelock Island is an ideal vacation spot with splendid beaches and lies at distance of 50 km from Port Blair by sea.
Jollybuoy Island is lined by coral reefs and is frequently visited by tourists. Starfishes, anemones, sea cucumbers etc can be found here
Redskin Island is where the spotted deer can be found. A lot of caves and caverns are also present in this island.
Port Blair offers a wide range of options for accommodation. A guest house maintained by the forest department is available within the park itself. Affordable accommodation options are also provided by the Directorate of Tourism. Reservations can be made via travel agents or contacting the forest department.
Foreign nationals require a permit to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which can be obtained wither on arrival at Port Blair or by applying to the Deputy Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs.
Other Useful Information
- Entry permits are required to enter the park and are issued on first come first serve basis.
- Entry permit costs Rs. 50/person and Rs. 25 for children (Indian tourists)
- Permit charges for foreigners: Rs. 500 / person.
- Entry permit for camera costs Rs. 25
- A boat ticket can be purchased from the boat operators and costs around Rs. 300- Rs. 450/head. It includes ferry charges, glass bottom boat charges, charges at the park, snorkelling equipment, life jacket charges and guide fee.
- Bottles are not permitted inside the park. A security deposit of Rs.100 for 3 bottles is charged.
- The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests: 03192-33321
- The Chief Wildlife Warden: 03192-33549
Deputy Conservator of Forests: 03192-32816