Far away from the chaos of the city, rests a serene place home to some of the most enchanting coral reefs. Yes, the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at the Wandoor region of Port Blair is located approximately at a distance of 30 kilometers. The best part about the park is that it sort of conserves several islands and keeps visitors away from tourism and touristy activities to actually protect the lush grandeur and marine life.
The park compiles close to 15 islands together and takes people on a tour from one island to another without stopping at most places to give you a glimpse of the magical land that lies underneath the waters and on the mangrove covered islands. You can also indulge in snorkeling and get up, close and personal with the coral reefs and some beautiful marine animals at the Red Skin beach, where the tour halts for tourists to take part in the activities. If you’re in Port Blair and intend to view what the island offers the best – coral reefs – buy a ticket to the national park and spend time with a different face of nature.
Location: SH8, Andaman and Nicobar Islands (30 kilometers from the main area of Port Blair)
Known for: Its views of coral reefs, snorkeling opportunities and glimpses of some of the most endangered marine animals like the scorpion fish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, angelfish, giant robber crab and more.
How to Reach: The Mahatma Gandhi National Park is easily accessible for tourists in Port Blair, where several taxis and buses ply from the islands connected by roads and cost around Rs. 10 (for buses). There are buses every half an hour for those on a shoestring budget and there are transportation facilities arranged by the Department of Information, Tourism and Publicity too.
Getting in: To go on to the islands and the tour, you need to approach the Wandoor jetty, where tourism trips are arranged on a daily basis except on Mondays. There are close to 150 permits available every day and this may vary daily depending on the number of boats and weather conditions. There are four boat trip timings starting from 8:30 AM to 10:00AM for every half hour. The 5th and authorized trip is arranged for 10:30 AM.
Cost: The permit required to enter the park costs around Rs. 50 approximately and is given on a first-come-first-serve basis. With that said, the forest officials may increase the number of daily permits depending on the demand during the peak seasons. If you intend to take a camera with you, an additional of Rs. 25 will be charged on your permit. Apart from the entry permit, you need to pay an additional of Rs. 300 for the boat ride, which includes a ride to the Red Skin island a snorkeling dive. The boating is on a transparent, glass-bottomed boat and the price includes return fare. This is one of the best alternative spots for diving from the other tourist-flocked clichéd destinations.
Operating hours: Open 24 hours but entry depends on the availability of permits.
Any Precautions: Set up with a vision to avoid pollution and conserve marinelife, the place does not allow taking plastic bottles in the tour. You need to deposit your plastic bottles by paying aroundRs. 100 for three hours and you can definitely not carry plastic bags. Jute bags are available at the counters arranged at the forest office for you to hire. Also carry snacks on utensils or bags other than those made of plastics as you will not find anything to eat or drink or get very, very limited dining options at Wandoor.