Different people have different places on their bucket list when they visit Gujarat. Mine was Jamnagar, Narara Marine National Park.
When I first read about this park, I was amazed that you only have to walk around to appreciate the marine life under the sea. Yes, you read that right! The sea here recedes from the land for a good 4 km at particular intervals, and all you have to do is walk to see what the waves were hiding beneath them all the while. But the trick is to know when the sea recedes. Tricky!
For every four hours or so, this phenomenon happens. Considering we had no idea when the water will recede, we packed for a mini picnic and reached the park as early as 7 am. Surprisingly, our first sighting was that of a Jackal pack hunting for food around! The forest officer gave us the news we did not want to hear—"Today, the water will recede probably around 10.30!!" We were already done with our teplas, chikis, chakli. At 11:00 am, the guide said we could proceed.
The water had not yet receded. There were four buses full of people by now, and some groups of people were already in the water shouting with excitement. It was like some exhibition at Jamnagar with half the people at one place.
With water up to feet high, the guide started turning every rock to find some life. I had some other picture in mind. I had pictured life all around, small fishes scurrying and that we would get to see them by walking around. This was just the opposite of what I had imagined. Our guide turned the rocks and pointed out to mussels, snails, crabs.
Crabs I eat! So what fun? There were some colourful deposits of fish, fish eggs, the rocksl.
I expected to see the pufferfish puff up.
The fish bloats like a round balloon when taken out of the water, and I wanted to watch it. Children were making a lot of noise and were picking up the marine creatures in their bare hands.
Then a big crowd gathered in front, and my guide ran there and came with the pufferfish! By now, the fish was heaving, and I wanted it to be left back in the water.
The guide assured us that it could live for 2 hours without water. He then dunked it in the water for it to become flat and then pulled it up again. It was half-bloated, and then it moved from his one hand to another. God only knows if it was finally left in the water or not!!
The next attraction was the octopus! The place had a lot of giant and baby octopuses. The octopus was also pretty much dug out of the rocks and was passed from one guide to another while it pleaded to be released.
It sprayed its ink at us multiple times. But it didn't know that we were intelligent humans and not just some timid predators who would back off easily!
However, it was more intelligent than us. He camouflaged himself when it felt that we were approaching! Unless you are a guide, you can never know it is present there!
The Jamnagar marine national park has a lot of corals too. Live corals! As we walked soon, we identified corals, dead corals, fish deposits, etc.
By now, it was past noon, and the sun was reflecting brightly on the water. My pictures came out bad, and I was also getting roasted up by the sun!
There were a couple of other plants in the water which, when touched, buried themselves underwater. It was tough getting decent pictures with the solid sun. So we just decided to hang around until it got tired of us and buried itself in.
After about 3 hours of walking in the seawater under the scorching sun, we decided to return to land.
By now, we could feel that the water had receded much further down, and all that was left now were rocks and beautiful patterns of the sand. It looked more serene when the crowd receded too. The mangroves now exposed their shoots, and the park looked picture perfect.
Narara Marine National park is around 70km from Jamnagar, and it is better to have your vehicle. The entry ticket was Rs.50/- per person plus guide charges. Guides are people from in and around the villages.
Though the park is a national conservation area, it just looked like some villagers were showing us around a natural phenomenon that happens every day.
There was no regulation on what is allowed inside the park, how to handle marine life, how many people are allowed at a time. Nothing!
Excited kids were even squeezing the starfishes and pufferfishes. The adults were no more miniature. Oil refinery lines were running close by. Some people randomly walked in and were turning the rocks by themselves.
It didn't meet my expectations. There were no turtles or stingrays or even prawns, as mentioned on their website.
It is a fantastic experience to walk in the sea, and it is a wonder to see how the tide dies down.
On the day when there is no crowd, and the sun is merciful, it would be one of the best experiences.
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