Kurusudai island- A new world off Indian coast

Fisheries, Coastal police, wildlife conservation NGOs.. We have dialed any random and all possible numbers to get clarity and the permission to go to the Kurusudai island.. Thanks to Madhu, with a struggle for over a month to get permission from the authorities- the right phone number struck,  and we finally pulled it off… 🙂 Kurusudai is one among the 21 islands in the gulf of Mannar and a site of importance in research due to its rich marine bio reserves.

Gulf of Mannar marine national park area
Gulf of Mannar marine national park area

So, our last day at Rameshwaram- Our destination ahead was fixed 🙂 An early morning bus from Pamban dropped us half way till Manimandapam. From there, a rickshaw ride took us to Vivekananda memorial hall where the 2 forest guides, the oarsman and the motorboat were all waiting for us 🙂 without wasting much time, our boat set sail.. We could see Kurusudai island at a kilometer’s distance across the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mannar. We had to contain our excitement lest be quoted as psychos by the people who accompanied us.

We stepped on land in no time- we were briefed about the island in the information center and were also instructed not to use our cameras for any sort of photography. There are nearly 3600 marine species spread around 10,500sq.kms of the marine reserve. 117 coral species, 13 mangrove species, 460 molluscan species and 12 species of sea grasses are found here.. A haven for a bird watcher too with over 217 species of birds found here.. And then our guided tour around the island took wings.. or rather.. set sail 🙂

We first sighted a vibrant red star fish seated comfortably on a barrel coral.. But we soon realised.. that echinoderms were the highlight of the walk.. about 100 species of echinoderms are found in this marine reserve. Sea urchins, Sea potatoes, Sea cookies(sand dollar, snapper biscuit, pansy shell, sea biscuit, sand disc, sand cake, cake urchin and sea pancake are other common names given for these relatively shy invertebrates), sea cucumbers (of varying colours and sizes)  dotted the entire shoreline of the island.. Sea lotus of different colours was another highlight of the walk.. We saw the marine plant- Pemphis acidula- an endemic plant to this area. The sea grass(Enhalus acuroidus) is another plant endemic to these reserves found abundantly all around. However, we were more keen on spotting the  Balanoglossus(Ptychodera flura)- which happens to be the only living fossil in the world which links vertebrates and invertebrates; endemic to this area as well.. However, our guide could not understand what we were trying to ask due to the language barrier of Tamil:(

Since it was low tide, we could walk into the sea- all along the shore where an infinite range of sea weeds, multi-hued reefs and sea grasses spread over the shallow bed of the sparkling water brightened up the entire ambience of the place. From shades of violet to red, the raised coral reefs of the Islands are not only a special attraction of the place but also chart high on the list of marine biologists. We also spotted a notable array of algae, sponges, sea anemones, cowries, volutes, whelks, crabs, strombids, tonnids, sting rays, oysters among others too..

However, in high tides– this island is a good sighting place for the endangered Sea cows(Dugongs) and dolphins(bottle-nosed dolphin, the common dolphin and the finless porpoise). The land is also home to 3 species of turtles which includes the Hawksbill, Green and Olive Ridley turtles. No.. we didn’t sight them… We had to be EXTREMELY LUCKY for that and needed more time(which we were deprived of:( )

However, the main purpose of this blog post…. Tourism is prohibited here and getting permission for a genuine research itself is such a tough deal.. And we really hope that the general public behave themselves when they encounter such rarity of sightings, do not pollute and RESPECT mother nature for the immense amount of patience she beholds and admire the beauty of what she has to offer.. it really hurts when we find even a small candy wrapper sailing or flying up in the otherwise clean atmosphere where so many other genuinely interested people put in their hearts and souls in the conservation activities. What we give only comes back.. Give respect and take respect.. If not, nature has her own ways to take a toll on all the disrespect..!!

11 thoughts on “Kurusudai island- A new world off Indian coast”

  1. there are more than 4220 species of marine flora and fauna recorded in the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere reserve and this was published by us in the year 212. Out of the 21 islands of Gulf of Mannar, 2 islands have gone underwater (Vilanguchalli in Tuticorin group and Pulivinchalli in the vembar group). I have worked in this island for almost 12 years now. I am happy that you were able to see a good diversity of marine life! We have not seen much in our trips though!


  2. Hi, Can you share the contact number for permit. I am trying all possible options but could not succeed in getting permission.


  3. Is it possible to visit the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere reserve as a tourist ? Do they organise at the minimum a boat ride with a glass bottom of sorts or any other sort of wildlife tourism there ?

    If so any contacts that could help me with the same .



    1. Hello Shreyas,
      As for now tourists cannot visit any specific tour of the islands of the gulf of mannar. However, the government has plans of opening 22 islands for tourists with a couple of glass bottom boats, but it is still in the draft stage.
      But then if you’re too keen on exploring d stretch, i suggest you to walk along d rameswaram beach a little away from d crowd and also hire jeep for yourself at dhanushkodi so that you get more time for yourself to explore the shores. We did that too and were able to find many rare marine lives ashore.


  4. hey how did you get permission? im an travelling artist and I travel , get inspired by nature and translate them into art. I have been researching about gulf of mannar for about a while. I would love to travel to these restricted islands after reading about them. Please help me in this regard. You can pm me at lavender_madhu2611@yahoo.co.in


    1. Hey Madhumita- u need to have a referral from an organisation explaining d purpose of your visit to the island. That needs to be acknowledged by the forest officer incharge at Ramanathapuram.
      Kurusudai island as such is a difficult place for u to get to… You can probably try in n around Dhanushkodi if u r being particular about gulf-of-mannar as an inspiration for your artwork..
      All the best!


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