Mangrove forests in India are distributed across 9 states and 3 union territories. The mangrove cover in the country is pegged at 4,975 sq km, according to the Forest Survey of India 2019 Report.
West Bengal (2,112) and Gujarat (1,177) are the top 2 states with the highest cover.
Mangroves are special types of trees and shrubs that are known to thrive in saline and low oxygen conditions. These forests are critical habitat for a variety of wildlife and aquatic creatures.
Are you wondering where you can see the most amazing mangrove forests in India? Let’s find out in this post.
A Quick Glance Through
- List of Forests
- State-wise Mangrove Cover
- Interesting Facts
Mangrove Forests in India
1. Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, West Bengal
Tucked in the Bay of Bengal on the delta of the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, Sundarbans mangrove forest is widely acclaimed for its excellent biodiversity.
It cuts across India’s West Bengal state and the Khulna division of Bangladesh. The total area of Sundarbans is about 10,000 sq km, of which roughly 40% lies in India.
On the West Bengal side, the mangrove forest expanse is 2,112 sq km and the remaining area is covered by creeks and canals.
Amongst all the mangrove forests in India, Sundarbans is the largest by area.
Sundari (Heritiera fomes) mangrove trees are in abundance in this region. The Sundarbans may have got its name from this dominant mangrove species.
This area is blessed with irresistible natural beauty and rare forms of wildlife.
It is home to a sizable population of royal Bengal tigers. The tigers of Sundarbans have adapted to live in an estuarine habitat.
Also Read: Best Places To Sight Tigers in India.
Several endangered species like Gangetic dolphin, olive ridley turtle, saltwater crocodile and mangrove horseshoe crab are also found here.
In addition, the forest supports a variety of birds, aquafauna and reptiles.
Grey herons, brahminy kites, spot-billed pelicans and great egret are some of the commonly seen birds in the forest.
A portion of the Sundarbans forest was carved out in 1973 to create Sundarbans Tiger Reserve. Its core area, measuring 1,330 sq km, was established as a national park in 1984.
UNESCO has recognised Sundarbans National Park as a World Heritage Site.
How To Get There
Sundarbans is accessible by ferry from Godkhali which is approximately 100 km from Kolkata. You can also take a bus or hire a taxi from Kolkata.
The nearest railway station is in Canning with train connectivity from Sealdah railway station. From Canning station, you can get an autorickshaw to Godkhali.
2. Bhitarkanika Mangroves, Odisha
In the delta region of Brahmani-Baitarani rivers, lies Odisha’s Bhitarkanika Mangroves. It is spread over an area of 251 sq km.
The mangrove forests are a part of the larger coastal ecosystem that comprises Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and Bhitarkanika National Park.
It belonged to zamindars (landowners) before the Odisha Government abrogated the zamindari system. Thereafter, it was handed over to the state forest department.
In 1975, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary was established with a total area of 672 sq km. The sanctuary includes muddy creeks, mudflats and mangrove forests.
The core area of the sanctuary, extending over 145 sq km, was declared Bhitarkanika National Park in 1998.
Bhitarkanika is one of the pristine mangrove forests in India. It harbours the largest population of estuarine crocodiles in the Indian sub-continent.
There are around 1,757 saltwater crocodiles in this area, according to the reptile census conducted by Odisha forest officials in 2020.
The forest boasts plentiful avifauna with more than 250 bird species including resident and migratory.
Some of the commonly sighted birds are grey heron, little cormorant, black-tailed godwit and oriental white ibis.
A heronry is also located inside the Bhitarkanika Forest. It sprawls over 22 acres.
Abutting the Bhitarkanika Mangroves is the tranquil Gahirmatha Beach which separates it from the Bay of Bengal.
Gahirmatha is one of the best marine wildlife sanctuaries in India as it is an important breeding ground for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Also Read: The 10 Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India.
How To Get There
Bhitarkanika is accessible by road through Chandbali, the nearest town to this place. The closest railhead is in Bhadrak which is around 50 km away from Chandbali.
3. Godavari-Krishna Mangroves, Andhra Pradesh
Godavari Krishna mangrove forests are a part of the mangrove ecoregion that stretches along the eastern coast.
The Godavari mangroves are located in the Godavari river delta in the East-Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
The Krishna mangroves are situated in the Krishna river delta. It spans across two districts of Andhra Pradesh – Krishna and Guntur.
The total mangrove forest cover in Andhra Pradesh stands at 404 sq km.
The Godavari-Krishna Mangroves are one of the most enchanting mangrove forests in India.
If you want to explore the mangroves of Godavari-Krishna estuaries, then you should visit the following sanctuaries.
- Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary on the Krishna river estuary
- Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary on the Godavari river estuary
Both sanctuaries have a rich mangrove vegetation. The mangrove forests support a variety of aquatic life such as molluscs, shrimp, fishes and crabs.
Around 140 avian species are found in this region. Pond heron, little egret, seagulls and red-wattled lapwing are the most conspicuous avifauna here.
Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary also hosts a nesting and breeding site for olive ridley sea turtles.
How To Get There
Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary is near a village called Avanigadda which is connected by road from neighbouring towns. The nearest major railhead is located in Vijayawada.
Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary is accessible by road through Kakinada, which is about 20 km away.
Kakinada is the nearest town to the sanctuary and also serves as the nearest train station.
4. Gulf of Kutch Mangroves, Gujarat
The mangrove forest cover in Gujarat (1,177 sq km) is second highest after West Bengal (2,112 sq km).
With more than 70% mangrove cover of Gujarat state, the Kutch region is at the top followed by the Gulf of Kutch (16%).
Avicennia marina, commonly known as grey mangrove, is the most dominant mangrove species in Gujarat.
If you are interested in exploring the mangroves of Gujarat, visit Marine National Park. Situated in the Gulf of Kutch along the Jamnagar Coast, it is an archipelago of 42 islands.
Some of the islands are accessible to tourists by ferry where you can see mangrove swamps.
It is one of the best national parks in Gujarat to witness marine life. Corals, various types of fishes, crabs and lobsters are a common sight in this marine habitat.
How To Get There
The Marine National Park lies some 54 km away from Jamnagar, the nearest major town. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach there from Jamnagar by car. The closest train station is located in Jamnagar.
5. Mangroves of Thane Creek, Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, the mangrove forests are distributed across six districts of the Konkan region – Mumbai City, Mumbai Suburban, Thane, Raigarh, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
Thane has the second largest mangroves cover at 90 sq km after Raigad with 121 sq km coverage.
Thane Creek forest is amongst one of the few mangrove forests in India that is in the vicinity of a sprawling city but still surviving.
A 17 sq km stretch along the western bank of the Thane Creek was declared Thane Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in 2015.
The mangroves are spread over about 9 sq km out of the 17 sq km sanctuary area. Bombay Natural History Society recognises it as an important bird area.
According to ebird.org, 165 bird species have been recorded in this sanctuary.
The most commonly seen birds include lesser flamingo, black-tailed godwit, little stint and lesser sand-plover. You can go boating to observe the birds up-close.
How To Get There
Thane Creek Sanctuary is well connected by road from Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane.
Airoli railway station is the nearest suburban (local) train station. From the station, you can take an autorickshaw to reach the sanctuary
6. Pichavaram Mangroves, Tamil Nadu
Pichavaram mangrove forest is located between the Vellar estuary and Coleroon estuary in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu.
Extending 11 sq km-expanse, the forest has numerous islands of varying sizes. A vast stretch of sandbar separates the forest from the sea.
The backwaters of the Vellar and Coleroon rivers attract many adventure-seeking travelers. You can indulge in water activities like boating, kayaking and canoeing.
Motorboats are also available here. As the boat sails through thick canopies of mangroves, you observe spectacular sights of nature.
Owing to the abundance of mangrove vegetation, it draws umpteen native and migratory birds.
Little egrets, pond herons, cormorants and openbill storks are some of the frequently spotted birds in the forest. It is one of the most enchanting mangrove forests in India that nature lovers must explore.
How To Get There
Pichavarm is approximately 15 km away from Chidambaram town. It is hardly a 30 minutes drive. The nearest train station is also located in Chidambaram.
7. Chorao Island Mangroves, Goa
Mangroves in Goa are spread along the banks of the state’s major rivers – Mandovi, Zuari, Sal, Tiracol, Chapora, Talpona and Galjibag.
Located in the river Mandovi is Chorao Island, home to one of the most beautiful mangrove forests in India.
Approximately 440 acres of mangrove forests on the western tip of the island forms Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
You can explore the sanctuary by boat. It takes you through scenic passages flanked by mangroves on both sides.
This sanctuary is a great place for birding. It hosts several bird species like purple herons, marsh harriers, wood sandpipers and brahminy kites.
Additionally, the mangroves provide habitat to several types of aquatic creatures including crabs, shrimps and otters.
How To Get There
Chorao Island is connected to the mainland by ferries.
You can take a ferry from Ribander ferry wharf which drops you to Chorao Island in 20 minutes. The ferry point is roughly 15 minutes drive away from Panaji city.
8. Baratang Island Mangroves, Andaman
Baratang Island lies around 100 km away from Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is a part of the North and Middle Andaman administrative district.
The total mangrove cover in the Andaman archipelago stands at 616 sq km. A vast majority, around 65%, features in the category of very dense mangroves.
Baratang is endowed with abundant natural beauty in the form of vast mangrove creeks, mud volcanoes and pristine beaches.
A trip to Baratang from Port Blair involves around 3 hours road journey and an hour long boat ride through dense mangrove forests.
The mangrove trees are so well entwined with each other that the passage appears like a tunnel.
Also Read: 12 Best Places in Port Blair To Visit.
The mangrove creek is teeming with saltwater crocodiles. If you are watchful, you might spot a few of them in the water.
Exploring Baratang mangrove creeks is one of the best things to do in Andaman for intrepid travelers.
How To Get There
From Port Blair, you need to reach the Jirkatang check post by road. You can hire a private vehicle or take a state transport bus to get there.
After this point, there is Jarawa Forest Reserve. So, vehicles are allowed to pass only in convoys guarded by forest rangers.
This road journey through the forest reserve leads you to a jetty. Board a ferry from this jetty which drops you to the other side.
This is where you will find speed boats to take you on a magical ride through the mangroves.
State-wise Cover – Mangrove Forests in India
|S.No.||State/Union Territory||Mangrove Cover in 2019 (Sq Km)|
|3||Andaman & Nicobar||616|
|11||Daman and Diu||3|
Source: Forest Survey of India – India State of Forest Report (2019)
- Mangroves can survive in various types of environments – freshwater swamp, saline soil, brackish water and saltwater coastline.
- The roots of mangrove plants have the ability to filter salt from seawater. Some mangrove species have salt glands in their leaves to excrete salt.
- Mangroves absorb carbon and store it in the soil beneath. Researchers have found out that mangroves can sequester four times more carbon than rainforests. Read more about mangrove’s carbon storage capacity in this report.
- Sundarbans is the only mangrove forest in the world where tigers live.
- The mangrove species Sonneratia alba, also known as Mangrove Apple, is the official state mangrove tree of Maharashtra.
Over To You Now…
Hope this post provided you the inspiration to explore India’s fascinating mangrove forests. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.