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Pigeon Island National park

Description

The Pigeon Island National park, fringed by a coral reef near Nilaveli beach, was named as a National Park under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in 2003. It is unique because the only national park in the nation to harbour a colony of the gorgeous Blue Rock pigeons and contains some of the best surviving coral reefs in the country. Over 100 varieties of corals and more than 300 reef fish species have been recognised from the Trincomalee region. Many of these species are found within the Pigeon Islands National Park, consisting of about five hectares of land. About 1000 meters range into the sea with the coral reef as the national park border. The island is toured by boat, and it was launched for tourism in 2002.

Read More in Details

Pigeon Island National Park has a fascinating history that dates back several decades. Initially, these islands served as a sanctuary for the endangered Blue Rock Pigeon, nested within the rocky cliffs. Recognizing the importance of preserving these unique birds, the Sri Lankan government declared the islands a sanctuary in 1963. The area's status was later upgraded to a national park in 2003, expanding its boundaries to include the surrounding coral reef.

Importance of Pigeon Island National Park

Pigeon Island National Park holds immense ecological significance for Sri Lanka. It is one of the country's two marine national parks, the other being the renowned Hikkaduwa Coral Reefs. The park's coral reef ecosystem supports a diverse array of marine life and contributes to the overall health of the coastal ecosystem. Additionally, the park acts as a natural barrier, protecting the nearby coastline from erosion and other environmental hazards.

Biodiversity in Pigeon Island National Park

The national park is a treasure trove of biodiversity, boasting abundant marine species. The coral reefs surrounding the islands teem with life, harbouring a vast array of colourful corals and hundreds of reef fish species. Lucky visitors might even spot blacktip reef sharks gracefully gliding through the crystal-clear waters. Turtles, including the endangered Hawksbill and Green turtle, also call Pigeon Island National Park their home.

Endangered Species: The Blue Rock Pigeon

The park's namesake, the Blue Rock Pigeon, is a native bird species that has faced the threat of extinction. These unique birds have found refuge within the rocky cliffs of the islands, away from human disturbances. Pigeon Island National Park plays a crucial role in the conservation efforts to protect and preserve this endangered species for future generations to admire and appreciate.

The Two Islands: Large Pigeon Island and Small Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island National Park consists of two distinct islands: the larger Pigeon Island and the smaller Pigeon Island. The more oversized island, approximately 200 meters long and 100 meters wide, is fringed by a vibrant coral reef. Standing at 44.8 meters above mean sea level, its highest point offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding turquoise waters. The smaller island is encircled by rocky islets, providing a unique and picturesque landscape for visitors to explore.

Climate and Weather

Situated within the dry zone of Sri Lanka, Pigeon Island National Park experiences a tropical climate characterized by warm temperatures and a distinct monsoon season. The mean annual temperature hovers around 27.0 °C (80.6 °F). The region receives most of its rainfall from October to March during the Northeastern monsoon, with average annual rainfall ranging between 1,000–1,700 millimetres (39–67 inches). It's important to note that the sea can become rough during this monsoon period, and boat operations might be suspended for safety reasons.

Visiting Pigeon Island National Park

To fully experience the wonders of Pigeon Island National Park, visitors can engage in various activities and explore the natural beauty that awaits them.

Boat Operations and Safety

Boat rides are the primary means of reaching the islands. However, boat operations may be temporarily halted during the Northeastern monsoon season due to rough sea conditions. It is advisable to have alternative plans if the boats are not operating. Local tour operators can provide up-to-date information and help arrange boat trips during favourable weather conditions.

Snorkelling and Diving Opportunities

The shallow waters surrounding the islands offer excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities. The coral reefs are easily accessible, making snorkelling a delightful experience for beginners and experienced snorkelers. Diving enthusiasts can explore the underwater wonders, discovering the vibrant marine life that thrives in these crystal-clear waters.

Beaches and Recreation

Pigeon Island National Park is not just about its rich marine life; it also offers pristine beaches and serene surroundings for visitors to relax and unwind. Sunbathe on the powder-like white sand, stroll along the shore, or find a shady spot under a tree and immerse yourself in the tranquillity of nature.

Environmental Challenges and Conservation Efforts

The recent surge in tourism has presented new challenges for the fragile ecosystem of Pigeon Island National Park. Increased foot traffic and inadequate visitor management have damaged the coral reefs in the shallow areas. To address these issues, conservation efforts are underway to raise awareness about sustainable tourism practices and minimize the ecological impact. Visitors are encouraged to follow responsible tourism guidelines and respect the natural environment while enjoying the park's beauty.

Pigeon Island National Park is a true gem on the east coast of Sri Lanka, offering an immersive experience in a unique marine ecosystem. From breathtaking coral reefs and diverse marine life to the conservation efforts focused on protecting endangered species, this national park has something for every nature enthusiast. By embracing sustainable tourism practices, we can ensure that future generations can continue to explore and appreciate the wonders of Pigeon Island National Park.

FAQs

Q1: Can I visit Pigeon Island National Park all year round? A: Yes, the park is open for visitors throughout the year. However, boat operations may be affected during the Northeastern monsoon season, so it's advisable to check with local tour operators for the latest information.

Q2: Are there any accommodations available near Pigeon Island National Park? A: While there are no accommodations on the islands themselves, several options are available in the nearby town of Nilaveli, ranging from luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses.

Q3: Can I bring my snorkelling or diving gear to Pigeon Island National Park? A: You can bring your gear or rent equipment from local dive centres and tour operators near the park.

Q4: Are there any restrictions on touching or removing coral or marine life? A: It is strictly prohibited to touch or remove any coral or marine life within the park. Visitors are encouraged to admire the beauty of the ecosystem without causing harm.

Q5: How can I contribute to the conservation efforts at Pigeon Island National Park? A: You can contribute by practising responsible tourism, following the guidelines set by the park authorities, and spreading awareness about the importance of conservation among fellow travellers.

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