Coastal treasures: 5 marine national parks

Ballena Marine National Park, Costa Rica

Last week, King Carl-Gustav of Sweden presided over the ceremonial opening of the country’s first marine national park, Kosterhavet. If you’re like me, you tend to associate the phrase “national park” with mountains, forests, canyons, and even geysers… but countries around the world recognize the value of the coastal and marine ecosystems, and are designating similar protected areas. A quick search yielded these treasures:

  • Florida’s Biscayne National Park: Within sight of Miami, this park includes four primary ecosystems (including “The beginning of the third-largest coral reef in the world…”), as well as “…evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents…”
  • India’s Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park: The first “marine Biosphere Reserve in Southeast Asia,” this park consists of 21 islands, and protects endangered species such as “the Sea Cow (Dugong dugong) and six mangrove species endemic to peninsular India.”
  • Thailand’s Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park: According to the park’s official site, it encompasses “an archipelago in the gulf of Thailand consisting of 42 separate islands…” Mu Ko Ang Thong provides protection to four forest types, as well as a wide range of plants and animals.
  • Costa Rica’s Ballena Marine National Park: One of the country’s youngest parks, Ballena is named after the whales that migrate to its waters. The park was founded in response to rampant development on the country’s Pacific coast.
  • The Seychelle’s Sainte Anne Marine National Park: This 36-year-old park consists of six small islands, and was the first protected marine area in the Southwestern Indian Ocean. According to the park systems of the Seychelles, Sainte Anne protects one of the world’s largest areas of seagrass meadows.

We’d love to hear about your visits to any of these parks… or others that you’ve discovered.

Image credit: Jorge Antonio Leoni de León via Wikimedia Commons