Deep diving in and around the Mumbai coastline

Deep diving in and around the Mumbai coastline

In its second edition to be held this weekend, Coastwise will organise workshops, shorewalks walks and discussions, get Mumbaikars to understand the lesser-known ecosystems on our shores and in the ocean. “The ocean is a faraway sort of concept in Mumbai. We orient ourselves to it, we pass it on our commute, yet we don’t really connect with it”, says Sejal Mehta, Consultant Editor at Marine Life of Mumbai (MLOM). The organisation started Coastwise in 2019 as a marine festival to highlight the biodiversity of Mumbai’s shores.

MLOM began as a citizens’ collective and is now a registered entity called Coastal Conservation Foundation (CCF). For Coastwise, CCF has teamed up with WWF India and Mangrove Foundation, a government-led initiative that works towards conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity.

Shells on seashore

Much of the focus of the festival will be on the intertidal zone i.e. the area where the ocean meets land, the area that is exposed at low tide and underwater at high tide. Join the Coastwise team for a shore walk either at Juhu or Nepean Sea Road in Mumbai (simultaneous walks are planned at Diveagar in Raigad district and at Anjuna beach in Goa). “Every shore behaves differently and has a different landscape. Juhu is great for beginners with its fairly gentle shore that’s mostly sandy with some rocky areas near the jetty,” explains Mehta. On the shore walk, you’re likely to see a mix of creatures like sea snails in the soft patch, fiddler crabs and sea stars near the jetty, and if you’re lucky, you might even see an octopus. “Some of our shores also have coral; they are incredibly rich, which is amazing considering how dirty it is. Also, not many places have this combination of harsh sunlight and saline water that ebbs and flow, which makes it unique,” says Mehta.

Another activity that Coastwise will offer is a ‘fishploration’ walk that will happen simultaneously in Mumbai and Chennai. “In Mumbai, you will go to Sassoon Docks to see what sort of fish comes in. You can interact with the fisher folk, ask questions, and learn about traditional fishing methods and the problem of overfishing. Basically just understand what you’re consuming and where it comes from, the role of fish in the whole ecosystem, etc.,” explains Mehta.

Flight club

Another highlight is the ‘Flight of the Flamingos’ programme in association with the Mangrove Foundation in Airoli. A half-day pass gets you a mangrove walk with a naturalist who will help you understand various species of mangroves and their role in the ecosystem. This will be followed by a flamingo boat ride to see the long-legged winter visitors as well as other avian life. After the boat ride, you can visit the foundation’s state-of-the-art Coastal and Marine Bio Diversity Centre, which has interactive, audio-visual displays on mangroves and on marine and coastal creatures. The full-day pass includes a movie screening and a marine art workshop with biologist and illustrator Gaurav Patil.

Coastal connect

Apart from the outdoor activities, the festival will have a photography workshop with diver and photographer Umeed Mistry (including a practical session) and a cartooning workshop with Rohan Chakravarty, best known for using irony and humour to convey wildlife causes. The programme also includes a photography contest, a screening of the Netflix original documentary, Chasing Coral, and a talk by biologist, diver, and photographer Tasneem Khan on the creatures of the underwater world.

CCF also plans to hold meet-ups to keep people engaged. “We want to bring people closer to the ocean and to have a connection with the creatures that we share it with”, says Mehta. She gives the example of a hermit crab. “The hermit crab is the most relatable creature for somebody from Mumbai; it’s squishy and it doesn’t have a hard canvas so it requires a shell discarded by another animal like sea snails. After a while, it outgrows this shell and has to look for a new, bigger shell. So a slightly bigger, more luxurious real estate opportunity is always on the horizon; if that’s not Mumbai I don’t know what is”, she laughs.

Coastwise 2020 will be held from February 8 to 19, events and workshops require prior registration;


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