The next time you travel to a coastal destination in India, set aside a few hours to get acquainted with the stunning marine civilisations that hide in plain sight. Text by Sejal Mehta & Abhishek Jamalabad

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A porpita porpita, commonly known as a blue button, is a close relative of the jellyfish. It is a common sight on Mumbai’s seashores when monsoons approach. Photographed by SHAUNAK MODI.

India’s 7,500-kilometre coastline is a world unto itself. While it’s the meeting point of land and sea and enables livelihoods, it is also home to diverse wildlife that you have probably never stopped to witness. Coastal areas have a special safari option that few travellers know about: the intertidal zone. It’s the stretch of land that’s above water level only at low tide. Usually, we experience the beauty of beaches at high tide, when waves swell, rise, and crash against the shore. But when the tide retreats, it uncovers the coastline’s hidden treasures. As the water rushes back into the sea, a secret ecosystem of marine life reveals itself. Octopuses, jellyfish, corals, sea anemones, crabs, and many more creatures—feeding, hunting, mating, or just resting—grant us a sneak peek into their lives for a brief window at low tide. On a rocky shore, you’ll see small basins of water left behind, forming tide pools. Hence, the activity of looking into these pools for marine creatures is called ‘tidepooling’. Is each shore the same? Well, no. Through this visual story, you stroll down sandy beaches, navigate rocky shores, as well as slush through muddy intertidal areas—in different regions of India. All these spaces are living, breathing homes for thousands of creatures. Tidepooling is a rewarding wildlife experience; you’re literally in a creature’s house. But remember that it is probably in the middle of an activity—creatures you meet here are predator or prey, building homes, or making babies. Tread carefully, for they’re far tinier than you think and can get hurt easily. Another important thing to keep in mind: do not pick them up; it causes them needless trauma. Besides, there are venomous animals as well, and something that looks beautiful and harmless could lead to a lot of pain if trifled with. This visual exploration of tide pools across India’s coastline shows you what you might encounter if only you know where to look. Happy tidepooling!

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An octopus goes about its evening on a rocky shore adjoining Juhu Beach, Mumbai. Photographed by SARANG NAIK.
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A land hermit crab spotted in Chennai uses an old snail shell as a mobile house. Photographed by SAMUEL PRAKASH.
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A magnificent giant clam bores into a rock on the shores of the Andamans. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
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Just as rewarding as the Andamans’ dive sites are the islands’ seashore ecosystems at low tide. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
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A gem doris sea slug in a tide pool at Rushikonda, Visakhapatnam. Photographed by SAMUEL PRAKASH.
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Feather stars, relatives of sea stars, can be found creeping across sandy beaches just below the waterline. Photographed by SAMUEL PRAKASH.
Hydroids Goa
Hydroids (as seen in Goa) are often mistaken for plants, as they form miniature groves and forests in tide pools. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
Tiny meadows of seaweed revealed at low tide on a seashore in Goa. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
The burgundy sea anemone is one of the most common creatures along the state’s shoreline. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
Zoanthids, a kind of soft coral found on many rocky seashores in India, are a gorgeous sight to behold. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
A clump of champia seaweed shows off its iridescence in a tide pool in Karwar, Karnataka. Photographed by ABHISHEK JAMALABAD.
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A cratena sea slug, one of Mumbai’s most sought-after seashore sights. Photographed by SHAUNAK MODI.

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