Andaman & Nicobar Islands - A World Within a World
The Islands of Andaman & Nicobar have been home to people since the dawn of time. In fact, long before European countries could lay claim on these islands, evidences prove indigenous Andamanis have lived here since the Middle Paleolithic ages.
This place was the dreaded Kalapaani, Black Waters- a place where the colonial rulers sent supposedly hardened criminals and freedom fighters as prisoners. The Cellular Jail that was once home to some of these prisoners is now a must-see for the younger generation seeking inspiration from the days of struggle or those of us who take our freedom for granted.
The Andaman and Nicobar and its surrounding islands are blessed with a rich tropical forest that is home to several unique flora and fauna. There are several species of orchids and ferns that are native and unique to the forests here. Speaking of its faunal spread, taxonomists have listed around 3 species of polychaetes (species of marine worms) that are unique to this place, have been recorded for the first time here and are new to the Indian Ocean.
There’s plenty of see and lots of activities to do here. If you are beach lover, head straight to Havelock Islands to enjoy the pristine water and white sand. This is also a great place to go scuba diving and snorkeling. To those looking to please the gastronomic god in them, Port Blair is home to several sea food joints that serve marine produce fresh from the sea! To understand and appreciate the native people who’ve inhibited the place for thousands of years, visit the Anthropological Museum in Port Blair. This museum offers a poignant portrait of the tribal communities viz. the Onges, the Sentinelese, Jarawas, Andamanese, Shompens, and the Nicobarese. If understanding the local flora and fauna interests you, a visit to the Fisheries Museum, the Samudrika Museum, the Forest Museum, the Zoological Museum, the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is a must.
As for the common languages spoken here, Tamil, Bengali, and Nicobarese seem popular. But you can also manage with Hindi or English. Tourism in this place was once flourishing, but the Tsunami of 2004, wrecked a lot of natural habitats that were once a popular tourist destination. The remnants of what’s left behind are slowly but surely making a mark. While Indians do not require permit to visit Andamans, but they need permission to visit Nicobar. Such permits are rarely allowed, given the sensitive nature of the place.
If you are visiting Andaman and Nicobar Islands by air, Chennai and Kolkata are the closest. Indian Airlines operates its flights daily from Port Blair and Kolkata. Travelling by boat is possible to and from Chennai and Kolkata ports. As for the best time to visit the Islands, the pleasant and moderate weather make this is a year round travel destination. But beware of the monsoons that strike the islands between May and October, and between, November and December.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands- Information that We Bet You Didn’t Know
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a tropical paradise belonging to India, but geographically closer to Southeast Asia, viz. Thailand and Burma. Not until a few centuries ago, the place was shrouded in mystery because of its inaccessibility to mainland India (or other countries). The entire island shimmered like an emerald, thanks to the dense and thick green forests that enveloped it. To those looking to visit the place, here’s some general information about A&N:-
a) People in India can visit Andaman without permission, but entry is restricted to Nicobar. Access to Nicobar is allowed only through special permits (this is rarely given). Foreign nationals visiting the place need authorization from competent authorities. They are allowed access for thirty days (days and nights included) to visit Port Blair, Havelock Islands, Long Islands, Neil Islands, Diglipur, Mayabunder, and Rangat. A few other places are restricted for day entry only and in some areas permission is absolutely restricted.
b) Chennai and Kolkata are the closest cities to the Islands. While Chennai is 1190 kms away, Kolkata is around 1255 kms away from Port Blair. When traveling by sea, Vishakhapatnam is 1200 kms away from the capital city.
c) Tamil, Bengali and Telugu are commonly spoken and understood throughout the island. But Hindi and English would also help. Malayalam is also spoken to a small extent in some places.
d) More than three fourths of the island is covered by forest; 92% of this is 92% and 86% is reserved. The sus scrofa (wild boar) and the macaque are commonly found animals, but the endangered Dugong is the state animal. This is a marine animal that is unfortunately endangered because of habitat changes. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to a diverse range of birds; some 14 of them are endemic to this place. Some like the Edible-nest Swiftlet are highly prized for their nests.
e) As for the flora, the Andaman Padauk is the state tree. The timber from this tree is highly valued and often called East Indian Mahogany.
f) During the reign of the British, the islands were collectively called Kaalapaani or Black Water because of its unfriendly terrain and inaccessibility. It was here at the Cellular Jail that hundreds of freedom fighters including Veer Savarkar and Jatin Chandra Pal were jailed; some were even condemned to imprisonment until death.
g) The climate here is pleasant, with humidity at around 80%. Although, it is suitable at all times, the best time to visit would be around December to April. This is when the days are pleasant, but the nights aren’t bad either.
h) The tribes living here include the Andamanese of Strait Islands, the Onges of Andaman, jarawas of South and Middle Andaman, etc. The Jangil tribe which existed prior to being distributed by European settlers became extinct. As of now, the Sentinelese are the most endangered and isolated- their population could be as less as 40 or as high as 500.