The Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Emerald. Blue. And You.
Once you see this tagline on the Andaman and Nicobar tourism website, you can rest assured that your journey to these islands will be memorable.
Surrounded by the aqua blue waters of the Indian ocean, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are truly a sight to behold!
So, let’s hop on our usual virtual tour and take a look at these stunning islands and why they need to be on your travel bucket list!
The ‘Andaman Islands’ are a union territory of India. Home to the Andamanese, aka an indigenous Indian community. The Andaman’s are not only popular with tourists, but also with environmentalists as well. The islands made international headlines when a deadly tsunami hit in 2004. An earthquake which occurred in the Indian ocean near Indonesia triggered the tsunami. The damage left by the tsunami was huge and it took the islands almost a year to recover from it.
As for the population, “The vast majority of the population of the Andamans consists of immigrants from South Asia and their descendants. Most speak Hindi or Bengali, but Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam are also common.”
Formation of the Islands
When the great island arc occurred, the Indo-Australian plate had a collision with Eurasia. This arc was a constant chain of active volcanoes around a plate. This collision lifted the Himalayas, which resulted in the creation of numerous island arcs. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a part of this Island arc.
Indigenous Tribes of Andaman
The Andamanese community consists of more than one tribe. Two main tribes are the Jarawa and the Sentinelese. Most islands around Andaman are accessible to everyone. However, North Sentinel island has been banned from outsiders. Some islands in the Andaman’s need permits to enter. Some require day passes as well. The main reason why Sentinel island is banned is because the sentinels are known to be a little violent. They don’t have much contact with the outside world. Read more about the tribes of Andaman. This lack of contact and understanding between them and the visitors has led to stressful and violent situations in the past. Banning access to this island was the government’s attempt to protect the indigenous population so they could live in peace.
History of Andaman
It was the British who first held any power over the Andamans. In 1789, the British government established a penal colony on the islands as a place to keep all criminals from British-occupied India. “The population of the region, particularly of the Andamans, was greatly changed by the settlement of convicts from the mainland and, beginning in the 1950s, of numerous refugees, especially from East Pakistan (since 1971, Bangladesh).” During World War II, the Japanese forces invaded the islands. However, the British recaptured the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from them. They made Port Blair their new colony in 1858.
When India gained independence in 1947, the British passed them the reign of Andaman. And as of 1947, India has been governing and administrating the islands. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were officially established on November 1st, 1956. With 3 districts and a population of around 380,000. As of now, most inhabitants of Andamans are from the mainland itself. English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, and Telegu are the most spoken languages.
History Behind the Name ‘Andaman’
The story of how Andaman got its name is actually quite interesting. The word Andaman originates from a 13thcentury Chinese literary book. The title of the book is Zhu Fan Zhi. The author is Zhao Rugua. The book mentions the Andaman island where the protagonist ends up after getting caught up in a sea storm.
How to Get There?
Since it is an island, the only way to reach Andaman is either by sea or air route. The Port Blair airport is the only functioning airport in Andaman and from here, you can catch flights to Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam.
If you’re planning to travel to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it is advised to take a flight to Chennai international airport, and from there take the Indian domestic flight to Port Blair.
As the capital of the Andaman, Port Blair holds quite a lot of significance. It is the ultimate place which opens the gateways to the heavenly islands. From bustling bazars to calming resorts and relaxing spas, Port Blair offers you all kinds of comfort, served right on a silver platter. But the town’s attractions don’t just end there. If you’ve got a flare for sports and want to get that adrenaline pumping, there are various activities for you. Scuba diving, snorkelling, cruising and para-gliding, to name a few.
Andaman Cellular Jail
One of the top-most tourist spots in Andaman is the cellular jail. This is where the famous Indian freedom fighter Vir Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was detained. Also known as, Kala Pani, this jail has a heart-breaking past.
The British government had set up this facility to exile political prisoners from India. Numerous Indian activists were detained there during India’s fight for independence. The prison was deemed as a hellish place by many. “The remote islands were considered to be a suitable place to punish the independence activists. Not only were they isolated from the mainland, the overseas journey (kala pani) to the islands also threatened them with loss of caste, resulting in social exclusion. The convicts also used chain gangs to construct prisons, buildings and harbour facilities.”
The jail got its name “cellular jail” because of its unique construction. The place is built in a way which makes it impossible for prisoners to communicate with each other. All the prisoners were held in complete solitary confinement. The prisoners couldn’t even reach the locks of the prison cells. There was even an oil mill inside the prison where the prisoners were forced to work tirelessly, sometimes until they passed out from exhaustion.
Followed by the Andamans, the Nicobar Islands is a popular island chain in India. There are a total of 22 islands. Declared as the World network of Biospheres by UNESCO, the Nicobar Islands are also part of the Union Territory of India.
Origin of its Name
The locals believe that the name Nicobar was first mentioned in Sri-Lankan Buddhist texts titled as ‘the Dipavamsa’ and ‘Mahavamsa.’ These two texts were produced in the 4th – 5th century. Even the famous voyager Marco Polo mentions the islands as ‘Necuverann’.
Peaceful, fresh, and stunning, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are known to have the world’s most beautiful beaches. White sands, crystal clear water, and the cool sea breeze will make any tourist fall in love with the islands’ beauty.
Radhanagar beach is the most popular of all. It currently holds the title of best beach in Asia, as awarded by Time magazine. For a beach lover, this one should be at the top of your list.
It is said that watching the sunset at Radhanagar beach might leave a person out of words. It is truly that stunning. Beware though, its beauty attracts many tourists, so it’s better to go either at dawn, or in the afternoon.
Another stunning beach is the Bharatpur beach. With the extensive Bay of Bengal at its disposal, this beach is famous for having zero waves. The clear water and long stretches of white sand brings many tourists to this beach.
If you are looking for a place to sit, relax, and sunbathe, then Kala-Pathar beach is your perfect match. It is enticing and serene.
Exotic Marine Biodiversity in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
As mentioned in an article One Earth, together with the Andaman Islands, Nicobar has been described as “… one of the richest repositories of biodiversity in the whole of South and Southeast Asia… unique both in terms of biodiversity and abundance.”
Andaman and Nicobar are famous for their exotic marine biodiversity sightings. With an ample diversity in flora and fauna, the islands are homes to some of the most precious species. You can even get a stunning view of the coral reefs. Corals are the exotic sea structures that make food for the entire marine community. Sea-walks allow you to get an enchanting look at the vibrant corals lined with shoals of different fishes.
Both the islands have a wide variety of cuisines. If you’re a fish lover, then these island dishes will have you sorted. Here on the islands, they can cook any fish in any curry form you want. Lobsters, crabs, prawns, squids are some of the most popular sea food items. There is an abundance of seafood on the island. The cuisine is heavily inspired by Indian cuisine. Dishes cooked with Indian spices dominate the Andaman-Nicobar platters. Barbequed meats and sea food are also another delicacy. But apart from this, fresh fruits, vegetables and of course, coconut plays a prominent part in the islands’ signature cuisine.
If you’re a water lover, then you must have heard about Scuba Diving. It is a style of underwater diving. An oxygen cylinder is given to the diver which is attached to their back. This heavy metal equipment aids the diver and makes breathing underwater possible.
Many people do not know that the word “scuba” is actually an acronym. Scuba means “Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.” Oh! And if you don’t know how to swim? Do not worry! In Andaman and Nicobar, there are professional divers who will give you extensive training beforehand. The training can last from 3 hours to a full day. So, rest assured that your diving experience will be amazing!
Environmental Importance of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
But no matter how much we praise their beauty, we cannot ignore one thing. The recent warming of our seas has definitely had an impact on these beautiful islands. And this impact is not small, not at all. Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to some of the most versatile flora and fauna species which need to be preserved. It is high time that we took the necessary steps. Containing a large portion of the fragile ecosystem, the islands have the largest archipelago system in the bay of Bengal. The islands support very unique flora and fauna. The landscape has a lot to offer, from “large islands emerging from sea grass beds, to coral reef or rocky outcrops, to beaches, littoral forest, Andaman slope forests, hilltops, into valleys and streams.
If you are interested in reading more about the ecological importance of Andaman-Nicobar, click here.
How to Protect the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
In order to protect the serenity of these islands, we need to understand just how important they are for the functioning of our environment. Climate change is real. It is happening right now. No matter how hard it is to accept it, we are running out of time.
If we want to preserve Andaman and Nicobar’s purity, we have to act now.
Anthropogenic threats to the ecoregion’s biodiversity are increasing. Forests are cleared for agricultural expansion, cattle are grazed. In order to encourage new growth of grass, fires are set, trees are cut to obtain wood for fuel. Hunting and plant and wildlife collection for the pet and ornamental trade are depleting wild stocks and populations.
Thus, the recommended priority conservation interventions are:
1) demarcate all protected areas properly with management plans;
2) develop species management and recovery plans for the endemic and endangered species;
3) control exotic invasive species;
and 4) promote social forestry in non-forest lands to take pressure off natural forests.”
The people of Andaman and Nicobar have built an entire society on these floating islands. Due to climate change, the threat of rising sea levels looms over these islands. Tourism is the main income of these islands. But more tourists means building more resorts and restaurants. These turns of events are the result of capitalism and human greed. The deforestation in Andaman and Nicobar has had a big impact on the island’s natural resources.
Conclusion: Why go to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Now that you’ve got a rough idea about how stunning the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Are you impressed? Excited to visit? Or surprised that you did not get to know about their existence before?
Do let me know in the comments!
And lastly, we now know that Andaman and Nicobar are located in the Indian ocean. So, its only proper to expand our bucket list! And who hasn’t heard of heaven on earth that is Bali? So click here to find out more about Bali, aka the Island of Gods!
One thought on “Travel Guide: Add the Stunning Andaman and Nicobar Islands to your Bucket List”
Andaman is a perfect place to visit and this blog have such a valuable information