The allure or these islands of the marigold sun, strung along the aquamarine waters of the Bay of Bengal, weaves a magical spell, even after millennia of upheavals, both natural and man-made. An integral part of mountainous landmass running from Myanmar to the outer reaches of Indonesia, they were strangely enough bypassed by the main shipping lines that plied the waters of the Bay of Bengal. This isolation only enhanced the air of mystery that enveloped this emerald of 572 islands, islets and rocks.
Also called the Bay Islands, both groups of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands have their own distinctive identity. Port Blair is the capital as well a bustling commercial hub in the region.
The main landmasses in the northern group- the Andaman Islands – are North, Middle and South Andaman islands that are separated by narrow waterways. Smaller islands lie dotted around these. Further south across Duncan Passage is Little Andaman. Northeast of Port Blair is Ritchie’s Archipelago, in which lies Havelock Island, boasting of beaches rated amongst the best in the world.
Rising from the azure waters northeast of Ritchie’s Archipelago are two islands of volcanic origin-Narcondum Island and Barren Island. The latter is India’s only active volcano.
The southern group – the Nicobar Islands – is mostly inaccessible to tourists. It is separated from the Andaman Islands by Ten Degree Channel. The southernmost island, Great Nicobar is the largest island in this group whereas the northernmost island Car Nicobar, is the administrative headquarters.
LOCAL WATCHABLES –
PORT BLAIR –
Cellular Jail – The prison where countless martyrs of India’s Independence struggle laid down their lives. See a poignant Sound & Light show. Timings : 9 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5pm. Monday closed.
Chatham Saw Mill – One of the oldest and largest in Asia. Was set up on a small island in 1883. Destroyed in World War-II, revived in the 1950s.
Mount Harriet – The highest peak in South Andaman, ideal for trekking, picnics and bird watching.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine Park – Comprising 15 islands including Red Skin and Jolly Buoy Islands, it showcases the natural tropical wealth of the islands and the rich marine life of waters here,
Activities – glass bottomed boat cruises, scuba diving, snorkeling.
Cinque Island – Rich in marine life and pristine coral gardens.
Corbyn’s Cove – Port Balir’s only beach.
Chidiya Tapu – Pristine beach, coral gardens and snorkeling.
Ross Island – Once an exclusive preserve.
Andaman Water Sports Complex – Motor boats, paddleboats, glass bottomed boats, water scooters, windsurfing, sailing and water skiing trips.
Mini Zoo – See the endemic Megapode, an exotic bird, the size of a chicken lays eggs of the size of a goose’s egg and the Nicobar pigeon, with its stunning green plumage and plum red feet.
Forest Museum – Exotic native woods on show. Timings : 9 am to 1 pm & 2 pm to 5 pm. Sunday closed.
Anthropological Museum – Insight into the world of pre historic inhabitants of the island. Timings : 9 am to 4 pm. Thursday closed.
Fisheries Museum – Over 350 species of marine life. Timings : 8.30 am to 5 pm. Sunday closed.
Samidrika Museum – Collection of shelld and marine creatures. Timings : 9.30 am to 6 pm. Sunday closed.
HAVELOCK ISLAND AND AROUND
Havelock Island – Boasts of Beach No 7 (Radhanagar) ‘The Best Beach in Asia’ (Time Magazine), mangrove creeks, rainforest trails, swimming elephants, scuba diving and snorkeling-excursions and instructions available from your resort on Havelock Island.
Island Hopping in Ritchie’s Archipelago
Visit Neil Island, The vegetable bowl of the Andamans, Long Island, and number of uninhabited islands.
Barren Island : India’s only active volcano.
Marketing – Aberdeen Bazaar and government emporia.
Total Area – 8249 sq. kms., consisting of 572 islands, spreading about 700 Kms from North to South.
Longitude – 6 to 14 degree East.
Latitude – 6 to 14 degree North.
Population – 3.56 lacs as per 2001 census, out of which 1.93 lacs are male and 1.63 lacs are female. There are some primitive tribes viz. the Great Andamanese, the Shompenes, the Sentinelese, the Ongecs and the Jarwas. While the Jarwas have withstood pressure to join the mainstream, the Shompenes have managed to keep themselves isolated. The Sentinelese are hostile to the outsiders. The Great Andamanese have lost their identity to the mainstream. The rest of the population hail from all over India who came at different times under different government rehabilitation schemes as well as on conviction or individually for search of livelihood. The medium of communication between them is Hindi. Literacy is 81.18 % as per 2001 census.
PORT BLAIR (Capital city of Andaman & Nicobar Islands)
Situation – About 1200 km. from Kolkata or Chennai, in the Bay of Bengal
Best Season : October to May.
Temperature – 23 to 30 Degrees (approx). There is no extreme cold or heat, and temperature remains moderate throughout the year. Humidity is high, and annual rainfall is 3180 mm.
Approach – City can be approached only by Air from Kolkata or Chennai, and by ship from Kolkata, Visakhapatnam or Chennai.