Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprise around 572 islands formed by a
submarine mountain range, which separates the Bay of Bengal from the
Andaman Sea. The islands attain maximum altitude at Saddle Peak
(730 m), formed mainly of limestone, sandstone, and clay.
islands have a tropical climate. There is medium to heavy rain
during the monsoon, in the months from May to mid September and
November to mid December. There is no extreme climate except rains
and tropical storms in late summer often cause heavy damage.
canopied rain forests of the islands harbor 3,000 species of plants
including mangroves, epiphytes (130 ferns, 100 orchids), palms,
woody climbers, timbers (teak, mahogany, Andaman paduk) and a wide
variety of tropical fruits. Marine fauna is diverse including a wide
variety of tropical fish and coral. Considering the diversity and
uniqueness of fauna and flora and the fragile nature of the
eco-system here, 96 sanctuaries spread over 466.218 sq km and nine
National Parks spread over 1153.938 sq km have been notified on
known historically about Andaman and Nicobar, a cluster of around
572 islands of which less than 50 are populated, stretching
from the southern tip of Burma all the way down south till Sumatra
in Indonesia. It is believed that Marco Polo was among the
first from the West to set foot on one of the islands. Kanhoji
Angre, a Maratha admiral had his base on the island in the early
18th century. From there, he attacked passing Portuguese, Dutch and
English merchant vessels on their way to or from their various Asian
colonies. In 1713, his navy even succeeded in capturing the yacht of
the British Governor of Bombay. Despite many efforts by the British
and later a joint military force of British and Portuguese naval
forces, Kanhoji Angre was never defeated. He died in 1729.
British established their first colony in the Andaman and Nicobar
Islands in 1789, which was abandoned in 1796. The British
finally annexed the islands in the 19th century adding them to their
empire. They turned it into a penal colony for Indian freedom
fighters. The construction of the infamous Cellular Jail was
completed in 1908. Hundreds of anti-British Indians were tortured to
death or simply executed here. With the Second World War, Japanese
troops occupied the islands and the local tribes initiated guerrilla
activities to drive them out. When India achieved independence in
1947, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were incorporated into the
consistent emphasis of the government on progress and its
encouragement to the mainlanders to settle there has resulted in the
local tribes becoming a minority group in their own land.
indigenous tribes are distinguished in two groups: the Onge,
Sentinelese, Jarawa and Andamanese of Negroid descent living on
the Andaman Islands and the Shompen and Nicobarese of
Mongoloid descent living in the Nicobar Islands. Most of the tribes
are on the verge of extinction. This sad destiny will most likely
hit the Andamanese tribe first since their number is as low as
thirty. The Sentinelese is the least studied tribe still living in
isolation on the North Sentinel Island. Their number is
estimated at 250. Outsiders attempting to make contact with them are
driven away with bows and arrows. They continue to maintain a unique
lifestyle living in harmony with nature just as they have done for
thousands of years.
crafts of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands include shell and exotic
woods crafted for the tourists, palm mats, and beautiful natural
shells. Due to the fear of over exploitation of the Islands' natural
resources, trade of some products is now banned.
islanders celebrate most of the festivals of the mainland due to the
influence of the external society and the development that has taken
place. Major festivals are Durga Puja, Pongal, Panguni Uthiram, and
Onam. Other important festivals are Mahashivaratri, Janmashtami,
Holi, Diwali, Christmas, Good Friday, etc.
Island Tourism Festival
is celebrated every year for 15 days between December and February
in Port Blair. Dance performances from the troupes residing in
different islands are organized. One of the major attractions at
this festival is the Andaman Dog Show.
removed from the present civilization, the aboriginal people did not
wear any clothes till recently. The Sentinelese do not wear anything
even now while the Jarawas use only adornments of bark and shell,
like necklaces, arm bands, waist bands etc. The Shompens are semi
nomadic and cover their body below the waist only. The people of Car
Nicobar Island have totally given up the traditional dress of tassel
or coconut leaf petticoat and now wear modern clothes. The Onges
survived without dress for centuries but have gradually adapted to
the dress code of the mainland. Use of traditional items of
adornment like necklaces made of shell, waistbands and headbands of
bark fiber are now restricted to ceremonial occasions.
All of the
tribes of these islands were hunters till recently and some of them
had not invented fire. Because of this reason no particular cuisine
has developed in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Now, with increasing
links with the developed worlds, the habitants are adopting their
food habits too. Seafood is available in plenty and many restaurants
serve fresh seafood.
obvious reason to travel to the Andamans is to let oneself go
completely, to recharge the body and collect new ideas. The Andaman
Islands, despite lying more than 1,000 km east of the Indian
mainland and only about 300 km west of Bangkok, run the same time as
Delhi i.e. the Indian Standard Time. On a trip to these islands, one
should make sure to bring a lot of good books, some strong sun
lotion, a hammock and snorkeling equipment.
Port Blair, the
only sizable town on the islands, serves as the administrative
capital. The center of the town is the lively Aberdeen Bazaar.
Constructed entirely of wood, it has been razed to the ground
several times in the past. However, every time, reconstruction was
completed in no time and now it is as colorful as ever. Port Blair
is the only place to do some sightseeing. The major attraction here
is the Cellular Jail, slowly being claimed back again by nature,
overgrowing with plants and moss. Today, the jail is a memorial to
the freedom fighters, who laid down their lives to make the country
independent. The library here has some interesting books for those
interested in knowing more about the indigenous tribes. The Anthropological
Museum displays some tools, dresses and photos. An interesting
place is the Marine Museum, which covers the history and
geography of the islands and the Fisheries Museum displays
the rich marine life of the Andaman Sea.
from Port Blair offer various natural and historical excursions. One
can either take a boat to Ross Island, the early
administrative center of the British, or hike up Mount Harriet.
Scuba diving is an option available in Wandoor, 30 km
southwest of Port Blair.
easiest accessible islands from the capital are Neil and Havelock.
Small boats leave the Phoenix Bay Harbor four times a week to
Havelock, usually docking at Neil on the way. One can be escorted by
a school of dolphins or spot giant sea tortoise and flying fish. It
is worth spending a few days on Neil. Basic accommodation is
provided in the small settlement near the jetty.
lying north of Neil is one of the islands chosen by the government
to turn into a luxurious tourist destination. The coral reef here is
still intact and is what makes snorkeling a great pleasure. Only the
northern part of Havelock is populated. To make it easy to remember
locations, they are numbered from one to seven. The boat docks at no
1. The best accommodation is at no 5 and when one plans to take a
stroll on a beautiful beach he should head for no 7 then turn left
at the junction at no 3.
weekly flights between Calcutta and Port Blair and four flights
between Chennai and Vishakhapattnam connect the islands to the
around three to four ships sailing between Haddo Jetty, Port Blair
in the Andamans and Calcutta and Chennai on the mainland. There is
one sailing from Vishakhapattnam every two months. The Shipping
Corporation of India runs these sailings. The distances between Port
Blair and some of the important cities on the mainland are Calcutta
- 1255 km, Chennai - 1190 km and Vishakhapatnam - 1200 km
Directorate of Shipping Services maintains regular inter-island
foreshore and harbour ferry services to cater to the needs of
inter-island commuters. There are local buses, bicycles,
motorcycles, auto rickshaws, and taxis available for local transport
on the islands.