The Andaman Islands
Beautiful and isolated beaches, luscious rainforests, mangrove swamps, and unique marine and bird life come together in the Andaman Islands, closer to Southeast Asia than they are to India. Recently opened to tourism, the islands have become the site of a cosmopolitan gathering of people from all over mainland India. Bengalis, Biharis, Tamils, Malayalis, Gujaratis all live and work together with a common tongue, Hindi, and a common allegiance to their new home. Indigenous people who inhabited these 200 or so islands have more or less been pushed off the land through 19th and 20th century colonization, settlement, and deforestation, and relations between new Indian settlers and indigenous tribal are not always good, for obvious reasons. Visitors are not very likely to meet any tribal, who mostly remain within the forests. Tourism promoting visit to tribal areas is strictly restricted. It can be a strange feeling to lie back and relish this extraordinary natural beauty with no sense of those who called the Andamans home 100 short years ago.
Port Blair, on South Andaman is the main transport hub, connected to Chennai and Kolkata by boat and plane. The islands have a very poor transportation infrastructure and getting around is not always very easy. The Andamans, especially the more remote islands, also don’t have much commercial infrastructure, so you may have to bring your own camping and food supplies or buy them in Port Blair. Your exertion will be rewarded, however, with some of the most secluded beaches in the world. The temperature remains tropical throughout the year, although a lot of rain falls from June to mid September and from November to December.
By Air : Port Blair is the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The only airport of the island is located here and is connected with Chennai and kolkata by all leading airlines
By Sea : Regular passenger ship services are available to Port Blair from Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam. There are usually 3 to 4 sailings every month from kolkata and Chennai to Port Blair and vice versa. However there is one sailing also from Vishakhapatnam every month. The voyage takes 50 to 60 hrs and halts at Port Blair for 2 to 4 days. One can capture the picturesque view of the sea journey for eternity. The sea journey is not recommended for tourists on a tight schedule as it is not uncommon for the ship to delay or cancel a sail.
The temperatures remain between 23 and 31 degree centigrade during most of the year due to regular sea breeze with humidity around 80%. Rains mostly occur between Mid May and Early October due to the influence of South West Monsoon, the North East Munson brings occasional rain between November and December. The best time to visit is between December and early April, when the days are warm but not too hot and the nights are pleasant.
Since ancient times the islands of Andaman and Nicobar were inhabited by aboriginal tribes. A clear history emerged only after a survey was undertaken by the British in 1777. The islands remained the abode of the Negritos and Mongoloids for several centuries. The islands remained alienated from the mainland till the end of the 18th Century when people from the outside world stepped in for the first time. Before India’s independence these islands were popularly known as ‘Kalapani’ as it housed large number of political prisoners in the Cellular Jail. The present inhabitants are mostly said to be the descendants of these prisoners.
Flora and Fauna
These islands are blessed with rich tropical rainforest which is a mixture of elements from Malaysian, Myanmarese, Indian and the indigenous floral strains. Almost 2200 varieties of plants can be found here. Ferns and orchids can be found in the south Andaman forests. However the Middle Andamans consist mostly of deciduous forests whereas the North Andamans is known for wet evergreen type. These islands have almost 86% forest cover. It also has a diverse animal life with a large variety of Mammals, Birds, Butterflies, Moths and Shells dot the landscape of these islands. Saltwater crocodile, a relatively rare reptile, can also be found here.
The cuisine of the islands mainly consist of sea food found mostly in hotels and restaurants.The food of the Andamanese are mainly non. As more and more visitors throng these islands, many restaurants have come up which serve Indian, Chinese and Continental. Fish based items are very popular among the Locals.
People and Culture
People from all parts of India live here. All religious festivals are celebrated with equal zeal and enthusiasm. Moreover all the ethnic groups also live in total peace and harmony. There are four aboriginal tribal groups namely The Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas and Sentinalese. All four are of Negrito origin.
Content Written By - Ms Naveli Singh