Andaman and Nicobar Islands (one of the seven Union Territories of India), are a group of 572 islands (only 34 of these islands are inhabited) situated in the Southern Eastern edge of Bay of Bengal . This group of Islands is spread over an area of about 9000 sq Km and is about 1250 km from Kolkata and approximately 1200 km from the coast of Tamil Nadu. Also, the Andaman and Nicobar islands lie in close proximity to Thailand and Myanmar, separated only by the Andaman Sea.
The Great Nicobar, which happens to be the southernmost tip of India, is barely 150 km from Sumatra, Indonesia. The 10 degree channel separates these islands –Nicobar being south to the Andaman. The only active volcano of India, situated in Barren Island, is also a part of the A & N group of Islands.
Hills to beaches
Both Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands are the ‘above sea’ extensions of Rakhine Mountains, the Patkai Range to the North and Mentanai Ridge to the South. This submarine range separates Bay of Bengal from the Andaman Sea. The highest elevation is at 2,410 ft or 730 meters at Saddle Peak in North Andaman.
It is formed mainly of sandstone, limestone and clay. The coastline of approximately 2000 km and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) consisting of 6 lakh sq.km of marine water make these islands a repository of flora and fauna.
It is very interesting to note that while Andaman has a rough hilly terrain with flat land confined to a few valleys, Nicobar has more diverse terrain. Car Nicobar has flattish coral covered surfaces while the Great Nicobar is hilly and has fresh water pockets.
Rainbows through the rain
Andaman & Nicobar islands enjoy a typical tropical climate moderated by sea breeze. The temperature varies from 23-30 degrees on average. It can get very hot and humid during the peak summer months of April, May and a part of June when the days get sunny and hot but the evenings continue to be pleasant due to the sea breeze.
These islands enjoy good rains brought mainly by Southwest Monsoons around the middle of June lasting almost 4-5 months. It’s a part of the place’s charm that one can hear the rain approaching; the sound of the rain in these islands is like a genre of music in itself. Rainbows, double and triple are a common sight here owing to the lack of pollution and clear visibility; something big cities with malls can never offer!
Two beauties named Flora and Fauna
These islands are a haven for those interested in the study of plant, animal and marine life. With a tropical climate and the tidal creeks surrounded by mangroves and swamps, these islands are home to a large variety of flora and fauna. According to a rough estimate there are about 2000 flowering plants, more than 100 varieties of ferns, about 50 odd mammals and more than 200 types of birds. Approximately 6 dozen varieties of reptiles and amphibians have been identified.
The sea around Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Andaman Sea to the east and Bay of Bengal to west) is home to roughly 1400 species of fish and a huge collection of coelenterates and crustaceans. So far, almost 180 species of corals have been reported. It’s an unforgettable experience to see the world underwater through one’s own eyes; it is impossible not be awed by the beauty and fall in love with it.
Andaman wild pig is endemic to the region. Other common mammals found are spotted deer, macaques, civets, shrews and Dugongs (also known as the sea cow). The state animal is the Dugong, which unfortunately, is endangered, as is the elephant, salt water crocodile, turtle, python and the Andaman pig.
Andaman has a typical dense rainforest cover. In North Andaman one gets to see wet evergreen forests with plenty of creepers while Middle Andaman is mostly covered with deciduous forests. But in South Andaman one comes across a total change in vegetation and finds only epiphytic vegetation and orchids.
North Nicobar Island is completely devoid of evergreen forests. But as one travels downwards to the Central and South Nicobar group, evergreen forests become the dominant cover. Also, the deciduous forests found in Middle Andaman are almost missing in Nicobar whereas, the grasslands are exclusive to Nicobar.
The Tourism Department of Andaman and Nicobar Islands regularly organizes fairs and festivals to give us an insight into the rich culture and traditions of the local inhabitants.
The Island Tourism festival is held every year on 5th January and goes on for 10 days. It is held mainly to promote tourism and for the entertainment of the local islanders. The main attraction is the performance by local artists, and the stalls selling the artifacts of local artisans and local cuisines.
Artists from mainland India are also invited to perform in the festival. While Port Blair hosts the main events, other places like Wimberlygunj, Neil, Havelock, Wandoor and a few others too host some smaller events. Not to be missed are the dance performances by the enthusiastic local children. You just need to grab cotton candy and settle down to enjoy an evening of colours, lights and music.
Other than these, the local communities have their community specific festivals as well; the best part being that the amalgamated culture gives you multiple reasons to celebrate their many festivals with them, time and again!
Try and catch these events :
- Island Tourism Festival in January
- Beach Festival in April
- Music / Monsoon Festival in August-September
- Food Festival in September
The information about these festivals can be obtained from the Tourist Information center, Port Blair that operates on all days from 8 am to 8 pm.