The Andaman Islands, part of the union territories of India, is made up of over 550 islands, islets and rocks, situated in the southeastern part of the Bay of Bengal, approximately 800 km northwest of Phuket. These islands remain relatively isolated and only 26 are actually inhabited. Some islands are strictly out-of-bounds, like North Sentinel, where the indigenous tribes are among the last people to remain totally untouched by the modern world.
Notable for deserted beaches, crystal clear waters, inland forests, and Indiaís only active volcano, the Andaman Islands are also a scuba diverís paradise: with deep vertical wall dives, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, dugong, and very good underwater visibility. The weather between December and April is characteristically dry, with clear blue skies, and refreshing sea breezes.
Sandy beaches are famous for turtle nesting, the important ones include Leather back turtle, Green sea turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, Water monitor lizard, Salt Water Crocodiles, Reticulate python etc are seen here. Its a birds paradise as more than 250 types of birds inhabit the islands out of which 39 are endemic.
Best time to visit Andaman
October to March is the best time to visit Andaman islands. Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a humid weather. Summer - January to April, Monsoon - May to December. The rainy season happens twice a year under the influence of Southwest monsoon in mid-May to September, and Northeast monsoon in November To January.
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Not to miss the awesome sea food in the beachside shacks near Neil island where sea food is cooked in driftwood fire.
Marine life in underwater at Jolly Buoy island in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine park in Andaman.
Snorkeling presents you marine diverse life. The Mahatma Gandhi Marine national park is spread over 285sq kms and is beautiful along the ecologically fragile system in the Indian coastline. It has 5 islands, many creeks and bays, mangroves and must visit place for adventure freaks. An hour by boat from Wandoor jetty brings you to Jolly Buoy island where just a few feet away one can snorkel, the sights of corals, octopus, star fish, urchins, clams, sponges, sea cucumbers etc is a unique experience. The best time is Oct-April
The ancient island was mentioned in Ramayana as well as the accounts of Jerini and Ptolemy. The 7th century Chinese Buddhists mentions the island as "island of nude men". The name derived from 'Angamanian' by Marco Polo, derived from Handuman from Hanuman, the good spirit island by Ptolemy and many others.
During World War 2, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose elevated the status of the islands from the no man's land, christening it as Martyr's islands or Swaraj Dweep. The British established settlement in 1789, when Lt Archibald Blair, a British hydrographer and marine Surveyor brought people from Bengal and built a settlement in Chatham, Port Blair. The Dutch and Portugese claimed the islands in the 18th century. During World War II the islands were claimed by Japan and on Nov 6 1943 The Japnese Prime Minister Tojo, passed over the islands to the hands of Bose's Indian National Army.
The National flag was hoisted at Port Blair on December 30, 1943 by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. In 1945 the British re-captured the islands, and finally in 1947 passes on to the Indian government.
The Great Andamanese people, who live in the Strait island, the Dugong tribe of Little Andaman and the tattooed Onge tribe members who live near the southern creek have mingled with the new civilization. The Sentinelese who live in North Sentinel are fiercely protective of their ancient ways. They greet people with 2m long arrows dipped in poison. They live by hunting.
About 29,000 Nicobarese live in Nicobar and 210 Shompens who descended from Mongols live in Campell Bay. The British exiled freedom fighters to these islands. Many as such from pakistan, Sri lanka etc have become locals here. Today the islands are a cultural mix of people from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sri Lanka etc.
The islands are dominated by on-tribal people, though the original inhabitants are 6 recognized groups of tribals of Mongoloid and Negroid origin, which form about 8% of the total population.
The major tourist attractions in the city are the beaches, underwater marine life of corals and colourful fishes, rich evergreen forests, the National Memorial Cellular jail, Ross island(once the capital island of Britishers), Viper island, Chatham saw mill(one of the largest saw mill in Asia), the mud volcano and lime caves at Baratang island and museums likes the fisheries museum, anthropological museum, naval marine museum.
The island is also known for its annual tourism festival and the Andaman sea rally. There are numerous islands boasting of world beaches in the Bay islands, another name for Andaman and Nicobar islands. A few of them are Jolly Buoy and Red Skin, Cinque Island, Havelock Island, Niel Island, Long Island, North Passage Island and Ross & Smith Islands. The Radhanagar Beach at Havelock Island was rated as best in Asia by the Time Magazine.
How to reach
By Air : Indian, Air Deccan and Jet airways operates daily flights from Chennai to Port Blair whereas Indian, Air Deccan and Air Sahara operates daily flights from Kolkata to Port Blair.
By Sea : Sailing is available from Chennai, Kolkata and Vizag. 3-4 sailings from Chennai and Kolkata and 1 sail from Vizag every month. It takes 4 days to reach Port Blair.
For inter island travel ferries operate from Phoenix Jetty Bay at Port Blair. Choppers and Sea planes are also available.
Non Indians require restricted area permit issued on arrival at Port Blair airport.
Forest permits for Rs 50/- can be taken at the jetty to visit Red skin or Jolly Buoy (8:30 to 11:00 am) & 2:30 to 4.30pm except Sundays.
The Corbynís Cove beach, situated 8 kms from the City centre is the closest Beach from the city. The main attractions of this beach are the inviting water sports activities like surfing, scuba diving and boating. he Waves Restaurant, The Peerless Sarovar Portico Resort and the Hornbill Nest Guest House are near the beach.
Radhanagar Beach is located 12 kms from Havelock pier. It was judged one of the best beaches by times magazine. Complete silence, neat, golden sands, thick green coast and the brillian blue sky make it a heavenly place. Swimming, fishing, snokelling are the various activities here. The beach can be accessed by a two hour boat journey from Port Blair.
Elephant beach is in Havelock island and you can watch elephants swimming in sea. Scuba diving, snorkeling can he done here.
Long Island Beach is 80 kms from Port Blair in Lalaji Bay. Dolphins can be spotted here.
Baratang island is about 90 km away from Port Blair. The journey is in 2 phases - Port Blair to Jirkatang (1 hr 20 mins) and then Jirkatang to Baratang (1 hr 20 mins). In between the journey you meet the Jarawa tribals. The south of Andaman is the island the route inhabited by the Jarawa tribals with distinct negroid features. The Mud volcano is 5 kms away and you can hire a vehicle to reach there. Then take the mystic boat ride through the dense mangroves leading to a path of ancient limestone caves, the rugged side walls towering on either sides leading to the inside of the cave. Pitch darkness and ensure your guide carries his torch to see the stalagcites and stalagmites which are over 1000 years old. The sunset at Parrot island is a must as you see the parrots returning home, for this plan a stay in Baratang island.
Barren Island Sanctuary (Est 1977)
When to visit - Jan to March
Barren Island is located approx 60 kms east of the main Andaman group od islands. It is about 125 kms north east of Port Blair. The waters around the islands are home to dolphins and dugongs
Marine National park (Est 1983)
When to visit - Jan to March
Formerly known as Crocodile national Park. It is situated about 30 kms west of Port Blair. Bird life includes white bellied sea eagle and the andaman wood pigeon and andaman teal. This sanctuary is home to an important variety of marine reptiles including green sea leather backed olive ridley turtles, hawk billed turtles and salt water crocodiles.
Middle Button Island National Park (North & South) Est 1979
When to visit - Jan to March
The southern park was est in 1977. These three national parks are situated along the west coast of Andaman islands. These small island parks have few land mammals. The dolphin and dugongs are often sited near the coast. The water monitor lizard is also found.
Mount Harriet National park (Est 1979)
When to visit - Jan and Feb
About 15 kms south of Port Blair largely hill and ridge evergreen forest with accessible valley and flat land forest that has been exploited in the past. This island is prime habitat for the Andaman wild pig.
Narcondum Island Sanctuary (Est 1977)
When to visit - Nov to April
This island sanctuary is located about 260 kms north east of Port Blair. This sanctuary protects the sole habitat of the narcondum hornbill.
North Reef Island Sanctuary (Est 1977)
When to visit - Nov to April
Small islands to the west of North Andaman. This island sanctuary protects the habitat of the Andaman teal of which it has the largest population and the Nicobar pigeon.
South Sentinel Sanctuary (Est 1977)
When to visit - Jan to May
Located about 125 kms south of Port Blair. The core area is only 1.6 sq kms. Green sea, Olive ridley and leather backed turtles all lay eggs here and the white bellied sea eagle hunts in the surrounding waters. There may still be some robber crabs.
Edible-nest Swiftlet are seen in the caves here. Its nest is made of solidified saliva and is used to make bird's nest soup. Some here in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been harvested extensively leading to them being considered critically threatened. The bird is never seen to be resting in a tree or on the ground, it literally keeps flying and come back to the cave only to breed. The limestone cames where they build their nest is very high and concentrated on a wall. On the other wall you can see hundreds of bats hanging down. The Government of India and a NGO have joined hands together to prevent the poachers here.
Tusker Rajan the ocean swimming elephant in Anadaman Emerald waters also a hollywood star can be your mate if you book well in advance. Its a unique experience to spruce up the trip.