Sunday, June 24, 2012

Andaman & Nicobar – the Enchanting Coral Islands of India (General Information)

Andaman & Nicobar – the Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(General Information)
Aerial view of Andaman Islands

Geographically Andaman and Nicobar Islands appears to be a north-south arc, situated between the 16° and 14° latitude, and 92° and 94° East longitude in the Bay of Bengal.  These Islands are part of land mass of South-east Asia, including Malaysia, North-east India, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia.  Andaman and Nicobar Islands cover an area of 8249 square kilometers. The area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of the islands stretching from nearest the Indian land mass i.e. North Andaman, followed by Middle Andaman, South Andaman, Little Andaman and farthest is Car Nicobar.  Andaman and Nicobar contain about 3000 islands, including islets and rocks in the archipelago.  The biggest island of the region is the Middle Andaman Islands (Andaman group) and the smallest is Ross Island (Andaman) - 0.8 square kilometers.  The highest peaks of the region are Saddle Peak (Andaman Islands) is 732 meters, which is situated in Diglipur region of South Andaman and Mount Thullier (Nicobar Islands) is 642 meters.  The Ritchie Archipelago and Labyrinth Islands are the two important groups of islets in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and these two groups of Islands is bisected by the 10 Degree channel.

            The history at Andaman and Nicobar Islands indicate that Marco Polo was among the first travelers from the West to reach this conglomeration of Islands and had described it as being inhabited by vicious tribes. Mythologically, these islands were known as Handuman to the Malays and presumably the name is derived from Lord Hanuman, as he is known in Malayan dialect.  These islands were also stated to be the base for Kanhoji Angre, a Maratha admiral during the early 18th century.  However, sovereignty of Kanhoji Angre ended when he was defeated by the British and Portuguese naval forces.  The British briefly occupied these Islands in 1789, but they abandoned the same in 1796.  However, the British resumed control over the island in the 19th century and established Andaman and Nicobar as a penal colony, which was named 'Kalapani' and housed the infamous Cellular Jail.   Initially the British East India Company sent hardened criminals to this region, but after the revolt of 1857 it got constructed the Cellular Jail and started incarcerating the political prisoners too, this practice only ended with the advent of India gaining independence from British subjugation.  These Islands were also briefly held by the Japanese occupation forces during the Second World War, but the treatment of the prisoners was far from satisfactory.  During this period Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had paid visit to these islands.  At present these islands are centrally administered as a Union Territory of India.
            As on date these islands are one of the pristine nature’s treasure troves hosting an array of islands with tropical rain forests, a spectacular & unique fauna & flora.  These islands offer a plethora of beaches and with the development over the decades, it now offers many more attractions some of which are listed as follows –
Beaches:  Corbyn's Cove and Chirya Tapu (Port Blair), Harminder Bay Beach (Hut Bay – Car Nicobar), Ramnagar Beach, Radhanagar Beach (Havlock), Karmatang Beach (Mayabunder) etc.
Islands: Red Skin Island, Cinque Island, Havelock Island, Ross Island, Jolly Buoy, Barren Island, Ross & Smith etc.
Picnic Spots & Natural caves etc. : Corbyn's Cove Tourism Complex, Mount Harriet, Chidiya Tapu, Baratang (Limes Stone Cave/Mud Volcano/Parrot Island) etc.
Monument: Cellular Jail, Ross Island, Viper Island
Museums: Anthropological Museum, National Memorial, Fisheries Museum, Naval Marine Museum (Samudrika) etc.
For more details log on to –  The Andaman group of Islands are now administratively divided into three districts i.e. the South Andaman (Port Blair & around), Middle Andaman (stretching from Baratang to Rangat) and North Andaman (stretching from Mayabunder to Diglipur).
Map of Andaman Group of Islands

To visit the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, one can either fly to this destination from Kolkata, Chennai & Delhi and flights are catered by Air India, Kingfisher, Jet Airways & Spice Jet etc.  However, one may also travel by the sea route either from Kolkata or Chennai and it takes about 3 days to reach the Islands by the sea route.  The details of sea route are available at –

            One can plan his/her trip as per the number of days he has to cover the region.  In case it is less than a week, one can visit the regions around Port Blair and include a visit to Havlock Islands in it or else do an exhaustive tour of Port Blair region only.  In case, one has a two week visit itinerary, one can include the visit to Diglipur by road/ferry/sea-plane and visit destinations like Rangat & Mayabunder en-route. 

                                                        Map of Nicobar group of Islands

© S. Roy Biswas – All rights reserved