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The Andaman and Nicobar Islands - A Travel Guide

Once ill-famed as Kalapani (the Black Waters) related to the atrocities given by the British rulers to the revolutionaries and political prisioners, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have come a long way to now becoming a popular tourist as well as a honeymoon and winter holiday destination in India.

Andaman and Nicobar Island

A relaxed tropical island, Andaman and Nicobar Inlands is renowned for tranquil beaches, exotic corals and marine life, remains of Stone age culture and a stimulating colonial history.

These  mystifying islands are located 1000 km away from the eastern coast of India in the Bay of Bengal.

A territory consisting of a total of 572 islands has exotic flora and fauna. Out of these 36 are inhabited and a major chunk of the Nicobar Islands is out of the reach of tourists.

The capital of the territory, covering an area of around 8,073 sq km has Port Blair, an Andamanese town as its capital. While Car Nicobar, also called Malacca is the capital of Nicobar Island.

This group of islands is extremely popular for its scenic beauty as well as rich flora and fauna. As a crazy number of tourists visit this group of islands, there is no dearth of accommodation options.

Fast Facts about Andaman & Nicobar Group of Islands Date of formation- 1st Nov, 1956
Total area- 8,073 sq km
Official languages- Hindi and English
Other Languages - Malyalam, Bengali, Tamil, Oriya, Nicobarese, Kanada
Population- 3,56,152 (approx)
Capital- Port Blair
Annual temperature- 23 degree C to 31 degree C
Best time to visit- December to April
How to reach-By air or by ship

Climate

The sea breeze of this tropical island keeps the temperature fluctuating between the range of 23 degree C to 31degree C. Average rainfall is around 3000 m and the humidity is around 80 percent all around the year. From medium to heavy rain, monsoon visit the islands twice in a year, between the months of May-September and from November to mid-December.

History
The first inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are not known. However, the first human presence has been documented in the 2nd  century by Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Thereafter, during his visit to India in the 7th century, a Chinese Monk, also mentioned about human presence on the islands.

The Marathas, invaded the islands in the 17th century. Later, in the 19th century, the island was used by the Britishers in the form of a penal venue to keep off the freedom fighters and revolutionaries away from the mainland India.

The island was invaded by the Japanese during the II world war, but the locals were hesitant to them. Some considered them help while the other started guerrilla activities against them.

After Independence in 1947, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands came under the Indian Union. From that time, there has been a lot of migration from the mainland, thereby, increasing the population. This new arrival was considered as a threat to tribal land rights and environmental protection, but now things are changing.

Culture 

People 
The culture of Andaman and Nicobar is a mix of native cultures of the Negroid and the Mongoloid inhabitants along with initial setters from India. The migrants have also made additions to the culture. However, the best part is harmonious co-existence. Following are the main ethnic groups:
  • Andamanese
  • Onge
  • Jarawa
  • Sentinalese
Fairs and festivals The Tourism Department of the Island, organize a number of festivals for the tourists as well as the local people. Here is a list:

Event                                                      Schedule (tentative)  
Island tourism festival                              January 5th to 15th
Beach festival                                          3 days in April
Music festival/Monsoon festival                4 days in May or June
Food festival                                           4 days in September
World Tourism Day celebrations               September 27th
Film festival                                            3 days in November

Economy
It is believed that the locals have amazing potential but most of it is not utilized, leading to insignificant development. Although agricultural and industry are main but the rainforests are gold mines of timber. The hilly areas have tropical fruits  in abundance. Paddy, coconut and Areca nut are the main crops.

There is a lot of potential for fishery here. Pulses, vegetables, oilseeds, nutmeg, pepper, cloves and cinnamon are cultivated here with limited growth of rubber, cashew, red oil and palm. PVC conduit pipes and fittings, steel furniture paints and varnishes, soft drinks and beverages, and fiberglass are the main industries. From past many years, the tourism industry has been booming from the past few years.

Clothing 
It will not be wrong to say that there is no particular dressing style of  the people of Andaman and Nicobar islands. There are still such islands here where people remain naked or hardly wear any clothes but these areas are away from the touch of civilization or touch of modernity.

Some such tribes are Sentinelese, Shompens and Jarawas. However, those islands where tourism and modernization have shown their presence,  men and women wear both Indian and western attires.

Things to do in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Attractions -
Following are some of the well-known tourist places:
  • National Memorial Museum
  • Baratang
  • Barren Island (India’s only active volcano)
  • Gandhi Park
  • Cellular Jail
  • Corbyn's Cove Beach
  • Anthropological Museum
  • Radhanagar Beach
  • Katchal
  • Fisheries Museum
  • Ross Island
  • Chidiya Tapu
  • Mount Harriet
  • Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
  • Neil Island
  • Havelock Island
  • Chatham Saw Mill
Activities -
You can indulge in a number of activities such as :
  • Swimming 
  • Glass-boat rides 
  • Scuba diving 
  • Exploring marine life 
  • Going aboard a cruise 
  • Beach visits 
  • Shopping
  • Banana rides 
  • Speed-boat rides 
  • Water scooters 
  • Trekking 
  • Snorkeling
  • Fishing/Angling
How to reach By Air
To  arrive in the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the best way is to reach at the airport in Port Blair. It is well-connected by regular flights to important cities of India like Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. Jet Airways, Indian Airlines and Air Deccan are some of the airlines which offer services.

By Ship The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located in the middle of the Bay of Bengal and this travelling by a shop can be an amazing experience. The important cities of India like Vishakhapatnam, Chennai and Kolkata are connected to Port Blair by the way of regular passenger ships.

In a month, around 3-4 ships are available from Kolkata and Chennai and one from Vishakhapatnam to Port Blair. The ship might take around 3 days to arrive at Port Blair with around a stoppage of 2 years for the reverse journey.

General Tips for tourists
  • Make use of services of authorized guides only 
  • Swim only in safe areas or where lifeguards are present
  • Do not litter on the beaches or in the national parks
  • Do not damage the corals
  • Do not enter into the restricted territory 
  • Do not stay in forests/beaches during the night 
  • Explore only the permitted areas
  • Obtain permits in advance for photography or videography inside the national parks 
  • Nudity is prohibited on the beaches
Interested in vacation in Andaman? Check out this 6 nights Andaman Island tour package.
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