Tuesday, 6 March 2018

INDIA: Andaman And Nicobar Islands Are Worth A Visit

Andaman and Nicobar are a large group of nearly 600 islands in the Bay of Bengal. Though they are a part of India politically, they are closer to Myanmar and Thailand than to the Indian mainland.

They are grouped with Southern India. They were just north of the epicenter of the Boxing Day quake of 2004, and were the site of dozens of aftershocks.

The Nicobars were badly hit by the resulting tsunami, while the Andamans escaped with a few bruises. With the exception of Little Andaman Island and the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, the rest of the tourist destinations are operating normally again.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, one of the seven union territories of India, are a group of islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

The territory is 150 km (93 mi) north of Aceh in Indonesia and separated from Thailand and Myanmar by the Andaman Sea.

It comprises two island groups, the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands, separated by the 10°N parallel, with the Andamans to the north of this latitude, and the Nicobars to the south or by 179 km.

The Andaman Sea lies to the east and the Bay of Bengal to the west.

The territory's capital is the Andamanese town of Port Blair. The total land area of these islands is approximately 8,249 km2 (3,185 sq mi).

The capital of Nicobar Islands is Car Nicobar. The islands host the Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only tri-service geographical command of the Indian Armed Forces.

The Andaman Islands are home to the Sentinelese people, an uncontacted people. The Sentinelese are the only people currently known to not have reached further than a Paleolithic level of technology.

The earliest archaeological evidence documents some 2,200 years. However, genetic and cultural studies suggest that the indigenous Andamanese people may have been isolated from other populations during the Middle Paleolithic, which ended 30,000 years ago.

Since that time, the Andamanese have diversified into linguistically and culturally distinct, territorial groups.

The Nicobar Islands appear to have been populated by people of various backgrounds. By the time of European contact, the indigenous inhabitants had coalesced into the Nicobarese people, speaking a Mon-Khmer language and the Shompen, whose language is of uncertain affiliation.

Both are unrelated to the Andamanese, but being closely related to the Austroasiatic languages in mainland Southeast Asia.

On 26 December 2004 the coasts of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were devastated by a 10 m (33 ft) high tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

More than 2,000 people lost their lives, more than 4,000 children were orphaned or suffered the loss of one parent, and a minimum of 40,000 people were rendered homeless.

More than 46,000 people were injured. The worst affected Nicobar islands were Katchal and Indira Point; the latter subsided 4.25 metres (13.9 feet) and was partially submerged in the ocean.

The lighthouse at Indira Point was damaged but has been repaired since then. The territory lost a large amount of area which is now submerged.

The territory which was at 8,073 km2 (3,117 sq mi) is now at 7,950 km2 (3,070 sq mi).

While locals and tourist of the islands suffered the greatest casualties from the tsunami, most of the aboriginal people survived because oral traditions passed down from generations ago warned them to evacuate from large waves that follow large earthquakes.

There are 572 islands in the territory having an area of 8,249 km2 (3,185 sq mi). Of these, about 38 are permanently inhabited.

The islands extend from 6° to 14° North latitudes and from 92° to 94° East longitudes. The Andamans are separated from the Nicobar group by a channel the Ten Degree Channel some 150 km (93 mi) wide.

The highest point is located in North Andaman Island (Saddle Peak at 732 m (2,402 ft)).

The Andaman group has 325 islands which cover an area of 6,170 km2 (2,382 sq mi) while the Nicobar group has only 247 islands with an area of 1,765 km2 (681 sq mi).[12]:33

The capital of the union territory, Port Blair, is located 1,255 km (780 mi) from Kolkata, 1,200 km (750 mi) from Visakhapatnam and 1,190 km (740 mi) from Chennai.

The northernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobars group is 901 km (560 mi) away from the mouth of the Hooghly River and 190 km (120 mi) from Myanmar.

Indira Point at 6°45’10″N and 93°49’36″E at the southern tip of the southernmost island, Great Nicobar, is the southernmost point of India and lies only 150 km (93 mi) from Sumatra in Indonesia.

The only volcano in India, Barren Island, is located in Andaman and Nicobar. It is an active volcano and erupted in 2017.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a tropical rainforest canopy, made of a mixed flora with elements from Indian, Myanmar, Malaysian and endemic floral strains.

So far, about 2,200 varieties of plants have been recorded, out of which 200 are endemic and 1,300 do not occur in mainland India.

The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids. The Middle Andamans harbours mostly moist deciduous forests.

North Andamans is characterised by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers.

The North Nicobar Islands including Car Nicobar and Battimalv are marked by the complete absence of evergreen forests, while such forests form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group.

Grasslands occur only in the Nicobars, and while deciduous forests are common in the Andamans, they are almost absent in the Nicobars. The present forest coverage is claimed to be 86.2% of the total land area.

This atypical forest coverage is made up of twelve types, namely:

- Giant evergreen forest

- Andamans tropical evergreen forest

- Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest

- Cane brakes

- Wet bamboo brakes

- Andamans semi-evergreen forest

- Andamans moist deciduous forest

- Andamans secondary moist deciduous forest

- Littoral forest

- Mangrove forest

- Brackish water mixed forest

- Submontane forest

This tropical rain forest, despite its isolation from adjacent land masses, is surprisingly rich with a diversity of animal life.

About 50 varieties of forest mammals are found to occur in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Some are endemic, including the Andaman wild boar. Rodents are the largest group with 26 species, followed by 14 species of bat.

Among the larger mammals there are two endemic varieties of wild boar, Sus scrofa andamanensis from Andaman and Sus scrofa nicobaricus from Nicobar, which are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Sch I).
Saltwater crocodile is also found in abundance. The State Animal of Andaman is the dugong, also known as the sea cow, which can be found in Little Andaman.

Around 1962 there was an attempt to introduce the leopard, which was unsuccessful because of unsuitable habitat. These were ill-considered moves as exotic introductions can cause havoc to island flora and fauna.

About 270 species of birds are found in the territory; 14 of them are endemic, the majority to the Nicobar island group. The islands' many caves are nesting grounds for the edible-nest swiftlet, whose nests are prized in China for bird's nest soup.

The territory is home to about 225 species of butterflies and moths. Ten species are endemic to these Islands. Mount Harriet National Park is one of the richest areas of butterfly and moth diversity on these islands.

The islands are well known for prized shellfish, especially from the genera Turbo, Trochus, Murex and Nautilus. Earliest recorded commercial exploitation began during 1929.

Many cottage industries produce a range of decorative shell items. Giant clams, green mussels and oysters support edible shellfishery. The shells of scallops, clams, and cockle are burnt in kilns to produce edible lime.

There are 96 wildlife sanctuaries, nine national parks and one biosphere reserve in these islands.

As of 2011 Census of India, the population of the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands was 379,944, of which 202,330 (53.25%) were male and 177,614 (46.75) were female.

The sex ratio was 878 females per 1,000 males. Only 10% of the population lived in Nicobar islands.

The areas and populations at the 2001 and 2011 Censuses of the three districts are:

- Nicobar Islands 36,842

- North and Middle Andaman 105,597

- South Andaman 238,142

- Total 380,581

Hindi and English are the official languages of the islands. Bengali is the dominant and most spoken language, with 26% of the population speaking Bengali.

The other major languages spoken in the islands are Bengali (26%) Hindi (18.23%), Tamil (17.68%), Telugu (12.81%), Malayalam (8.11%) and Nicobarese (8.05%) according to 2001 Census of India.

Other minor spoken languages are Kurukh/Oraon, Munda and Kharia. Andaman Creole Hindi is widely used as a trade language in the Andamans.

There remain approximately 400–450 indigenous Andamanese in the Andaman islands, the Jarawa and Sentinelese in particular maintaining a steadfast independence and refusing most attempts at contact.

In the Nicobar Islands, the indigenous people are the Nicobarese, or Nicobari, living throughout many of the islands, and the Shompen, restricted to the hinterland of Great Nicobar.

More than 2,000 people belonging to the Karen tribe live in the Mayabunder tehsil of North Andaman district, almost all of whom are Christians.

Despite their tribal origins, the Karen of Andamans have Other Backward Class (OBC) status in the Andamans.

The majority of people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are Hindus (69.44%), with Christians forming a large minority of 21.7% of the population, according to the 2011 census of India. There is a small but significant Muslim (8.51%) minority.

A total of 48,675 hectares (120,280 acres) of land is used for agriculture purposes. Paddy, the main food crop, is mostly cultivated in Andaman group of islands, whereas coconut and arecanut are the cash crops of Nicobar group of islands.

Field crops, namely pulses, oilseeds and vegetables are grown, followed by paddy during Rabi season. Different kinds of fruits such as mango, sapota, orange, banana, papaya, pineapple and root crops are grown on hilly land owned by farmers.

Spices such as pepper, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon are grown under a multi-tier cropping system. Rubber, red oil, palm, noni and cashew are grown on a limited scale in these islands.

There are 1,374 registered small-scale, village and handicraft units. Two units are export-oriented in the line of fish processing activity. Apart from this, there are shell and wood based handicraft units.

There are also four medium-sized industrial units. SSI units are engaged in the production of polythene bags, PVC conduit pipes and fittings, paints and varnished, fibre glass and mini flour mills, soft drinks and beverages, etc.

Small scale and handicraft units are also engaged in shell crafts, bakery products, rice milling, furniture making, etc.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation has spread its wings in the field of tourism, fisheries, industries and industrial financing and functions as authorised agents for Alliance Air/Jet Airways.

The Islands have become a tourist destination, due to the draw of their largely unspoiled virgin beaches and waters.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are developing into a major tourism hub with exotic-looking beaches and pristine islands having equally exotic names, wonderful opportunities for adventure sports like snorkelling and sea-walking.

In Port Blair, the main places to visit are the Cellular Jail, Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Andaman Water sports complex, Chatham Saw Mill, Mini Zoo, Corbyn's cove, Chidiya Tapu, Wandoor Beach, Forest Museum, Anthropological Museum, Fisheries Museum, Naval Museum (Samudrika), Ross Island and Viper Island.

Other places include Havelock island famous for Radhanagar Beach, Neil Island for Scuba diving/snorkelling, Cinque island, Saddle peak, Mt Harriet and Mud Volcano.

The southern group Nicobar islands is mostly inaccessible to tourists.

Indian tourists do not require a permit to visit the Andaman islands but if they wish to visit any tribal areas they need a special permit from the Deputy Commissioner, Port Blair.

Permits are required for foreign nationals. For foreign nationals arriving by air, these are granted upon arrival at Port Blair.

According to official estimates, the flow of tourists doubled to nearly 300,000 in 2012 from 130,000 in 2008–09. The Radha Nagar beach of Andamans was chosen as Asia’s best Beach in 2004.

The Sisters are small uninhabited islands in the Andaman Archipelago, at the northern side of the Duncan Passage, about 6 km (3.2 nmi) southeast of Passage Island and 18 km (9.7 nmi) north of North Brother.

East Sister Island (Andaman) and West Sister Island (Andaman). The islands are about 250 metres (820 feet) apart, connected by a coral reef.

They are covered by forests, and have rocky shores except for a beach on the NW side of East Sister. They belong to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Territory of India.

Before the British established a colony on the Andaman, the Sister islands were visited occasionally by the Onge people of Little Andaman Island for fishing.

They may have been a waystation for their temporary settlement of Rutland Island between 1890 and 1930. The islands have been a wildlife refuge since 1987, with 0.36 square km of area.

Cities in Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

- Port Blair, the laid-back capital of the Andamans and the sole entry/exit point. Spend a day or two here walking around and enjoying fresh seafood and seeing a couple of the nearby sites.

- Diglipur, take a road trip to the far north of the island chain, a base for visits to nearby Ross and Smith Islands.

- Rangat

- Mayabunder

Other destinations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Havelock Island, the most visited of the islands, with the most, although still minimal infrastructure. Beautiful beaches, great snorkeling and scuba diving.

Rutland Island, is pristine, non-polluted and least visited island. Beautiful Mangrove forest and coral reefs welcomes you to the 274 sq.km island.

There is also a 45 acre Totani Resort which has quaint little huts which can be used as a base camp for exploring the island. It is the ideal place for eco-tourists.

Neil Island, quieter than Havelock with nice beaches and decent snorkeling.

Wandoor, a relaxed destination in its own right, but known more as the gateway to the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

There is a newly setup luxury resort called Sea Princess Beach Resort. Easily reached, and near the Wandoor jetty is Anugama Resort, the newest property there.

Baratang Island, Mud volcano, Limestone caves not worth watching, and Mangrove creeks in back waters. Total journey is very hectic. Road condition is very bad. The boat charge from Baratang to limestone cave is 800/- per passenger.
Barren Island, an island with the only volcano in all of India.

Long Island, great if you're looking for Robinson Crusoe style camping. You can bring all of your own gear and food but there is new establishment called Blue Planet with decent huts and foods. This is the only resort in the island as of January 2015.

Little Andaman, once popular for surfing, it was devastated in the 2004 tsunami. Ask around in Port Blair to find out the current situation.

Jolly Buoy Island, a small island, is a part of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. It is undoubtedly the best place for snorkeling with its extremely clear waters and a rich and diverse marine life.

It has a small beach with thatched huts and the location is quiet scenic. To reach here, one has to first go to Wandoor and then take a jetty from there.

Prior to going, one has to get the permission from the forest department office at Port Blair, charge is Rs 50/- per head. Boat charge is 750/- per head. Glass bottom boat watching is extra 600/- per person for 1 hr.

It is worth watching the undersea. Jolly Buoy is open from December to May.

1400 km from mainland India and 1000 km from Thailand, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are one of the most remote spots on the planet.

The original inhabitants are various aboriginal tribes who exist more-or-less out of the mainstream. There are some tribes who have had no contact whatsoever with the rest of the world.

Of nearly 600 islands, only 9 are open to foreign tourists, and all of these are in the Andamans.

The islands exist in India's popular consciousness mainly because they were used as a penal colony by the British rulers to imprison rebels and freedom fighters, in addition to hardened criminals.

Most of the inhabitants of these islands are in fact migrants from the mainland, some of them descended from the prisoners.

During World War II, the Andamans were the only part of India briefly occupied by the Japanese. While notionally handed over to Subhash Chandra Bose's Free India, in practice the Japanese held the reins of power.

The territory was run brutally suspected resistance members were tortured and executed, and when food started to run out towards the end of the war, people were deported to uninhabited islands to fend for themselves as best they could.

Mid-January until mid-May sees the best weather, and often the best diving conditions. The days are mostly sunny at this time of year, and the sea sometimes flat enough to reflect the clouds.

The monsoon usually hits around late May, lasting until the end of July, and is probably the worst time to visit the islands – strong winds, frequent rain and low visibility underwater.

August through November some occasional showers and slightly rougher seas are possible but diving can still be great at this time of year. The weather often takes a turn for the worse for the month of December through early January.

Andaman has a moderate temperature all through the year within the range of 23 degrees to 31 degree celsius. It has tropical climate, there are no severe climate conditions except for tropical storms and rains in late Summer and Monsoon.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands stretch out almost 500 km in length, with the Andamans in the north and the Nicobars in the south.

The main island, aptly known as Great Andaman, is divided into 3 portions - North Andaman, Middle Andaman and South Andaman. Port Blair is located on South Andaman.

The dominant language in the Andamans is Bengali. Tamil, Telugu, English and Hindi are widely understood by the inhabitants of the islands that are open to tourism.

Non-Indians need a Restricted Area Permit to visit the islands, but these are now issued on arrival at the Port Blair airport.

If you plan to arrive by sea, you'll need to arrange your permit before arrival, either in Chennai or when applying for your Indian visa.

Visitors usually receive a 30 day permit, although some travellers arriving without a confirmed flight back have only received a 15 day permit.

Ask for the full 30 days in your application; if you write in your return flight date, your permit will be issued to end on that date, which will cause unnecessary pain if you choose to extend your stay or, worse yet, get unexpectedly delayed by weather.

Permits can be extended by 15 days in Port Blair, for a maximum single stay of 45 days, although this extension is granted only in, to quote the local police guidelines, deserving cases.

You must then leave the islands and can return after 72 hours. The permit is checked when arriving at most islands, checking into hotels and booking ferries, and must be surrendered when you leave the islands, so don't lose it.

The permit allows overnight stays in the following locations:

- South Andaman Island,

- Middle Andaman Island

- Little Andaman Island except tribal reserves

- Neil Island

- Havelock Island

- Long Island

- Diglipur

- Baratang

- North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park excluding Boat Hobday Island

- Twin Island

- Tarmugli Island

- Malay Island

- Pluto Island.

Overnight stays in the park are with permission only.

The permit allows for day-trips to:

- South Cinque Island

- Ross Island

- Narcondum Island

- Interview Island

- Brother Island

- Sister Island

- Barren Island which can be visited on board vessels only with landing possible.

Indian nationals do not require a permit to visit the Andamans. However, permits are required to visit Nicobar Islands and other tribal areas, which are rarely given.

Application on a prescribed form may be addressed to the Deputy Commissioner, Andaman District, Port Blair.

Andaman’s airport is at Port Blair. it's connected to Chennai, Kolkata and other cities in the country. Jet and Air India are the most important flights operators for Andaman.

Throughout the tourer seasons discounted airfares also are provided by the airlines. the price of the tickets is usually cheap, particularly if reserved earlier.

The only way to reach the Andamans by air is from the Indian mainland. Flights can fill up in peak season and immigration doesn't look kindly on people arriving without confirmed flights back.

So book a return ticket and change the flight date if you decide to hang around longer.

- Air India flies from Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.

- Jet Airways now flies from Chennai to Port Blair, and from Delhi via Kolkata.

- Spicejet, offers a flight direct from Chennai to Port Blair.

- Go Air now flies daily from Kolkata to Port Blair, and from Delhi via Kolkata.

Flights to Port Blair are not really low-cost, if compared to the same airlines' mainland India flights, but still cheaper than any other way to get to islands.

Price varies significantly with date, so if your travel dates aren't fixed, you can save significantly by choosing the right day to fly.

Advance booking is available on respective airline's website at least several days before trip is recommended.

Port Blair's Vir Savarkar Airport is probably one of the most quaint and idyllic airports in India. There is a scenic view point where the whole airport can be seen.

There are no night flights as the airport is handed over to the Indian Air Force after 3pm.

It is possible to take a ship from Kolkata (~60 hrs), Chennai or Visakhapatnam which takes almost 4 days to arrive in Port Blair.

It is less expensive. Facilities are basic, though and many prefer to sleep on the deck rather than in the cramped bunks.

The ferries can take up to five days to arrive depending on weather and various other variables, this can be quite frustrating for many.

Andaman and Nicobar are a vast archipelago, and aside from some erratic, infrequent and expensive helicopter shuttles and a pricy seaplane service to Havelock Island, passenger ferries are the only way to get between the islands.

There is also the Infiniti Liveaboard that makes trips to destinations such as Cinque, Barren, Narcondam and other islands.

All passenger transport in the islands is handled by the government-run Directorate of Shipping Services (DSS), which also runs the ferries back to the mainland.

The DSS operates basically two kinds of vessels: small tourist ferries, and larger local ferries. Despite the names, fares are more or less identical on both, at Rs.150-200 one way from Port Blair to Havelock Island.
Tourist ferries seat about 100 people in padded bucket seats in a notionally air-conditioned cabin which can still get sweltering hot.

While you can access the top deck, there are no seats, shade or shelter outside. These boats are faster and seaworthy, but top-heavy, and sway quite a bit in high seas. There is no canteen on board, so bring snacks or at least drinks.

Local ferries are considerably larger, seating up to 400 in two levels: padded bunk or luxury seating upstairs, and plain old benches on the deck downstairs.

Neither class is air-conditioned, but ocean breezes keep temperatures tolerable, and a canteen dishes out chai or tea, samosas and bottled water.

Due to their larger size, they're more stable in heavy seas, but take about twice as long as tourist ferries to get anywhere.

There's a new a/c catamaran ferry from Port Blair to Havelock.

Tickets are 650, 750 or 1000 which gets you a leather seat and your own tv and can be booked from a dedicated ticket booking window at Port Blair, thus avoiding the queue barging, and through your guesthouse or wild orchid, emerald gecko & andaman bubbles on Havelock.

In high season demand often exceeds supply, so book your tickets at least one day in advance, either through a travel agent or directly at Port Blair's harbour.

Ferry ticket booking has now been computerised. This means you can book any ferry from any jetty - i.e. Rangat to Havelock from the Diglipur ferry jetty.

This obviously depends on the computers working. Services may be changed or cancelled at short notice due to inclement weather, notably cyclones in the Bay of Bengal.

If you're prone to sea-sickness, pop a pill an hour before you get on board.

Auto-rickshaws are available in Port Blair and on Havelock Island.

Taxis are available in Port Blair. Drivers double up as guides. A.c. taxis are also available.

Scooters & Motorcycles used to be available for rent in Port Blair, however, its not very easy to get one now.

Auto-rickshaws may be the best way to move around the city. However, in Havelock Island they are the best option to enjoy a ride to the Radhanagar beach or around. It may cost you around Rs. 150 - Rs. 250 per day with a security deposit of around Rs. 750 - Rs. 1000.

Among the many islands that make up the archipelago, 72 km2 North Sentinel Island is somewhat unique in that it is illegal to visit in order to protect the indigenous Sentinelese tribe.

Despite numerous attempts at contact, the Sentinelese have resisted typically violently outside influences, and as a result the Indian government has decided not to pursue further attempts.

Today, it is illegal to visit the island, both to grant the tribe their privacy and to avoid accidentally introducing disease into the native population.

Most people come here for the beaches and the scuba diving, especially on Havelock Island and Neil Island.

The only place with historical attractions of note is Port Blair, which houses both British-era colonial buildings, including the notorious Cellular Jail, and a few World War II bunkers dating from the brief Japanese occupation.

Neil Island, It is an amazing beautiful island with lush green forests and sandy beaches. This island is located at a distance of around 36 kms from the Port Blair. This is a perfect outing and holiday destination for the Eco-tourists.

Some people come to see members of the Jarawa Tribe. However, this is not recommended as contact with the outside world can be dangerous to the Jarawas' health.

Groups such as Survival International encourage people to stay away from the reserve that they inhabit.

Activities in Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

Scuba diving - Havelock Island is the main dive destination, but the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park has reopened. South Cinque Island is another possibility, enquire at Anugama Resort at Wandoor.

One of the dive shops on Havelock was talking about opening a shop in Diglipur soon, which would open up newly discovered sites.

The best dive sites in the Andamans are in very remote locations and accessible via a liveaboard. The dive sites around Havelock are actually very ordinary by Andamans standards.

The best diving in the Andamans is: Barren Island, an active volcano, Narcondam Island an extinct volcano, Invisible Bank an extensive seamount approx.

100 miles Southeast of Port Blair and 4 spectacular but un-named sea mounts off the west coast. There is also a good wreck dive just south of North Brother Island.

There is one regular liveaboard in the Andaman Islands - the Infiniti Liveaboard, and it is the best way to get around. Its brand new & fully equipped, though a little expensive but well worth the money for the comfort & adventure.

Snorkeling - A traditional attraction of the Andamans but the 2010 El Nino sadly resulted in the destruction of most of the coral. As at 2016, there are signs of recovery but the snorkeling is not good.

Regardless, the best spots are Jolly Buoy which is most recommended, North Bay, Mua Terra Beach and Havelock Island. Equipment is cheap, and can be bought or rented at North Bay for 100 Rs.

The price for Snorkeling at various locations is about 500 Rs (for ~15 min.) and 1000 Rs (for ~25 min.).

Surfing is great on Little Andaman Island

Scan corals reefs in glass bottom boats off Jolly Buoy Island, at the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor, 29 km from Port Blair.

Check out India's only active volcano on Barren Island, for some magnificent volcanic diving.

Take the Andaman Trunk Road, and be the zipping-in-the-car-idiot to the curious Jarawas. The ride is long, but the journey that takes you through some gorgeous reserve forests and up to Maya Bunder and beyond, is worth it.

Revisit Havelock just to taste the red Snapper in Burmese garlic sauce at Benny and Lynda's Wild Orchid Beach Resort.

Narcondam Island a dormant volcano is spectacular volcanic diving spot.

Make a new list. Add scuba diving and sea cow spotting. Do some moon-bathing while planktons swim in a phosphorescent sea.

Seafood is the order of the day. From upscale restaurants in Port Blair to local dhabas on Havelock, fish abounds.

Be prepared to pay a little more for good fish and seafood dishes than for standard indian food, but it's well worth it. Basic Indian food is also available, and as cheap as on the mainland in most of the small dhabas.

Resort restaurants on Havelock can also whip up a limited set of more or less Western dishes, but the resort restaurants are pretty expensive for Indian standards. Fresh Crab & Tuna can be enjoyed here.

Fresh coconuts are popular and widely available.

Alcohol is available in some restaurants and at English Beer & Wine Shops in Port Blair and on Havelock Island. The beers will not be cold when purchasing across the counter,except in local bars.

Local bars are dingy and for some odd reason is very poorly lit giving it a very eerie feel to it. There is no Pub culture or even a Dance Club.

There are a variety of hotels around the islands which are run by Andaman & Nicobar Tourism. You can book all A&N tourism hotels both in person at A&N tourism in Port Blair, by phone, online, or email.

The Andamans are a fairly safe destination. Tourism is still in its early stages which makes it almost hassle free. That said, you should keep your wits about you as you would anywhere.

The Andaman Islands are the home of some of the last un-contacted tribes of Eurasia. These tribes have resisted modernization for some time. An example is the Sentinelese tribe, who inhabit North Sentinel Island.

They maintain their sovereignty over the island and are hostile towards outsiders. However, as a tourist, you will go nowhere near them, so this is not really an issue. Actually, the Indian government bans entry into the island.

Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) are present within suitable habitat throughout the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

While attacks on locals do occur every year within the island chain, the only attack on a foreigner within recent history occurred off the coast of Havelock Island in April of 2010.

While saltwater crocodiles generally remain within the rivers and coastal mangrove swamps, they do occasionally travel within the open ocean, as was the case in this attack. Attacks on humans in the ocean are very rare.

The main crocodile populations are around Little Andaman Island (Northern and Western sides), Interview Island and in the narrow straits that seperate the main islands MacPhearson Strait, Andaman Strait, Homfrey Strait and Austen Strait.

Crocodile populations are also known from many of the Nicobar Islands.

Andaman and Nicobar are malarial, although generally no more so than mainland India.

The Indian country code applies here (91) and the area code for the entire Andamans is (3192).

Mobile phone coverage nominally exists on many islands, but the coverage is poor and dropped signals are the norm.

State owned BSNL, and private operators Airtel and Vodafone-Essar are the operators providing mobile services there. Landlines are frequent in Port Blair, but more erratic as you move around the islands.

Internet access is slow but tolerable in Port Blair,BSNL EVDO Sticks on CDMA Technology Works the best with Speed upto 1 Mbps,Bsnl 3g Gives speed around 100 kbps and ADSL is un-serviceable most of the times.

Private Players like Airtel,Vodafone offers Internet Acess Through GPRS & EDGE which is pathetically Slow.

Reliance Internet Only works in the City but slow. Project for Inter Connectivity of Islands with Underwater international Chennai-Singapore marine cable is under Consideration.Once finished will offer Seamless and fast connectivity .

Tourism is still relatively new on the Andamans and as such the traveler has a special responsibility in guiding its developement. Leave the bikinis on the beach.

Remember that this is India and local women are very conservative in their attire. Alcohol should be consumed on the premises of your hotel only.

The quiet and peacefulness of the islands are one of their best assets; help to maintain these.

Good places to visit:

- Neil Island

- Havelock Island

- Long Island

- Diglipur

- Baratang

- Phuket which is not far, in Thailand

- Lakshadweep another Indian island

Tourism Observer
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