Friday 28 August 2015

Native Bird of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

A Blue-Footed Booby Bird, which is a native Bird Watching in Andaman and Nicobar islands, was rescued from the Juhu beach by the local police Saturday night. The bird is said to have floated across as a result of migration or trade. According to bird helplines, this is the fourth time such a bird has been rescued in the state this month.

The bird was not seen in the area for more than a decade. The helplines also said this pattern is being noticed only in the state. “We have called most of the bird helplines in India. But this trend is being seen only in Maharashtra, where the bird has been rescued once from Deonar, the other time from Ratnagiri and twice from the city this month,” said Nitin Valmiki, zoologist from the organisation Ecoecho.

The bird was rescued by police officials near the beach. “On Saturday there was sparse crowd on the beach due to which we were able to see the small bird floating across the high tides,” said Prakash Katake from the Juhu police station.

The bird had to be kept in the police station for the entire day and while it was rehabilitated in the evening, its life couldn’t be saved.

“The bird is not found on the shores of islands and flies over deep sea. The bird therefore may have been brought to the city by some boat or ship, which was sailing in the deep waters and might have caught hold of it,” said Mr Valmiki.

He also added that the bird could not survive, as the environment of the city must have proved stressful for it. “When we had brought it back, the bird was already dull and looked lifeless and even when there were no external injuries on it, it could not be saved,” he added.

Thursday 27 August 2015

The Beauty of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands is an archipelago of 572 islands which are located at the junction of Andaman Sea and the BlueBay of Bengal. With a total combined area of the island spanning across 8073 square kilometres, these islands are probably one of the best kept nature’s secrets. Once used as a place where the convicts were sent to live in exile by the British (Kalapani), the post British era islands have blossomed into a beautiful bunch of islands which have managed to grab enough andaman tourist attraction.


Andaman and Nicobar are the Union Territory of India and are directly governed by the State of Head of India. However in practice it is the Lt. Governor is appointed to administer the territory directly.


The earliest known record of these islands has been reported by the Arab merchants way back in the 9th century when they were sailing past them while they were on their way to Sumatra. Although these islands were spotted in the 9th century very little historical evidence is available since then. Marco Polo has been said to be the very first westerner to set foot on these islands. The islands were captured by the Marathas in the late 17th century and were later converted into a navy base. It was then captured by the British and Japanese and later was returned back to India on gaining independence.


These islands are all situated in the Bluebay of Bengal and lie towards the Southeastern section of India. The island is sprawled across the sea. The largest city among the islands, Port Blair, is also its capital. These islands have a number of picturesque beaches which are a big hit among the tourists. The two most important islands here are Labyrinth Islands and Ritchie’s Archipelago. To the south of Andaman are the Nicobar Islands. These islands have been formed by submarine mountain ranges which also happen to separate the Andaman Sea from the Bay of Bengal. The Saddle Peak on the islands is the highest at 730 m and is largely formed of clay, sandstone and limestone.


Since these islands are surrounded by the sea, they experience a fairly moderate temperature all around the year. The warm tropical climate means that the humidity is always high with an average of 80% but the sea breeze which blows in helps in maintaining the temperature between 23 degree Celsius and 31 degree Celsius. Other than some occasional storms or rains, these islands do not experience any extreme climate. However, the monsoon may be a little rough on these islands.


Most of the natives of these Islands are found to be talking in Hindi. The official languages are English and Hindi. The other languages widely spoken are Bengali,Telugu,Tamil,Malayalam and Kannada.


Though these islands comprise of a few hundred islands, it is sparsely populated. Only about 12 Islands of Andaman and Nicobar are inhabited by people. Due to diseases most of the indigenous population of the Andaman has been wiped out and very few of them survive today. The majority of people living here are settlers from the Indian mainland. The majority of people living in Nicobar group of Islands are Nicobarese.


Until recently most of the tribes living on these islands practised hunting and hence ate what they caught. This is probably the reason why there is no cuisine that has been developed in this region. With all the immigrants that have moved in to the Islands, they got with them their local cuisine which now has been adopted by the natives as well. Since there is water all around, sea food is available in plenty and to an extent it dominates the diet of the people.


The connectivity in these islands is made possible by several roads and water transport. Several buses ply between south Andaman and Port Blair. Apart from these, there are call taxis, maxi cabs and tourist taxis which are present for travelling within the island. To travel in between islands there are several ferries and ships which help the people move about. Reaching a particular place usually requires both a bus and a ferry ride and the islands are connected by an interisland boat service. These islands are connected to mainland India by air route as well as sea route. The capital, Port Blair, is connected to the mainland by these routes.


The festivals celebrated on the islands are heavily borrowed from mainland India. Onam, Panguni Uthiram, Pongal and Durga Pooja are the most important festivals while Pongal, Janmashtami, Holi, Diwali, Mahashivratri, Christmas etc are also celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. The most fun festival celebrated on the island is Island Tourism Festival which is celebrated for 15 days every year in Port Blair between the months of December and February. Troupes from different islands congregate to display their skills and entertain people.

Tourism Andaman India 

Tourism is an ever growing sector of the Islands with several hotels scattered all across the entire territory to for the comfort of the visitors. The most popular tourist attractions include the remains of the British colonial era like the Cellular Jail of Andaman. It also has a number of sanctuaries, garden and parks which appeal to the trekkers and ecotourists. Due to the abundant presence of water bodies, all sorts of water sports are also practised here and they have been a huge hit with both the locals as well as visitors.


There are two very distinct cultures in the islands. One belongs to the Negrito people from the Andamans while the other belongs to the Autochthones from the Nicobar. Irrespective of the number of influences that the islands faced, these tribes have managed to hold on to their culture. The settlers brought with them the culture from their home lands which influenced the natives greatly. The folk traditions which are still alive include several different kinds of ritual tribal dance and sea – farers. A few tribes even today remain in complete isolation and do not entertain a visit from outsiders. These tribes have managed to keep their tribal rituals and cultures alive. The beauty of these islands is a well kept secret which is slowly being realised by people. With the encouragement of the Indian government, they are fast emerging as a popular destination for tourists.

Friday 21 August 2015

Tourist Review About His Trip To Andaman And Nicobar Islands on Social Media

April-May being the most sought after months for vacations I was fortunate to put together the time table of all for an andaman family vacation trip and hop to Andaman and Nicobar islands. Even luck was on my side as I was able to get tickets without hassles, may be because it was the 4th week of May and end of the vacation period. Once the tickets were booked I was prioritizing my wish list of places to visit there.

The very mention of the Cellular jail (also known as Kala Pani) of Port Blair gives goosebumps to all those who know the history of this colonial prison. Naturally a visit to this prison, now declared a national monument, topped the list of my itinerary during my recent visit to this archipelago. Though I had seen the pictures and had and read about it especially the agony and cruelty suffered by the inmates and had conjured a vision of it, there is nothing like seeing it face to face.

The crystal clear waters of the spotless beeches, getting a close look at the underwater marine life, trying to get a glimpse of the indigenous Jarawa tribes in the thick forests and having a look at the historical ruins of the British at Ross Island and enjoying the clean environs topped the list of my priorities. This visit to this non-polluted island where crime rate is zero remains an unforgettable experience of my life.

We left Mangalore on 20th May and our Air India flight to Port Blair was scheduled at 5 am on 22nd. The driver of our Innova taxi who had taken us around Chennai the previous day almost ruined our holiday plan as he came 35 minutes late and we had to cover a distance of 15 km to the airport. Even that early morning the route to the airport was quite busy and we managed to reach the airport at the nick of time and frantically barged into the check in counter and heaved a sigh of relief.

It is a two hour journey from Chennai to Port Blair over the BlueBay of Bengal covering a distance of 1190 kms. It is interesting to note that the distance to some South East Asian countries is much less than from India. The closest country from Andaman Indonesia which is 147 kms, Burma is 193 kms and Bangladesh is 805 kms from this archipelago.

Though Andaman Islands comprise 572 islands only 37 islands are inhabited. My colleagues in Port Blair had suggested that could spend five days in Andaman Nicobar islands and my traveler also had arranged the itinerary accordingly. Our schedule did not include visit to Nicobar Islands. The first day of the tour began on the arrival day in the afternoon with a visit to coconut palm fringed Carbyns Cove Beach just 9 kms from Port Blair followed by a visit in the evening to the much awaited Cellular Jail.

Mesmerizing yet nauseating

Though outwardly the jail fails to impress, once inside what we see is a massive three-storied structure. We were told by the guide that four of the original seven wings of the jail were damaged in the 1941 earthquake and were subsequently demolished. The remaining three wings have been preserved and it has been declared as a national monument. But even this truncated structure looks massive and deadly and I did feel a bone-chilling moment when the guide began to give explicit details about the torture and brutality inflicted on the political prisoner’s nay our freedom fighters. The cellular jail was called so because it had 698 solitary cells measuring 4.5X2.7 meters. Standing down the guide showed us the cell that had housed Veer Savarkar for 12 long years in solitary confinement. His cell was the last in the row in the third storey and was intentionally given to him so that he could see and hear the cries of those prisoners who were sent to the gallows.

It was really sickening to see the “Fansi Ghar” with three ropes with noose standing testimony to the merciless and brutal treatment given to prisoners, who sacrificed their lives. A visit to the dark room down from where the wooden board was displaced to hang convicts was quite a nauseating experience. Every inch of the Cellular prison is a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by these freedom fighters, be it the sight of the flogging stand, the oil mill, the sight of different kinds of iron chains, uniform made of gunny bag or the neck ring shackle. Interestingly most of the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives in this Cellular Jail were from Bengal and Punjab, clearly showing that these people were in the forefront of freedom movement. A sound and light sound show late in the evening was worth a dekho as it gave a glimpse of the dark moments of the history of this island.

The second day was scheduled for Port Blair city tour and shopping. The day started off with a visit to the Chatam Saw Mill, believed to be the largest and oldest saw mill in Asia. It was established by the British in 1833 and is still functioning. A forest museum a bomb crater and Japanese bunkers are the other attractions at the premises of the mill. Evening was meant for shopping where we ended up buying some sea-shell jewellery which is a major industry here. We took time off to the busy schedule to visit local fish and vegetable market. .

Joy ride to Bartang Island

Another keenly awaited tour in our itinerary was to Bartang Island, passing through the no overtake zone of evergreen Jarawa Reserve forest, a 90 km journey from Port Blair. The day began at 3.30 am as all vehicles heading to Bartang have to go through police escort from Jirkatang check post, a 40 km drive from Port Blair. The experienced driver of our tempo told us to be alert to spot the tribes as we pass through. Though others in the tempo could get a quick glance of two Jarawa men I was fortunate to get a full glimpse of a family of four during the return journey. The woman holding a small child in her arms beamed a smile at us with her white teeth against dark skin flashing like a fluorescent bulb. Unlike the popular belief all the four were fully dressed like normal people. Since photographing Jarawas is prohibited I could only capture that scene in the lens of my eyes.

Once in Bartang we had a joy ride on a boat and our eyes feasted on some of the dense mangrove forest before reaching Lime stone cave, a major tourist destination. We cruised through the same backwaters and went to see the mud volcano, the only known examples of such live mud volcano in India. Though it looks normal without any activity on careful observation one could see mud oozing out in small quantity. It can be said the volcano has deleterious impact on surrounding vegetation as all trees in its vicinity are dead.

Havelock Island – A earthly paradise

Havelock Island was our destination on the 4th day and once again our day began early morning at 5.30. We had to catch the inter-island ferry to go to Havelock covering a distance of 57 km by sea. It is a two hour journey and ticket cost is quite expensive even for economy class Rs. 1000/- per ticket one- way journey.

Nevertheless it was worth it because we cruised through a rough sea which encountered heavy breeze and good rains and travelling in the middle of the sea in such a situation is a treasured experience. On arrival we headed to Radhanagar beach, one of the top beaches of Asia. It has crystal clear blue-green waters resembling a rainbow from a distance and the beach is so spotlessly clean even the silver sand of the beach is visible through the water. My children who knew swimming enjoyed skylarking in the sea for nearly three hours along with a big crowd of tourists.

The beach is an ideal destination even for those who just love to watch the waters from a distance sitting under the shades of huge trees that we usually don’t see in beaches. Our guide had told us to be ready to catch the same ferry back scheduled at 4 pm and after a good lunch and some shopping we travelled back to Port Blair. The back journey was quite entertaining as enthusiastic tourists danced to the tunes of popular numbers.

The much awaited water sport - scuba diving was part of our itinerary for the final day of our tour and the destination was North Bay Island. In the morning we visited Ross Island, the former residential and administrative island of the British Empire. Ross Island which once upon a time was the luxurious abode of the British today is in ruins with overgrown vegetation on the walls of those once majestic structures. Yet there is so much to see and savoir those splendorous edifices that speak of the might of the British Empire. Scuba diving was quite an exhilarating experience andaman tourism and we came back with those memories intact.

The place attracts tourists from all over India and abroad. It is surely favorite andaman honeymoon package destination and we spotted many lovebirds there. The place is clean and its scenic beauty is incredibly idealistic. The weather was just perfect when we went and so was the tour itinerary. We were back in Chennai by early morning flight next day and from there boarded an evening train to reach in Mangalore the next day morning.

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Thursday 6 August 2015

Exotic Andamans Host Some Amazing Hidden Gems

Andamans appears like a piece of beads strung together in the Bay of Bengal, straight out of a dream. It is flanked by the beautiful and mesmerising North and South Andaman Islands and stretches up to the Nicobar group of islands in the south. Consisting of about 556 islets, this magical land hosts some remarkable gems that are far away from the usual touristy hotspots.

Take an offbeat tour in Andamans to Long Island and Guitar Island, Rangat, Ross and Smith Islands and Little Andaman. I went during the monsoon. Imagine flying on a chopper through rain-laden clouds and seeing their dark reflection in the sea below! I was surprised to see a steady flow of tourists even in the rainy season. Contrary to popular belief, the spells of rains don’t last too long in the Andamans. A splash of rains for few minutes and then it’s bright and sunny as before! However, the waves remain choppy throughout the monsoons.

You can easily fly to Andamans from any city through Chennai or Kolkata (usually a two-hour journey). International travellers and tourists would, however, need to have a permit to enter the islands which can be availed from the authorities on arrival. If you want to experience Andamans in a new way or something completely different, here is my itinerary to nudge the adventurer in you.

Long Island & Guitar Island

Guitar Island—tucked away off the eastern coast of the North and Middle Andamans—has an exquisite, white, sandy beach that you can have all to yourself. It is not inhabited by humans; but you can find fishing boats cruising nearby. The entire beach is yours: just you, the sun, the sand, the sea and the rich forest cover. Where else on earth can you find such a place? But why this name? It’s in the shape of a guitar.

Located off the Long Island, Guitar Island has a picturesque and exotic aura that spells a magical charm. There is another beach you should visit once you are here—Lalaji Bay Beach. This is situated on the northeast coast of Long Island and one would need a country boat (a ride of 45 minutes from Long Island jetty) to travel here. You can reach Long Island by boarding one of the Andaman & Nicobar administration-operated ships from Port Blair. It would roughly take four to five hours (and about Rs600-Rs700) to reach Long Island from Port Blair by ship (via Havelock/Strait Island). This place is off a ‘touristy’ itinerary and, quite understandably, there are few options to stay on this island. I stayed for a night at the Forest Guest House (make sure you book it in advance). There is also a privately-owned resort on this Island. The Forest Guest House has four basics: airy rooms, a manicured garden with flower plants, sandalwood trees and a view of the sea. You can get the most amazing fish fry here. The staff is courteous and would provide your choice of the meal on time.

We came by a dinghy (country boat), with a dark, rain-laden cloud cover above us. After a quick 15-minute sail, our boat anchored on the coast and I set my footprint on the sands. The pervasive silence surrounding the beach is infectious: perfect for spending a quiet morning. You could only hear the birds chirping, sight the possible playing of fish on the waters and an amazing marine life. Lots of sea creatures, sand crabs, hermit crabs and shells came through to the beach and I hurriedly captured them on my lens. One has to be really fast to photograph them. One blink of an eye and they are gone, immersed beneath their sandy holes.

Rangat is blessed with a few remarkable eco-tourism spots such as Aamkunj Beach, Morice Dera Beach and Dhani Nallah Mangrove Walkway. I first stopped at Aamkunj Beach (8km from Rangat towards Mayabunder and Diglipur) which is a long, sandy and patchy stretch interspersed with pebbles.

You can enjoy watching the sea waves, or sit quietly for some time on the eco-friendly benches such as log sofas and log teapoys. From Aamkunj, head towards Morice Dera Beach, 12km from Rangat. This has been developed by the tourism and forest department as an eco-tourism hotspot. It has a unique twin rock formation right on the beach; you can walk along the ridges through a pathway and indulge yourself for some time in solitude.

The most exciting part was the 700-metre-long Mangrove walkway at Dhani Nallah. It is an exemplary display of mangrove conservation efforts by the Andaman and Nicobar administration. The walkway takes you through the rich biodiversity of mangroves, palm trees, breathing roots and hathi kaan (elephant’s ears) orchids. The walkway ultimately leads to a pretty long and exciting beach called the Dhani Nallah Beach. It is a vast expanse of sand stretching from Cuthbert Bay at one end to as far as my eyes could see on the other hand. You may like to take rest at one of the eco-huts on the log sofas and benches at the beach.

Ross & Smith Islands

A boat ride, of almost 15-30 minutes, from Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur (North Andaman) brings you to the exquisite Ross and Smith Islands. The Andaman & Nicobar administration has maintained some remarkable eco-tourism initiatives on Smith Island. These are bare minimum, given that the two islands are yet to take off in the national and international tourism circuit as a popular tourist destination. But I felt that these were adequate—there were about 10-15 thatched huts, sitting arena, adequate hygiene facilities, changing room, a couple of jhulas (swings) set romantically amidst coconut trees and reclining beach chairs. Quite interestingly, the west side of Ross and Smith Islands was extremely windy while the east side was, unexpectedly, calm and quiet. The waters on the eastern side were still and peaceful as if it were a swimming pool. Ross and Smith Islands are perfect for witnessing the sunrise, beach combing and sunbathing. You can literally walk across the sandy stretch connecting the duo islands at low tide. Do take proper precautions and advice of the tourism and forest officials, in case you want to attempt swimming in the waters.


Get yourself a chopper ticket from the State-run Pawan Hans Limited inter-island chopper services, to fly from Port Blair to Hutbay. This would cost you Rs2,625 and you can comfortably reach there in 45 minutes. However, there are daily ships from Port Blair that will take you five to eight hours, depending on their speed. The inter-island fare from Port Blair to Hutbay through the administration’s ship services is between Rs85 and Rs320, depending on the class (deluxe, first class, second class, bunk). Hutbay boasts hosting the best surfing destination in India. It’s not an exaggeration.

Located in Little Andamans, Hutbay hosts the longest beach of Andaman and Nicobar group of islands—22km stretch—from Netaji Nagar at one end up to Butler Bay Beach at the other via Kalapathar (black rock). The Butler Bay Beach, which is gaining popularity among domestic and international surfers for its exquisite sea surfing opportunities, is teeming with activities during the winter and summer months. A host of private resorts, flanking the Netaji Nagar, offer surf boards on rent; however, do check availability with them prior to your arrival. Although infrastructure facilities on this beach are not quite adequate, you would be mesmerised by the golden sandy stretch that this place offers. If you are not a surfer, you can go for snorkelling, sun-bathing or boating in its clear waters.

Once you have had your fill of the sea and the sand, you can head to a nearby waterfall—the only surf waterfall in the Andamans. It is located inside a forest and would require you to make a jungle trek of 10 minutes from the main gate, passing through some nallahs (creeks). There is an entry fee of Rs20 per person and a vehicle charge of Rs20. The sight of this bewitching 20-metre pristine waterfall will surely enthral you. You can take a dip in its crystal clear waters, surrounded by bamboo and banana plantations.

While on your trip to Little Andaman, you can stay at one of the private eco-resorts at Hutbay or the government-owned APWD guest house. Room tariffs at private resorts are extremely reasonable at around Rs400 per night, while the APWD guest house (which can be booked through the Directorate of Tourism) charges about Rs500 per bed per night. Most private resorts also offer two-wheelers to tourists for sightseeing at Rs300 per day. There aren’t any luxury or high-end resorts in Hutbay, yet.


Places to see in the Andamans: The A&N archipelago consists of 556 islands. Your itinerary should include Ross & Smith Islands, Baratang Caves, Havelock Island; North Bay and Ross Islands (multimedia sound and light show) in Port Blair; Hutbay (Little Andaman).

Things to do: Nature walk, jungle trekking, snorkelling, banana skiing, jet skiing, scuba diving, kayaking in Havelock; sea walking in North Bay Island. Light & sound show in Ross Island; surfing in Hutbay.

Hotels: You can choose to stay at any of the hotels and resorts owned and operated by Andaman & Nicobar administration or from a range of budget- to luxury-category facilities offered by private players. Book through reputed tour companies or websites. For booking government resorts, you have to contact the Directorate of Information, Publicity and Tourism in Port Blair.

Best time to visit: I would suggest October to April. But the weather is unwaveringly enjoyable throughout the year and you may choose to visit any time of the year. I chose to visit in the monsoons to see the magical Andamans during the rains.

How to travel: You can fly from any city of the world to Port Blair via Kolkata or Chennai. There are direct flights from New Delhi via Kolkata/Chennai.

Permits: Foreign tourists and travellers to the Andamans need a restricted area permit which can be easily obtained on arrival at Port Blair. However, domestic and international tourists and travellers are not allowed to visit the Car Nicobar group of islands. Domestic tourists are allowed to visit Campbell Bay—the southern-most tip of the archipelago—which has the landmark Indira Point, the southern-most tip of India.