The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are unique. It is unlike any other place in India. Sprinkled in a tiny pocket of the Indian Ocean, the Andaman Islands are part of India but geographically closer to Myanmar (190 kms) and Thailand ( 150 kms). The Andaman Islands are a home to the only known Paleolithic people, the Sentinelese people, who have no contact with any other people.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands consists of 572 emerald Islands, only 36 of which are inhabited. East of the Indian main land the Andaman & Nicobar islands are at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, and are a Union Territory of India. Port Blair is the Capital of Andamans and Nicobar islands. The Name Andaman is derive from “Hanuman” – The Hindu God, many times spelled Monkey God also by the people coming from The Western culture.
The Islands are shrouded in the mystery for centuries because of their inaccessibility. A paragon of beauty, these islands present a landscape of scenic and picturesque extravaganza, shimmering like emeralds in the Bay of Bengal ( INDIA). Thickly wooded with rain forest and tropical trees, edged by mangrove swamps and pristine, palm- fringed, white sand beaches melt under flame and purple sunsets ; coral reefs with beautiful marine life, these islands easily rival the like of the Maldives or the Caribbean in the terms of natural beauty.
The Sparkling clear water with clean isolated beaches makes it one of the best places in the world to explore the seabed; rare species – Dugong ( the state animal) , the marine turtles, tropical fishes, coral reefs, water activities like sea walking, Scuba diving, Snorkeling, Kayaking make it a ultimate tourist destination of India.
Much of the Andamans are accessible to foreigners, while the Nicobars Island are off limits to the tourists.
These Islands have been inhabited by the Aboriginal tribes for the thousands of years but long remained unexplored because anyone attempting to land would be attacked and killed. Today there are a few hundreds of the different tribal people survive on the islands like Onges who live in Dugong Creek in Little Andaman and traditionally painted their naked bodies, the fierce Jarawas on the South and Middle Andamans, the Sentinelese on North Sentinel, Nicobarese on the Car Nicobar island, Shompens on great Nicobar Island lives and hunted wild pigs, fishes, caught turtles with harpoons. Some tribes made pottery but the Andamanese particularly were exceptional since they had not discovered the art of fire making.
During the British period political leaders, dreaded criminals, activists who rose against British Rule were deported from mainland of the undivided India to Andamans” Kala Pani’– the Cellular Jail- the Indian Bastille, situated on the sea coast of Atlanta Point in the North-Eastern part of Port Blair. Thus these islands were infamously known as the ‘Black Water Prison’ or ‘Kala Pani‘ another famous name of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
It was in 1857, after India’s First War of Independence, that a penal colony was attempted at Port Blair with an initial lot of 200 freedom fighter who, for the first time, attempted to over throw British rule in India. The number of freedom fighters increased to 773 within three months.
During the 2nd World War the British hastily evacuated and abandoned these Islands in the face of advancing Japanese Forces, allowing Japanese occupation of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Japanese brutally ruled the territory for four years from 1942 to 1945. During this period, Japanese took up massive fortification on these islands through construction of airfields (Port Blair, Rutland, Car Nicobar), installation of Radars and guns for air defence network, chain of foreshore concrete pill boxes.
On the morning of 7th October 1945,the Armada carrying 116 Indian infantry brigade of South East Asian allied Land force under the command of Brigadier A.J. Solomon surrounded Port Blair Compelling about 20,000 armed Japanese force to surrender on 9th October 1945.
With the advent of Indian Independence on 15th August 1947, these islands were merged with the Indian main stream.
Hindi Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam and English are widely spoken languages. Andaman and Nicobar have a tropical rainforest all over and hence it displays a wide variety of flora. The dense and impenetrable forests have cane brakes; wet bamboo trees clusters and Mangrove forests. The flora found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands have mixed elements from India, Myanmar and Indonesia, all of which have had an influence on the flora found on the island.
As of now, more than 2200 different species of plants have already been recorded. The isolation of the Islands has led to the evolution of many endemic plants, animals and birds species. 62 identified mammals 32 are unique to the islands, including the Andaman wild pig, crab eating macaque, masked palm civet and many species of tree shrews and bats. Almost 50 % of the island’s 250 bird species are endemic. Mangroves provides a protective barrier between land and sea.
Rice and seafood form the staple diet for the Andamanese and Nicobarese people. The food is supplemented with coconut and similar locally found ingredients. Due to the rich cultural diversity of the islands, cuisines from all over the Indian subcontinent have found their way here, and tourists can easily get North Indian and South Indian dishes to eat when they visit. The island has easy access to fish and edible shellfishes, which make up for some very interesting and delectable local dishes.
Entry formalities for Foreign Tourists to Andaman Islands.
Much of the Andamans are accessible to foreigners, while the Nicobars Island are off limits to the tourists including the Indian tourists.
Foreign tourists require a permit to visit the Andamans from the Indian immigration authorities. Foreign tourists are issued a 30-day permit to visit the Andaman Islands. However, they are not permitted to visit the Nicobar Islands. Foreign nationals can extend their stay by another 15 days.
The places covered by this permit for night halt are: South Andaman Island, Middle Andaman Island and Little Andaman Island (except tribal reserve of Jarawas and others), Neil Island, Havelock Island, Long Island, Diglipur, Baratang, North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park ( Night halt in the Park is with permission only).
For Day Halt only: South Cinque Island, Ross Island, Narcondum Island, Interview Island, Brother Island, Sister Island and Barren Island ( Barren Island can be visited on board vessels only).
Permits can also be obtained at the airport on arrival and takes only 20-30 minutes. Visitors who arrive without a confirmed flight out may only be given a fifteen-day permit, which can be extended to thirty days at the Superintendent of Police, Aberdeen Bazaar in Port Blair. Visitors arriving by Ship usually must have the permit before departing the mainland. When you arrive by ship you have to sign in at the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Aberdeen Bazaar in Port Blair to prove that you did not stay longer than 30 days. Permits are stamped when visitors leave the islands.
Permits are issued at overseas Indian embassies and should be requested when applying for a visa to India. Permits are also issued at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, or at the Foreigners’ Registration Office in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai. When applying for the permit, give the exact arrival and departure dates, allowing three days boat travel time, if you are travelling whit a ship. You may need 2 passport size photos, so you are suggested to carry a couple of your passport size photographs.
Indian nationals need no permit to visit the Andaman Islands. However, permits are required to visit Nicobar Islands and other tribal areas, which are given in exceptional cases only.