5 Reasons to Visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2020
Andaman is a tiny group of islands, tucked in a corner in the Indian Ocean. There is something about this place that makes one smile, without them realizing it. As soon as you step out, the salty air fresh from the sea greets you and makes you forget about deadlines and work. It is a place where the shorelines meet the sea, nature meets beauty and you meet life.
Here are 5 reasons to visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands -:
#1 The beaches
There are hundreds of deserted palm-fringed beaches where you can bathe in warm tropical water. All 572 islands have many beaches, and only a handful are visited by tourists in large numbers. Some of the best beaches are:
- Radhanagar, on Havelock Island, voted the No. 1 beach in Asia.
- Beach No. 5 on Havelock
- Lalaji Bay on Long Island
- Merk Bay on North Passage Island, near Long Island
- Ross and Smith Islands, joined by a sandbar, near Diglipur
- Butler Bay on Little Andaman
#2 Diving and Snorkeling
Its lovely opaque emerald waters are rich in marine life and coral, and the Andamans offers some of the best diving in the world. The main dive season is roughly November to April, but diving is possible year-round even during the wet season (June to August) as long as boats can go out. There are many dive operators, particularly in Havelock. Some of the best are:
- Dive India, based in Havelock and Neil Island
- Andaman Bubbles, at Wild Orchid in Havelock
- Barefoot Scuba in Havelock
- Blue Planet Scuba, in Long Island
- Planet Scuba, based in Port Blair
The islands also offer great opportunities for snorkeling, with many of the resorts offering equipment for hire.
#3 Geography and Wildlife
The islands form the peaks of the Arakan Yuma, a mountain range that extends from Myanmar (Burma) all the way to Sumatra in Indonesia. So you have an ancient landscape where forests rise steeply from the sea, where many endemic plant and animal species have evolved in isolation. Animals unique to the islands include the Andaman wild pig, crab-eating macaque, masked palm civet, and species of tree shrews and bats. The islands are a bird-watchers paradise, with over 100 endemic species including the emerald Nicobar pigeon, megapodes, and hawabills or swiftlets which you will see roosting beneath boat jetties. There are many nesting places for Oliver Ridley turtles; rivers and mangrove creeks are inhabited by saltwater crocodiles, and you can see dolphins especially in the seas around Long Island. Dugongs are a rare sight nowadays.
The forests have some wonderful native tree species, including Padauk, a very valuable hardwood, and Garjun, a graceful tree with a wide base to the trunk.
#4 History and Population
The ancient history of the Andaman Islands is shrouded in mystery. Some people believe the name Andaman is derived from “Hanuman”, the Hindu monkey deity who visited on his way between India and Sri Lanka. The Andamans are home to many indigenous tribal peoples, some of whom appear to have Negrito ethnic roots, others with Malay characteristics. All are highly protected, and contact by tourists is not allowed.
In its more recent history, the Andamans were known as Kalapani or Black Waters, when the British colonial Government set up its penal settlement in Port Blair. Many Freedom Fighters were held in the Jail. You can visit the Cellular Jail and the British settlement in Ross Island to find out more about this shameful chapter in British history.
Many people describe the Andamans as an “India in miniature”. All the major faiths are represented: Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity and Islam, but there is no religious tension. Inter-marriage is common, and religious festivals tend to be an opportunity for the whole community to celebrate together. On the smaller islands you will experience this, and be made to feel most welcome. Nowadays many of the islanders are Bengali settlers from the time of partition with Bangladesh, but there are people from different areas of North and South India, and the main languages are Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and of course English.
In the Andamans you can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and relax to a gentler pace. The tourist industry is not developed to the stage where it intrudes on your enjoyment: if you are looking for souvenirs, there are few to be had, but the beaches are entirely free of sales people or hawkers, and you can relax in complete peace. To enjoy the simple life, with good food (especially seafood!) and service, you can find some truly delightful places to stay.