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Andaman & Nicobar – General Information

Shades of Andaman and Nicobar

To the east of the Indian mainland, in the blues of the Bay of Bengal, floats the splendid group of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 1,367 km from Chennai and 1,304 km from Kolkata, what were once graveyards of martyrs have now transformed into one of India’s best tourist spots.

Once a hill range extending from Myanmar to Indonesia, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands today are a group of 572 near deserted islands, islets (small islands), and rocks. Its majestic forests and exotic flora and fauna take your breath away.

More than 86% of the islands’ area is under forest cover, homes to animals like the spotted deer, wild boar, gecko, crab-eating macaque, and pythons. Its glistening white beaches are also nesting homes to a variety of sea turtles.

The jewel in the crown, however, is the marine life here. The elegance of the crystal clear blue waters, incredible corals and the myriad creatures that inhabit the ocean leave you spellbound.

Exploring marine life first-hand through activities like scuba diving and fishing guarantee an enriching experience of coming just an inch closer to nature.

The capital city of Port Blair houses the majority of mainland settlers on the island today. Prior to colonial rule, however, the Andaman and Nicobar islands were home to indigenous tribes, some of who still populate pockets of the archipelago.

Tourist infrastructure development has been on the rise over the year, but the islands still remain virgins with untouched natural beauty and unexplored marine life. If you wish to visit these islands, now is a great time!

How to Reach Andamans?

Snuggled in the Indian Ocean, the Andamans are a paradise on earth. This region is dotted with pristine beaches combined with a colonial past. Andamans flaunt a total of 572 islands, out of which only a few are inhabited.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a part of the Indian subcontinent. Hence there is no travel restriction for Indian tourists. It is very similar to traveling to any other state in our country. There is no requirement for a passport, visa, or any other permission. You can stay in permitted areas as long as you wish.

For foreign tourists, a passport is required along with their Indian visa. NO Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is required anymore for most foreign nationals.  Citizens of Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, and Pakistan would continue to require the Restricted Area Permit. In such cases, the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) would be granted only if the foreign tourists has obtained prior approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The capital city of Port Blair is well connected to mainland India by:

By Flights to Andaman: The quickest way is to take a flight from major Indian cities. There are direct flights from Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Vizag. The travel time is around 2.5 to 4 hours. For the rest of the country, you will get many hopping flights or ‘one-stop’ options.

By Ships to Andaman: Another way is to sail from the ports of Kolkata, Chennai, and Vishakhapatnam. The ships are operated by the Indian Government and the voyage takes around 3 to 4 days. Haddo Wharf is the main seaport at Port Blair.

Every month, 3 to 4 sailing takes place from Chennai and Kolkata and only 1 sailing takes place from Visakhapatnam. Kindly note, the ships do not cruise liners and do not have entertainment options. Also, online booking is not available and it can only be done from the Shipping Corporation Offices in Chennai, Vizag, and Kolkata.

Where to Travel from?

The quickest way to reach the Andamans is by boarding a flight from mainland India. Direct flights operate from Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Vizag. Connecting flights are available from all other destinations around the country.

No international ship or flight services exist in the Andamans as of now. However, the Indian Government has turned Veer Savarkar Airport into an official immigration check post so that non-natives can enter and exit directly from there.

Getting to Andaman by Flight

Veer Savarkar is the only commercial airport in the Andamans located in the capital city of Port Blair. Domestic flight services namely Indigo Airlines, Air India, Indian Airlines, Spice Jet, Go Air, and Vistara have daily flights from major Indian cities. Book a flight in advance to get a good deal on the ticket price.

You have to board a flight from Kolkata and Chennai to reach the Andamans within 2.5 to 3 hours. The longest travel time is from Delhi which takes around 5 hours. In case, you are taking a flight from anywhere else around India, you will have a layover or a hopping flight.

G2A Insider Tip: Take an early morning flight so that you can utilize the rest of the day.

How to travel to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Ship

Another (but not suggested) way to get to the Andamans is by sea. Haddo Wharf is the main port located in Port Blair. Ships sail from Kolkata and Chennai three to four times a month and only once from Vishakhapatnam. The approximate travel time is 3 to 4 days (50 – 60 hours)

The ships sailing between the Andamans and mainland India are passenger ships and not cruise ships. So, they have a limited choice of food and no entertainment options. Sea-sickness is also common especially if tourists are traveling between May and October. We recommend traveling by ship only if you want to experience an unusual adventure amidst the blue sea for 3 to 4 days. Also note, the booking process is time-consuming and tickets can only be made from the Tickets Corporation Offices in Chennai, Calcutta, and Visakhapatnam.

Click to know more about Travel to Andaman & Nicobar Islands by Sea.

VISA Entry Formalities for Andaman

Both Indian and Foreign nationals need no permit to visit the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. However, visiting tribal areas in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is prohibited.

For foreign tourists, a passport is required along with their Indian visa. NO Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is required anymore for most foreign nationals.  Citizens of Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, and Pakistan would continue to require the Restricted Area Permit. In such cases, the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) would be granted only if the foreign tourists has obtained prior approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Places you can travel to without a permit:

Foreigners will not need a RAP for visiting the following 30 Islands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands: (1) East Island (2) North Andaman (3) Smith Island (4) Curfew Island (5) Stewart Island (6) Landfall Island (7) Aves Island (8) Middle Andaman (9) Long Island (10) Strait Island (11) North Passage (12) Baratang (13) South Andaman (14) Swaraj Dweep (15) Shaheed Dweep (16) Flat Bay (17) North Sentinel Island (18) Little Andaman (19) Chowra (20) Tillang Chong Island (21) Teressa (22) Katchal (23)Nancowry(24) Kamorta (25) Pulomilo (26) Great Nicobar (27) Little Nicobar(28) Narcondum Island (29) Interview Island and (30) Viper Island (Day visit only).

Reaching Port Blair

The best way to reach Port Blair is by taking a flight from Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Chennai.

Time taken is around 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Reaching Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)

Havelock is one of Andaman’s crowning jewels. It is a slice of paradise wrapped in vibrant corals, blue waters, and fine powdery sand. This region is also known for its thrilling water sports, starting from scuba diving to snorkeling, jet-skiing, and whatnot.

A walk along the pristine coastline is the best way to soak up the charm of Havelock. It also hosts the astounding Radhanagar Beach, which is titled the best beach in Asia.

Private and government ferries operate daily between Port Blair and Havelock as well as Neil and Havelock. The air-conditioned private ferries take just 1.5 hours from Port Blair and 1 hour from Neil Island.

When it comes to the Government ferries, they are slow and booking needs to be made 4 days in advance. They usually cater to the locals and are not as reliable as their private counterparts.

The private ferries have a hassle-free booking process and offer the fastest way to commute between islands. Hence, it is advisable to opt for private ferries as a tourist. Helicopter services are not available for tourists. They usually cater to the local people and emergencies on the island.

Reaching Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep)

Neil Island or Shaheed Dweep is a tranquil piece of land nestled in the Andaman Archipelago. It features a lush green landscape packed with fields and coconut palms. The sublime beaches swathed in turquoise blue waters create a picturesque frame in mind and offer immense photography opportunities.

If you are the kind of person who fantasizes about tropical islands, this is the place to be.

The easiest way to reach Neil Island is by hopping on a government or a private ferry. Again, opting for the private ferry is a better and easy option. Even the bookings can be made online in advance. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach Port Blair and about 1 hour from Havelock.

Reaching North Andaman (Baratang, Rangat, Mayabundar and Diglipur)

One of Andaman’s best-kept secrets, North Andaman is a slice of heaven on Earth. This region is known for its virgin beauty and is often characterized by lush forests, pristine beaches, and turtle nesting sites. Places in North Andaman include Rangat, Baratang, Diglipur and Mayabunder.

Tourists usually go on a day trip to Baratang to witness the Limestone Cave and the Mud Volcanoes. No wonder, North Andaman is one of the most magical locations that will allow you to reconnect with the poet within yourself.

Only government ferries ply in North Andaman. Please know your ferry schedules before the trip. You get to know the schedules for only 4 days in advance. Ferries sail almost every day to Baratang, Rangat, and Diglipur. However, ferries operate once in 5 days to Mayabunder.

The most common option is however to travel by road. Private and government buses, as well as chauffeured car services, are available for the same.

Please note: Hiring a car is a costly affair when it comes to traveling to Diglipur. This is a 6 to 8-day journey. But if you enjoy road trips, this trip is highly recommended in the Andamans.

History of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

The history of Andamans is still a mystery to many. No one actually knows when and how the first inhabitants came to the island.

The earliest archeological evidence yet documented goes back some 2,200 years. However, genetic and cultural studies suggest that the indigenous Andaman people may have been isolated from other populations since the middle Paleolithic (old stone age).

In that time, the Andamanese may have diversified into distinct linguistic, cultural, and territorial groups, now known as tribes.

The first empire to list the Andamans under its territory was the Maratha Empire. Rajendra Chola, one of the Chola dynasty kings, conquered the Andaman & Nicobar islands to use it as its strategic navy base against the Sriwijaya Empire (located in Indonesia).

They called the Andaman & Nicobar islands Tinmaittivu or the impure islands.

Cellular Jail-Port Blair

A major chunk of the known history, however, dates back to the post-colonial period. The history of organized European colonization began when the Danish settlers of the Danish East India Company arrived at the Nicobar islands on 12 December 1755.

On 1 January 1756, the Nicobar Islands were made a Danish colony, first named New Denmark. But this colony did not last very long as most of the empire was wiped out because of the outbreaks of Malaria by 1848. It was only the British who can then be called the true colonizers of the Andaman & Nicobar island.

In 1789, the British established their colony in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. But, the island was abandoned by the British in 1796; yet, the British resumed control over Andamans in the 19th century.

During the 19th century as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands history maintains, the British used Andaman and Nicobar as a penal colony, which was named ‘Kalapani‘ or the Cellular Jail.

The history of Andaman & Nicobar Islands proves that criminals convicted of a crime against the East India Company were sent to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with a life sentence: the convicts were forced to live in exile in the Kalapani.

But, with the end of British rule, i. e. after the Indian Independence, the ‘Kalapani’ gave way to a conglomeration of beautiful islands. It was in 1947 that Andaman & Nicobar Islands formed a part of the India Union. Today, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the seven union territories of India.

There are still a few places of historical importance that tourists can visit in the Andaman –

Demography of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Hundreds of islands make up the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but only a few of them are inhabited. Roughly 24 of the 300 Andaman Islands support human settlements, while only 12 of the Nicobar Islands are populated.

Most of the population of the Andamans is that of immigrants from South Asia and their descendants. Most speak Hindi or Bengali, but Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam also are common.

However, the true locals of the isles are the indigenous inhabitants of the Andaman Islands, the 4 remaining tribes. The Andamanese, historically comprised small isolated groups—all speaking dialects of the Andamanese language.

The bow and dog were used for hunting, but they knew no method of making fire. Turtles, dugongs, and fish were caught with nets or harpoons.

The remoteness of the Andamanese and their general hostility toward foreigners prevented major cultural change until the mid-20th century.

Few indigenous tribes survive today, most groups having been decimated by disease following their encounter with Europeans, Indians, and other outsiders, and the ones that remain, follow the ways of their ancestors.

The indigenous inhabitants of the Nicobar Islands, the Nicobarese continue to constitute the majority of the population of the Nicobar. They are of Malay origin, i.e. having migrated from South East Asia thousands of years ago.

Apart from the indigenous population, there are great numbers of Tamilians, Bengalis, and other people from all over the Indian mainland that live in both Andaman and Nicobar islands.

While some are families of freedom fighters and convicts brought by the British to the islands, many came during the 1960s and ’70s in conjunction with the Indian government’s program to develop the region’s agriculture.

More than two-thirds of the people of the Andaman Islands are Hindu; Christians make up about one-fifth of the population and Muslims less than one-tenth. Many Nicobarese are Christian, although some communities practice local religions or have adopted Hinduism, which is prevalent throughout the region.

Flora and Fauna in The Andamans

The Andamans are home to some of the richest varieties of flora and fauna, with 86% of the Andaman & Nicobar islands covered in primary tropical rainforests. Of the 2000 plus species of plants that grow on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, at least 1,300 are exclusive and not found in mainland India.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to nine national parks and nearly a hundred marine and wildlife sanctuaries that offer extraordinary experiences and diverse ecosystems. Interview island, 3 hours off Mayabunder, houses the largest wildlife sanctuary in the Andamans.

The Landfall Island Wildlife Sanctuary is great for spotting wildlife in their natural habitats and is popular for its water sports. Mount Harriet National Park offers some of the richest butterfly diversity in the world and the Andaman Islands are home to some of the largest butterflies globally.

Bibasis Amara Mount Harriet | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Andamans are also a bird-watching hot spot with at least 240 species of birds found here. The state bird of Andaman – the Andaman wood pigeon, the Narcondam hornbill found exclusively in the Narcondam islands, the Andaman scop’s owl, the blue-eared kingfisher, and the fulvous breasted woodpecker can be spotted extensively here. At least two species of wild boars, feral elephants, four species of sea turtles, and wild salt-water crocodiles make the Andaman islands a wildlife hotspot.

Any mention of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands would not be complete without a nod to the crown jewel – its marine life. Crystal clear waters and exotic corals are the biggest crowd pullers.

The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park just outside of Port Blair offers ecotourism experiences in Jolly Buoy island as well as Red Skin (the alternative when Jolly Buoy is closed). Owing to its endless coast, the islands also offer an interesting variety of seashells and have become part of the island’s lifeline.

These colorful and natural seashells (once even served as money) are now used as ornaments, souvenirs, in local cottage industries, and even as musical instruments.

The sheer variety and diversity of lifeforms and ecosystems in the Andamans are what draws nature lovers, photographers, and ecology enthusiasts to it day after day, year after year.

Geography of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Located between 6° and 14° North Latitude and 92° and 94° East Longitude lie the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a union territory in India. It consists of two groups of islands. The islands located north of 10° north latitude are known as Andaman while islands located south of 10° north latitude are called Nicobar.

More than 300 islands make up the Andaman Islands. North, Middle, and South Andaman, known collectively as Great Andaman, are the main islands; others include Landfall Island, Interview Island, the Sentinel Islands (where the Sentinelese tribes live), Ritchie’s Archipelago, and Rutland Island.

The 10-degree channel which is about 145 km long separates Little Andaman in the south from the Nicobar Islands.

The Nicobar Islands consist of 19 islands. Among the most prominent is Car Nicobar in the north; Camorta, Katchall, and Nancowry in the center of the chain; and Great Nicobar in the south. About 90 miles to the southwest of Great Nicobar lies the northwestern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Both the Andaman and Nicobar Islands groups are formed by the above-sea extensions of submarine ridges of mountains and are a part of a great island arc.

The highest peak is 2,418 feet at Saddle Peak on North Andaman, followed by Mount Thullier at 2,106 feet on Great Nicobar and Mount Harriet at 1,197 feet on South Andaman.

Barren island, the only known active Volcano in south Asia lies in the Andaman sea. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there were volcanic eruptions on Barren Island.

Formed of sandstone, limestone, and shale of Cenozoic age (i.e., formed during the past 65 million years), the terrain of the Andamans is rough, with hills and narrow longitudinal valleys. Flatland is scarce and is confined to a few valleys, such as the Belapur on Middle Andaman and Diglipur on North Andaman. Perennial rivers are few.

The terrain of the Nicobar is more diverse than that of the Andamans. Some of the Nicobar Islands, such as Car Nicobar, have flat coral-covered surfaces with offshore coral formations that prevent most ships from anchoring. Other islands, such as Great Nicobar, are hilly and contain numerous fast-flowing streams.

Great Nicobar is the only island in the territory with a significant amount of fresh surface water.

The climate of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands is tropical but is moderated by sea breezes. Temperatures typically rise from about 23 °C to about 30 °C.

The territory receives roughly about 120 inches of rain annually, brought mainly by the southwest monsoon, which blows from May through September, and by the tropical cyclones that follow in October and November.

Map of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ’s about Andaman & Nicobar Islands

  • Can I visit any island of my choice in Andaman and Nicobar Islands?

    There are only 32 inhabited islands in a total of 572 islands. Tourists are permitted only in a list of islands. You can see the list here.

  • How do I get to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands?

    Two ways – either take a flight to Port Blair from Kolkata, Chennai or Delhi or take a ship to Port Blair from Chennai, Kolkata or Vizag.

  • Where are the Andaman and Nicobar Islands?

    Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a group of 572 islands located in the Bay of Bengal. It is around 1000 miles away from the Indian subcontinent down South-East.

  • What is the best time to holiday in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands?

    We believe holidaying in the Andamans can be done throughout the year – in summers/monsoon (no winter season there). However, tourist inflow is maximum during October to May. More info on best time to visit andaman.

  • What is the electricity supply in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands?

    All of India has standard 220 Volts with sockets mixed between 3 round pins. While some sockets also take the two round pin plugs, to avoid confusion or disappointment, we suggest guests bring at least one travel adapter.

  • What time zone do the Andaman & Nicobar Islands lie in?

    The whole of India falls under the same time zone so the local time is GMT + 5½ hours throughout the country, all year round. The Andamans are much closer to Thailand than India which means life in the Andamans happens a little bit earlier in the day, to make use of the day light hours.

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