The Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to some of the richest varieties of flora and fauna, with 86% of the islands covered in primary tropical rain-forests. Of the 2000 plus species of plants that grow on the islands, at least 1,300 are exclusive and not found in mainland India.
The 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 Andaman & Nicobar islands. 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 islands are home to some of the largest butterflies globally.
The islands 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 islands a wildlife hotspot.
Any mention of the 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 colourful and natural sea shells (once even served as money) are now used as ornaments, souveniers, in local cottage industries and even as musical instruments.
The sheer variety and diversity of lifeforms and ecosystems in the island is what draws nature lovers, photographers and ecology enthusiasts to it day after day, year after year.