Exotic, beautiful and richly evocative of India’s colonial past, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are growing into a popular tourist destination. The 2 groups of islands, made up of the summits of a submerged mountain range, form India’s most remote state, located in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.
Andaman Nicobar tourism immediately evokes images of crystal-clear waters, rainbow-hued reefs and lush tropical forests. Besides, most Indians recall the infamous Kaala Pani or Cellular Jail, which is a major attraction of Andaman tourism today. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed beach vacation or an adventurous holiday of trekking, snorkelling and scuba diving, you’ll find that Andaman tourism has the charm of a holiday that’s far from the madding crowd, yet close enough to the comforts of civilisation.
325 islands make up the Andaman archipelago of islands, situated more than 1000 kms off India’s east coast, in the middle of the Bay of Bengal. 200 kms further south are the Nicobar islands, 24 in number. Indira Point is the southern tip of the southernmost island, Great Nicobar is the southernmost point of India! The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are separated by the Ten Degree Channel which is 150 kms wide.
Though these are grouped together for administrative purposes, the Nicobar Islands are usually out of bounds to visitors, and it is the Andaman islands that draw tourists in ever-growing numbers. Made up of the peaks of a submarine mountain range that stretches from Myanmar to Sumatra in Indonesia, the islands are bordered with some of the world’s finest beaches and coral reefs, rich in marine life and virtually untouched.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a tropical climate. The average temperature varies between 23 ° C to 31 ° C. and humidity can go as high as 80%. The weather is uniform through the year, with neither summer nor winter featuring extreme temperatures. Which is why Andaman tourism, with its attractions of boating in turquoise lagoons, swimming, snorkelling and deep sea diving, is yours to enjoy around the year, though you would encounter the south-west monsoon by the end of May, and the north-east monsoon in November.
Usually, nature lovers prefer visiting between May and December, as the forests are at their lushest and the waterfalls are a sight to behold. Those who love aquatic sports enjoy Andaman tourism between December and April.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands tourism offers a glimpse of a rich and diverse culture, as the population comprises a mélange of indigenous tribes, descendants of Indian freedom fighters who were jailed or deported to these islands, and migrants from neighbouring countries.
The indigenous people of the Andamans, the Great Andamanese, the Jarawa, the Onge and the Sentinelese live in settlements and are fiercely protective of their tribal culture. The Nicobar islands are inhabited by the Nicobarese or Nicobari and the Shompen tribes.
While the tribes still follow their ancient social customs, the mainstream population are as urban and contemporary in their habits as the tourists themselves.
You’ll find it hard to believe that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to 96 wildlife sanctuaries, nine national parks and one biosphere reserve! The islands’ abundant tropical forests, many of them still dense and unexplored, harbor as many as 270 species and sub-species of rare and exotic birds.
Kaala Pani or the Cellular Jail is of great historic significance to Indians, as it was a prison built by the prisoners themselves – the condemned political activists who participated in the Revolt of 1857. Every night, a fascinating sound and light show brings alive the intriguing history of this monument. For those who like to explore the past, Ross Island, Viper Island, Hopetown and Mount Harriet are other historic landmarks.
Port Blair, the capital, and Havelock Island are popular spots for Andaman and Nicobar Islands tourism. Port Blair is a charming window to local life and customs, while it is also steeped in colonial history. While Havelock Island is a picturesque paradise, with azure blue waters, powder-white sands and deep green palm trees fringing the beach. Naturally, you shouldn’t forget to carry all the essentials for a beach holiday, including sunscreen lotion, sunglasses, a hat or cap and a sipper.
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The following are some travel tips, dos and don’ts to keep in mind for your Andaman trip.
Once you experience Andaman Nicobar tourism, you’ll fall in love with the islands’ pristine beauty and the unique culture of the indigenous people. A few precautions and courtesies are advised, to protect and preserve the beauty of these islands.
The tribes are sensitive about their privacy, and most tribal areas are restricted zones. Please don’t interact with the tribals without permission. Photo or video shooting them is considered a punishable crime.
National parks, too, require permits if you want to visit them.
There are notice boards advising tourists about photography and video shooting at all the tourist attractions in Andaman. Do obtain the necessary permissions wherever required.
Plastic bags are totally banned in the Andamans – you can be fined or imprisoned if you’re caught with one.
It’s important to follow all safety regulations while swimming. Consult lifeguards before entering the sea. If you want to go snorkelling or scuba diving, consult one of the certified scuba dive instructors and stay within the permitted areas.
Do remember to carry all your important documents with you – your passport, permits and driving license - while you are on your Andaman tour, rather than leaving them behind in your hotel.
There are safeguards in place to protect every bit of the natural beauty of the islands. Do help to preserve their flora and fauna, by not touching the live coral, or lighting bonfires on the beach or in the forests, or hunting the birds and animals on land and in the sea.
Camping on beaches or in forest areas overnight is strictly prohibited, so do return to your hotel after sunset.
Collecting dead coral or shells – even touching them – is banned. You can buy shells at authorised places, and you should keep the receipt of the purchase.