Andaman The Land Of Diversity


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In Andaman in a small area you can find sea(even that is with variety of colors at different islands and beaches), mountain, forests of different types, a variety of flora and fauna and a population of diversified language group.



There are total 572 islands(325 in Andaman and rest in Nicobar) in the group among which only 38 are inhabited.
The total area is 8249 sq Km of which Andaman has 6408 Sq KM and Nicobar has only 1841 Sq KM. 92% of this land is covered by forest.

The biggest island of Andaman group is Middle Andaman(1536 sq Km) and the smallest is Ross Island(0.8 Sq KM). North Island, Middle Island and South Andaman are the major islands of Andaman. Port Blair is in the South Andaman island.

The maximum breadth of Andaman islands is 52 Km with Bay of Bengal in West and Andaman Sea in East. It is 58 Km is case of Nicobar. This means no place in Andaman islands is more than 26 Km away from the sea.

The Andaman & Nicobar islands are spread between 6° to 14° North latitude and
92° to 94° East longitude with 10° channel running in between Andaman & Nicobar.

The climate is hot & humid throughout the year. The highest and lowest recorded temperature is 36° C and 25° C(written in the Samudrika Museum, I am not 100% sure that I have memorized the lowest one correctly, it may be +/- 1°C).

Andaman has 2 rainy season. One is from End April/ May - Mid September. The 2nd one is from Nov-Mid Dec.

The altitude of Andaman Islands is 0-732 m. The highest point is Saddle peak in North Andaman near Diglipur.
Kalpong, the only river of Andaman flows from Saddle peak.

The main vegetation of Andaman varies from wet evergreen forest of North to deciduous forest of Middle and South. In all the islands the coastal area is covered by Mangroves.

The Andaman Islands have been inhabited for many thousand years. The indigenous Andamanese people appear to have lived on the islands in substantial isolation from that time until the 18th century.

In 1789 British Govt of Bengal established a naval base and a penal colony on Chatham Island after Archibald Blair's survey on 1788-89. But as a result of much death and disease the British Govt ceased the operation of this colony on May 1796.

Annoyed by killing of crews of wrecked ships by the natives British Govt proposed another settlement at Andaman islands on 1855. But the Great Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced a delay.At the same time the huge number of political prisoners after 1857 made the penal settlement at Andaman a necessity.

The construction begun at 1857 and the penal settlement was started on March 1858. At the beginning there was no jail in Andaman.

On 8th February 1872 at around 7PM, the then Viceroy of India Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo(known as Lord Mayo) was killed by a prisoner from Wahabi Movement Sher Ali when returning to the ship at Hutbay after watching the sunset from Mt Harriet. Later Sher Ali was hanged at Viper Island on 11th March of the same year.
He was the only viceroy killed in India. We have read about so many British officials killed by Indians, but only few knows about the killing of the top most official of British Govt. Surprising, isn't it?

After this incident the British Govt decided to built a jail in the island. The construction of Cellular Jail started on 1896 and completed on 1906 and the cost was around Rs 0.7 million at that time.


The jail has 7 wings with such an architecture so that every wing can view the back of the wing at its left.
The cellular jail has 698 cells each measured 15ft by 9ft with a single ventilator at around 10ft above the floor.

The prisoners from India as well as Burma was sent to Cellular Jail. It witnessed most cruel tortures of the British India.

Andaman was under Japanese control during World War II from March, 1942 to Oct, 1945.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose visited Cellular Jail on 30th Dec 1943 and he renamed the Andaman and Nicobar as Shahid and Swaraj Islands.

After world war II Andaman returned to British Govt who then announced to abolish the penal settlement.

After independence a number of Bengali refugees from East Pakistan got settlement in Andaman islands. So most of the people in Andaman are Bengalis.
People from other provinces of India like Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra are mostly found around Port Blair.
The population of Baratang Island is mostly of tribe Ranchi from Ranchi area.
Mayabundar area has a good percentage of Burmese (Crane) population.

The total population of Andaman as per 2011 census is 379,944.

The major languages spoken in the Andamans in numerical order are Bengali (32.6%), Tamil (27.61%), Hindi (22.95%), and Telugu (14.84%). Source: Wiki

Native People of Andaman:

Great Andamanese: Once the group with highest population, but has only around 50 members at present. They are settled at Strait Island in between Long Island and Havelock and given ration by Govt. They started marrying non-tribal people and getting mixed with the non-tribal population. A few of them can be seen posted at the Chatham Jetty as crew.
(The 10 tribes of Great Andamanese: Aka-Kari,Aka-Kora,Aka-Bo,Aka-Jeru of Norther sub-group and Aka-Kede,Aka-Kol,Oko-Juwoi,A-Pucikwar,Akar-Bale,Aka-Bea of Southern Sub-Group).

Jarwa: Presently they are around 425 in number, we have seen a number of children. SO, there number should be increasing.
They live in 3 areas: Tiru(restricted for Tourists), Middle Strait and Kadamtala(by the side of the Great Andaman Trunk Road).
Prior to 1997 they maintained a hostile relationship with settled population. These settled people were afraid of getting out after the sunset.
Presently they are given medical aids, clothes and some fruits by Indian Govt, but no formal ration is given.
One group of Jarawas, named Patang Jarawas still avoid any contact with the non-tribals.

Old people in Jarawa communitee still avoid contact with the settled population.

I was surprised to hear the story of Kaham an 125 years old Jarawa who live in Tiru area with his 95 years old partner and 17 dogs and avoid any contact with Indian Govt team employed to serve Jarawas.

There is a interesting story behind Jarawas started contacting settled people.

Jarawas used to go into the settlers villages and collect fruits from the farms after sunset. One day one Jarawa child of around 10 years were fallen from a tree and left behind.
The next morning he was found laying with a broken leg by the villagers and were handed over to the police. Govt arranged for his treatment. He was shifted to a hospital in Port Blair and then moved to Delhi.
Once completely cured he was dropped to the forest.
The boy who never lived a day outside the forest was witnessed the city life for a while,and got good care. He was so impressed by all these that he kept insisting others in the group to contact the non-tribal settlers and the Govt.

After that started a phase of disturbances. Jarawas used to come to the road and stop the vehicles, asking for food, snatching any red dress etc.

Now Govt has regular contact and a good control over them. They no more attack people with arrows but contact police for any problem with the local settlers.

Onge: Their present population is around 170. They are settled in Dungong Creek in Little Andaman and are given ration by the Govt.

Sentineli: They are the only tribe who still live in isolation in North Sentinel Island and avoid any contact with the outer world. Not much is known about them.

They all are negrito people and all are (or were before rehabilitation) in the food gather stage.

The trip to Andaman:

The think of a trip to Andaman Islands was in my mind for last couple of years. It was my dream destination for our honeymoon. But the budget constraint was on the way.

In the last week of Feb I heard of a discount in air fare and instantly booked the tickets to and from Port Blair without wasting time. I had a rough estimate on no. of required days for a trip including North Andaman. Considering that and the flight fares I had two options for the no of days: 9 days or 10 days and I had chosen the 1st one. Later on a hundred times I regretted why I did not opt for a 10 days (or even better a 11 days) trip.

After the tickets are booked I started going through various sites in internet and contacting different tour operators for a good plan. After lots of research the finalized plan was:

Day1: Reach Port Blair at 7:30. Complete the city tour including Cellular Jail, Fisheries Museum, Anthropological Museum, Samudrika Museum, Corbyn's Cove Beach and in the evening light and sound show at Cellular Jail

Day2: Ross Island and Mt Harriet


Day 3: Wandoor beach, Jolly Buoy and watch sunset at Chidiya Tapu. En-route visit horticulture farm and Rubber Plantation.

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Day 4: Start early at 4 AM to Mayabundar. On the way visit Baratang Lime stone cave, mud volcanoes(nothing to see), Amrakunj beach, Mirchy Dera, Dhani Nala at Rangat


Day 5: Start early from Mayabundar. Visit Ramnagar and Karmatang beach at Mayabundar head towards Diglipur Aerial Bay. Take speed boat from Aerial Bay to Ross & Smith Island. In the afternoon visit Kalipur beach and stay at Diglipur

Day 6: It was a Friday. On Friday there is a boat from Rangat to PortBlair via Havlock at 1PM. It takes 3 hours. So, reach Havlock by 4, check in to the hotel and visit Kalapatthar beach.

Day 7: Full day at Havlock. Visit Elephant Beach in the morning and Radhanagar beach(famous for sunset) in the afternoon.

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Day 8: Take morning boat to Neil(1hr 15 min) at 9. Full day at Neil. Visit Bharatpur Beach, Laxmanpur 2(natural bridge), Sitapur beach and experience sunset from Laxmanpur 1 beach.

Day 9: Return to Port Blair and leisurely roam around. As this was a Monday and only 2 boats from Neil is available at 8:30AM and 3:30PM, planned to take the morning boat.

Day10: Morning flight from Port Blair and back to routine life.

Now few points related to the plan and places I visited:

1. Take some time to visit the cellular jail. No need to take a guide. We took one thinking that it would be good to know the details of the historic place, but he did not tell a single word that was somewhere written in the gallery or told in the light and sound show.

2. The light and sound show has good content, but it is better to call it only a sound show and that too of poor quality, one of the boxes was not working at all. I was able to understand it as I had read a lot about Andaman and Cellular Jail before going.

3. The fisheries and Samudrika museum is good and it's better to visit these before going for a snorkeling or diving. It will help in identifying corals and other sea-animals.

4. One may like the Anthropological Museum if some home work on tribals is done.

5. The only bitter experience in the whole trip was during the visit of Ross Island.
Most of the tourists visit 3 islands: Ross,North Bay and Viper in a package. We had chosen not to visit the last 2 as Jolly Buoy and Havlock has better coral than North Bay and Viper has nothing special.
We were told that every hour a boat goes to Ross Island. But the truth is there are many companies operating the boat service in the route and most of the boats are used for the 3 island tours.
We booked a ticket of B.P Tours and later found it has lesser no of boats than the other company. Even the boat of this company did not allow us to board as they were carrying passengers of 3 island package.

Later we were told that we faced the problem because it was Bengali Nababarsa and most of the boats of BP Tours were not working as the Bengali workers were on leave and there was huge rush as Cellular jail, jolly buoy, Baratang everything is closed on Monday.

But I am not sure if that was true as they told a lots of lies.

6. I had the plan of visiting the Mt Harriet during sun set since I read that viceroy Lord Mayo was killed when returning to boat after watching sunset from Mt Harriet. You still can see the plaque at the place where he was killed.

Mt Harriet has a forest guest house with a very good compound. A 16 KM trek to another peak (trying to remember the name  ) starts from here.
You can skip this spot if you have time constraint.

7. Jolly Buoy is a must see. Jolly Buoy has the highest variety of species of aquatic creatures. You should not miss the snorkeling here.
A permit from forest department is needed to visit this place and it is closed on Monday.

8. I heard Mahua Dera near wandoor beach has great coral reef. But at present no one is allowed to go there(earlier it was open). Please check if it is opened again.

9. Sun set from Chidiya Tapu is good. Chidiya Tapu also has a forest guest house.

10. To go to Baratang and Middle and North Andaman you need to cross the jarwa reserve area between Jeerartang and Middle Strait.
In this area the cars pass only in convoys. Convoys from Jeerar Tang(at Port Blair side) starts at 6AM, 9AM, 12noon and 2:30 PM and the convoys from Middle Strait (at Baratang side) starts at 6:30AM,9:30AM,12:30PM and 3:00 PM. One need to present the permit to the check post before the convoy starts. So if you reach the check post at 6:10 you need to wait till 9.

Use of camera is not allowed in this area.

11. At Middle Strait the car crosses the strait in a ferry. The car will cross another strait in a ferry between Kadamtala(Gandhi Ghat) and Rangat (Uttara Jetty).

12. The speed boat to Baratang Lime stone cave is available at Baratang Jetty. The journey through the mangroves is a memorable one. A permit from forest department is needed.
It is closed on Monday.

You should skip the mud volcanoes, nothing is there. It only wastes time.

13. Beaches in Rangat are good, the walk through mangroves in Dhani Nala is very good. It also has a Turtle Nesting centre.

14. One need to cross another check post for the Jarwa area at Kadamtala. But no convoy is required.

15. Sunset from Austin bridge between Mayabundar and Kalighat in Diglipur island in winter is a must see.

16. No ferry service is available to Ross & Smith island. one need to reserve a speed boat(Rs 2000). It takes less than 10 minutes in speed boat.
Ross & Smith island is the best place I have visited.

17. We chose to go to Havlock from Rangat as it saved time. But the ferry from Rangat to Havlock is not available everyday.
At present it is available on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday(6 AM) and Friday(1PM). But it may change. So enquire before planning.
Tickets can be booked 3 days in advance.

18. Boats between Havlock and Neil and Neil and Port Blair is available every day. No advance booking of Tickets is permitted.

Written on May 2, 2013