Andaman: The hidden Eden

If you’re subjected to the busy city life day in and day out, there’s no solution for peace than the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Clear skies, clean beaches, a wealth of exploratory history and so many islands to discover…Andaman is truly a multifaceted visit!

Around 900km off the Indian coast, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are one of the world’s best kept secrets. These islands have not borne the damage of industrialization and their culture remains intact no matter the tourism it may invite. Pleasure by sea is the name of the game here with the numerous diving and trekking options these islands offer!

The number of islands is astounding to say the least! For instance, there are the Emerald islands—572 of them with 86% just rainforest. That leaves only 36 mysterious islands inhabited by a mix of colorful mainland Indian settlers, refugees from Myanmar and the strange and endangered Paleolithic tribes of the Andamans. And this is just one set of islands!

If you like nature unadulterated, there are many, many mini-Edens’ with enough greenery and water to sustain it for eons to come!

Visiting Port Blair

Port Blair is the capital but it’s a quaint and scenic place spread over a number of hills from Haddo across Secretariat Hill to Aberdeen Bazaar and South point. Quaint villages like Pahargaon, Shadipur and Garacharme are solitude manifested. These are fantastic places for photography and painting.

Visit the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor; the park has an open sea, creeks and fifteen islands of various sizes; there are some of the best in the world and what’s better is you can hire glass bottom boats to view sea life! If you’re into snorkeling or have always wanted to try it, these islands are paradise; there are just too many beaches that you’ll be miffed with choice!

For a piece of valuable history, head out to see the ‘Cellular Jail’; this was a torturous place for its residents namely, freedom fighters. During rebel riots and subsequently the uprising, the building was damaged; it remains a National Memorial to this day.

Dolphins, Diving and

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an amateur or a professional; diving is a fascinating look into the underwater world where challenges and hard work pay off big time! The Andamans is perfect for diving with the coastal water surrounding these islands having the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world.

There’s no doubt you’ll hear of Havelock Island; it’s one of the most beautiful and most visited. The negligible infrastructure is more than made up for by stunning beaches, great snorkeling and scuba diving. With no commercial activities, the vibe keeps calling you back. Do a half-day hiking trails to enjoy scenic views from hilltops or just get on a hammock and enjoy an absolutely undisturbed nap—your choice!

Havelock Island is the main dive destination in the Andamans and is home to the main Dive Centers—DIVEIndia and Barefoot. Take a class and see what you were missing!

Cinque Island and the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National park also have deep sea diving where you can encounter a variety of marine life including black coral and small sharks; for an experienced diver, it’s perfect. The island has unspoiled beaches and an amazing sand bar that joins two islands—you can camp out here too!

Science buffs will like Barren Island; this is volcanic territory with the only active volcano in the country! The island itself is only 3km but it has a massive crater jutting out of the sea; 150 fathoms deep. On board viewing is allowed so don’t miss it!

Like dolphins? Visit Long Island where you can view dolphins in the sea! This is also a great place for trekking and exploring. Set up camp and befriend a few dolphins if you can! Alternatively, you can try traditional island-style canoe rides; local fishermen are more than happy to share three decades worth of experience on how to catch those fish better! You can’t catch to cook them though but you will have an increased respect for skilful fishing, that’s for sure!

Strange Beautiful Territory

It’s not all just about the underwater world in the Andamans; the climate and ecosystem is perfect to spot bird species such as white-browed mynahs, magpie robins, white-rumped munias, brown shrikes, white-bellied sea eagles, whimbrels, black-naped orioles, long-tailed parakeets, chestnut-headed bee-eaters and Andaman specific birds such as vernal parrots.

In fact, the Nicobar Islands have coconut-palm, casuarina and pandanus amongst creatures like the Giant Robber Crab, Nicobarese Pigeons and rare birds called ‘Megapodes’!

You’ll be glad you took your binoculars and video camera along!

As for trekking; it’s Mt. Harriet to Madhuban all the way! There’s just too much territory so enjoy pristine woodland, fresh air and flora and fauna you could not have imagined! There are many options for trekking but make sure to go in a group for safety and comfort.

There’s a lot to do in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands so plan well beforehand, carry all the requisite gear necessary and make the best of this magical Eden on earth!

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