The Andamans are a paradise for ecologist and ornithologists with 242 species of birds 46 species of mammals and 78 species of reptiles some of them rear and almost extinct. These live in dense rain forests surrounded by mangroves that seem to become part of the sea. You don’t have to go far outto see brilliant tropical flowers, including the orchid, and an array of butterflies.
It was believed that the five who had ventured into ‘hostile’ territory had
been killed by the others. They are still unfriendly. The Sentinels from North
Sentinel Island are downright hostile. We tried getting close to the island
but were welcomed with poisoned arrows. The Nicobarese and the Shompens are
the most ‘modern’ of these primitive islanders. The others still prefer life
in the raw. Although Port Blair is only a little mwn it is interesting to
discover that it has a well equipped hospital, reasonably good schools and
even a all fledged college! A water sports institute and a son-et-lumiere
show will soon be added attractions.
One of the favourite pastimes of all of us who have visited the island is
picnicking—at Mount Harriet, once the summer resort of British Chief Commissioners;
or Chiriya Tapu with a beach littered with driftwood in amazing shapes and
sizes; or at Ross, a small island girdled by tiny coves and beaches and just
a stone’s throw an array from the capital.
Ross Island was once an exclusive preserve of the British who ruled from there for over 50 years. Now, as you walk through the ruins of bungalows, churches, ballrooms, bakeries, clubs and dungeons, you can almost hear the mingling of church bells and dance music and inhale the aroma of freshly baked bread and cakes. Once a visitor stumbled and fell into what he discovered, were tennis courts attached to the Government House or the home of the Chief Commissioner. Although haunted by ghosts from the past, Ross Island is still peopled—with herds of deer and majestic peacocks that fear no captivity.
Captives and convicts—they once landed at Viper Island near the mouth of Port
Blair harbour. Another picnic spot, it still has ruins of gallows as reminders
of a grim past.
From the grim to the glorious—islands like Jolly Buoy, Cinque, Redskin have crystal clear waters which are considered among the best snorkelling spots in the world. If you are lucky, dancing dolphins will guide your ferry part of the way to these islands. Whether discovered through diving or just by sitting in a glass-bottomed boat, the treasures of these coral islands are unforgettable. As the underwater world comes alive one forgets that there is a less perfect world outside, so engrossing are the vast expanses of colourful corals, fish and vegetation. A peek into this magic land leaves you in a daze for the rest of the day! Explore it as often as you.
The Andamans even have their very own dormant volcano and those who have the
courage and stamina to climb to its mouth on Barren Island never forget the
sight of the lava inside or the hard lava-like rocks that make the climb a near
impossibility. While in the Andamans, first pick up souvenirs and keepsakes
to take back. Remember there is a ban on taking coral out of the islands. Their
natural attractions need to be preserved. So don’t plan on a shopping spree—but
on a conservationists holiday—savouring and experiencing its wonders and leaving
them unspoiled for your next visit. For the discovery of the islands is a long
one. I can never have surfeit of it and keep going back.