The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were, until the tsunami in December 2004, a little-known chain of tropical islands in the Bay of Bengal. Thickly forested with rainforest and tropical trees, edged by mangrove swamps and pristine palm-fringed, white- sand beaches and coral reefs, these remote islands easily rival the likes of the Maldives or the Caribbean in terms of natural beauty. Fortunately, five-star all-inclusive resorts have not taken hold on these remote islands, although joining the hammocks and wood cabins are some resorts with all the creature comforts.
The sparkling clear water makes it one of the best places in the world to explore the seabed; rare species - dugong and marine turtles - as well as tropical fish and coral reefs are a big attraction. Birdwatchers are also in paradise with 242 species recorded, including the grey teal. The canopied rainforests harbour 3000 species of plants including mangroves, ferns, orchids, palms, climbers and tropical fruits. Of the 58 species of mammals and 83 reptiles, many are endemic, as the islands are isolated.
The islands' aboriginal tribal people are of special interest to anthropologists. Some, like the Jarawas and Sentinalese in the Andamans, have remained isolated and hostile to outsiders even up to the late 20th century. Others, the Great Andamanese for example, have interacted with non-tribal settlers for decades and now there are very few left. The Indian government keeps the Primitive Tribal Reserve Areas out of bounds.
The tsunami damaged parts of this paradise; the southern chain of islands, the Nicobars, was badly hit resulting in many deaths. Only the southernmost island in the Andamans - Little Andaman - was substantially affected. Parts of the Andamans are accessible to foreigners, the Nicobars are off-limits.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF