The hidden paradise :Andaman and Nicobar islands
PortBlair,July31:Long fabled among travellers for its gorgeous beaches, underwater wonders and primeval location in the middle of nowhere, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are still the ideal place to get away from it all. The archipelago has around 572 islands of which only 36 are open to tourists. The island population is an interesting mix of south Indian and Southeast Asian settlers, as well as Negrito ethnic groups on some islands whose arrival here still has anthropologists baffled.
Adding to the intrigue is the fascinating ecosystem that exists on the island – the spectacular coral reefs, the biggest crabs, the largest turtles, the most vibrant fish and the most beautiful butterflies.
While most of us know about Andaman and Nicobar’s legendary beauty and charm, these emerald isles are intriguing in more than one way. Ptolemy and Marco Polo documented the isles as home to fierce man-hunters and Jean-Jacques Cousteau dedicated a movie to them called Invisible Islands.
Here are 20 incredibly interesting facts about these islands.
1. The names ‘Andaman’ and ‘Nicobar’ are taken from the Malay Language
The name Andaman is presumed to be derived from Hanuman, who was known to the Malays as Handuman. The name Nicobar seems to be a corruption of the South Indian term ‘Nakkavaram’ (Land of the Naked) as indicated in the great Tanjore inscription of AD 1050.
2. The most widely spoken language on the islands is not Andamanese or Nicobarese
The most widely spoken language on the islands is Bengali followed by Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Andaman Creole Hindi is also widely used as a trade language in the Andaman islands.
3. Katchal Island received the first sun rise of the millenium
4. The largest sea turtles in the world nest here
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have India’s best nesting beaches for three species of marine turtles – Hawksbill, Green turtle and world’s largest sea turtle, the Leatherback (Dermocheleys Coriacea). The nesting population of Leatherback turtles in Nicobar is one of the few colonies that exceeds 1,000 individuals in the Indo-Pacific, and is hence of global importance.
5. North Sentinel Island is home to one of the most isolated paleolithic tribes of the world
North Sentinel Island is home to one of the most isolated human populations in the world. The Sentinelese, thought to number around 300, have rebuffed all contact with the modern world and fire their arrows at anyone who comes within range. They are thought to have directly descended from the first human populations to emerge from Africa, and have probably lived in the Andaman Islands for up to 60,000 years.
6. Dugong, the gentle sea cow, is the state animal of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Large, plump marine vegetarians with short, paddle-like front flippers, the gentle Dugongs can be found grazing peacefully on sea grass in the warm coastal waters of the Andaman and Nicobar Island. These languid creatures, also called the ‘angel of the sea’, can be spotted at Ritchie’s archipelago, North Reef, Little Andaman and parts of Nicobar.
7. Pandunus or Nicobar Breadfruit is a rare fruit found and widely eaten in Nicobar
Pandanus is a densely arranged, wedge-shaped fruit that has an immensely hard, woody and fibrous body in which several narrow, edible seeds are embedded. Each section has a fleshy base that contains an aromatic pulp that, after cooking, is a staple food in Nicobar. An economically important plant in the islands, the stem branches of Pandanus are used in construction, the leaves used for weaving mats and the hard exterior of the fruit is used as a bathing brush.
8. Commercial fishing is banned in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Commercial fishing has been banned around the Andaman Islands for more than 4 decades. It is believed that in these waters, fish now die of old age. The turquoise waters surrounding these emerald island teem with an abundance of dolphins, whales, dugongs, sea turtles, sailfish, sea anemones, and other marine life.
9. The only active volcano in India, the Barren Island, is present in Andaman Islands
Barren Island is the only active volcano not just in India but the whole of South Asia. Located approximately 135 km north east of Port Blair, this small 3-km-wide island contains a 1.6-km-wide crater partially filled by a cinder cone that has been the source of eruptions since the first was recorded in 1787.
The story first appeared in The better Indian