Andaman Islands

 
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© Sujan
Sippi Ghat


Introduction

The Andaman and Nicobar are a cluster of 324 large and small islands covering an area of 8,300 sq km which runs from north to south off the southeast of the Indian sub-continent in the Bay of Bengal. The islands are  located 950km from the mouth of the Hugli river in West Bengal and 193 km from Cape Negrais in Myanmar. Great Andaman lying to the north is the largest contiguous block of islands and is administratively divided into the North, Middle and South Andaman. Little Andaman is squeezed in between Great Andaman and the Nicobar cluster of islands. Port Blair, located in South Andaman is the capital city of the group.

More than90% of the islands in the area are uninhabited and are covered in pristine tropical rainforest. The centuries of isolation of the islands and the tendency for speciation of island populations has resulted in the development of as many as 17 endemics species and many sub-specific variants. The close proximity to the Myanmar coast has also resulted in the presence of many species with Southeast Asian affinities with the fauna resembling Malayan and  Myanmarese species.

Vegetation

12 different forest types cover the area comprising of Indian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and endemic floral strains. The main forest types are:
(1)
   Giant evergreen forests containing Dipterocarpus, Calophyllum, Artocarpus and other species.
(2) Andamans tropical evergreen forests containing Planchonia, Hopea, Baccaurea, Myristica species
(3) Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forests with Dicterocarpus, Mesua, Euphorbia and other species.
(4) Andamans semi-evergreen forests characterized by Terminalia, Albizzia, Artocarpus and Legerstroemia species.
(5) Andamans moist deciduous forests
(6) Littoral forests
(7) Mangrove forests exhibit Rhizophora, Bruguiera, Sonneratia and Avicennia species.

The present forest coverage is claimed to be 86.2% of the total land area.


Chiriya Tapu

Bird life:

Perhaps, the best known species from the area is the endemic Narcondam Hornbill (Aceros narcondami) which is only found in the isolated volcanic Narcondam Island to the east of North Andaman. But the Andaman cluster also holds local endemic jewels like the Andaman Teal Anas albogularis, Andaman Serpent Eagle Spilornis elgini, Andaman Crake Rallina canningi, Andaman Coucal Centropus andamanensis, Andaman Scops Owl Otus balli, Andaman Hawk Owl Ninox affinis, Andaman Nightjar Caprimulgus andamanicus, Andaman Woodpecker Dryocopus hodgei, Andaman Wood-Pigeon Columba palumboides, Andaman Cuckoo Dove Macropygia rufipennis, Andaman Treepie Dendrocitta bayleyi and Andaman Drongo Dicrurus andamanensis. Added to this list are the exciting sub-species of common mainland species with plumages that have developed differently through years of isolation. In all, the Andaman Islands have a checklist approaching 200 species many of which are coastal and pelagic.

© Dhritiman
Violet Cuckoo

Birding Hot Spots: (see Map)

  • Port Blair city area

  • Corbyn's Cove Marsh

  • Chiriya Tapu

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Park

  • Sippi Ghat

  • Mount Harriet National Park

How to reach: 

Port Blair is connected by air from Kolkata and Chennai.  Sea passage takes 3-4 days and can be availed from Kolkata and Chennai.

© Sumit Sen
Andamans Map
(Map Copyright © Sumit Sen 2007)

Permits:

All foreign nationals can stay in the islands for 30 days. This can be extended by another 15 days with permission. They require a permit to stay from the immigration authorities. The places covered by the permit for overnight stay are: South Andaman Island, Middle Andaman Island and Little Andaman Island, Neil Island, Havelock Island, Long Island, Diglipur, Baratang, North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park

Where to stay:

1. Fortune Resort Bay Island, Marine Hill, Port Blair
2. Sun Sea Resort ; Tel: (03192) 238330; 238314
3. Peerless Resort
4. Megapode Nest; Tel: (03192) 232207; 232380

Sun Sea Resort and Megapode Nest can also be booked through Help Tourism ( Tel: 033-24550917) at Kolkata.

Site details:

  Longitude: 920 to 940 E   Latitude: 100 to 140 N
  Rainfall: 300 cm
  Altitude: 60 -200m over m.s.l.

  Temperatures:
Min 23°C; Max 31°C

Best Season:

September to November and February to April.

References:

- Birds of the Indian Subcontinent - Richard Grimmett & Tim Inskipp. Helm Field Guide
- A Field Guide to the Birds of India - Krys Kazmierczak. Pica Press
- Birds of South-east Asia - Craig Robson. New Holland
- Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Vol. I-X) - S. Ali & S. D. Ripley. OUP
- Birdwatcher's Guide to India -  Krys Kazmierczak et al. OUP
- Birds of South Asia ~ The Ripley Guide - Pamela Rasmussen et al. Lynx Edicions 2005
- Birds of Andaman and Nicobar Islands - B.K.Tikader (1984) . ZSI

Websites:

Andaman Nicobar Islands - GOI website
Toursit Office Website
Wikipedia page

Sumit K Sen,
Kolkata, India
December, 2006

 

 

   
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