Profile of Andaman and Nicobar Island

Andaman and Nicobar Island is a Union territory in India located at the juncture of Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. It is a group of Island, which comprise two islands namely Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands. The capital of this union territory is Port Blair. Andaman and Nicobar is gifted with immense natural beauty as it is surrounded by mystique sea and lush green vegetation. What was once synonymous with Kalapani Prison and a land where many became martyrs has now transformed into one of the best and the most exotic tourist locations in India. There is an exciting aura about the islands which fills every adventure lover and travellers with enthusiasm.

There are almost 572 small islands that comprise Andaman and Nicobar and most of the part is covered with green forest and exudes unmatched beauty when the sun shines through them. The marine life of the Islands is, however the highlight of the islands. The blue water is as clear as the glass and you can find many aquatic animals and corals in the sea. Andaman and Nicobar has emerged as the most favourite tourist destination owing to the picturesque islets which were once hills which extended from Indonesia to Myanmar. Andaman and Nicobar are also known for the Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only tri-service geographical command of the Indian Army.

Did you know?
Andaman and Nicobar islands is divided into about 572 small islands, among which only 37 are inhabited and the rest are without any type of human civilization.

History of Andaman and Nicobar

History of Andaman and NicobarAndaman and Nicobar Island have a rich history associated with it. Its history dates back to 800 BC suggested by archaeological evidences. Indigenous population called Andamanese can be distinguished from other people according to their distinct culture and language. The Nicobar Islands which is located at 10 degrees North Parallel to Andaman seems to have been inhabited by people with distinct backgrounds. When it came in contact with Europe, the indigenous population was of the Nicobarese who spoke Mon - Khmer language and that of the Shompen.

In the period of 1014 CE, the king of the Chola dynasty of Tamil Nadu had captured Andaman Nicobar Island to use the place as their Naval Base for waging a war against the Srivijaya Empire in Sumatra, Indonesia. The islands were the called Tinmaittivu and were also used as a temporary base for Maratha Empire in the late 17th century. The legendary soldier and leader Kanhoji Angre had achieved supremacy in the Navy and is also credited with attaching the islands to India.

In the year 1755, a group of Danish settlers has arrived at the group of Islands and established Danish East India Company. Within a few months, Nicobar became a Danish Colony but was abandoned many times in 1759, 1768, 1814 to 1832 due to the malaria epidemic. In 1868, Denmark sold the islands to Britain and it became the part of British India. Britain used the island for setting up a cellular Jail, which was infamously called ¨KalaPani¨ where the Indian freedom fighters and dissenters were kept. Subhash Chandra Bose had once named the Island Shaheed-Dweep because many Indians were martyred on this land.

During the World War II, the island came under the rule of Japan and nominally under Azad Hind Army under S.C Bose. However, in the year 1945, Britain again established control over it by defeating Japan. It is now a part of the Indian Subcontinent and a Union Territory from the year 1956. India has been using the Island for making it a strategic military base which give a strong hold of Bay of Bengal and Strait of Malacca.

Geography of Andaman and Nicobar Island 

Andaman and Nicobar Islands were declared a Union territory in the year 1956. The entire area comprises 572 islands and islets and the total area is 8073 Sq. Feet. Among all the islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, only 34 are inhabited permanently. The islands are spread across 6° to 14° latitudes in the north and from 92° to 94° longitudes in the east. A channel which separates The Andamans islands from the Nicobar group by a channel which is at 10 degrees with a width of 150 kilometres.. Saddle Peak with a height of 750 meters is the highest point on Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Andaman group has 325 islands and the Nicobar group has 24 Islands. The capital of the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar is Port Blair which is at a distance of 1,255km from Kolkata and 1,190km from Chennai.. Indira Point, which is the official southernmost point of India is at 6°45’10?N and 93°49’36?E. It is situated very near to Sumatra in Indonesia.

Did you know?
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the longest coastline (approximately 2000 km) among all the states in the country.

Topography of Andaman and Nicobar

Topography of Andaman and Nicobar
Aerial view of islands in Andaman and Nicobar / Flickr

The topography of Andaman and Nicobar Island showcases distinctive topographical attributes. The Andaman and Nicobar is a group of Islands, Islets and reefs in a long, broken chain which is a part of the landmass that comprise South East Asia, North East Asia, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia. Geologically, all these places are part of a unified land mass.

Located in Bay of Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar is a cluster of 321 islands, but comes up to 572 when all the small islands and rocks in the archipelago are also counted. 38 among these are inhabited of which 26 are in the Andaman group and the rest in the Nicobar group. The northernmost part of the island is called the Landfall Island and is situated at a distance of 190 km from Cape Negrais in Myanmar.

The major Island group in the Andaman is the North Andaman comprising the Landfall island, the Sound island,  the Narcondam island, the Middle Andamans which is home to islands like the Interview island and the South Andamans which include the Ritchie's Archipelago, Baratang Island and the Neil island, the Rutland island, the Ross island etc. The Little Andamans is a somewhat hilly stretch of land with vast expanse of green and dense forest which are separated by trails.

Did you know?
Distance wise Andaman and Nicobar islands is close to the Burma and Indonesia rather than the mainland of India

Moving east towards the Great Andaman we find two volcanic islands which are namely  the Narcondam and the Barren Islands. One of these islands, Narcondam belongs to the Pegu groups and the second one which is Barren Island is the part of the Sunda group of volcanoes. The Narcondam Island is uninhabited as it is the seat of volcanoes which can erupt at any time. The name Narkondam is a Sanskrit derived word which means Pitt of hell in English.

The Barren Island is also volcanic in nature and stands tall at the height of 1156 feet above sea level. The barren Island is indeed barren as it is in a state of active eruption  for a very long time and one could see the steam emerging out from the bed of sulphur located on the side of the volcanic cone.

In Nicobar, the topography is similar with slight variations. The Nicobar group of islands has 61 islands, the major islands being Car Nicobar Island, located in the north and the Great Nicobar Island situated down south. The major islands of the Nicobar group include  Teressa, Car Nicobar, Kamorta and Little Nicobar. These islands extend towards Pygmalion point which has now been renamed as Indira Point, the southern most point of Indian Subcontinent.

Topography of Andaman and Nicobar
Indira Point, the southern most tip of the Indian Subcontinent

The topography exhibited by both Andaman and Nicobar of the area of both these groups of islands is commonly hilly and replete with forests. You could find very few flat islands in both the groups of islands. The Saddle Peak is considered the highest point in the North Andaman. The Mount Thulliar which is situated in Great Nicobar islands stands tall at 642 metres from sea level. The slopes through the Island are less steep at times, but can range from very steep to rough. Baring few rugged land masses, most of the Nicobar is flat and surrounded by coral reef. There are stretches of beaches with blue seas and a variety of flora and fauna.

Climate of Andaman and Nicobar

Andaman and Nicobar islands have a uniform tropical climate which is generally humid and warm.  The annual rainfall measured recently is approximately 318 centimetres, however can be erratic. As the island is surrounded by the sea from all sides, sea breezes are a common feature in the tropical climate of Andaman and Nicobar Island. The primary feature of the climate in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is indicated by the temperature range of a minimum of 23° C temperature and a maximum of 31° C temperature. The temperature can hence be called moderate as extreme temperature is never experienced in the area.

A more prominent feature of Andaman and Nicobar Islands climate, similar to all coastal areas is humidity. As the islands are located in the Bay of Bengal, humidity is a factor that does not surprise. 70 to 90% relative humidity is experienced in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Baring the occurrence of frequent and irregular rains and storms, Andaman and Nicobar never experience extreme temperature. Monsoon visits Andaman and Nicobar Islands in two phases which are May to September and November to middle of December. Northeasterly strong winds are experienced from November to December and southwesterly strong winds are observed from May to October. The relatively calm weather in the islands can be experienced only between the months of January to April. Monsoon season in Andaman and Nicobar is rough and is not recommended for tourism. The average rainfall during the monsoon is in the range of 321 centimetres. The temperature during this period fluctuates from 22.8° C to 29.9° C

Forests of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

In total, the following types of forests can be found in these islands:
  • Andamans Tropical Evergreen Forest
  • Wet Bamboo Brakes
  • Andaman's Semi-Evergreen Forest
  • Massive Evergreen Forest
  • Mangrove Forest
  • Brackish Water Mixed Forest
  • Andamans Moist Deciduous Forest
  • Southern Hilltop Tropical Evergreen Forest
  • Cane Brakes
  • Andamans Secondary Moist Deciduous Forest
  • Littoral Forest
Andaman and Nicobar have a tropical rainforest all over and hence it displays a wide variety of flora. The dense and impenetrable forests have cane brakes, wet bamboo trees clusters and Mangrove forests. The flora found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands have mixed elements from India, Myanmar and Indonesia, all of which have had an influence on the flora found on the island. As of now, more than 2200 different species of plants have already been recorded. The forests in South Andaman has abundant ferns and orchids and the North Andaman forests have climber plants all over owing to a wet climate. Moist deciduous forests cover is found in the Middle Andaman forests. As far as Nicobar is concerned, there is complete absence of deciduous forests. The North Nicobar forest cover mostly has grasslands and is devoid of evergreen forests. Central and southern Nicobar however, has dominant evergreen forest. The total area covered by the forest is 82% in Andaman and Nicobar. 

The islands are home to a diverse types of forestation, and there are close to dozens different and distinct types of vegetation that can be easily observed. There are also noticeable differences in the kinds of forests that can be found in the Andaman islands, and the ones found in Nicobar islands. For example, researchers have noted that while deciduous forests are abundant in the Andaman, they are noticeably absent on Nicobar. Similarly, grasslands can be observed in Nicobar islands, but are nowhere to be found on the other island group.

Did You Know?
Almost 90% of the total area of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is covered with forest, which is probably the most area in terms of percentage covered with forest among all states in India.

Wildlife of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

There is a rich diversity of wildlife owing to the rain forests and a tropical climate on the island. According to the reports around 50 varieties of mammals can be found in Andaman and Nicobar Island. The fauna found here are part endemic and part from neighbouring areas like Indonesia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Common wildlife found in Andaman and Nicobar are Wild Boar, rodents, bats and Salt water crocodiles. Little Andaman is home to the Dugong which is the state animal of Andaman. Birds are also found in plenty and more than 250 varieties of birds have been identified. The famous Mount Harriet National Park in the Union territory is home to the rich diversity of butterfly and moths on the island

Wildlife of Andaman and Nicobar
A Dugong swims with a diver in Andaman and Nicobar

The rich and diverse fauna of the Andaman and Nicobar islands is surprising, mainly due to the fact that these islands lie so isolated from the mainlands. Close to 50 different types of mammals, and large numbers of salt water crocodiles can be found on these islands. The islands are a haven for seafood lovers, and are famous for their shellfish, and a large variety of high quality shellfish have been found around the islands.

Rivers in Andaman and Nicobar

There is only a single river that has ever been found flowing in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The Kalpong River powers the sole hydel power project that has been established in the islands, and flows right through Diglipur, where this project has been set up.

Economy of Andaman and Nicobar

Economy of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Fishing along with agriculture and tourism in another major business for the locals

Economy of Andaman and Nicobar Island is primarily based on agriculture and tourism. Agriculture on the Andaman and Nicobar islands takes up an area of a little over 48675 hectares, with paddy (or rice) being the staple food for the island dwellers. The Nicobar island also has cash crops like coconut and arecanut. Pulses and vegetables are also cultivated on the island and help the island become self sufficient in the food and crops department.

Did you know?
The island features with 25 harbours, which is the largest number among any of the states in India.

The islands have seen a rise in small scale industries, with small villages operating a number of cottage industries. From furniture manufacturing to processing and exporting of local fishes, Andaman and Nicobar islands have been progressively becoming more financially stable in the past few decades.

The revenues from agriculture and its industries are augmented by the thriving tourism of the islands. With hundreds of small islands to visit, beautiful beaches, endless water related activities, and a thriving flora and fauna, Andaman has slowly started to gain traction as a popular tourist destination, and sees visitors not just from India, but from many different countries.

Cuisines of Andaman and Nicobar

Rice and seafood form the staple diet for the Andamanese and Nicobarese people. The food is supplemented with coconut and similar locally found ingredients. Due to the rich cultural diversity of the islands, cuisines from all over the Indian subcontinent have found their way here, and tourists can easily get North Indian and South Indian dishes to eat when they visit. The island has easy access to fish and edible shellfishes, which make up for some very interesting and delectable local dishes.

Tourist attraction in Andaman and Nicobar

The entire Andaman and Nicobar Islands are one complete tourism package. The island is lined by several palm fringed beaches which beams when the sun shines on the white sand beaches. Tourism has been gaining popularity on the islands as a source of revenue, and the local authorities have been developing the services and the infrastructure of the island in order to offer visitors quality living accommodations and traveling facilities. People visit the island for a chance to explore its pristine beaches and beautiful seas, and are able to enjoy a wide range of adventure activities. Eco-tourism has also gained prominence in the region, and those who seek clean air and a non-polluted environment can also be seen making their way to the Andaman and Nicobar islands for an escape from their filthy city surroundings.

Click here to know more about tourism in Andamans and Nicobar

Quick Facts:

Location: Latitude - 6° to 14°North, Longitude - 92° to 94°.
Area: 8,249 square kilometers.
Administrative capital: Port Blair
Airports: Veer Savarkar Airport, Port Blair
Distances: 1255kms from Kolkata, 1190kms from Chennai, 1200kms from Vishakhapatnam Currency: Indian Rupees
Altitude: Varies from sea level to 732 meters
Highest peak: Saddle peak - 732 meters
Climate: Temperature - 23°(minimum) and 31° (maximum).
Average annual rainfall of 3000 mm.
Humidity: 70-90%
Population (as of 2011 census): 379,944. Out of which Males- 202,330 (53.25%) and Females - 177,614 (46.75). Only 10% of the population lives in Nicobar islands.
Sex Ratio: 878 females per 1,000 males.
Tribes: Onge, Jarawa, Andamanese and Sentinelese of Negroid descent; Shompen and Nicobarese of Mongoloid descent.
Forest Area: 92% protected forest; 86% reserve forest.

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