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#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 15: O for Out of the Ordinary|Limestone Caves

When one hears of Andaman and Nicobar Islands the only few things that comes in ones mind are Beaches, Cellular Jail and Water sports. But each and every time these islands prove everyone wrong and leaves one with surprise. One such out of the ordinary phenomenon one can witness are the famous LIMESTONE CAVES, yes the ones which form naturally.

From Know Andamans

Baratang is an island situated in the middle Andaman and probably the gateway to many other amazing places these islands hold. Covered with rain forests and surrounded by the mangroves situated almost in the middle of the island chain at about 100 km from Port Blair are these islands. The thick forests of these islands is the home to the famous JARAWA tribes and have been declared as a protected zone by the government.

With only few attractions open to public the journey to this place in itself will give your adrenaline a rush. From a trip in a police protected convoy through the Jarawa Reserve Forest, then your vehicle being transported on a vehicle ferry, a small boat usually called the dingue ride through the thick mangrove swamps and finally a trek in the jungle to reach the Limestone Caves is an adventure in itself.

Apart from the famous Limestone caves, you can also visit the Parrot islands, the blue beach at Baludera and the only mud volcano in south Asia which i had mentioned in my previous post also.
Visiting Baratang is a unique experience in itself, an enthralling journey that awakens deep-seated feelings of wonder wisdom and Knowledge .

Limestone Caves in Baratang Island
A Limestone in simple science is just calcium carbonate. Limestone cave is a natural cavity that is formed underneath the Earth’s surface that can range from a few meters to many kilometers in length and depth. This is generally formed when water containing dissolved carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) seeps into rock crevices and joints. The carbon dioxide comes from decaying organic matter in the soil, and also directly from the atmosphere. 

inside of the Limestone caves

To brief it up its sedimentary rocks formed under the sea due to compression over a million years which give birth to limestone caves. And such a wonder can be found, half an hour from Baratang. A little boat ride and few miles on a walk will bring you to the enthralling limestone caves. Not only are these historic they are also very beautiful. Visitors would need a good torch to make sure the soak in every detail of this place .The most amazing phenomenon is entering the cave and exploring it. It is also recommended that you wear a good quality shoe and brace yourself, for the caves are slippery and dark.

https://www.tripoto.com/trip/andaman-island-9300

These caves are said to be ever evolving, the patterns on them keep changing over the years. The ride back on the dinghy boat is very rewarding. For the sight of mangrove trees subdues every thrill and sweeps in a tranquil and serene aura. The tall magnificent trees, which weirdly enough have their roots above the water level is a must watch. These trees grow in saline water and are a rarity in any other place.

Mud Volcano and Jarawa
A mud volcano is formed by any geo-excreted gasses and liquids. This type of volcano is usually found in subduction zones. Most of the gasses that are released from a mud volcano are methane although they also release much smaller quantities of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Generally, the ejections from these volcanoes will be fine solids which are suspended in liquids that can include acidic water. Scientists think there may even be a few on Mars.

From Andaman Tourism website

Astonishingly, the only active mud volcano in the south Asia lies in Baratang. The road to Mud volcano is covered around an hour.

But you will have to pass by the Jarawa creek to get here. The Famous Jarawa creek is a lonely planet in itself.
It is the dwelling place of the oldest tribes found in these islands. The tribes known as Jarawas (more on them on a post i missed 😦 which i would publish soon), are aloof from the civilized world. They are the wonder of the modern world, for they feed on raw pigs, fruits, and vegetables. They don’t speak any language known to general public. Their pitch black skin and red eyes will leave you dazzled in case you happen to meet them. 

http://andamanstourism.com

It is recommended that you do not talk or interact with them, without a guide. These tribes are incapable of comprehending and adopting the modern lifestyle. It is said that they have suffered illness and even death due to the food offered by the tourists.

Parrot Island
The dream destination of any heart is the Parrot Island. The luxurious sight of millions of parrots and parakeets at the sun dawn is not exclusive to any other place in the world. But the only rule is, you must stay the night in Baratang to experience this wonder. 

From the Andaman Tourism Website

It’s at sunset, that, a group of parrots comes and hovers over the skies, then they invite their fellow beings to follow. The heart-stopping sight of thousands of parrots and parakeets together in the crimson sky is beyond real. The golden sky with red-blue birds will steal every beat. This island with its beautiful beach and wondrous wildlife is a must visit.

I never got a chance to visit the Limestone Caves and missed it even this time since we couldn’t extend our vacations. Though i have seen the Jarawas when one of them was brought to the main hospital in the capital and were admitted in a room next to my mother’s. It was back in 2004 when i was in my 10th standard, so got lucky to see them a family.

Content from my friend Vivek’s travel website – Tropical Andamans. Please feel free to reach out to him if you ever plan on a vacation to the islands 🙂 or Barefoot Resorts where my brother Sanjay, is the Operational Manager. #happytohelp ❤ 

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 14: N for Nicobar|Neil|North Bay Islands

Hello wonderful people, how are you guys doing? Hope you had a good weekend and celebrations of Easter and the New Year (for the Indian friends)!!! All I could do was rest as i was not keeping well, even missed publishing the post for Saturday 😦 and had almost thought of discontinuing from the challenge but somehow didn’t want to give up half way.

So as a bonus today in my post i talk about three other well known places (or islands) among the chain of 572 islands that make Andaman and Nicobar Islands in total. Hope you have a good read!! 🙂 

NICOBAR ISLANDS and Car Nicobar
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands as you know are a chain of islands big and small and spread in a vertical landscape in the Bay of Bengal. While many islands come under the Andaman district(per say) the remaining fall under the Nicobar district. The islands under this set comprise of some other well known islands like Little Andaman, Nancowry, Camota, Car Nicobar, Katchal, Great Nicobar (which is the largest island) spread over 1648 km2.
The Nicobar islands are believed to have been inhabited for thousand of years and is home Nicobarese tribes. Six indigenous Nicobarese languages are spoken in these islands. The Nicobarese tribe are the civilized and well educated of all other tribes that inhabit the islands. The Nicobar in itself is also an island where the people live a normal living lifestyle unlike any town or village. About a night journey from the capital Port Blair, these islands are no more permitted for tourist visit. The Car Nicobar has an airstrip but is not open for commercial service and is monitored by the Indian Airforce.

a typical Nicobarese hut

I have been to these islands back in 1997-1999 when my mother was posted in the Malacca town as a high school teacher to these islands for two years. I would visit her on my longer school vacation. The main religion followed in these islands is Christianity. On 31st May 2013, UNESCO had declared these islands as World Biosphere Reserve. The Nicobar islands were the worst hit due to the 26th Dec 2004, Tsunami’s 10-15m high water waves. Some islands even broken into two (Teressa island)to three (Trinket)pieces, and coral reefs moved above water. Almost the entire belt of Nicobar islands was moved to as much as 100 feet by the earthquake and tilted. 
The Nicobarese have a very different law and order and marriage system amongst their clan. They have a Captain like any tribe and its under his command the remaining families live. You can read more about them in my future posts on the tribes of Andamans.

NORTH BAY

The clear waters at North Bay, perfect for snorkelling , sea walk and scuba diving

North Bay island is a popular destination in Port Blair. The beach and the snorkeling opportunities in its fringing coral reefs are the closest ones you will find at Port Blair. A ferry (9 am and 2 pm; 30 mins) will take you across Aberdeen Jetty and bring you back after 3 hour. The corals at North Bay are rather good and spread over large area. You’re very likely to spot many fish, a lobster, or even clams on the coral reef. Snacks and basic meals are available in some shacks on the beach.

This is the same island where my friends and i had gone for scuba diving, you can read about it more on my post My first Scuba Diving Experience

Also its the same island whose image is on the back of the 20 rupee Indian currency 🙂

 When at North Bay, it is time to relax and enjoy. Options such as Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Sea Walk and many other Sports activities are also available. You can also trek to see the Light House. However, sometimes the light house is closed for outside travelers.


NEIL ISLAND

Neil Island around 37 Kms by sea is a good place for Island hopping. With plenty of marine life. Neil Island dwells with lust green surroundings of paddy fields, banana plantations and tropical trees. It occupies an area of 18.9 square kilometres (7.3 sq mi) and Bengali being the widely spoken language.The islands are famous for it’s own Howrah bridge at the Lakshmanpur beach which is a Natural Rock Formation and one of many rare natural phenomenons. It is best seen during a low tide and the walk to the rock is a little tough. (we missed this spot) 

Pristine sandy beaches at Sitpur, Bharatpur and Lakshmanpur are some of the best beaches to explore. A quite heaven for a traveler. The breathtaking view of sea and the lusting greenary in the island is really rejuvenating and enjoyable for enthusiastic travelers. It is worth spending a few days on Neil Islands – also known as the Kitchen garden of Andaman Islands. 

That is a picture of my friends and me waiting at the Neil Island Harbour for our ship to Havelock. Clicked by Sanjay using his go pro

In our seven day trip we halted at the Neil Islands for one night and it was amazing. We went to all the three beaches. The word Neil means blue and it definitely does justice to its name. Watch this video on the Neil Islands and be mesmerized!!!

Let me know if you were awestruck and fell in love with the blue waters … 🙂 Did you Monday Blues get kicked looking at the amazingly beautiful blue waters? (that was a dumb one) 🙂  Neil Island is a must visit tourist destination if you ever plan on visiting the islands and so is North Bay for the water sports activities.  And you know whom to contact 😉

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 12: L for Lesser Known Facts

Hello friends, just when you were getting to know about the beautiful Andaman and Nicobar Islands, I thought of giving you some more information that might interest you. 

So here i am , presenting you the LESSER KNOWN FACTS of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Have fun reading about it 🙂 

The widely spoken language in the islands is not Andamanese or Nicobarese, it is Bengali followed by Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Hindi is majorly spoken in the capital Port Blair but rest of the islands like Havelock, Neil, Diglipur etc locally speak Bengali due to their large number of residents being from Bengal and Bangladesh settlers. 

Commercial fishing is banned in the islands. The only export of sea food that happens is authorized by the island’s administration. 

The 20 rupee note which is a currency in India depicts the scene from Andaman and Nicobar Island’s North Bay. Many tourist make a point to capture this exact click as a memory.  

During World War II , Andaman and Nicobar Islands were the only part of India to come under the Japanese occupation. 

These islands received the first sunrise of the millennium, year 2000 in the Katchal Islands. Many scientists and researches had gathered to capture the first rays of the millennium.

The extremely narrow limestone Alfred Caves are home to Swiftlet birds that make edible nests here. The Baratang islands is famous for the natural limestone caves which is a rare phenomenon and very few places in India are known to have this.

Baratang is also the only place in India with mud volcanoes.
Yes you read it right, just like lava these volcanoes erupt mud from the volcano hole.

“Jal Hans” , is India’s first commercial seaplane that was launched in the Islands and not the seaplanes of Mumbai.  

An aerial view of the damaged coast of Indira Point, India’s southern most point, 600 km (about 375 miles) south of Port Blair, in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago March 1, 2005. 

India’s southernmost point, the Indira Point, subsided by 4.25 metres during the 2004 Tsunami. 

North Sentinel Island is home to one of the most isolated paleolithic tribes of the world. They refrain from any human contact unlike the other tribes of the island Jarawa, Onge, Shompen. Their have been instances where in aerial images of the tribes shooting spear at them. They are thought to be 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.

There you go, some facts about the islands. Happy friday 🙂 and yeah its New Year’s for many of Indian States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab etc. So happy new year to all of you 🙂 It’s Vishu for me ❤  

Happy blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤ 

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 11: K for KAALAPANI (Story of Prison Life)

Kaalapani (derived from Sanskrit words ‘Kal’ which means Time or Death and ‘Pani’ which means Water), was a colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. The prison was used by the British especially to exile political prisoners to the remote archipelago. This was the Cellular Jail about which i had spoken in my previous blog. 

Why was it called Kaalapani? – Apart from the tortures the prisoners went through in the Cellular Jail there were many other factors that added to the name of Kaalapani. There was no escape from these islands back then. Even if one managed to escape from the Jail, it was difficult to survive the harsh climate of the islands. Most of the prisoners who tried escaping , died due to diseases like Malaria and ones who survived the nature were killed by the native Tribes of the island. There was no way one could swim and reach anywhere but be deadlocked in these chain of islands.

I would like to share the STORY OF PRISON LIFE from the autobiographies of some of the famous freedom fighters who spent their youth in getting India its freedom.

Extract from the autobiography of Barindra Kumar Ghosh
“The next morning we came out and washed our faces and then had for the first time the darshan of GANJI, otherwise called KANJI. It means boiled rice churned in water – one may say a sort of rice-porridge. We were given each a dabbu full of this dainty…………“The daily ration per meal is as follows—Rice 6 oz, flour for roti 5 oz, dal 2 oz, salt 1 dram, oil ¾ dram and vegetable 8 oz…………….“Each of us was given an iron plate and an iron dish, red with rust and smeared with oil. These could not be cleansed at all. “A half pant, a Kurta and a white cap were provided for each prisoner. But he was not provided with any change for taking bath except a langoti which hardly covered the nudity.“……….The langoti we were given to put on while bathing could not in the least defend any modesty. Thus when we had to change our clothes we were in as helpless a condition as Draupadi in the assembly of the Kauravas. There was no help. We hung our heads low and somehow finished the bathing affair. Then I understood that here there was no such thing as gentleman, not even perhaps such a thing as man. Here were only convicts,”
“After finishing the ‘breakfast’ with the ganji or kanji every prisoner had to commence the work allotted to him which kept him engaged practically the whole of the day with a short break at midday for lunch. The principal work which was also the hardest was connected with coconut.
“To pound the coir and extract fibers out of it, to prepare again ropes out of those fibers to grind dry coconut and also mustard in the machine and bring out oil, to make bulbs for hooks from the shells-these formed the principal items of work for the prisoners,………
“The most difficult work was coir-pounding and oil-grinding………… Each one was given the dry husk of twenty coconuts. The husk had first to be placed on a piece of wood and then to be beaten with a wooden hammer till it became soft. Then the outer skin had to be removed. Then it was dipped in water and moistened and then again one had to pound it. By sheer pounding the entire husk inside dropped off, only the fibers remaining. These fibers had then to be dried in the sun and cleaned. Each one was expected to prepare daily a roll of such fibers weighing one seer” 

Based on autobiographies of Savarkar & Ullaskar Dutt
Oil- grinding was the most difficult work allotted to prisoners in the Cellular Jail. This was the hardest work and caused the death of some, insanity of one and a general strike of the prisoners. It furnishes the most pathetic evidence of callousness bordering on inhumanity on the part of the authorities.
Savarkar, describes it ………. “We were to be yoked like animals to the handle that turned the wheel .Hardly out of bed, we were ordered to wear a strip of cloth, were shut up in our cell and made to turn the wheel of the oil mill. ……….. . The door was opened only when meal was announced. The man came in and served the meal in the pan and went away and the door was shut. If after washing his hands one were to wipe away the perspiration of his body,the jamadar who was the worst of gangsters in the whole lot would go at him with loud abuse. There was no water for washing hands. Drinking water was to be had only by propitiating the jamadar, while you were at kolu; you felt very thirsty. The waterman gave no water except for a consideration which was to palm off to him some tobacco in exchange. If one spoke to jamadar his retort was,” A prisoner is given only two cups of water and you have already consumed three. Whence can I bring you more water? From your father?” we have put down the retort of the jamadar in the most decent language possible. If water could not be had for wash and drink what can be said of water for bathing?

While describing the prison life Ullaskar Dutt narrates-“In our village only oxen are harnessed to the oil presses and even they can not extract more than 16 pounds of mustard –oil in one day. Here, in the Cellular Jail, I was harnessed to the oil mill with two other prisoners and were required to produce eighty pounds of coconut oil by evening. The Jamadars would make us gallop and if our pace slackened, we were beaten mercilessly. We would stumble and fall, and be beaten senseless everyday.”

Such were the hardships that the freedom fighters faced every single minute of their lives spend in the Kaalapani. If you ever get a chance to visit the islands, if not the beaches make sure you visit the Cellular Jail. Feel the unbelievable sacrifices thousands of young men made, in the prime of their lives, for the cause of India’s Independence.

P.S : missed the post for yesterday J ,gonna publish it tomorrow (facepalm 😦 ) and am sure you would love it when published. It’s going to be about the famous Tribes of the islands – JARAWAS

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 09: I FOR ISLANDS AND THE INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE

Content Courtesy – Andaman Tourism

I realized that as am doing my study on the Andaman Islands there are quite a few things which even i was not aware 🙂 Something to be mentioned in the #ReflectionPost 🙂 For instance, 

The Chinese knew of the Andaman & Nicobar  Islands over a 1000 years ago and called it the ‘Yeng-t-omag’.  The Andaman & Nicobar Islands also find a place in the first map of the world drawn by Ptolemy, the Roman geographer during the 2nd Century. He called it ‘Angdaman islands (Islands of good fortune). During the 6th C entury I’T Sing, a Buddhistmonk, named it ‘Lo-jen – kuo’ (Land of the Naked). Two Arab travelers during  the 8th Century referred to these  islands  as ‘Lakhabalus or Najabulus ‘(Land of the Naked). The great traveller Marco Polo called it ‘Angamanian’.

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands remained the abode of the Negritos and the Mongoloids,  for centuries.

pit created by japanese during WWII

The history of these islands could be divided into 4 broad periods:

a)  the period of seclusion
b) the British regime 
c) the Japanese regime
d) and the Post-Independence period.

and.nic.in

The modern history of Andaman & Nicobar Islands can be traced back to 1789 when the Governor General of British India commissioned a survey of these Islands by Lt Archibald Blair, who conducted the first  topo-cum-hydrographical survey and reported suitability for human settlement. Immediately thereafter, in 1790 the first settlement  was  established at Port  Blair (then Port Cornwallis) in the present day Chatham Island by bringing Criminals from undivided India. However, high mortality due to malaria and frequent attacks by aborigines forced the settlement to be shifted to a new port in North Andaman during 1792.  However, due to natural calamities, the British left the Andman & Nicobar Islands by 1796.

Though little is known about Portuguese activities in these islands, it is evident that the Portuguese missionaries started preaching Christianity among the islanders. The Nicobarese language also reflects a few Portuguese words. The missionaries entered the Nicobar group of Islands in 17th century. 

In 1756,  the Dutch colonised Nancowry group of Islands and stayed there up to 1787. After several unsuccessful attempts to build up a colony in Nancowry, the Dutch Government ultimately handed over Nicobar group of Islands to the British, who took possession in 1869.

It was in 1857, after India’s First War of Independence, that a penal colony was attempted at Port Blair with an initial lot of 200 freedom fighter who, for the first time, attempted to over throw British rule in India. The Britishers established their colony in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for the second time in 1858.During this colonization the British Officials and soldiers settled in large groups.
The Britishers sent the convicts from India and Burma to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They separated the Indians who fought for the country’s independence and were sent to these islands by ships. They were chained and were sent into the dense forests to fell the trees and clear the lands. They were allotted stipulated time and were ordered to complete the works within the stipulated time. The prisoners who protested were hanged to death.

The number of freedom fighters increased to 773 within 3 months.The famous “Battle of Aberdeen” between civilized men and Stone Age aborigines of Andamans was fought on 14th May 1859 at Aberdeen Bazaar. During 1869 – 70 many Wahabi Movement activists who rose against the British rule were deported from the Central and United Provinces of undivided India to Andaman.  One amongst them was Mohd. Sher Ali Khan (a Pathan),who assassinated Lord Mayo, the Viceroy and Governor General of India on 08 February  1872 at Hope Town Jetty.  Later,in the same year, Sher Ali Khan was executed in Viper Island by the British.

The first Prison and Hangman’s Noose were built at a small island named Viper. There were no sufficient cells to prison the convicts at Viper Island. Therefore, on 13 September 1893, the British Government of India, ordered the construction of Cellular jail to accommodate 600 prisoners. Prior to construction of the Cellular Jail, male convicts were held on Viper Island and women convicts at South Point.

Then occurred the great uprising of moplahs, the Moplah Rebellion during 1921 (my grandfather, mom’s dad happen to come during this time to the Islands) About 1400 Moplahs mosly from Muslim dominated districts of Ernad, Walluvanad and Calicut of Kerala were sent to Andamans with their families for rebelling against the British rule.

During World War 2 ,  the British abandoned these Islands in a haste due to  advancing Japanese Forces, allowing Japanese occupation of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Japanese brutally ruled the territory for 4 years from 1942 to 1945.(i have heard sad stories from my parents about this who learnt it from their parents) During this period, Japanese built heavy Military infrastructure in  these  Islands. 

Port Blair harbour was used as a forward surveillance base for Sea planes of the Japanese forces. A few months after the Japanese occupation, allied forces succeeded in blocking Sea lanes threatening the Island population to the brink of starvation. Japanese successfully averted the disaster through enforced intensive community of farming of tubers like tapioca and sweet potato. Extensive road network expansion was also undertaken at that time for connecting Port Blair outlying villages and cultivate land. 

On  7th  October 1945, the  Armada carrying 116 Indian infantry brigade of South East Asian allied Land force under the command of Brigadier A.J. Solomon surrounded Port Blair, compelling about 20,000 Japanese soldiers to surrender on 9th  October 1945.

With the advent of Indian Independence on 15th August 1947, these islands were merged with the Indian main stream.

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 08: for Heavenly HAVELOCK Islands

“At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.” – Anonymous 

Named after the British general, Sir Henry Havelock who had served in India these islands are the most famous of the entire 572 island group. Situated at a distance of about 57 kms from the capital Port Blair and to east of great Andamans, this beautiful island is spread over 113.93 km2.

With more than one beach(also termed as beach 1 which includes the port to beach 8) to its name these islands are definitely an Escapist’s hood.  Havelock is an amazing experience. Right from the seaplane to kayaking and white sandy beaches. It has multiple joy of adventure and beauty wrapped in itself.  

Radhanagar beach 

If Sun Sand and Sea is an idea of your perfect vacation then the Radhanagar beach is the place to be, for it holds the honor of Asia’s best and World’s 7th best beach and 6th best in terms of bluest water. Yes you heard it right, Asia’s best beach ❤ ❤ ❤ It is a 3 km long stretch of pristine white sand covered beach. The warm crystal blue water and the white sand is the hallmark of these places. Radhanagar beach is also very popular with surfers as the beach tends to have gigantic waves during the surfing season. 

When you don’t feel like getting out of the sea

Kalapathar beach

PC : Andaman Tourism Department

Kalapathar beach is a remote beach about 10kms from havelock jetty.The beach is accessible by road and is famous with couples and nature lovers.It is picture perfect and far less crowded than Radhanagar beach. For the ones who prefer spending some lonely time in natures wilderness this is the perfect spot.  Also you can trek down to this amazing lagoon which is known to very few. Check out the video captured from a drone of this secret lagoon.

The Elephant beach 

PC : Nelson bhaiya

The Elephant beach is stunningly beautiful and looks straight out of a postcard. You would definitely end up using the hashtag “#nofilter” because no filter would do justice to the beauty of the images one would capture. The beach is not accessible by road and the only way to reach the elephant beach is by hiring a speed boat or dinge from Havelock jetty. Elephant beach is ideal for water-sports activities because it’s crystal clear waters .Water sports activities like jet ski, scuba diving, snorkeling and underwater sea-walk are conducted at the beach.

Apart from all this, it is well known for its most loved resident  RAJAN  – the legendary elephant that swims 

The Andamans draw thousands of people to its pristine shores year after year. Among the many treasures you uncover on the islands, blue waves and sun-kissed beaches are just the tip of the iceberg. Just take a walk towards the beautiful Beach No. 7 and you’ll find the fantastic elephant, Rajan, waiting to welcome you. But how did an elephant make its way to the Andamans? 

Once upon a time, an elephant named Rajan lived in the thick jungles of Karnataka, where he was surrounded by tall trees, wild animals and birds. Rajan loved the jungle and everything that came with it. One fine day, Rajan was relocated from the jungle and sent to a land that was surrounded by water. He adapted to his new surroundings and discovered the joy of swimming by taking regular dips in the ocean. Since then, he has been basking on the white sandy beaches of the magnificent Andaman Islands. 

On the island, Barefoot at Havelock took him in with open arms. As the only rainforest seaside resort in Asia, Barefoot had left no stone unturned to make the environment a wonderful home for the majestic animal. Once when a temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala offered his then owner a sizable amount for Rajan, the resort decided to pay the eye-popping sum of around Rs 25 lakhs to keep the beloved pachyderm. Rajan loved to meet his admirers and greets them with a thunderous trumpet. Guests could even opt to bathe their four-legged friend at the holiday resort on request.  

https://www.instagram.com/p/gWhMlrrNv2/

Rajan was an exceptionally skilled swimmer and had been seen going against the tide on a few occasions. The diving elephant was one among the last few left of its kind on our planet. He had been featured in commercials all over the world and has even appeared in Hollywood movies like 2006 Hollywood movie THE FALL and other famous websites like the Huffington Post. And that’s exactly why Rajan was the most loved resident of Beach No. 7.  

Sadly Rajan took his last breath sometime in the intervening night of July 31 and Aug 01 when he was about 66 years old. Rajan’s body lies deep within the forests of his adopted home where it will lay undisturbed after 66 years of a truly unconventional life.  

Besides these three beaches, the Havelock islands have few other beaches which are open to public like the Vijayanagar beach and some which are yet to be explored. And how do you reach this paradise on earth? 

Well the two hour distance to Havelock Islands can be taken either via a govt ferry or the famous Makruzz which is a favorite among tourists. While the govt ferry does four rounds a day, the Makruzz does only two trips one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  

Thats the inside of the Makruzz, from our last day way back to Port Blair

Seaplane Ride  

If you thought we were done with the attractions of Havelock, then the answer is “not yet”. Brace yourself, for the Seaplane Ride. Havelock has its own commercial seaplane service named “Jal Hans”. Jal Hans is India’s first commercial seaplane service. The airline is jointly owned by Pawan Hans, India’s largest helicopter services provider and the Union territory of Andaman Islands and is run on an equal Revenue sharing basis. Seaplane is a must ride. The beauty of flying over the shimmering sea blue water is something you cannot afford to miss. 

Radhanagar beach is also famous for the beautiful sunset it offers to the travel lovers. Below is another time lapse video recorded by my friend Saketh and Sanjay during our vacation. I remember the only time we came out of the water was to have food and play some cards for about an hour, and again we were into the water. In our seven day vacation, we chose to stay three days in Havelock. 

 If ever you plan on visiting the Andaman islands, please make sure you stay a minimum of two to three days. And now you know whom to contact in case you need any help 🙂 😀 

 

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤ 

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 07: G for GEOGRAPHICAL IMPORTANCE

This could be a sensitive topic that I am discussing today as part of the #AtoZChallenge and hence it was much needed that i do a thorough reading of all the facts behind it. All the details have been taken from the and.nic.in website and other Indian defense forums. It’s about

Geographical Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands 

As you know in the Bay of Bengal, far removed from the mainland, lie the 572 islands of Andaman and Nicobar, which form India’s southeast border. While the northernmost part of the archipelago is only 22 nautical miles away from Myanmar, the southernmost point, called the Indira Point, is a mere 90 nautical miles from Indonesia. These islands dominate the Bay of Bengal and the Six Degree and Ten Degree channels which more than 60,000 commercial vessels traverse each year.

Operators on Navy’s Boeing P-81 search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  Source – Wikipedia

Among the nine major bottlenecks that control entry to this region are the Malacca Strait and the Six Degree Channel. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie in this strategically important zone, meaning that India with its growing naval capabilities could play a significant role in controlling access . 

India’s Navy chief, Admiral R K Dhowan recently acknowledged that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a “very very important aspect” of India’s security, acting as extended arms of the country. Dhowan said that India needed to deploy naval assets to the islands for surveillance in important sea lines of communication.

The Indian Ocean has become an important aspect in China’s foreign policy, as it links Chinese sea lines of communications (SLOCs) to African and Middle Eastern energy as well as European trade routes. The Indian Ocean region (IOR) contains China’s most important SLOCs: as much as 75 percent of China’s oil imports (more than 6 million barrels daily) come from the Middle East and Africa. This maritime presence is supplemented by Chinese investments in port facilities that ring the IOR. Chinese scholars view the Indian Ocean as an area of potential rivalry between India and China, according to naval scholar Toshi Yoshihara.

The growing influence of China in the IOR is already causing concern in India. If India fails to use its geographic advantages in the region, it will face an emboldened PLAN. The geostrategic position of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands makes them central to any Indian response to rising Chinese influence in the IOR. Strengthening capabilities in this area would force the PLAN to shift its focus from the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean, which could tax Chinese forces and attention. China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean is assured; but India’s role is still emerging. Fortifying the Andaman-Nicobar Islands would be the first step toward a more robust Indian Ocean strategy

As of now to maintain the security of the country and the islands has the only Andaman and Nicobar Command. It is the only tri-service command of the Indian Armed Forces based at Port Blair. It was created in 2001 to safeguard India’s interests. As of 2014, the command includes 15 ships of the Indian Navy, two Navy Sea bases, four Air Force and Naval Air bases and two Army brigades. 

Coco Islands

Andaman Islands were occupied by East India Company in 18th century. Later they established a panel colony on Andaman and coconuts from Coco islands were mainly food for it. But due to improper governance, British transferred Coco islands to the government of lower Burma and eventually they became a part of British Burma. Later in 1937, when Burma was separated from India, they remained Burmese territory. In 1948, when Burma got Independence, they became part of newly formed union of Burma.

Considering the location of these islands, they are highly strategic for India, China and Burma. From the beginning, China had an eye on these islands in order to monitor India’s naval and other significant activities in Indian ocean. Coco islands were allegedly leased to China in 1994. However, the government of China and Myanmar denied this. In order to monitor Indian naval activities especially in the crucial point in shipping routes between the Bay of Bengal and the Strait of Malacca, China supposedly established a signal intelligence (SIGINT) station on COCO island in 1992.

I hope the Indian Administration works more strictly towards increasing its security and tighten all possible loopholes that could cause any foreign entity to harm the Indian Defense system. 

This is the information i could gather from various sources, hope it is of some help to you all to understand these islands are more than just a tourist destination. It is strategically important to the country. 

Happy blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 06: F for Flora and Fauna

Flora of the Islands
These Islands are blessed with a unique’ luxuriant evergreen tropical rain forest canopy, sheltering a mixed germ palms bank, comprising of Indian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and endemic floral strain. So far, about 2200,varieties of plants have been recorded out of which 200 are endemic and 1300 do not occur in mainland India. 

The Mangroves of Andaman and Nicobar Islands PC – Saketh

“The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids. The Middle Andamans harbours mostly moist deciduous forests. North Andamans is characterized by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers. The north Nicobar Islands (including Car Nicobar and Battimalv) are marked by the complete absence of evergreen forests, while such forests form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group. Grasslands occur only in the Nicobars, and while deciduous forests are common in the Andamans, they are almost absent in the Nicobars”. 

This atypical forest coverage is made-up of twelve types namely.

(1) Giant evergreen forest
(2) Andamans tropical evergreen forest
(3) Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest
(4) Cane brakes
(5) Wet bamboo brakes
(6) Andamans semi-evergreen forest
(7) Andamans moist deciduous forest
(8) Andamans secondary moist deciduous forest
(9) Littoral forest
(10) Mangrove forest
(11) Brackish water mixed forest
(12) Submontane hill valley swamp forest.
The present forest coverage is claimed to be 86.2% of the total land area.

Sunlight beams finding it way through the dense forests PC – Nelson Raju

Andaman Forest is abound in plethora of timber species numbering 200 or more, out of which about 30 varieties are considered to be commercial. Major commercial timber species are Gurjan (Dipterocarpus spp.) and Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides). Ornamental wood such as (1) Marble Wood (Diospyros marmorata) (2) Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides), (3) Silver Grey (a special formation of wood in white chuglam) (4) Chooi (Sageraea elliptical and (5) Kokko (Albizzia lebbeck) are noted for their pronounced grain formation.  Padauk being steadier than teak is widely used for furniture making. With its abundance in the islands, its called the State Tree of the islands. Burr and the Buttress formation in Andaman Padauk are World famous for their exceptionally unique charm and figuring. Largest piece of Buttress known from Andaman was a dining table of 13’x 7′. The largest piece of Burr was again a dining table to seat eight persons at a time. The holy Rudraksha (Elaeocarps sphaericus) and aromatic Dhoop/Resin trees also occur here. There is one Rudraksha tree near my uncle’s home 🙂 

You can find almost all the tropical fruits in these islands like any other tropical region but there is one rare fruit which is found and eaten in the Nicobar islands the Pandunus or Nicobar Breadfruit 

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.

Fauna of the Islands
This tropical rain forest despite its isolation from adjacent land masses is surprisingly enriched with many animals. I have already introduced you to the State Animal in my previous post – the Dugong Similarly we have the State Bird of the islands which is the Wood Pigeon,
the pigeon being endemic to these islands lives in the dense evergreen forests.

About 50 varieties of forest mammals are found to occur in A&N Islands, most of them are understood to be brought in from outside and are now considered endemic due to their prolonged insular adaptation. Apart from these there are some famous birds and species endemic to the islands alone like the below 

The Hornbill birds are found only in the Narcondam island, which is also famous for having the inactive volcano.

from online birds database

The Megapode bird or the mound bird is known for laying eggs in holes in the ground or in mounds of rotting vegetable matter and leaving them to be incubated by heat from the Sun or volcanic action. Mound birds are also called mound builders, incubator birds, or megapodes. 

The Robber Crab (Birgus Latro), also called the Coconut Crab, is the largest land-living arthropod in the world. They generally live on land, but at nights climb up the coconut trees and carve a hole into the tender coconuts to eat the soft kernel. In South Asia, the highest numbers of these huge crabs are found in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. They can be spotted on the South Sentinel Island as well as on some islands in Nicobar. Apart from these there are wide variety of other crabs which are found in these islands. They are also one of the favorite delicacies the locals love. (i love eating crabs too <3, not this one for sure).

Also found in abundance specially in the Ross Islands are the Deer and Peacock 

 

The happy land of butterflies 
With about 225 species, the A&N Islands house some of the larger and most spectacular butterflies of the world. Ten species are endemic to these Islands. Mount Harriet National Park is one of the richest areas of butterfly and moth diversity on these Islands. Thousands of butterflies flock to the Andaman Island every year. I.e Andaman is a proud host to butterflies that migrate to the islands. Even postal stamps have been issued in honor of this phenomenon 

The Amazing Marine Life of Andamans
If Dugong was the only herbivore mammal under water that is found in the Andaman islands, there are many more amazing marine life that is still majorly unexplored.
Dermocheleys Coriacea, the largest sea turtles in the world nest in the Andaman islands. They are huge in size and thousands of them flock to the Andamans every year. Additionally, even the Olive Ridely turtles come to the Andamans and use it as their nesting ground.
In fact the Kalipur beach in Diglipur is the only place in the world that boasts of nesting by four types of sea turtles viz., Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley, Green Turtles and HawksBill.

Quick info – if you ever take a ship to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (yes we do have ships that take 3 days from Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata to reach the islands), about an hour before you reach the harbour you would be lucky to find group of dolphins giving you company till the ship reaches the port. Below is one such capture by a APS director Rathnam. I can personally vouch cause i have seen them when my family used to travel by ships during summer vacations. 

With an abundance of sea creatures, the islands staple source of food is also the sea. From crabs, to shrimps and lobsters , there are over a hundred variety of fishes that are eaten by the locals. Some people are also known to have sea urchins and sea cucumbers which are now available only in the interior islands.

Some of the well known aquatic animals of Andamans are the Humphead Parrotfish, Whitebanded Shrimp, Peacock Mantis, Giant Moray , Manta Ray. 

Since the islands are surrounded by water from all around its obvious to have an amazing variety of shells and corals. Snorkeling and Scuba diving water activities are a great means to explore the corals.  
As always ending the post with some additional info. Check out the below video(highly insist) which was captured by my friend  Saketh and Sanjay  from our recent trip to Andamans . 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BQwiQpfArnE/?taken-by=vsakethreddy


And this work that the crabs do, result in such patterns that one would find by the beach. It was amazing to see the crabs working. All thanks to technology and smart end phones 😛 

I realize my posts are turning out to be really lengthy 😦 but this is the most edited form that i could publish. Still had many more pics and content to write 🙂 Hope you guys are having fun, let me know.. i really wana know 🙂

Also i would be replying back to all the comments that i have not yet replied over this weekend. Since i do not schedule my posts i hardly get time after i am done with writing the post. Apologies 😦 

Happy blogging!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤ 

Disclaimer – the pics are taken from the flora and fauna databases and content of factual data from the and.nic.in islands administrative website. Also the images are clicked by my friend Saketh and Nelson (majority of them).

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY05: E For Experience Scuba Diving | My first

PC @monsieur.lopez

Disclaimer – Long Post 🙂

I remember it was the summer vacation i was in my first standard and my brother and all the other elder cousins were playing in the river which ran behind my uncle’s home back in Kollam, Kerala. I was the only girl in my paternal side then and i was insisting in going to the water as well. And since none of the cousins wanted to take my responsibility of taking care of me i was just watching them and crying non stop.
Finally my uncle agreed to take me to the water as well. I still remember this crystal clear (i have a sharp memory 🙂 ) my grandmother gave me a piece of advice, she said “When you go into the water remember and the water level reaches your chin, do not take a sudden breath or else you would always be scared of getting into water” . And i finally was in the river playing with my cousins . 

PC – dad 🙂

Post that whenever we used to go to the beach in Andamans’ i would not be scared to get into water, i would go right up till my chin while am standing straight in water (whatever the height that would be) and jump when the waves would hit me. 

Only regret I COULD NEVER MANAGE TO LEARN SWIMMING 😦  I know i know me being from the islands its shameful and embarrassing to not know swimming but the thing was there never was a swimming pool kind of facility for my parents to send me for classes. If i had to learn swimming it would be going to the beach and my dad teaching me which was not really practical. I was too busy enjoying my dance classes and taking part in other literary competitions. Beaches only meant picnics, getting into water to take bath and just play even though i would always regret not knowing how to swim specially when i saw my other friends getting into the sea and swimming or even the swimming pool for a matter. My job would be to sit by the side and hand them food and drinks when needed.

Years went by , I’ll be 30 this July and i hate to say this but i don’t know swimming even now 😦 (hoping to learn this summer..which is already here). But one thing was always on my bucket list SCUBA DIVING. It became even more an adventure that i wanted to fulfill anyhow when i had learnt you don’t really need to know swimming to do scuba diving(thanks to Zoya Akhtar and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara). There always is a way if you really want to do something in life 😛

Scuba diving became a popular water sport in the last few years in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and whenever i went home for a vacation it would be just a week or two and mostly i would be home and catching up with family friends and relatives. There was no possibility of me going to the beach and take up diving.  

I had not given up hope and had to do scuba diving before my 30th birthday and finally it happened, yes my first ever scuba diving experience and i don’t have words to describe how beautiful that feeling is. It was exactly the #ZindagiNaMilegiDobara moment when Hrithik Roshan takes his first dive and the poem in the background, it was exactly that. Click here to watch 

And it happened

On 12th Feb 2017 i did my first scuba diving. All thanks to my friends who joined me in a week long vacation to Andamans and i decided to join them as well as a tourist and see more of my beautiful hometown. We were doing the scuba diving through the BAREFOOTSCUBA. Barefoot Scuba is the first and only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Resort in the Andaman Islands established in 2004 I knew them personally since it was part of the Barefoot Resorts whose Operational Manager is my brother and also the diving instructors were known to me. My dive instructor was Bunty bhaiya (the one in the first pic and in the video you cant watch below). Other than these also there are Scuba Dive Operators like the Dive India, Andaman Bubbles Scuba Diving .

The Training and the Dive

The 45 minute scuba diving session included 15 minutes of training and then 30 minutes of dive of up to 13-14 meters underwater. For a non swimmer like me 14 meters is a big deal 🙂 We chose the North Bay islands for scuba diving unlike the Havelock where generally tourists do the scuba diving. One because we knew them personally and second the rush is less in North Bay compared to Havelock, so the divers too are not in a hurry. 

Thats after the training all set to go for the dive

To start with the training we were told all the hand gestures that we would be using underwater like Ok, not okay , up, down, nose block, ear pain, water getting into the mouth etc. Then you are made to practice to breathe through your mouth wearing the scuba gears. Trust me this is the most difficult part, i had a tough time to get used to breathing through the mouth.

Then the moment arrived, once the trainers checked for all the precautions and revised us through the hand gestures they pulled us along with them inside water. Ideally its one instructor with two people but i got to go alone with Bunty bhaiya, perks of being an islander. I didn’t even realize and i was already underwater. It was beautiful, calm and quiet, it was a different world all together. The only sound i could hear was my heart beat and the sound of me breathing in and out.

PC – Bunty bhaiya’s friend while we were diving

I saw some small fishes of different colors, corals, also managed to see a sea cucumber and a sea urchin (which was not new to me, had seen them before also) . It was so beautiful that i stopped breathing in between and suddenly my ears started paining. I think i came up above water twice in the 30 minute dive. I did want to see the Nemo but i couldn’t but i have heard people telling they saw the Nemo, below is one such pic my friend Saketh clicked.

Time flies underwater, before i could get the whole hang of it thirty minutes was up and time for me to say bye to the amazing marine life. I feel so proud to be from Andaman not that i was not before but after the dive i get the whole idea of why people enjoy diving so much and travel all the way to these islands for diving and snorkeling.

As always, leaving you all with few more pics clicked by Saketh : 

 Here is my scuba diving video to give you a sneak peek of what the underwater life looks like. The BarefootScuba makes sure your memories are captured forever. Also they give us a certificate once we finish our dive which is pretty good 

Watch till the end to see the fishes 🙂 (or skip to 1:06)

I am determined to go for even more scuba diving sessions once i learn swimming so that i can become better than my first one in terms of breathing and not letting the claustrophobia hit me which has always stopped me from learning swimming.

Andaman as a Scuba diving destination

The azure waters surrounding the Andaman Islands make it a treasure trove to dive into and snorkel around.

Pristine dive spots and enchanting fish life have ensured that the Andamans are now considered as a diving hot spot and divers from all around the world make their way to these islands simply to scuba dive. Irrespective of whether you can swim or not – as long as you are at least 8 years old, you too can try your hand at diving and get addicted for life!

One can also take up advanced level certification and become a certified diver. Many folks from all over the world actually come to Andaman to take up the diving certifications. 

You can also check out some instagrammers who are based in Andamans and their profiles are a treat to watch. @tara.oceanista and @nelson_raju

Have you done scuba diving? Where and how was your experience? Is it on your bucket list, if yes then some serious advice – PLEASE DO IT.  Don’t think about it even for a second, the moment you get a chance just do it. Let me know if you liked this post (i know this was a long long one).

Happy blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

 

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY04: D FOR DUGONG

Have you ever heard of this word Dugong? Any guesses you want to make before you start reading… let me tell you, this is definitely not a place in Andaman(if that helps) . …….. Alright lets not bother you too much and reveal the mystery. Dugong is a medium sized marine animal which is also called the Sea Cow or Sea Pig which happens to be the State Animal of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

The word “dugong” derives from the Tagalog term dugong which was in turn adopted from the Malay duyung, both meaning “lady of the sea”. 

  • The Dugong is the only strictly marine herbivorous mammal
    It mainly survives on sea grass and other aquatic vegetation
  • Dugong is distributed in shallow tropical waters in Indo-Pacific Region.
  • The animal is about three-metre length and weighs about 400 kg.
    The dugong has a fusiform body with no dorsal fin or hind limbs. The forelimbs or flippers are paddle-like.
  • The dugong is easily distinguished from the manatees by its fluked, dolphin-like tail, but also possesses a unique skull and teeth. Its snout is sharply downturned, an adaptation for feeding in benthic seagrass communities. The molar teeth are simple and peg-like
  • The dugong is hunted for its meat and oil.
  • The IUCN lists the dugong as a species vulnerable to extinction, while the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species limits or bans the trade of derived products
  • It has a long lifespan of 70 years or more, and slow rate of reproduction, one of the major reasons for dugongs more vulnerable to extinction
  • In India Dugong is reported from Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Within A&N Islands Dugong has been reported from Ritchie”s Archipelago, North Reef, Little Andaman and parts of Nicobars

    PC – Nelson Raju

Personally I have never seen one in real back home except for the pictures and its model in the museum.

There you go, a new information (if you didn’t know about it earlier) to be added as part of #atozchallenge 🙂 . What is your State/Country animal?  Ever heard about Dugong before, let me know in the comments if your place also has some endangered species like these.

Happy Blogging !!! Live.Love.Laugh !!!