Andaman & Nicobar Islands have long been famous among tourists for their underwater wonders, stunning beaches, and a prime location in the heart of nowhere. These islands are still amazing for an amazing getaway. Only 36 of 572 islands are open for tourists in this archipelago.
The islands are a melting pot of both Southeast Asian and South Indian settlers, along with Negrito ethnic people on some islands. The fascinating ecosystem of the island, including the world’s largest turtles, biggest crabs, serene coral reefs, vivid fish species, and the most exotic butterflies, add to its charm. With that said, here are some of the cool and surprising facts you should know before visiting these islands.
1. Andaman and Nicobar are named after the Malay language
Andaman is named after Lord Hanuman, who is known as “Handuman” in the Malay language. The term Nicobar is supposed to be a combined term of “Nakkavaram” in South India, which refers to “Land of the Naked” in Tanjore inscription which dated back to AD 1050.
2. Andamanese and Nicobarese are not widely spoken on the islands
Andaman Creole Hindi is spoken widely in the Andaman Islands as a trade language. Bengali is the most widely spoken language followed by Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, and Malayalam.
3. A small Nicobar island, Katchal received the first-millennium sunrise
A small island in Nicobar, Katchal was almost hidden until it was declared the first inhabited place in the world by the Royal Greenwich Laboratory to receive the first sunrise to start the millennium. A stamp had been issued by India Post in the first postal issue of 2000 as a tribute to Katchal for receiving the first-millennium sunrise.
4. World’s largest sea turtles nest in the Andaman Islands
Green Turtle, Hawksbill and Leatherback (world’s largest sea turtle) are the marine turtle species which nest on the beaches of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In Nicobar, one of the few colonies includes around 1000 Leatherback turtles nesting in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
5. North Sentinel Island houses the world’s most isolated Paleolithic Tribes
One of the most isolated human tribes in the world calls North Sentinel Island their home. Around 300 Sentinelese people live here and have refused all contact with the rest of the world. Hence, they feel free to fire their arrows at any outsider who enters their range. They are known to be the direct descendants of the first human populations who belonged to Africa. They may have lived for around 60,000 years in the Andaman Islands.
6. A gentle sea cow, Dugong is the state animal of Andaman Islands
When it comes to Andaman and Nicobar tourism, the image of gentle Dugongs strikes our mind. These plump marine vegetarian giants with paddle-like flippers on the front can be found grazing on the seagrass. These languid creatures seem to be coming from an alien planet on the waters of Andaman and Nicobar. These “Angels of the Sea” are usually found in Little Andaman, North Reef, Ritchie’s archipelago and some parts of Nicobar.
7. World’s darkest history of penal settlement by British “Kaala Pani” is told here in Cellular Jail which dates back to 1857
Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the penal colony of “Kala Pani” by the British for Indian freedom fighters. They built the Cellular Jail here because these islands were the way too isolated from the rest of the world. The prisoners were kept in solitary confinement. They were forced to work on a manual oil extractor for hours. The jail later turned a memorial after independence. Today, it hosts a light and sound show to attract tourists.
8. Commercial fishing is banned in the Andaman Islands
Commercial fishing has been banned for around four decades across the Andaman Islands. Hence, fish die only of old age in these waters. These emerald islands are known to have turquoise waters where you can find plenty of whales, dolphins, dugongs, sailfish, sea turtles, and various marine species.
9. Nicobar Breadfruit “Pandanus” is a rare fruit eaten and found only in Nicobar
Pandanus is a wedge-shaped, deeply arranged fruit that has a woody, hard, and fibrous texture and is embedded with several edible, narrow seeds. In each section, there is a fleshy base which has nice fragrant pulp, which makes nice food after cooking. It is an economically vital plant in the islands. Its stem branches are widely used in building huts and leaves for weaving mats. It’s hard external part makes a bathing brush.
10. The Barren Island, India’s only active volcano, is located in Andaman
Not just in India, Barren Island is the only active volcano in the whole of South Asia. This 3 km wide island is located around 135km northeast of Port Blair. It has huge 1.6km wide craters almost filled with cinder cones. It is the source of volcanic eruptions and it was recorded for the first time in 1787.
11. World’s largest living arthropod, the Robber crab or Birgus Latro, is found here
Also known as Coconut Crab, the Birgus Latro or Robber crab is the largest surviving arthropod on earth. They are called “Coconut Crabs” because they climb up coconut trees at night and get into tender coconuts by carving a hole and feed on the soft kernel. They live on land all day long. The Andaman and Nicobar archipelago houses the highest population of these crabs in South Asia. They are found on some islands of Nicobar and on South Sentinel Island.
12. North Bay Island is featured in 20 Rupees note
Ever wondered the beautiful scenery of which island featured on Rs. 20 note? It is the North Bay Island which shows the beautiful bay covered with lush greens on the red currency note. You can get the same view en-route to Mount Harriet, the second-highest peak of the archipelago.