We could wax eloquent for pages about the beautiful beaches and tropical hues of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but it would hardly begin to scratch the surface of the unique biodiversity that these islands support. May we offer you five, just to get you started?
These gentle giants, often called sea cows, are the state animal of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They can be spotted nibbling on sea grass along the warm waters near Little Andaman. Closely related to manatees, dugongs are vegetarian and have an average lifespan of 70 years in the wild. They are extremely shy and don’t breed easily, making the species vulnerable. There are five breeding centres for dugongs and the Andamans is one of them. These mammals will come up to the surface every six minutes or so to take a breath before going back to their underwater grazing.
Barren Island is India, and the rest of South Asia’s only active volcano. This volcano is just over 130 kilometres from Port Blair and had its first recorded eruption back in 1787. The island is just three kilometres wide, while the caldera is 2 kilometres in diameter. Most recent eruptions include those in 1991 and 1995.
The Andamans are home to the largest number of coconut crabs in all of South Asia. Also known as robber crabs, these are the world’s largest arthropods. Coconut crabs aren’t particularly fond of the water and can be seen climbing up coconut trees and digging holes through tender coconuts to get to the soft kernel inside.
The Baratang Island in the Andamans is home to the only mud volcanoes found in India. The first mud explosion was recorded in the Nilambur Village in 1983, and erupted a mixture of mud, water and a variety of gases. There are a total of 11 reported mud volcanoes on the archipelago, eight of which are in Baratang and Middle Andaman. They are usually small, and don’t really grow to the size of regular volcanoes. The volcanoes at Baratang are active and easily reachable.
Add this to the Andamans’ impressive list of marine wonders: the world’s largest species of sea turtles nest here. These Leatherback turtles flock to the islands in thousands during nesting season. They can grow up to seven feet long, and weigh over 900 kilograms.