ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS: These islands lying in the Bay of Bengal were once a hill range stretching from Sumatra (Indonesia), 75 miles (120 km) to the south, to Burma. Many of the islands are still covered with rich tropical evergreen and tropical moist deciduous forests and are home to many endemic birds and reptiles. Most of the mammals are introduced species. Not only is the bird and forest life fascinating, but many islands are home to ancient and highly threatened tribes struggling to maintain their traditions and identity despite the pressure from the 20th century. Although the first outside permanent settlement was established by Lieutenant Archibald Blair in 1789, the islands had been recorded in the 9th century by Arab merchants sailing to Sumatra. For a short time prior to Blair’s survey the Danes had a settlement in the Nicobars.
Visitors to the islands enter by sea or air from Madras and Calcutta via the capital, Port Blair. Only a few islands can be visited and many sanctuaries are in fact closed. Permits for up to a two-week visit to the “open” areas (Port Blair, Jolly Buoy and Cinque Island) are available on arrival in India but permission to visit Car Nicobar, Neil and Havelock Islands must be applied for locally although the application might be referred to Delhi for clearance.
The temperature of the islands ranges from 68°F-86°F (20-30°C) with the rainy season from June to October.
Middle Button Island N.P
(plus North Button Island N.P. & South Button Island N.P.) Established in 1979 (the southern park was established in 1977), these small island parks have few land mammals. The dolphin and dugong are often sighted near the coast and the water monitor lizard is also found.
Permission: DFO, Middle Andaman, Long Island, A & N Islands 744203
Nearest town: Long Island (38 miles/60 km )Mount Harriet N.P. Established in 1979. this small park of only 18 sq miles (47 sq km) is prime habitat for the Andaman wild pig. Best time to visit: Jan. & Feb.
Accommodation:1 bungalow (four beds) Permission: DFO, South Andaman Division Nearest town: Port Blair (10 miles/60 km)
Saddle Peak N.P
Established in 1979, this park rises from sea level to 2421 feet (738 meters) at the summit of Saddle Peak on North Andaman Island. To be seen are not only a magnificent display of birdlife, including the Andaman hill myna and Andaman imperial pigeon, but also wild pig, salt water crocodile and other reptiles. Best time to visit: Nov.-Apr.
Accommodation: 2 forest resthouses Permission: DFO, Middle Andaman, Long Island, A & N Islands 7442203 Nearest town: Diglipur (3 miles/5 km)
Barren Island Sanctuary
Established in 1977, this island of only 3 sq miles (8 sq km) is, as its name suggests, almost barren. The waters around the island are home to dolphins and dugongs.
Best time to visit: Jan.-Mar.
Permission: DFO cum W.L. Warden, North Andaman Division
Nearest town: Long Island (38 miles)
Established in 1983, this sanctuary is home to important marine reptiles including green-sea, leatherbacked, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles and salt-water crocodiles. The birdlife includes the white-bellied sea eagle, Andaman wood pigeon and Andaman teal.
Best time to visit: Jan.-May
Accommodation: 1 resthouse
Permission: DCF (W.L.), Port Blair Nearest town: Port Blair (19 miles/30 km)
Narcondum Island Sanctuary
Established in 1977 to protect the sole habitat of the narcondum hornbill (Rhytidoceros nar-condarni) which lives in the forest covering the lower slopes of the main peak,
Best time to visit: Nov.-Apr.
Permission: DFO/WL Warden, North Andaman Division
Nearest town: Port Blair (160 miles by sea)
North Reef Island Sanctuary
Established in 1977 on a small island to the west of North Andaman to protect Andaman teal and Nicobar pigeon habitat.
Best time to visit: Nov.-Apr.
Permission: DFO!WL Warden, North Andaman Division
Nearest town: Maya Bundar (18 miles)
South Sentinel Sanctuary
Established in 1977 as a marine sanctuary on this island, with an area of only about half a sq mile (1.6 km), as its nucleus. Green-sea, olive ridley and leader-backed turtles all lay eggs here and the white-bellied sea eagle hunts in the surrounding waters.
Best time to visit: Jan.-May Accommodation: none
Permission: DFO (WL), Port Blair
Nearest town: Port Blair (78 miles!125 km)