Did you know that once upon a time the Andaman and Nicobar islands were termed the Cannibal Isles? Marco Polo called the islands “dog-faced cannibals” without ever setting foot there. By creating an infamous penal colony for Undesirables from the Raj in the Andaman Islands, the British further strengthened the island’s reputation of being horrific. They were nicknamed ‘Black Waters’ or Kala Paani.

French naval officer and oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau describes the islands as ‘invisible islands’ in his 1990 film about the Andamans. 

The 2004 tsunami made Andaman and Nicobar Islands famous across India and the world and somewhat changed its image. 

The Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, are 1,250 km south of Kolkata and merely 200km from Myanmar. The Union Terrority has around 550 islands, islets and rocks. Of these, only 26 are inhabited. There are four indigenous negrito tribes as well.

In the last decade, the image of Andamans is the opposite to what it was in the 19th century. Now, they make it to the bucket list of many travellers from all over the world.

From Havelock Island, Chatham Island, the infamous Cellular in Port Blair, translucent waters, and white beaches to the coral islands, the region has a lot to offer.

If you are planning to visit the Andamans, here are 5 facts you should know:

First sunrise of the millennium

Katchal, an island near Nicobar, remained largely obscure until the Royal Greenwich Laboratory said that the first sunrise of the millennium would take place here. This unique distinction brought Katchal into the global spotlight, marking a momentous event that garnered attention beyond its shores.

In a symbolic celebration of this extraordinary occurrence, India Post commemorated the first postal release of the year 2000 with a special stamp capturing the essence of the first sunrise of the millennium at Katchal.

The largest sea turtles and crabs in the world are here

The hermit crabs, scientifically identified as Birgus Latro, stand out as the largest known anthropods predominantly dwelling on land. They are commonly referred to as coconut crabs, robber crabs, or palm thieves.

The islands also boast of India’s premier nesting beaches for three distinct species of marine turtles: the Hawksbill, the Green turtle, and the world’s largest sea turtle, the Leatherback (Dermocheleys Coriacea).

Photo credit: Dr. Gerry Goeden

Among these, the nesting population of Leatherback turtles in Nicobar holds particular significance. It is one of the few colonies worldwide that surpasses 1,000 individuals in the Indo-Pacific region.

Kayak through dense mangroves & reach the open sea

Photo credit: Outlook

Kayaking in Havelock Island is a popular water activity, attracting global enthusiasts to paddle through the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean.

With origins dating back to the Inuit, kayaking offers various options, including closed decks and sit-on-top styles. If you go kayaking at night you will see bioluminescence on moonless nights. Whether exploring mangroves, backwaters, or pristine beaches, kayaking unveils the rich marine life and diverse ecosystems of the Andaman Sea.

Pandunus is a rare fruit widely eaten in Nicobar

Photo credit: Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Pandunus or Nicobar Breadfruit is a large upright plant, reaching up to 16 meters in height. It features robust trunks supported by heavy stilt roots, with sparsely branching structures.

The fan-like crowns boast stiff, long, straplike leaves, creating a striking appearance. The fleshy base of each key contains aromatic pulp, which, when cooked, becomes a staple food in some native regions. Native to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as well as coastal southern Sumatra and western Java, Indonesia, the Pandanus team thrives in swampy areas. While best suited for tropical climates, it can be cultivated to showcase its unique features.

Bengali is the most widely spoken language on the islands

If you thought Andamanese or Nicobarese is the most spoken language on the islands, you are wrong. The most prevalent language is Bengali, followed by Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. Additionally, Andaman Creole Hindi serves as a widely used trade language in the Andaman Islands.

It has the only active volcano in Asia

Photo credit: andaman.gov

Barren Island, situated approximately 135 km northeast of Port Blair, stands as the sole active volcano not only in India but across the entirety of South Asia. This small 3-km-wide island features a 1.6-km-wide crater. It is partially filled by a cinder cone that has been the source of eruptions.

Barren Volcano has experienced eruptions since its initial activity in 1787, with notable events occurring in 2010, lasting for six months. The volcano has gained a reputation for spewing lava in smaller eruptions in the years following the significant events.