Written by Tanishka Khanduja.
Before the horrors of COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world, exploring the plethora of wonders of life with an intrepid persona was like an adrenaline rush for me. It was only when I recently travelled to the absolutely breathtaking Andaman and Nicobar Islands that I realised how under-appreciated they truly were. Apart from the aesthetically pleasing coral reefs that infringe the golden shores of the islands, the Andamans also have historical significance that most people seem unaware of. While many tourist spots all over the world have aesthetic, cultural or historical significance, very few seemingly have all three which is why travelling to this destination must indisputably be on your bucket list! Here are a few reasons why the islands truly redefine the word ‘beauty’:
Something that is truly striking about the archipelago of islands is its tranquillity- away from the turmoil of the city and the cacophonies of city life. You would not only be surrounded by the brilliant, beguiling shades of the blue water bodies but also the serene, greenery that the tropical rainforests and palm-lined beaches offer.
Something that makes these islands particularly distinct as opposed to other islands and tourist destinations, is the presence of a myriad variety of mangroves. During my visit to the Andamans, I witnessed and researched several species of the same including Rhizophora, Bruguiera and the Red mangroves. The lush greenery that shrouds each island radiates an aura of calmness that will instantly put you at ease. Kayaking and snorkelling in the cyan coloured waters of the Andaman sea is a must, especially at dawn. Describing the sight of the rising sun above the horizon as you paddle in your kayak through the tiny channels surrounded by dense greenery as ‘heaven on earth’ at Havelock would be an understatement.
Apart from the aesthetic beauty that this location emanates, the islands teem with different species of fauna. The small heaps of sand that Hermit crabs make on the white sand beaches and the extremely agile Mudskippers which can rotate their eyes a complete 360 degrees genuinely makes the Andamans one of a kind. Home to all kinds of reptiles and marine organisms, the islands truly have everything that a utopian world would have.
It is almost impossible to forget the stunning coral reefs that foster schools of vibrant coloured fish. When you do go snorkelling to get a glimpse of the magical rainforests of the ocean, the silence and the vivid reefs that are aglow with mollusks and multi-coloured fish will, without a doubt, dumbfound you.
The European colonisation of this immaculate destination initially commenced when the Danish East India Company initially arrived in 1755 followed by the British who set up a penal colony for freedom fighters and rebels from the Indian subcontinent which is why it is popularly referred to as the Cellular Jail. When I visited Port Blair which is the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, I attended an extremely enlightening information session about the inhumane conditions of the jail and the horrifying and grim fate of the prisoners soon after the Revolt of 1857. This was a really informative and realistic narration of the history of such a beautiful yet afeared location.
The historical significance of the Andamans truly accentuates the beauty of the place as it transcends what meets the eye. It is so incredibly inspiring to know about the freedom fighters who not only fought against their British overlords at the time but also sacrificed their lives for the sake of independence with integrity and sheer bravery. It was a major eye-opener because it was so unexpected and because it was so enriching. I would highly recommend visiting the Cellular Jail at Port Blair if you love immersing yourself in history as much as I do. I can guarantee that it will not disappoint you. The Barren island is also home to the only active volcano in India which erupted recently in 2017. The locals provide a very insightful tour of the place especially at ChidiyaTapu and Havelock where the locals talk about life on the island during the British rule and the different animals found on each island especially those that teem with deers and peacocks that you can personally feed.
Something that truly took me by surprise was the initiatives taken by the locals to conserve and protect the coral reefs of the island because coral depletion is escalating due ocean acidification, eutrophication, oils spills etc. I wanted to do my bit to prevent further depletion of corals and thus collaborated with ReefWatch which was an organisation that specialises in coral micro fragmentation which essentially involves breaking corals into a few polyps and allowing them to clone in an artificial environment before releasing them into the ocean. It is an incredible initiative and people who visit the islands should do their part in order to conserve the beautiful coral reefs of the islands.
The locals truly are so inspiring and passionate about the place they call home. Their fiery passion pertaining to the history of their ancestors and their love for the flora and fauna of the islands is extraordinarily admirable. They are so incredibly welcoming and have this innate ability to become one with nature whilst taking care of every life form that inhabits these lands. The locals make sure they feed the deers and peacocks bread on a daily basis and genuinely take care of most of the life forms around them selflessly. They understand the importance of oneness. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and honestly, it makes these islands so inexplicably unique.
I cannot assure you that you will feel the exact same things I felt when I had to leave this heavenly place but I can assure you that you will ironically feel a sense of nostalgia when you reach home from a truly exhilarating vacation to the Andamans because of its warmth and indescribable ‘beauty’- a word that you will undoubtedly redefine.
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Tanishka Khanduja is a Content Writer at The Strong Traveller and for good reason! She is a free-spirited, effervescent and adventurous force to be reckoned with and loves travelling the world and taking inspiration from the beauty that the world offers. Being a student at OIS in Mumbai hasn’t stopped her from achieving her endeavours or pursuing her dreams that she strives to make a reality.