The Amazing Forests of Andaman in Pictures

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Andaman and Nicobar are a spectacular group of tropical islands in the Bay of Bengal. With about 86% of the land area covered by forest, A&N is surprisingly known only for its beaches and marine life. Islands are fascinating places and so is the ecosystem. For thousands of years, the forests here have grown undisturbed until the past hundred years where rampant logging and increased settlements have caused damage. Nevertheless, the forests of Andaman are still pretty amazing and old growth for most parts. Many of the species found here are endemic and I can only assume Nicobar is just as spectacular as well. Here are some photos of my experience wandering in the forests of Andaman. It is safe to say I was wowed and how!

The forests of Andaman are primarily tropical rainforest which constantly reminded me of Western Ghats closer to home. The canopy was just as green as the dense forest floor. The greenery was soothing and at times overwhelming. It was easy to get claustrophobic as you can see here. If we had to shoot Jurassic Park in India, this could be a prime location, the forest looked pre-historic. 

Image taken while trekking towards Saddle Peak, Kalipur, North Andaman.

The forest extends all the way till the beach as you can see here. With zero light pollution, we could see stars clearly as expected with any wild place. The tide was slowly rising and after few minutes, the water was just a meter away from the forest. There are hardly any palm fringed beaches, instead dense forests stretch towards the sea. At many places, the water meets the forest and there isn't a beach to walk along during high tide. Seen here is a Mahua tree among others.
Image  taken at Niel Island, Ritchie's Archipelago.

Sunset brought out the colors of forest alive. I walked few meters away from the beach and I found this path which almost looked paradisaical. Birds were chirping and the eerie silence was occasionally interrupted by a screeching insect. The sun sets very early in the Andaman islands and I ran back to the shore before it turned dark. Later we drove back on a scooty on this path to reach our resort.
Image taken close to sunset point, south of Niel Island, Ritchie's Archipelago.

There are no rivers in Andaman except for one small Kalpong River in North Andaman. There are several streams and crocodile infested creeks running across the islands though. This being a tropical forest, the water isn't refreshing cool like a glacial stream however it tastes refreshingly fresh. On my way to Saddle Peak, this was the only major stream we crossed where I could fill my water bottle. Few more meters ahead, the fresh water stream opens into the ocean.
Image shot in Saddle Peak National Park, North Andaman.

During the 2004 earthquake, the pressure of the water actually tilted some of the islands, letting salt-water flow into the tree roots. That’s why you see eerie-looking stretches of dead forest along some seashores and flooded areas. These trees were dead and really huge along the shoreline. I saw similar dead and uprooted trees across Little Andaman and Long Island.
Image taken at Lallaji Bay, Long Island, Middle Andaman.
Looking at the tall trees everywhere, it is easy to see the reason why there were upto 4 timber factories of the islands of Andaman. Mahua, Gurjan, the termite resistant Padauk and other such trees constitute the 200+ varieties of timber found in these islands. Logging has been banned to protect the ecosystem of Andaman & Nicobar and the timber factories have been closed since. 
Image was taken at Niel Island, Ritchie'e Archipelago, Andman

This is what you see from the coast of Long Island. During high tide, water rises till the forest leaving no beach to walk along and the forest looks so dense that one might not want to enter forcing him/her to walk in the crocodile infested waters. The forests of Niel Island were relatively well cleared owing to its small size and abundant population. Long Island was much bigger with just about 1500 people living and forests here looked dangerously wild and creepy with huge trees and a lot of creepers and shrubs covering every inch of forest floor available.
Image was taken on the way to Lallaji Bay, Long Island, Middle Andaman

Like I said earlier, several streams run through the forest to meet the ocean in the end. Seen here is one such stream surrounded by lush greenery. During low tide, the water is barely ankle deep and easy to cross but by high tide i.e late mornings and late evening, the water level rises to waist deep or chest deep making it difficult to cross. Also increasing the chance encounter with the salt water crocodile thriving in these waters. 
Image taken along the beach of Kalipur, North Andaman.

Little Andaman is a huge island between Andaman and the Nicobar group. Flat leveled, the dense forest was the prime target for severe logging and thousands of people from mainland and other islands have now settled in this island affecting the forest. A large area of the island is under the control of red oil palm plantation. However, the greenery of the island still remains. I saw the biggest creeks in this island, like the one seen in this image. There have been several cases of people getting killed by saltwater crocodiles and every creek has a signboard warning people to stay away.
Image taken close to Butler Bay, Little Andaman.

Creepy looking climbers and branches hang from the many trees on my way to Lamiya Bay. Between the pristine stretches of forests, several settlers have illegally set up small villages and cleared the forest illegally to use the land for cultivation. I am told towards North Andaman, the forests are evergreen and characterized by wood climbers. This must be it.
Image taken at Lamiya Bay, Kalipur, North Andaman.

As we travel towards North Andaman, the mangrove forests increase in density like anything. Traveling by the ferry from Long Island towards Erratta, we passed by several such entire islands of just mangroves, really tall and dense mangroves that could provide protection against waves in case of a tsunami. Later when we arrived at the jetty at Errata, it was surrounded by dense mangroves and a prime crocodile area with sign boards declaring the same everywhere. The total area of mangrove vegetation in Andamans is around 966 Sq.kms.
Image taken from the ferry going towards Errata from Long Island, Middle Andaman.

Seen here is the Padanus fruit. A visit to the Anthropological Museum in Port Blair informs me that this fruit is eaten by tribes of Nicobar. In Niel Island, when I inquired the locals brushed it off saying it is some inedible fruit. 
Image taken on the shore of Niel Island, Ritchie's Archipelago.

Seen here is my guide Indro, standing in front of the very huge trees of the evergreen rainforest. I've barely seen any tree tops once I reached North Andaman. The trees were all very tall, the buttress spread wide. This is still one of the smaller ones that I have photographed. 

Image taken in Saddle Peak National Park, North Andaman

This is the view through the foliage along the road in Little Andaman, at the far end one can the blue greens of the sea. It was in rare cases that I could see through the dense greenery to get an ocean view. Most of the times, it was just trees and such. 
Image taken in Little Andaman.


A Tall Gurjan tree stands in the middle of the fields of an illegal settlement at Lamiya Bay.  The thick  wood  is used to make furniture and is one of the several timber species found on the island. My guide, Indro standing next to the tree can give you a perspective of how huge the trees were. 
Image taken in Lamiya Bay, North Andaman 
Seen here is a Ficus Tree claiming all that is left of this British Building. The forests of Andaman and so alive and so aggressive, nothing can remain forever, the forests will take back all that belongs to it, sooner or later. And here ends my journey with the Forests of Andaman. 

Image taken in Ross Island, Andaman.
So what do you think of Forests of Andaman? 
I personally was mesmerized by the tropical evergreen forests, the mangroves, the huge trees and things green. It was the first time I ever felt I should've been here with a naturalist who could've told me the secrets of these forests. I hope this post can reinforce the thought that Andaman is a wild paradise and not just a beach destination. Also If you find any inaccuracies in what I've written please do inform me. 

In the next post on Andaman I will talk about the indigenous tribes of these islands. 

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59 comments

  1. very beautiful pictures. Especially love the picture of the night sky, mangroves and the beach (framed by the tree). seems so idyllic.

    I discovered your blog a couple of months ago, and I am now a frequent visitor. Love the pictures, writing style and especially the 30-before-30 list. (i m currently working on my own list)

    Best of luck for accomplishing it all! :)

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    1. Thanks Bhuvi, I am glad you are enjoying the posts here. :)
      The night sky picture is my favorite too. Actually I am big fan of night sky everywhere. If you do publish your 30-before-30 list, do leave me a link here.
      It will be great to compare adventures. :)

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  2. Stunning pics, Neelima! looks like you captured a side of the Andamans that is rarely seen by tourists

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    1. Thank you, Anu. There's still lot more wilderness to Andaman. Given a chance I'd like to explore more and bring back more stories. :)

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  3. Awesome pictures! Everytime I read about your Andaman adventures I feel like packing my bags and heading there!

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    1. You should! Or you should've come with me. I could have definitely used some company in those remote islands! ;)

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    2. Missed it! What to do? Sometimes one has to work to fund the next holiday :P

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  4. Beautiful photographs from a very little-known facet of the Andamans. Since almost 4 years now, I've been planning to travel for 2-3 weeks in Andaman & Nicobar but my proposal to spend 'such a long time' there have been shot down by my husband. Your posts about your experience at the Andamans have inspired me to persevere with my plans and hopefully, you photographs will help convince my hubby :)

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  5. Sorry for the many typos in my previous comment!..Here's what I meant to say:

    Beautiful photographs from a very little-known facet of the Andamans. Since almost 4 years now, I've been planning to travel for 2-3 weeks in Andaman & Nicobar but my proposals to spend 'such a long time' there have been shot down by my husband. Your posts about your experience at the Andamans have inspired me to persevere with my plans and hopefully, your photographs will help convince my hubby :)

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    1. Thanks Raji, even I was very surprised by the forests everywhere. Once I came back I was even more fascinated by island ecosystems! If you are someone who enjoys wilderness and nature, Andaman is the place to be. Steer away from the tourist traps and you have pristine islands and forests all for yourself. I wish you all the best in convincing your husband about the Andaman trip. :)

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  6. Close eyes, the hear the narration...we can have a virtual tour for sure. Nice writeup backed by stunning photos. Super Neelima. Thanks for sharing the lovely travelogue!

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    1. Thanks Srikanth, it was a lovely trip and I waiting to share these pictures. Finally got around my laziness and published the post. :)

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  7. Really good pictures...Andamans are a wonder of nature, must visit one of these days...

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    1. Thank you! Indeed it is a wonderful place but with a sad history. If you visit, stay for at least two weeks to experience all the beauty.

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  8. These photos are great! I just became a regular reader of your site, hope you check out my budget travel blog soon :)

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  9. Just started following your blog! Your photography is great and I'm a big fan of your writing. Hope you also check out my budget travel blog soon :)

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    1. Thanks Tyler, I'll surely check out your blog too! :)

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  10. I see "people" in your pictures...Is everything alright? :-P


    -"Truly Anonymous"

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    1. I thought that rule applied only to friends? :P

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  11. You know sometimes seeing some pictures really make you want visit that place? Well, your pictures of Andaman have done that to me - just amazing natural beauty! :)

    I wonder if this place is expensive...

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    1. That's the kind of compliment I'll remember for ages. Thank you so much! :))
      Andaman is not at all expensive, because tourism still isn't a big thing there. Port Blair can be a bit pricey, Havelock is just too expensive but apart from that everywhere else, it is pure awesomeness for little money.

      I've written this guide to Andaman with all my expenses, this might help - http://www.travelwithneelima.com/2012/11/island-hopping-andaman.html

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  12. Magnificent captures!

    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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  13. Stunning pictures, Neelima. Thanks for showing me Another A&N - I never had the urge to go there till I read your first blog about the islands and now I am really itching to go off!

    Couple of thoughts - the fact that we use a single time for a such a large country makes the sunrise and sunset at crazy times in different parts right? In Assam I used to wake up really early cos of this and in Kutch one wakes up really late. Whatever the watch says, finally I respond to sunlight!

    Are the sea tides linked to morning and evening or to the moon positions? Is it possible to have high tide at noon?

    Please keep travelling and writing - such a pleasure to read and see and as one commentor said, to hear your narrative.

    Gouthami

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    1. You said it Gouthami! The time difference is crazy, never actually realized it when I was traveling in the West, but in the east it was just crazy. It was difficult in Andaman, it was just impossible in Nagaland. Sun used to rise by 3.30 AM or so and set by 4.30 PM. It would be pitch dark already by 4.45 and considering how remote that place is, there was absolutely nothing to do. My travel time was reduced drastically and I couldn't see much. Also I am not a morning person at all, and in Nagaland people start their day as early as 6AM. Every morning I used to run around half asleep trying to catch a bus or jeep. We should totally have different time zones in India.

      Tides are related to Moon positions, correct. I think it must be possible for high tides at noon, not sure though. In Andaman, the tide used to rise till about 12AM, then recede till evening and fully rise again by night 8PM or so.

      I am glad that you are enjoying my Andaman posts, do plan your trip soon. Get away from the touristy places and you will discover what a treasure those islands hold. :)

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  14. Unfortunately, I can't see the pictures due to bad internet connection, however the post is thrilling! I really want to visit Andaman!


    http://renuka-mytraveldiary.blogspot.in

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    1. Thanks Renuka, do check out the pics whenever you get a good connection. :)

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  15. Nice writeup accompanied by stunning photos..

    http://gokulphotography.com/

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  16. The last picture is really something; it's incredible how the tree is growing from the building.

    Lucky you are, for getting to see such beautiful parts of the islands, way more beautiful than the beaches. But then, for me, the greens will always trump the blues.

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    1. Well, so far I prefer the greens too, but that is only because I haven't explored the water world yet. :)

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  17. Hey Simply stunning pictures..! A different side of Andaman that I never knew.
    These pictures and topography remind me of my visit to Taman Negara Forests in Malaysia.
    They are one of the oldest forests on earth.. It survived the Ice age too!
    I don't know if you have been there.. If you havn't, Im certain you will not regret going there...!

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    1. Thanks Shachi, welcome yo my blog. I haven't visited Taman Negara but by the sound of it, I am sure I will like it too. :)

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  18. Beautiful picture gallery!
    the trees are tall and longstanding. No doubt that Andaman and Nicobar Islands are sheer beautiful and a popular tourist destination in all over the World.

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  19. Wow Neelima!
    Your blog is just superb...

    Your pictures and your words have once more evoked my inner desire to travel and explore the beauty of nature.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences to the world.

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    1. Thanks Sareena, I am glad my blog makes you want to explore nature. Mission accomplished! :)

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  20. Incredible India and so your writing... Amazing pictures you have clicked...loved it...

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    1. Thanks Parminder, welcome to my blog. Glad you found my writings and photography interesting.

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  21. Nice photos.........

    I feel sooo jealous of you............

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    1. Ha ha, don't be. Make time and start traveling. :)

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  22. Its really nice photography it encourages me to go and visit these natural places and do photography

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    1. Thanks, you should. It might not be long before we lose these beautiful places!

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  23. Hi Neelima, I am backpacking to Andamans in October, wonder if you could give me some heads up ..I do not want the touristy-spots ..some shanti and exotic places to explore ..alone ! Thanks already :)

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    1. Hey, Andaman is a great place to escape the touristy spots, with so many offbeat islands around, easy to find shanti! ;)
      I have already listed down all the practical and logistics info in this post - http://www.travelwithneelima.com/2012/11/island-hopping-andaman.html. Do have a look.

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  24. Hi Neelima, Was planning for a visit to Andaman, and came across your post. Awesome pictures. Am going for a short visit to Andaman, just for 5 days. Am confused as to which places to visit. Can you please suggest.


    Thanks,
    Sandhya

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    1. Hi Sandhya, Here's a post I've done on all the islands I have visited in Andaman, could he helpful - http://www.travelwithneelima.com/2012/11/island-hopping-andaman.html

      In 5 days, I'd say stick to Port Blair, Ross - North Bay - Viper island and Havelock. Since these are islands, getting around is not that smooth as on mainland, your schedules will be highly dependent on ship shchedules, so better not to wander around too much since you are there only for a short period. Hope this helps, and have a great trip! :)

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  25. Beautiful Pics..............never seen before.
    Regards
    Pradeep Rajput

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    1. Thank you! Andaman is a fascinating place.

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  26. Lovely pics. One of the pics (Image shot in Saddle Peak National Park, North Andaman) reminds me and resembles a pic taken by me in Elephant Beach, Havelock Islands.

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  27. Beautiful pics and wonderful narration !
    It makes me feel like packing my bags and leave immediately to visit the Andamans

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