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Scuba and Snorkeling
 

About Andaman Islands

THE EMERALD ISLANDS     
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the east of the Indian mainland geographically, float in splendid isolation in the Bay of Bengal. Once a hill range extending from Myanmar to Indonesia, the picturesque undulating islands, islets, numbering around 572, are covered with forests and endless varieties of exotic flora and fauna. Underwater marine life, coral, crystal clear water and mangrove-lined creeks offer a rare view of the precious bounties of nature. Sandy beaches here are the natural choice of turtles to nest. Around 86% of the area is still covered by dense forest with innumerable species of orchids, ferns, exotic flowers and also home too many endemic birds. The wild life includes spotted deer, wild boar, gecko and crab- eating macaque and python in the southern Islands. The Islands lie along an arc in long and narrow broken chain, approximately north-south over a distance of nearly 800 kms.

The Islands are still virgin in the sense of natural beauty with unpolluted environs, unexplored coral life, commanding a rarity in contrast to other Islands in the Indian Ocean. 

Climate & Geography
The islands have a tropical climate. The South West Monsoon sets in Andaman Nicobar Islands towards the end of May and the North East Monsoon in November. There is no fury of hot summer, no chilling winter, no water clogging or traffic jams. For those who want to enjoy boating, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, sightseeing all 12 months is season. North Indians find relief from burning heat and chilling the winter if they visit the islands from May/June/July and in December/ January. Season for nature lovers is May to December when forest is lush green and waterfalls are at their prime. Divers can enjoy the best during December to April and bird watchers during winter times. Among 572 islands of the territory 38 are permanently inhabited.
Most of the islands (about 550) are in the Andaman Group, 28 of which are inhabited. The smaller Nicobars comprise some 22 mail islands (10 inhabited). The Andaman & Nicobar are separated by the Ten Degree Channel which is 150 Kms Wide.

The Onges and Nicobarese, the aboriginal tribes of the Islands and settlers from erstwhile East Pakistan and other places live in this Island. Entry to tribal areas is restricted. Hut Bay is the entry and exit point for tourists. There are normally three boat services a week from Port Blair. The journey takes 7 to 9 Hours.
State Bird, Animal and Tree

Andaman Wood Pigeon- Sate Bird
Andaman Wood Pigeon is an endemic Bird, which is found only in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The bird is of the size of a domestic pigeon with longer tail. This bird has whitish head with checkerboard pattern on neck. The upper parts are dark state grey in colour and under parts are pale blue grey metallic. Reddish bill with yellowish tip and purplish red orbital skin are identification characters. The bird lives in dense broadleaved evergreen forest.

Dugong- State Animal

Dugong, an endangered, herbivorous, marine mammal, also known as the Sea Cow is the State Animal of the Island. It mainly feeds on sea-grass and other aquatic vegetations. Dugong is distributed in shallow tropical waters in Indo-Pacific Region. The animal is about three meters length and weight about 400 kg. In India, Dugong is reported from Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Within Andaman & Nicobar Islands Dugong has been reported from Ritchie’s Archipelago, North Reef, Little Andaman and parts of Nicobar.

Andaman Padauk- State Tree

Andaman Paudauk is a tall deciduous tree found only in Andaman. It grows up to a height of 120 feet. The Timber is highly prized for making furniture. Burr and Buttress formations add charm to the tree and used in making unique furniture.

Shells
Shells are perhaps the most colourful and fascinating objects known to man other than gems since time immemorial. The served as money, ornaments, and musical instruments, drinking cups and in the making of fine porcelains. They were also the symbols in rituals and religious observances, and the returning pilgrims wore them as a token of divine pardon.
These islands are traditionally known for their shell wealth specially Turbo, Trochus, Murex and Nautilus. These shells are used for cottage industries producing a wide range of decorative items and ornaments. Shells such as Giant calm, Green mussel and Oyster support edible shellfishery; a few like Scallop, Clam and Cockle are burnt in kiln to produce lime.
The soft baby animal, which lives inside the shell, is covered with a thick layer of specialize epithelium cells known as mantle, which in turn secretes a two tire shell material making the shell. The outer layer having a different colour pattern is organic in constitution, technically called ‘Periostracum’. Calcium ions from the environment are absorbed into the blood and deposited evenly under this layer. The next inner layer is called ‘nacre’ or ‘mother of pearl’ responsible for the pearly-luster common to many shells.

Corals

Corals belong to a large group of animals know as Coelenterata (Stinging animals) or Cnidaria (thread animals). Corals grow slow. The massive forms may grow upto 2 cm. In diameter and upto 1 cm height in a year, whereas, delicate branching forms grow between 5 to 10 cm. Per annum. A true reef building stony coral may be unisexual or bisexual.
They breed together once in a year at a pre-determined time after dusk. This process, at places is so interest that the water stays pinkish till next morning. A large number of baby corals are released in the open ocean this way. After sometime these baby corals settle over a suitable substratum and start forming new colonies through a sexual reproduction. The morphological  features change with the environment in which they settle. Due to this peculiar character they are often called ‘plastic animals’.
Stony corals could be broadly divided into reef builders and non-reef builders, the reef builders are called hermatypic whereas others are known as ahermatypic corals. The reef builders posses hard calcareous skeleton and need sunlight like plants to survive. On the other hand, the non- reef builders are devoid of a true stony framework and can live well without sunlight. A few among them are capable of making protein based solidified skeleton.

   
   

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