Flora of the Islands
These Islands are blessed with a unique’ luxuriant evergreen tropical rain forest canopy, sheltering a mixed germ palms bank, comprising of Indian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and endemic floral strain. So far, about 2200,varieties of plants have been recorded out of which 200 are endemic and 1300 do not occur in mainland India.
“The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids. The Middle Andamans harbours mostly moist deciduous forests. North Andamans is characterized by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers. The north Nicobar Islands (including Car Nicobar and Battimalv) are marked by the complete absence of evergreen forests, while such forests form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group. Grasslands occur only in the Nicobars, and while deciduous forests are common in the Andamans, they are almost absent in the Nicobars”.
This atypical forest coverage is made-up of twelve types namely.
(1) Giant evergreen forest
(2) Andamans tropical evergreen forest
(3) Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest
(4) Cane brakes
(5) Wet bamboo brakes
(6) Andamans semi-evergreen forest
(7) Andamans moist deciduous forest
(8) Andamans secondary moist deciduous forest
(9) Littoral forest
(10) Mangrove forest
(11) Brackish water mixed forest
(12) Submontane hill valley swamp forest.
The present forest coverage is claimed to be 86.2% of the total land area.
Andaman Forest is abound in plethora of timber species numbering 200 or more, out of which about 30 varieties are considered to be commercial. Major commercial timber species are Gurjan (Dipterocarpus spp.) and Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides). Ornamental wood such as (1) Marble Wood (Diospyros marmorata) (2) Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides), (3) Silver Grey (a special formation of wood in white chuglam) (4) Chooi (Sageraea elliptical and (5) Kokko (Albizzia lebbeck) are noted for their pronounced grain formation. Padauk being steadier than teak is widely used for furniture making. With its abundance in the islands, its called the State Tree of the islands. Burr and the Buttress formation in Andaman Padauk are World famous for their exceptionally unique charm and figuring. Largest piece of Buttress known from Andaman was a dining table of 13’x 7′. The largest piece of Burr was again a dining table to seat eight persons at a time. The holy Rudraksha (Elaeocarps sphaericus) and aromatic Dhoop/Resin trees also occur here. There is one Rudraksha tree near my uncle’s home 🙂
You can find almost all the tropical fruits in these islands like any other tropical region but there is one rare fruit which is found and eaten in the Nicobar islands the Pandunus or Nicobar Breadfruit
Pandanus is a densely arranged, wedge-shaped fruit that has an immensely hard, woody and fibrous body in which several narrow, edible seeds are embedded. Each section has a fleshy base that contains an aromatic pulp that, after cooking, is a staple food in Nicobar. An economically important plant in the islands, the stem branches of Pandanus are used in construction, the leaves used for weaving mats and the hard exterior of the fruit is used as a bathing brush.
Fauna of the Islands
This tropical rain forest despite its isolation from adjacent land masses is surprisingly enriched with many animals. I have already introduced you to the State Animal in my previous post – the Dugong Similarly we have the State Bird of the islands which is the Wood Pigeon,
the pigeon being endemic to these islands lives in the dense evergreen forests.
About 50 varieties of forest mammals are found to occur in A&N Islands, most of them are understood to be brought in from outside and are now considered endemic due to their prolonged insular adaptation. Apart from these there are some famous birds and species endemic to the islands alone like the below
The Hornbill birds are found only in the Narcondam island, which is also famous for having the inactive volcano.
The Megapode bird or the mound bird is known for laying eggs in holes in the ground or in mounds of rotting vegetable matter and leaving them to be incubated by heat from the Sun or volcanic action. Mound birds are also called mound builders, incubator birds, or megapodes.
The Robber Crab (Birgus Latro), also called the Coconut Crab, is the largest land-living arthropod in the world. They generally live on land, but at nights climb up the coconut trees and carve a hole into the tender coconuts to eat the soft kernel. In South Asia, the highest numbers of these huge crabs are found in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. They can be spotted on the South Sentinel Island as well as on some islands in Nicobar. Apart from these there are wide variety of other crabs which are found in these islands. They are also one of the favorite delicacies the locals love. (i love eating crabs too <3, not this one for sure).
Also found in abundance specially in the Ross Islands are the Deer and Peacock
The happy land of butterflies
With about 225 species, the A&N Islands house some of the larger and most spectacular butterflies of the world. Ten species are endemic to these Islands. Mount Harriet National Park is one of the richest areas of butterfly and moth diversity on these Islands. Thousands of butterflies flock to the Andaman Island every year. I.e Andaman is a proud host to butterflies that migrate to the islands. Even postal stamps have been issued in honor of this phenomenon
The Amazing Marine Life of Andamans
If Dugong was the only herbivore mammal under water that is found in the Andaman islands, there are many more amazing marine life that is still majorly unexplored.
Dermocheleys Coriacea, the largest sea turtles in the world nest in the Andaman islands. They are huge in size and thousands of them flock to the Andamans every year. Additionally, even the Olive Ridely turtles come to the Andamans and use it as their nesting ground.
In fact the Kalipur beach in Diglipur is the only place in the world that boasts of nesting by four types of sea turtles viz., Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley, Green Turtles and HawksBill.
Quick info – if you ever take a ship to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (yes we do have ships that take 3 days from Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata to reach the islands), about an hour before you reach the harbour you would be lucky to find group of dolphins giving you company till the ship reaches the port. Below is one such capture by a APS director Rathnam. I can personally vouch cause i have seen them when my family used to travel by ships during summer vacations.
With an abundance of sea creatures, the islands staple source of food is also the sea. From crabs, to shrimps and lobsters , there are over a hundred variety of fishes that are eaten by the locals. Some people are also known to have sea urchins and sea cucumbers which are now available only in the interior islands.
Some of the well known aquatic animals of Andamans are the Humphead Parrotfish, Whitebanded Shrimp, Peacock Mantis, Giant Moray , Manta Ray.
Since the islands are surrounded by water from all around its obvious to have an amazing variety of shells and corals. Snorkeling and Scuba diving water activities are a great means to explore the corals.
As always ending the post with some additional info. Check out the below video(highly insist) which was captured by my friend Saketh and Sanjay from our recent trip to Andamans .
And this work that the crabs do, result in such patterns that one would find by the beach. It was amazing to see the crabs working. All thanks to technology and smart end phones 😛
I realize my posts are turning out to be really lengthy 🙁 but this is the most edited form that i could publish. Still had many more pics and content to write 🙂 Hope you guys are having fun, let me know.. i really wana know 🙂
Also i would be replying back to all the comments that i have not yet replied over this weekend. Since i do not schedule my posts i hardly get time after i am done with writing the post. Apologies 🙁
Happy blogging!! Live.Love.Laugh <3 <3 <3
Disclaimer – the pics are taken from the flora and fauna databases and content of factual data from the and.nic.in islands administrative website. Also the images are clicked by my friend Saketh and Nelson (majority of them).