Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the largest archipelago system in the Bay of Bengal. It extends over an area of 8249 Sq. km comprising 572 islands of which 37 are inhabited, are a group of islands at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea with a coastline of 1912 km (approx. 1/4th of total coastline of India). The climate of this island group can be generally described as tropical and warm. The temperature ranges from 18 degree Celsius to 35 degree Celsius. The proximity of the sea and the abundant rainfall prevents extremes of heat and these Islands experience both the North East and South West monsoons.
Ecological Profile of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
1. It is consists of very fragile island ecosystems and some of the most pure in the world which support very unique flora and fauna. The landscape for large islands emerges from sea grass beds, coral reef or rocky outcrops, to beaches, littoral forest, Andaman slope forests, hilltops, into valleys and streams.
2. The topography of all large islands in the Andaman’s, Little Andaman, Little Andaman, Little Nicobar and Great Nicobar Islands are mostly interlaced with perennial and seasonal freshwater streams and some areas a matrix of mangrove creeks extending into marshes.
3. Little Andaman Island has ecosystems that do not occur anywhere else in the Andaman’s or the Nicobars, mainly extensive fresh and saline water marshes and peat.
4. This group of islands is best known for its fascinating ecosystem– the spectacular coral reefs, the biggest crabs, the largest turtles, the most vibrant fish and the most beautiful butterflies.
5. The only primate, the Nicobar crab eating macaque occurs in the southern group of the Nicobar Islands. The islands are a birdwatcher's paradise with many as 250 species recorded.
6. The complex geological history of this island group and the submergence of land bridges leading isolation have left the islands with high level of endemism. The widespread distribution of certain species indicates that there was an early evolution and dispersal throughout the archipelago. Endemism in reptiles and amphibians appears relatives to species richness; islands with larger diversity have greater number of endemics.
'Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere.'
7. Tribal reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, reserve, protected and preserved forest and biosphere reserve are the protected areas in the islands.
8. Since pre-historic times, this Island groups have been the home of aboriginal tribes, namely, the Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge & Sentineles, all of Negrito Origin, in the Andaman group of Islands, while the tribes in the Nicobar Islands are the Nicobarese and the Shompen, both of Mongoloid Stock.
9. North Sentinel Island is home to one of the most isolated Palaeolithic tribes of the world.
10. The state animal of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is Dugong, the gentle sea cow.
11. Pandunus or Nicobar Breadfruit is a rare fruit found in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
12. The highest point is Saddle Peak in North Andaman (732 metre), Mount Thullier in Great Nicobar (642 metre) and Mount Harriet (365 metre) in South Andaman.
13. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are separated by 10 Degree Channel in the middle. The Southernmost Island is Great Nicobar whose southernmost tip is only 150 km away from Sumatra, Indonesia.
14. Barren Island of the Andaman & Nicobar Island group is the only active volcano not just in India but the whole of South Asia.
15. Indira Point in Great Nicobar is the Southern-most point while East Island in North Andaman is the Northern-most Island of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.