Andaman storms, coral and the Tsunami

chris (2007-12-31 09:26:24)
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We had a storm on Havelock Island. Thunder, lightening, heavy rain and a strong wind which lingered for two days. On one day the wind was so strong that all boars between the islands and Port Blair were cancelled at very short notice. Of course this caused chaos amongst travellers who had relied on the boat connections to make onward flights to Chennai and Calcutta. Three of the travellers around 'happy resort' lost their flights and faced problems arranging new tickets to get home for Christmas.

I decided that I would leave the island at least a day ahead of plan just incase another storm should blow through.

I chose a windy day to cycle South of village no. 5 down to the Elephant training school. The elephants were out for the day on logging duty in the jungle, so I parked up my bicycle and set off on foot for a further one and a half hours south. I followed a jungle trail southwards, switching occasionally to the pristine beaches alongside. I didn't see a soul for over an hour and finally ended up snorkelling over the remains of what once would have been a stunning coral reef. Many of the reefs around the Andamans have been destroyed by local fishermen.

They drop anchors from their boats, which wrench the coral from its footings. I didn't see any living coral off Havelock - just acres and acres of dead coral remains. That's not to say that all the reefs are gone, but for good snorkelling you really do hav eto take a boat trip around to the uninhabited headlands to the north of the island. Even then, you might still be disappointed if marine life is the primairy purpose of your visit to Havelock.

Other areas for good snorkelling include the Mahatma Gandhi national park. Visitors can take boat trips from Wandoor Beach on South Andaman. Alternatively, it might be worth arranging trips off Neil Island or Ross Island. I'm not sure tho. I didn't try it.

Much of Andaman and Nicobar remains off-limits to visitors. Even Indian nationals are disallowed from visiting some islands. Primarily this is to protect the indigenous tribes which live in the region. There are also many flora and fauna which exist only on these islands, which the Indian government is working hard to protect. Meanwhile, on the most accessible parts of Andaman, ecological awareness is non-existent. Plastic collects in ditches and even on some beaches. Large tar drums topple on verges, spilling their contents into pools beneath banana trees and palms. It's a mess, there's no doubt, but hopefully a short-lived mess.

The whole of Havelock island is currently preparing for a visit from the President. She is due to touch down on Havelock for a few hours on the 26th of December to mark the three-year anniversary of the Tsunami which affected much of the Andaman coastline. According to local commentary, there has been a panic in the last few weeks to rapidly touch up the region - not just to make the president feel welcome, but also to demonstrate that the large Tsunami relief budget allocated to Andaman has been put to good use. It's all a massive charade to con the president Roads are being resurfaced, helicopter pads are being laid, buildings rebuilt - even all the pine trees on Wandoor Beach have been felled to make the area appear smarter and more geared towards tourism.

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