Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Day 1


A long-awaited holiday finally came around, another trip to India (our third) and one taking in the remote Andaman Islands.  We got a special permit when we applied for our increasingly expensive travel visa (in retaliation apparently to UK policies applied to India) so were confident we'd be allowed to enter and stay on South Andaman Island.

The flight was a long one, London to Mumbai (really didn't like the airport or vibe of Mumbai), then after a long overnight wait, to Chennai (a notably more comfortable and modern airport and with a much more pleasant vibe too) and then finally to Port Blair, touching down some 25 hours after checking-in at Heathrow.  We spent our first afternoon in the hotel, with a sleep, dinner and then more sleep, though I did take this snap from the window of the Fortune Bay Island Resort hotel:


The average day-time temperature is 31c with high humidity, a shock after 7c and dry-as-a-bone London.  We awoke then on Wednesday morning at 3:30am for our 4:40 start (the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are on the same time zone as mainland India, hence the clock times involved), which turned out to be a 5am start.  We took our packed breakfasts and headed off with our guide and driver to explore.

The first stop was a small rocky beach, on the way our first trip bird, a Pacific Golden Plover:



Helen saw an Endemic Brown Coucal but we'd passed it by the time she pointed it out.  I finally saw one two days later...

The beach itself is much like the rest of the un-built-on parts of the Island, that is beautiful and reminiscent of tropical paradise:






We spotted a Collared Kingfisher, one of our 'most wanted' birds, sat on rock:




It's not all birds enjoying the seashore, cows roam freely too:


From the beach we headed into the ever-present forest:



And spotted one of the similarly every-present White-bellied Kingfishers:


A very raucous bird when disturbed.  The guide was very excited to point out a Violet Cuckoo, we hadn't expected to see one here and enjoyed this lifer:


 Another Endemic, this time the White-headed Starling:




This was taken later, of a group bathing and drying, but show good character and another perspective:


The forest is steamy, really hot and humid.  We were soon completely bathed in sweat.




 We were out for six and half hours then had two hours back at base then went out for a further five hours.  Given we weren't recovered from the trip it was a tough but very rewarding day.

Another endemic, the Andaman Bulbul, here grabbing a berry:


And another, the Andaman Drongo:


Another endemic, the Andaman Shama:


This is a more wide-spread species, a male Asian Fairy Bluebird:


 And finally for Wednesdays' images a pair of Green Imperial Pigeons:


We birded on beyond dark seeing the Andaman Nightjar, Andaman Hawk Owl, Oriental Hawk Owl and Hume's Hawk Owl before finally getting back to the hotel, dinner and falling into bed post-shower for some air conditioning assisted sleep.

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