Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands - Day 3

Friday morning started as early as usual, again catching the ferry, this time however we didn't head straight for the forest but rather went through the lowlands past some of the flooded land that used to be farms, again tsunami damage that cost an estimated 8,000 lives on these islands (government estimates are lower as the officials don't want to look bad!):

  

We headed then up to a strange forest park with accommodation that resembled a 1960's library in some UK market town, replete with a garden and visitors loos but not a lot else.  We did however use this as the start of another forest walk, thankfully down the steep hill.

We were rewarded on the walk down by a splendid Andaman Woodpecker:


And a Barred Cuckooshrike:


We also saw this grey-headed race of the Brown Shrike, which we're assured is the only race to visit the islands:



That said this chap looks brown-headed to me:



After lunch we again did some more forest walking before heading to a beach in the later afternoon, via a stop at a plantation to buy some spices (our suitcase still smells of cloves!).  The first thing we noticed about the beach was the strange patterns.  Apparently the hermit crabs roll little balls of sand up and then move them out from their burrows, hence the radial patterns literally covering the beach:


It was another beautiful spot:



Though visible tsunami damage here too with uprooted mangrove trees:


Though showing some signs of recovery:


 The local fisherman has made an offering to the water:


 More stunning scenery:



A particularly brightly painted fishing boat:


One part of the story that remains untold is the leeches.  We both experienced our first leeches on the Andamans.  It turns out it is one of the few places where they are land-based rather than water based.  And sensitive to heat and vibrations.  I had a bloody patch on my leg when we got home on the first evening.  On the second evening I had another bloody patch on one leg and a bloody patch on a sock, which had been bitten through.  Friday however saw me lifting my trouser leg in the forest for a full leech to drop onto the road surface with a plop.  Helen, who had until this point been leech free, lifted her trouser leg to show she had no leech when one plopped from her leg too!  It was 4-1 at this point.  We actually saw a 'hunting' leech.  A little pink thing no more than 2cm long and crawling along by making itself into an 'n' shape then stretching back out, they moved quite quickly too!

As we were walking along the beach, Helen noticed a blood patch on her trousers, lifted then to reveal the aftermath of what must have been the biggest leech either of us had attracted:


 We drove back from the beach to the hotel.  We were supposed to go out on Saturday morning for a couple of hours but we were only missing a few species (Andaman Wood Pigeon, White-breasted Wood Swallow, Andaman Scops Owl, Andaman Barn Owl and Beach Thick-Knee) all of which we were very unlikely to see without being on another island, at night... so decided to use this time to pack and enjoy our first cooked breakfast of the trip.

Then it was off to the airport and a flight to Chennai with a quick change and on to Coimbatore late-evening to stay at The Residency, which had great food, seriously over-priced beer and a very good room, US quality in fact.  Some chap with long partly dyed hair stood up on the flight and seemed to think everyone should be looking at him.  Hmmmmm.  Anyway, it was a comfortable trip and we really enjoyed our stay on the Andamans.  It's a long way to go but worth it for the endemic species you can locate.

The Nicobars remain off limits to non-Indians due to the aboriginal tribes (four of them) and their environmental sensitivity.   Given what we know now, I would have planned another couple of days and added a trip to another island but that said we're very happy with this part of our holiday.

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