We arrived at Port Blair in the Andamans on the 9th of March 2021.
The original plan was to spend a couple of days of birding in the Andamans and then sail to Greater Nicobar 2 days later. Unfortunately there was the little matter of having to contend with the ongoing pandemic.
Still reeling from the lashing of 2020, the second viral wave was already making its presence felt with every indication that it was all set to make the first one appear like a ripple in a pond.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands were one of the few places in India, and indeed on Earth, that were declared Covid-free. In their determination to keep it that way local authorities had implemented stringent measures that in turn had a direct bearing on the success of our trip.
RT/PCR testing for Covid-19 was now mandatory for anyone sailing to Nicobar. To give the devils their due, the authorities had set up testing centres that were extremely well organised.
The newly imposed measures had also played havoc with the ships schedules and the ticketing process.
The MV Kalighat that was due to sail on the 11th of March was now tentatively postponed to the 16th. The ship has a capacity of around 450 passengers. Most of those seeking tickets were local residents of Nicobar who were stranded in Port Blair due to the erratic schedules. Justifiably, they needed to be given preference when it came to ticketing.
Under the present conditions the ticketing process had changed. Those wishing to travel to Nicobar now needed to submit an application and tickets were then allotted at the discretion of the ticketing authorities. The official passenger list was pasted on the noticeboard outside the gates of Haddo Jetty only an hour prior to departure!
Wait… there’s more…! Confirmation of a cabin berth was allocated on a first-come-first-served basis only at the time of boarding!!
The boat was due for departure at 9am on 16th March. In our determination to get a cabin berth we showed up at Haddo Jetty at 5.30am. Not surprisingly, the place was deserted when we arrived and we wound up being at the head of the queue.
A combination of God’s Grace, and a few friends in the right places contributed significantly to us procuring a reasonably comfortable, 4 berth AC cabin, with, would you believe it, an attached washroom!
The distance between Port Blair and Campbell Bay in Greater Nicobar is 529Km. (Courtesy: Google maps) and the time taken for the journey is approximately 36 hours.
As far a journeys go this one was full of interesting and unexpected little occurrences. Not least of all was the shock of hearing my name called out on the ships PA system inviting me to meet the ship’s Captain on the bridge. Be that as it may, this is neither the time nor the place to elaborate on those instances (although I will consider including them in the ubiquitous coffee table book that I put together after each of my trips).
Below is a list of the endemic birds found on the Nicobar group of islands. Of these, birds like the Nicobar sparrowhawk and Nicobar bulbul were not to be found on Great Nicobar Island where we had permission to visit.
Nicobar imperial-pigeon (Ducula nicobarica)
South Nicobar serpent eagle (Spilornis klossi)
Nicobar sparrowhawk (Accipiter butleri)
Nicobar parakeet (Psittacula caniceps)
Nicobar bulbul (Ixos nicobariensis)
Nicobar scops-owl (Otus alius)
Nicobar scrubfowl (Megapodius nicobariensis)
For me personally, the bird I was most keen to see did not figure on the above list. The Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica) despite its name, is not strictly endemic to Nicobar. It can also be found on the Malay Archipelago and other islands like the Solomon and Palau islands.
This is a large, beautiful bird with spectacular plumage and is believed to be a distant relative of the now extinct dodo. Unlike most other birders who typically would have the Nicobar scrubfowl (Megapodius nicobariensis) as their apex target species it was the Nicobar pigeon that I was most keen to see and photograph.
We arrived in the evening of the 17th. After settling ourselves in our rooms in the PWD guest house in Campbell Bay (that in itself was another story-within-this-story that I’ll reserve for my book) we went in search of owls.
During the night sessions the only endemic species was the Nicobar scops owl (Otus alius). Other birds that we also planned to see were the Andaman boobok (Ninox affinis) and the grey nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). Thanks to Danish, our expert guide, all three were sighted with relative ease. Both owls were accommodating enough to allow us to shoot from the road itself while the grey nightjar needed us to take a short walk in a pumpkin (I think it was) field.
Greater Nicobar Island is the largest and southern-most of the Nicobar group of islands. Covering 921 sq.km. the overall population of the island is relatively sparse, around 8000+ individuals.
A short drive away from the Camp Campbell Bay jetty is the ‘main road’ (also referred to as Zero Point). This has a number of stores and small eating places where we often had breakfast or lunch. Outside one of the restaurants was a fruiting tree that always had a few species of birds feeding on its berries.
Most commonly seen feeding here were were Asian glossy starlings (Aplonis panayensis). These in Central and Southern Nicobar have white irises (unlike the blood red eyes of those found in other parts of Asia).
On one occasion the tree was full of pied imperial pigeons (Ducula bicolor). These large, predominantly white birds have a beautiful yellow tinge to their feathers.
The majority of the island (green area in the map below) is encompassed by the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve that consists almost entirely of dense evergreen forests that are incredibly biodiverse.
We visited the biosphere reserve on our first morning. Large swathes of ferns can be seen along the road and are the favourite feeding grounds for crimson sunbirds (Aethopyga siparaja nicobarica).
Like many other of the non-endemic species found in both the Andaman and Nicobar Islands the Crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja nicobarica) found here is designated as a subspecies of the nominate species (Aethopyga siparaja). Many experts are of the opinion that with further research and genetic testing this bird along with several others may eventually be elevated to being considered as separate species.
While we were shooting the sunbirds a couple of Nicobar tree shrews (Tupaia nicobarica) were creating a ruckus. These curious creatures are endemic to Nicobar and are listed as an ‘endangered species’ by IUCN mainly due to habitat loss.
Within the gate of the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve there is limited access to the areas one can visit. A single road eventually leads to another road block a few kilometres away. Apart from the dense forests along this relatively short stretch there are a number interesting points to explore as listed on the board below.
Our next stop was the Nature trail. We were after the Nicobar jungle-flycatcher (Cyornis nicobaricus) and, if we were lucky, the Nicobar pigeon.
The innocuous looking sign below pointed the way where we leave the road and walk into the jungle. A few yards away and we were transported into another world. Referring to it as a ‘trail’ was grossly misleading.
This was no walk in the park!
At best the path was covered with a thick untidy layer of leaf litter that was booby-trapped with submerged vines just waiting to trip anyone walking through. Most times we were simply walking blindly through the dense jungle.
A green lizard ( Daniel’s forest lizard? Bronchocela danieli?) jumps out of the forest on to Aseem’s back. I ask him to freeze while I whip out my iPhone to take an image. Thinking it was a butterfly he did so quite willingly till I informed him that it was a green lizard with a very, very long, whip-like tail. Let’s just say he ceased to be so relaxed from then on!
There was not a single stretch of level ground. It was either huff-and-puff our way uphill or carefully pick our way with extreme caution down the uneven slope that was often treacherously slippery. Shallow, mostly dry, mountain streams cut through the slopes forming pebbled channels a few metres wide that were often bridged by a few logs thrown across.
I discovered the hard way that the logs were not designed for people in my weight category. On one occasion one of the logs snapped sending me crashing to the floor of the river bed. Fortunately I landed on my feet and my camera was cushioned by the leaf litter on the opposite bank.
I can’t think of any other trek when I have taken so many tumbles!
Spotting the small Nicobar jungle-flycatcher (Cyornis nicobaricus) in this dense forest was a miracle in itself (full marks again to Danish T, our guide). Photographing it was a different cup of tea altogether! This was a tropical rain forest in every sense of the word. The thick canopy ensured that the light was always suboptimal and achieving focus through the dense matrix of branches was an absolute challenge even for my trusty 1DX2. The image below was one of the very few relatively sharp images I got of the bird!
During our stay in Greater Nicobar we made several visits here in the hope of spotting the Nicobar pigeon. With absolutely no luck. According to Danish it’s not that there were no birds. Nicobar pigeons were very much around and in fair numbers. The problem was they were extremely shy.
We came across several crude but ingenious traps set in areas where these pigeons were likely to feed. The traps were simplicity itself.
A noose is fashioned out of a piece of string (1). This is tethered to a bent sapling that acts as a spring (2) and delicately anchored to a forked twig embedded in the soil (3) that acts as the trigger. When a bird scrapes the soil, it dislodges the trigger causing the sapling to spring back thus tightening the noose on the birds legs.
The image below, taken on the road beyond the exit to the nature trail, indicated that there was a Shompen village in the vicinity leading us to believe that the trap was probably set by one of the the local tribesmen.
The ‘Shompen’ are an indigenous tribe of Great Nicobar Island.
There is documented evidence of their existence as far back as the 17th century and in all probability they have been around for long before that. If the censuses of 2001, 2004 and 2011 are anything to go by, their numbers are dwindling rapidly, (a couple of hundred being an optimistic assumption of their present population). They are protected by the government (explaining the barricade after the milestone preventing our entry beyond that point).
The Shompen live in isolated groups scattered all over the island and are hunter-gatherers. Which means that they rely on hunting and foraging for food rather than cultivating their own.
When we came across the traps we responded with the same self-righteous indignation that any responsible, ‘civilised’ birders would…
…we destroyed the traps.
After all, this seemed to be the most obvious reason for the reducing numbers and shy birds. Or was it…?
The couple of hundred Shompen in existence are distributed all over the island. Since they are known to live in small isolated groups meant that at most, only a handful hunted in this part of the forest. That being so, one really wonders with such crude contraptions how many birds were actually snared. Not very many I would imagine and being hunter-gatherers they did this purely for survival. Definitely not for personal profit and most definitely not for fun.
Compare this to us ‘civilised’ humans who use guns and hi-tech gadgets that capture/kill in bulk. Often for no other reason other than to earn bragging rights. I am reminded of the of duck shooting ‘scoreboard’ at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur where the numbers of ducks killed per day, that often ran into thousands, were proudly displayed for all to see and admire.
If you compare lifestyles, the simple Shompen are infinitely more respectful of Nature the us so-called civilised folk… and all of a sudden I don’t feel as ‘self-righteous’ or as ‘civilised’ or as ‘responsible’ as I did before.
One of the main species that birders travel to Nicobar to see is the Nicobar scrubfowl (Megapodius nicobariensis) or the Nicobar megapode so named because of its large feet. These birds are listed as threatened and are in real danger of facing extinction. Sadly, the 2004 Tsunami wiped out a large number of these creatures. They build their nests in sandy mounds of soil and vegetation and rely on the heat generated by decomposition to incubate the eggs. Interestingly, the chicks hatch fully feathered and ready to fly.
Although they do not sit on the nest they do visit it regularly especially early in morning and late evening. Our first attempt to sight the bird was to observe a nest early in the morning. We positioned ourselves a safe distance away and waited in absolute silence. 10-15 minutes later I saw movement and a brown head popped up from the other side of the nest. This was followed by an incredibly colourful body!
My very first sighting of the beautiful hooded pitta (Pitta sordida). The megapode never showed up but I was not one bit disappointed!
Galathea National Park, is about an hour and a half’s drive from Campbell Bay (where we were located) and is situated the Southern end of Great Nicobar Island. Named after the Galathea River it was gazetted as a National Park in 1992 and later was included in the formation of the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve in 2013.
The Galathea River is the longest river on the island and has the added distinction of being India’s southernmost river.
While researching this blog, I came across an interesting and very readable article by S. Balakrishnan in an online piece entitled ‘Galathea River‘ run by the SikkimExpress. It discussed, among other things, the origins of the river’s name. Ranging from the humorous local assumption that it originated from the word ‘galath’ (Hindi for ‘mistake’) a veiled reference to the danger of navigating the river when in spate, to the more likely reason that it was named after the 19th century Danish vessel, Galathea that spent a few months here. Added to this mix was the alleged supposition that the Chola Kings in 1000A.D. named the river ‘Kaalathi’.
Galathea National Park had a high concentration of megapodes and we made several trips here in an attempt to sight the elusive and endangered species. Our first attempt to identify the bird at the mound having failed, we next visited a Forest Protection Camp on one of the beaches at the periphery of the Park. It comprised of a few thatched structures that housed a handful of workers whose prime function it was to monitor and protect leatherback turtles that came here to nest.
Like most of beaches on the island this too was pristine, and included a set of leatherback turtle tracks that had recently come ashore to nest. (The nesting area was carefully demarcated by a couple of wooden pegs to prevent it from being disturbed).
We were here to get a sighting and if possible a good image of the endangered megapode.
Stories abound of birders who have returned home without so much as a glimpse of this elusive bird. We were really lucky. On two of the occasions that we visited the area we got great sightings. I managed to get nice images too both times. On the later visit the heavens opened and it poured for a good 20-30 minutes. The overcast conditions did compromise the light but on the plus side the damp feathers helped in bringing out detail in the images.
On our second visit to the camp we met a couple of researchers who were spending 4-6 months exploring the wildlife on the various islands and recording their findings (lucky guys). I did notice that one of them was wearing unusual footwear…crocs!
Remembering our ‘walk’ at the Nature trail I wondered how he managed. Fortunately, Greater Nicobar does not have any poisonous snake species, but even then he was a big guy and with improper footwear he was really pushing his luck. That’s when he told us that his boots had completely given way. Months ago he ordered a pair of boots online and they were yet to arrive! Just gives you an idea as to how cut off from civilisation these islands, especially Nicobar, really are!
While chatting with these guys we got to know of a couple of places where sightings of 2 unusual species of kingfisher were almost guaranteed. The first was a short distance away from our hotel at a water body just off the road. A stork-billed kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis intermedia) had a favourite perch on a branch on the opposite bank (image above). (This was the Nicobar sub-species, the nominate species being (Pelargopsis capensis))
The other kingfisher was to be found in a dry river bed. If we weren’t told we’d never have guessed that it was there. Let me correct that… If we weren’t told AND if it weren’t for Danish we’d never have seen it! The oriental dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) is the smallest and, IMO, the most colourful of all the kingfishers found in India.
The drive to and from Galathea National Park took a good hour and a half and there was quite a bit of birding on the way.
Flocks of long-tailed parakeets (Psittacula longicauda) and Asian glossy starlings (Aplonis panayensis) can be seen all over the island.
Long-tailed parakeets are endemic to Andamans, Nicobar and neighbouring countries. Nicobar parakeets (Psittacula caniceps) on the other hand are endemic to Nicobar alone (below). Considered to be one of the largest of all parakeets these birds and are listed as a near-threatened species.
We also got a great sighting of a Chinese sparrowhawk (Accipiter soloensis)
Back at our guesthouse one day we were waiting for the car to come and pick us up for the afternoon session and Danish asks us if we would we like to pass the time photographing a pair of olive-backed sunbirds (Cinnyris jugulari) on the tree opposite our front gate?
Silly question I’d say!
There are a number of water bodies to be found on the island. Many of them are ‘leftovers’ from the waters of the 2004 tsunami that did not recede back into the sea.
Most however are a result of the abundant rainfall that this part of the world receives for at least 7-9 months in a year. It is here that we got to see a number water birds and waders.
Talking about water bodies, no blog on either the Andamans or Nicobar is complete without at least a passing mention of the beaches.
Being so sparsely populated most of the beaches we visited were pristine with crystal clear water. The 2004 Tsunami had played havoc with much of the coastline and evidence of that still persists.
On one beach there was a small fenced enclosure about 30×30 feet that contained a number of what appeared to be small graves each one painstakingly, almost lovingly, marked with a simple inscription. One of the locals informed us that it contained the bodies of turtles that died in the tsunami and found washed up on the beach.
On our long drives to and from Galathea National Park we’d often stop at a tiny tea stall that had a wonderful view of a long stretch of open grassland beyond which was the sea. The grassland held a number of birds and between sada dosas (the closest description would be crisp, savoury pancakes from South India) and hot milky tea we’d rush out to shoot foraging birds like pin-tailed snipe (Gallinago stenura) and the grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus).
Sadly, this was one of the few beaches in Nicobar that was littered with plastic bottles and cans. When questioning the tea stall owner he had his own theory on how the rubbish got here:
” The rubbish is not ours!” he insisted, “It is the thrash from neighbouring countries like Thailand, Burma and Sumatra [which is only about 180Km away] that is brought here by the tide”
Yeah… sure!! And I am Pinoccio’s uncle!!
On this trip I made a concerted effort to document butterflies as well. Birds were our main objective and the butterflies I got were by no means exhaustive but I did manage to get a fairly nice collection. These included some common ones like the grey pansy (Junonia atlites) below.
There were some like the Malayan anomalous eggfly (Hypolimnas anomala) below that were not strictly endemic, but were lifers (first sightings) for me.
I did get sightings and images of several endemic species – (most of which I was blissfully unaware of at the time!) – like Great Nicobar cinnamon crow (Euploea scherzeri simulatrix). The cinnamon crow ((Euploea scherzeri) is endemic to the Nicobar Islands and is listed as a threatened species. There are three subspecies found on the three Nicobar Islands (Camorta, Car Nicobar and Great Nicobar).
It so happened that among the four of us birders on this trip I was the only one who was interested in butterflies. This led to a few comic situations…
While walking through the forest the rapid-fire sound of someone’s camera shooting in continuous motor drive instinctively got everyone else’s adrenaline pumping as they swung around trying to figure out which bird was sighted.
When the sound came from my camera, more often than not, it ended in groans. They would all swing round with their cameras ready only to find that I was shooting a butterfly instead of a bird! This did backfire on one occasion.
Danish had instructed us to wait in the car while he went out to scout the area. I got out to stretch my legs and spotted an Indian cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus) beautifully perched on a low branch close by.
Reaching for my camera I began shooting. By now they were used to my getting excited at the sight of butterflies. So when they heard the my camera belting away 14 frames per second they were least bothered and stayed put in the car.
It was only moments later when I quietly informed them of what I was shooting that they galvanised into action and tumbled out of the car!
I must admit that when it came to birds, my skill at both at spotting and identification was nowhere near as good as the others in the group. When it came to butterflies I did have a little knowledge but I am even less of an expert at identification as compared to most hard-core lepidopterists!
When I saw the butterfly below I mistakenly identified it as a fluffy tit (Zeltus amasa).
Back home, when attempting to confirm the identification, the colours seemed different and I convinced myself that I had discovered a new species.
It turned out that it was not a fluffy tit but a Nicobar plane (Bindahara phocides areca). This is a rare schedule II butterfly and I’m thrilled that I was able to see and photograph the specimen.
Between you and me I also very relieved that it was not a new species discovered by me…
I can’t imagine being proud of a butterfly that went by the name of ‘Ian’s fluffy tit’!!
Our stay in Great Nicobar lasted 10 days. Not that we had a choice. The only boat that took us there was the Kalighat on March 16th and the earliest boat that departed from there was the Coral queen that was sailed for Port Blair on March 26th. (For the record, we were really very fortunate to get on the Coral Queen. It was the last ship to say before cyclonic weather off the coast of Nicobar put a halt to all sea traffic for the next couple of weeks!)
Of course we could have opted to fly by helicopter but the weight restriction, (7Kg if my memory serves me right), meant that we would need to leave much of our camera equipment behind!
There were 2 birds that eluded us.
The Great Nicobar serpent eagle (Spilornis klossi) was one of them. This bird is considered a separate species and listed as near-threatened. Weighing about 450gms it is the smallest of all eagles. Thanks to Danish’s amazing spotting skills we finally did manage a nice sighting although it was at a distance and in rapidly fading light (image above).
That left us with one bird. The Nicobar pigeon!
One very fleeting, solitary glimpse of a couple of birds that flew high over us was the only sighting we got.
There are some birders who would have accepted that… In fact, I do believe there are 2 kinds of birders.
On one hand you get the ‘true birder’. One that will be armed with only a pair of binoculars. If at all he carries a camera it will be a small one that he’ll use very sparingly and only for ‘record’ images, i.e. images that have no aesthetic value and are shot solely for the purpose of documentation. Typically his birding is done at a leisurely pace. His main interest is birds but will willingly pause to admire any of Mother Nature’s other wonders. Above all he makes a conscious effort to soak in and enjoy the beauty of his surroundings.
And then there is the other type… The ‘bird photographer’.
Like the true birder above, the bird photographer will arm himself with a target list of bird species. That’s where the similarity comes to an abrupt end. He then proceeds to put on his virtual blinkers to stay undistracted and focussed on his very simple, totally uncomplicated, one-point agenda… go hell for leather to complete the list before the trip ends!
Nothing else matters. Neither the surroundings, nor any of Nature’s other beauties. Even the birds on the list that are ticked off are ignored for the rest of the trip in the race to get each and every species on the list.
If that’s not bad enough, unlike the ‘true birder’ this guy is not satisfied with simple sightings, and will thumb his nose at ‘record’ images.
He will settle for nothing less than super sharp images of each species complete with full feather colour and detail, ultra sharp eyes, with a good background and perfect exposure. And, I kid you not, he’ll come close to tears if even the most minuscule of twigs has the temerity to interfere with even a tiny corner of an otherwise perfect image!
To achieve this he will break the bank on camera equipment. Risking life, limb and all of his 23 intervertebral discs to lug the said equipment through even the toughest terrain!
(If one were to replace the ‘he’ with ‘I’/’me’/’my’ wherever applicable in the above 5 paragraphs one would still be, admittedly, uncomfortably close to the truth!)
Here we were, a group of bird photographers with 24 hours to go before the ship sailed and one species yet to get – the Nicobar pigeon!
We had made several trips into the forest where these birds were most likely to be found. Each time venturing deeper and deeper into the dense jungle. The heat, humidity and rough terrain testing our endurance to the limit. I can’t remember when last I had taken so many tumbles and believe me, I had some choice bruises to show for it!
Danish suggested one more trip into the jungle. A last ditch effort to try and get the Nicobar pigeon and complete our list. It had rained earlier that morning and the leeches would be out in numbers and licking their chops in anticipation of our arrival.
Our vehicle reached the point where the sign pointed to the beginning of the trail and we tumbled out of the car and assembled at the forest’s edge.
It was at that point that I decided that I had had enough.
The past three weeks, (including the Andaman leg) were hectic. It was a constant chase from one species to the other. Mind you it was exciting and I thouroughly enjoyed every minute with over 10,000 images to show for it. But it was exhausting.
I decided not to follow them into the jungle.
Instead, while the rest of them slowly melted into the forest, I opted to walk alone by myself along the road…
I walked passed the watchtower from which the panorama below was shot on a previous visit here. From this high vantage one can see in the distance (red arrow) the picnic area (a short drive from zero point at Campbell Bay) where we’d often stop after the day’s session to admire the sunset. The image below it was taken from the picnic area gives the viewer a frame of reference of the relative locations of each and to help appreciate the remoteness of of the present area I was in.
Walking alone in a remote forest is an experience in itself.
The jungle seems to come alive. It’s an indescribable feeling that is both exciting and unnerving at the same time! Each sound becomes isolated and distinct. I could hear the calls of a Koel and a hooded pitta. (This one had three notes to it’s call unlike the ones we heard earlier that had four).
The whoosh of flapping wings alerts me to the presence of a Nicobar imperial pigeon (Ducula nicobarica) as it alights on a branch nearby. These birds are endemic to the evergreen forests of Nicobar. We have had several sightings but never so close!
A large black butterfly that I later identify as a great mormon (Papilio memnon) alights on one of the ferns and I get yet another butterfly lifer.
10 minutes later I arrived at the spot that I was heading for. The Bird Viewing Point.
A few log benches and a wooden rail offer a panoramic view of the valley and gives one an idea of the dense, incredibly beautiful evergreen forest that blankets most of Greater Nicobar.
I sat there for the better part of an hour. Listening to the screeching of the parakeets and the plaintive call of the Koel and the occasional racket created by a Nicobar tree shrew.
Groups of Nicobar imperial pigeons and Andaman green pigeons were already on their favourite perches on the trees in the valley as we had seen on our previous visits here. Unlike then, this time I left the camera untouched. Preferring to sit there quietly by myself and simply absorb the sounds of the jungle. I felt a peace that I hadn’t experienced in a long long time. For the first time on this trip I felt in sync with my surroundings rather than an intrusive outsider.
And for the very first time in my life I began to really understand why many birders prefer to ditch their cameras.
A rustling in the branches behind me pulls me out of my reverie and I swing around nervously to see what caused it. A few crab-eating macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) watch me curiously from the safety of the trees.
To say that I had forgotten about the Nicobar pigeon would, I admit, be a blatant lie! Sitting there in silence, a small part of me fantasised that one or two of them would fly down to feed on the road and I would get both sighting and image to show off to the others. The only difference this time was that it was not the dominant, all-consuming thought in my mind. If it happened great… if not, that that was okay too.
Needless to say, it never happened.
But if I had to list the highlights of the three amazing weeks we spent in this incredibly spectacular part of the world then that last hour alone in the jungle would most definitely be right up there close to the very top.
Aseem Kumar Kothiala says
Gosh, what a lovely description of a wonderful trip. You have created some good images of the birds, butterflies and landscapes
Thanks Aseem. It was a wonderful trip and if it were not for you I might not have made it. So thanks for that as well! Look forward to the next one!!
Parag Rangnekar says
Lovely account doc!! Loved the way you ended it
Thanks Parag! Although I must admit a small part of me (the photographer part) still wishes it could have ended differently!! 😀
Tapas Chakraborty says
The road and the milestone you are showing is the abandoned East-West road.
Manoj Harikishan Sharma says
What a lovely account of your wonderful trip. Magically, you transported me to the quiet lush jungles of Nicobar and made me almost see the very sights you did. Faraway from these tense hot summer days in Ghaziabad. Thanks a lot Mr D’Souza, for this welcome break. You’re a gifted wordsmith.
Dear Mr. Sharma. Thank you so much for your appreciation. So glad you like it!
Wow, Ghaziabad must be getting really warm as we approach summer. Believe me, being so close to the equator, Nicobar was incredibly hot and humid as well!
Warm regards (no pun intended) 😀 and stay safe,
Luis Miranda says
How fabulous, Ian. Now we have to wait for your book to read all the side stories! This is one part of the islands I haven’t been to …
Thanks Luis. Yup can’t wait to start on the book. Need to do it before the memories begin to fade…
Deirdre Lobo says
Ian you are sooooo gifted! A man of many gifts. You are truly blessed. Your work is stunning!
Hey thanks Deirdre! I’m so glad that you liked it… totally chuffed!!
Tapas Chakrabarty says
The road to GN BR that you are showing was once called East-West Road (maintained by Project Yatrik) which traversed deep forest and ended and Pilo Bhabi on the western coast, some 41km away from Campbell Bay. At 26.5 km, there was a Yatrik Camp and Shompen Hut prepared by Govt. I went there twice in 1984 in military truck and spent night at the camp, in connection with botanical collections and contact with the Shompens. We could meet many Shompens living in dense forests in that area. That was an experience of a lifetime. Unfortunately, good cameras were not available then. In spite of that what we shot and collected (botanical specimens) were no less than treasure. I described a new plant genus, Nicobariodendron from that area.
I am delighted reading this excellent write up.
Thanks Tapas for your appreciation and the interesting information. Wow! GN in 1984 must have been paradise!! With today’s digital cameras we tend to take a lot for granted and I can well imagine the severe restrictions you must have had with the film cameras of that time. Still, I would love to see some of your images you took on that trip. Congratulations for the discovery of the Nicobariodendron! Warm regards.
Tapas Chakrabarty says
One point please, the East West Road ended at Koshin Don where one Nicobarese family was staying. Pilo bhabi is a trek of a few km from Koshin Don where there are a few families of shore-dwelling Nicobarese.
I am deeply worried about the Govt. decision of developing a tourist hub on Great Nicobar.
Thanks Tapas for your informative feedback.
During all my visits to the region I was impressed with the strict regulations imposed by the government that protected both the indigenous tribes as well as the local ecology on the various islands. Unfortunately I too heard some of the rumours regarding the future plans for this region (especially Great Nicobar Island) and, like you, I too am disturbed by them and sincerely hope that they are unfounded.
Tapas Chakrabarty says
Informative but very disturbing. Thanks for sharing this.
Vinay Pratap Singh says
Hii driandsouza sir,
It was a pleasurable journey you narrated according to your trip. There is more than the things one can visit in Great Nicobar Islands. I am proud to be say that I am loving and loving this place past two years. I would like to add that if you required pictures please write me on my mail email@example.com.
Thanks and regards
Hi Vinay. Many thanks for your appreciation. I am truly envious of the fact that you have got to enjoy this paradise for the past two years. I will definitely get in touch with you to learn more about this beautiful location. Warm regards, Dr. Ian.