A discussion on Indian tourism cannot be completed without the mention of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Those stunning coral reefs, lush green forests, golden beaches, and vast scenic landscapes can make anybody fall in love with the place. This archipelago, located at the intersection of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, is vastly popular among the tourists for the diverse experience it provides to its visitors.However, while the majority of the Andaman Islands is famous for their beaches and landscapes, there is still some less known forested part of it which, on a visit to them, assure a guaranteed bliss of experience to the visitors. Baratang Island is one of them.
Geographical and demographic details:
Belonging to the North and Middle Andaman districts, it is located 150 km north of central port Blair with Middle Andaman at its north side and South Andaman at its south side. Spread across an area of 242.6 square km, it’s considered as one of the main islands in the Great Andaman Chain. Ritchie’s Archipelago is located 14 km to its east. Baratang Island mainly comprises of lush greenery, with major attractions are the beaches, mangrove creeks, mud volcanos, historical places, and limestone caves. Throughout India, the mud volcanoes can be found only across Baratang Island. These volcanos, also known as Jalki among native people, occasionally erupt, with the last eruptions being recorded around 2005. A part of the Rangat Taluk of the Andaman Archipelago, there are a total of 12 villages with around 6500 inhabitants in Baratang Island. Excluding children below the age of 6, it has a literacy rate of 100%, with the majority of the populations belonging to the Jarawa tribes.
History of the island:
Baratang Island is also known as Ranchiwalas Island. During the 19th century, due to the political unrest in Ranchi, many of the locals requested refuges in the missionaries by converting into Christianity. The then ruling Britishers sent them to the Baratang Island for farming and other cultivations. Those locals got settled over there. In the year 1985, a lighthouse was built and commissioned at the eastern entrance.
While other much-developed islands over the Andamans like Havelock Island, Ross Island, etc. are well known for their astounding landscapes and water sports activities, Baratang Island is more of an unfrequented place. Still, it has plenty of picturesque places to visit. The Majority of the island is filled with mangrove creeks and dense forests, providing the visitors one of the closest to nature experiences. Similar to other islands in Andaman, Baratang also provides a rich coral reef experience to the visitors. People can also plan for trekking or hiking across the mud volcanoes and mangroves as well as different watersports activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, sea walking, etc. There are a few places that must be included in a tourist’s Baratang Island itinerary. Let’s have a look at some of them:
While the majority of the island is filled with dense, lush greenery, the path to the island is filled with mangrove creeks. Many couples opt for honeymoon trips in Baratang Island in order to have a romantic boat riding experience through the tunnel-shaped creeks. The beautiful creeks and dense and quiet surroundings guarantee a more memorable experience. Limestone caves and Mud volcanoes: Some of the major attractions of Baratang Island are the visit to the limestone caves and mud volcanoes. The Limestone caves are mostly found amidst the dense forests or around the mangrove creeks. These caves are mainly formed due to the natural compression of marine and coral lives over a long period of time and are nothing less than a visual treat. Around the peak seasons, tourists in large numbers make day tours in Baratang Island and visit the caves making it more crowded during those seasons. As previously mentioned, the mud volcanoes can only be found in Baratang Island across India. Active mud volcanoes are located around 4km from the Nilambur Jetty, where the visitors can experience these bubbling piles of mud formed due to the emission of natural gasses from underground. Beaches: The island is also home to a number of beaches like Baludera beach, Merk Bay beach, etc. These beaches are famous for their pristine blue water, white sands as well as serene, tranquil atmosphere. Visitors can indulge themselves in various water sports activities scuba diving,
snorkeling, dolphin spotting, boating, etc.Parrot Island: This island is a major attraction among the tourists due to its one of the largest collection of different kinds of parrots and other exotic birds. Located around 30km from the Baratang Jetty, this place is a birder’s paradise. The view of returning parrots during the sunset at Parrot Island is beautiful beyond words. Visitors can opt for different group tours in Baratang Island that includes boating through the mangroves well as sightseeing and trekking through the beautiful landscapes across the island. Visitors can also book single day tours in Baratang Island that includes sightseeing through the majority of the places, boating through the mangroves. While the island is more feasible to visitors than it used to be, the visitors still need to follow the rules strictly in order to ensure own safety at the Baratang Island which includes being careful while travelling in the ferry boats against the saltwater crocodiles or interaction with the Jarawas as they are still hostile towards outsiders.
The tribes of Baratang Island, The Jarawa tribe, are one of the oldest civilizations in human evolution. The Jarawas mostly stay in the jungle and avoid interactions with tourists and outsiders. They are mostly dependent on the forest, wild animals as well as marine creatures across the island for food. The Supreme Court of India has banned Human Safaris across the place because of the exploitation of the tribal people by the tourists. However, the local authorities have made some changes in their policies to allow the same.
Places to Stay:
As Baratang is still undeveloped, there are not many resorts or five-star restaurants across the island. Three government-run guest houses: APWD guest house, Panchayat Guest House, and Forest Guest House are there with a privately owned guest house named Dew Dale starting its operations recently. However, the visitors have to pre-book their stay while tour booking in Baratang Island.How to reach: Baratang Island is around 104 km away from the Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair. However, in order to reach Baratang, visitors have to cross around 53 km of dense forest, which also comes under the Jarawa Reserve. Visitors have to get past a check post at the beginning of the journey. Once the check post is crossed, no two-wheelers are allowed, and visitors can only travel by either a cab or a bus. Taking pictures or interacting with the Jarawas during the trip is strictly prohibited. Once the visitors reach Baratang Jetty, they can travel by ferry boats to the island.