Andaman Feb 2020 Tour Report
Far away from the mainland of India, much further from the Kanyakumari exists the archipelago of tiny islands, the Andaman & Nicobar. Surrounded by the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, it is enriched with supreme scenic beauty of the sandy beaches, volcanic mountains and lush green forests.
This combination of varied landscapes and the distance from the mainland has given rise to many endemic species of wildlife. There can be no halt to exploration, once you step into the forests of the pristine island. Rare and unique species of birds, reptiles, and mammals bring excitement to the wilderness adventure.
Keeping in mind the endemic creatures and serenity of the place, we began with our 9-day birding photo tour at Andaman. Walking through the forests, and tracing the chirp of the birds, we spotted, clicked, and created incredible photographs of the Andaman’s wildlife treasure.
( Images by Sagar Vibhute )
The Surprising Andaman
Our photo tour begins with understanding the place and its wildlife offering to the enthusiastic eyes of the photographers. The tour skipper narrated the overall plan for the next 9 days, explaining the unique habitat of Andaman. He made a list of the names of the endemic birds for the entire photo tour.
Our target was to find the birds and capture them. It was a wonderful start when many endemics like the Andaman Drongo, Andaman Treepie and Andaman Flowerpecker could be spotted in between the shrubs. We saw them fluttering their wings and pecking their beaks on the fruits and insects. We were also waiting patiently and got good images of the lovely Mangrove whistler too.
As we were engrossed in clicking these little birds, a pleasant surprise came our way. We were simply elated when the skipper hushed to carefully observe the seldom seen White Browed Crake. It is highly unlikely that this bird could visit the Andaman Islands. This sighting was probably the second ever record in the Indian subcontinent.
Within a flash of a second, we clicked the pictures of the vagrant. We did not want to miss any angle of the bird. It was a great sight to behold on the first day of the photo tour. At that moment, we knew our photo tour would be an experience filled with surprising moments.
Apart from these, we were able to make lovely images of many other species like the Oriental reed warbler, White-breasted wood-swallow ( endemic species ), Red-throated pipit, Andaman teal ( endemic ), Andaman Shama ( endemic ), White-bellied sea eagle, many flocks of Common redshanks among many others.
The Kingfisher and the Andaman Owls
We had an extra ounce of energy on our second day as we waited for more pleasant moments. On this day, our target bird was the Ruddy kingfisher. The petite fish-eating bird cooperated well with us. We captured many pictures of the small birdie in close proximity.
Once we finished our photo session with the kingfisher, we looked forward to a night walk in the woods. Andaman has bustling night activities by the Owls. It is indeed thrilling to wander in the dark woods and search for the nocturnal birds.
During the night, we alerted our ears to listen to the hoot of the Owls. We moved in the direction of the sounds and spotted varieties of Owls. Andaman Hawk Owl, Andaman Scops Owl, Hume’s Hawk Owl displayed their nightlife and we were more than happy to click them in our cameras.
The Starry Treat
We headed to the Little Andaman to look for more endemic species. By the open beach, a Lesser Cuckoo sat on the branch of a fallen tree stump. It was again a rare sighting in the Andaman. We smiled and listened to the sweet call of the bird while also capturing it. As the night settled over Little Andaman, we headed to look for the elusive Andaman Barn Owls. We were lucky to come across a pair of them perched on a palm tree as if posing for us. We clicked ample pictures of them.
In the thick of the night, we experimented with astrophotography. We installed our photo equipment on the sandy stretches of the beach. We allowed it to capture the vast expanse of night sky loaded with twinkling stars. Though the nights turned out to be a bit cloudy, we were quite chuffed up to let go off an opportunity like this. We had interesting deep discussions on camera settings for capturing star trails and time-lapses.
While the cameras stared at the sky, we laid on the beach gazing at the bright stars. The waves of the ocean kept playing soft music to soothe our minds. Then, an unusual slithering sound shook us. Our hearts skipped a beat to watch the 13 feet long Yellow lipped sea krait move past us.
It was such a close encounter with the highly venomous fella. We tried to capture him in the darkness just by flashing the lights of our phones. We were in awe of his shiny body and stripy scales.
The Friendly Bottle Nosed Dolphins
After having spent a great time in the little Andaman, we embarked on a ship to reach Port Blair. On the way, we witnessed several groups of Bottle-nosed Dolphins jumping out of the ocean to grasp some fresh air.
Dolphins looked like happy creatures trying to have some fun in the ocean. It was a sight of pure joy to watch them fly above the waters. We also watched the flying fish gliding over the water surface. They looked like they were escaping from the water predators.
As we reached Port Blair, another surprise was waiting for us. We sighted a Plaintive Cuckoo, a very rare bird to be seen in the Andaman. The singing bird gave us amazing photographs and delighted our bird-loving cameras.
Saying Goodbye to Andaman
Having spent worthwhile moments in the wilderness of Andaman, it was difficult to bid adieu to the island. The variety of endemic species of birds and reptiles gave us opportunities to click them in their one and only habitat.
The several unexpected moments with the rare species of birds brought more zeal to the photo tour. Discussions about various aspects of natural history, ecology and photography helped us deepen our understanding of the subjects.
At the end of the tour, we were glad to experience the magic of wild Andaman. We said goodbye thinking of the photographs that would stay with us forever.