One of the most magical parts of Andaman is that is is home to India’s only active volcano. How many places can boast of white sand beaches, emerald blue waters, rainforests and an active volcano – all in one vacation! But there is a lot more to Andaman volcanoes than what meets the eye.
The volcano in Andaman is one of the top tourist attractions. Just thinking about visiting one feels adventurous. One can imagine the selfies and photos going on Facebook and the awe they gather! But its best to have all the details before you decide to visit.
There is more than one volcano in Andaman!
Surprised? Let’s delve in.
The ‘active’ volcano of Barren Island
The ‘active’ volcano you hear about is the one on Barren Island. This is the only confirmed ‘active’ volcano in South Asia and the only active volcano along a chain of volcanoes from Sumatra to Myanmar. The volcano’s first eruption was recorded in 1787. After this, it erupted around 10 times with the most recent one being this year (2017) in February. The volcano is located on an oceanic crust that is 106 million years old.
The most recent eruption in February saw the volcano not only spewing ash but also lava.
This island is called the ‘Barren’ island for a reason. There is hardly any vegetation around the island that can survive its harsh conditions. Though there are no humans on the island, there are a few goats, birds, bats and rodents that manage to survive here. Some eruptions like the one in 1991 left the island bereft of many species but life eventually came back to normal once the volcano settled.
Why visit the Barren Island volcano?
The waters around the Barren Island are reputed to be one of the best scuba diving destinations around the world. With crystal clear visibility, an abundance of Manta Rays and interesting basalt formations, topography of past lava flows that come from the years of eruptions, diving here will give you an adventure that you’ll find nowhere else in Andaman and very few places in the world. You can access the dive site with requisite permissions via a scuba operator in Havelock. The area around the island is also popular for sport fishing.
The dormant volcano of Narcondam Island
Norcandam is a small island in Andaman currently classified as a dormant volcano. The word Narcondam probably originated from the Tamil word ‘Naraka Kundam’ or the pit of hell. The island was formed from a volcano which was last known to be active in 2005.
Though humans barely inhabit the island, the island is incidentally a wildlife sanctuary and notified as a protected reserve. It is home to the Narcondam Hornbill which is endemic to Narcondam. It is also home to the Narcondam small flying fox and numerous other species of birds and animals.
The sea around the island is also a popular diving spot and sport fishing site. There are massive barrel sponges, huge gorgonian fans and lush soft corals alongside rocky ridges and steep slopes which make it interesting for scuba divers to explore. The island is very remote and diving is possible only via a live-aboard. We would also recommend that only experienced scuba divers tackle this dive.
Active Mud Volcanoes of Andaman
A mud volcano is caused by the eruption of hot mud, slurries, gases and water from the ground forming a dome like mud structure. These are not true-blue volcanoes as they do not erupt lava and are not necessarily driven by magmatic activity.
The smallest mud volcanoes may just be a couple of meters wide while the largest could be a few kilometers wide! Did you know that around 1100 mud volcanoes have been identified around the world. Because their temperatures don’t rise too much (between 36°F and 212°F) many of them have been used as mud baths too!
In Andaman, mud volcanoes are found at Diglipur and Baratang. The Baratang mud volcano is the one most commonly visited by tourists. Most tourists plan out to spend an entire day at Baratang so that they can cover both the Limestone caves and the mud volcano on the same day.
The Mud Volcanoes of Diglipur
If you are in for an early start to the day and a nice trek through the rainforest, you can visit the Diglipur mud volcanoes. Diglipur is around 300 kms north of Port Blair which you can travel by road or waterways. Post that you’ll need to head to Shyam Nagar which is 40 kms away from Diglipur. After an exhilarating walk of about an hour through the dense rainforest you will catch your first glimpse of a mud volcano.
Not all mud volcanoes are active so you will have to ask around before you visit and it is best to do this with the help of a local expert. There are a few mud volcanoes in the area in the radius of a few kilometers. So if you find a mud volcano that has dried up, you can try looking up the others.
A word of caution
Most people go to the volcano site expecting a ‘Volcano’. They expect it to be some kind of adventure to catch a sight of one. And then, when all they see is a pile of mud and a few bubbles, their expectations are shattered.
Be clear about what you’ll expect at a mud volcano site – Mud! This is a geological phenomenon and quite interesting to see mud bubble out and create its path around the forest. The experience of getting there is fun too.
The mud volcano in Baratang
You can visit the mud volcano in Baratang on the same day you choose to visit the Limestone caves. The short trek to the volcano can get a bit hot with the sun shining high in the sky. The idea is that if you have come that far, you might as well visit it.
Depending on when you visit, you’ll find the area of the mud volcano moist with recently spewed mud. Because it is more popular with tourists, the main area around the volcano is cordoned off with a bamboo fence.
One of the most interesting sights around the volcano was the coconut vendors selling tender coconut water. We’ve seen coconuts bigger than the size of footballs here!
All in all, the volcanoes of Andaman give it a unique edge as a tourist spot. It offers a sense of adventure that no other place in India does. It is time to pack your bags and take that adventure right now!
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