If you have looked up the best tourist attractions of Andaman Islands, chances are you’ve heard about the limestone caves Andaman. But is it worth your time? Read on to find out
Limestone Caves Andaman
Travel isn’t only about the destination. It is about the journey too. When it comes to the Limestones caves in Andaman, this saying rings true. The beautiful Limestone caves inAndaman are a visual treat to a nature lover.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock formed at the bottom of the sea. It is formed over millions of years when various deposits of marine life, shells, corals and skeletons undergo a natural compression to form unique shapes within the cave. The caves are lined up with stalactites and stalagmites that hold the secret of a million years of Andaman.
Nestled deep within the mangroves and amidst the lush rainforest, the Limestone caves in Andaman are highly recommended to be on your Andaman itinerary. Here’s what to expect when you visit the Limestone caves in Andaman
1. Prepare to get up early (like… really early!)
Vacations are time for a good snooze and having a lazy Sunday every day. But not if you choose to visit the Limestone caves. There are two reasons for this. If you have your pit stop at Port Blair, the caves are around 100+ kms away. You’ll first have to get to Baratang by road which involves traveling through the forest reserve. This is done only in a convoy and you’ll have to be on time to catch the convoy fleet. In most cases, it involves waking up at 2AM to start your journey by 3AM and get to the convoy check post by 4:30AM. That way you’ll be well in time to be among the 100 odd cars that get through the convoy that morning. Luckily, the check post has some hot tea and coffee available. You’ll have to submit some id proofs and once this is accepted, you’ll be allowed to pass.
2. The journey is beautiful
Once you are past the grouchy experience of waking up at an odd hour, take the time to enjoy the beauty around you. You’ll be travelling through Andaman’s lush rainforests with trees forming a wonderful canopy at times. You’ll be amazed at the shades of greens. The cars aren’t permitted to stop along this drive as it passes the restricted Jarawa reserve tribal belt.
After over an hour or so, you’ll have to take cross a creek on a vehicle ferry at Middle Strait to reach Baratang. It is quite a sight to see buses and cars get on the ferry to be transported.The ferry ride takes about ten minutes or so after which you need to get off at Nilambur Jetty to take a free permit to Baratang island.
After this you get to take a marvellous speedboat ride inside the mangroves from the main creek to the Nayadera Jetty. With a wonderful canopy of green around you, this is boat ride is one of the wonderful highlights of the journey. You are restricted from touching the waters during the ride and keep your hands inside the boat as there will be other boats passing by at close proximity. Many find this ride to be a bit queasy for their preference. The idea is to come well-prepared. If you have a hint of sea or travel sickness, be sure to take a tablet the night before you travel.
After getting off the boat, you are in for a 10-min final trek to the limestone caves. It gets a little difficult if you are elderly – but there are no alternatives here. The trek is through the forest so it is best you come prepared with floaters or walking shoes for this trip. Don’t forget to carry your own water, a cap, and a few bites. Once you reach the caves, you will get vendors selling coconut water, cucumber and the likes but that’s about it. Don’t forget to remember your boat and boat guy as you’ll need to find them when you get back.
At the limestone caves
Welcome to witness a marvel of nature. The rare set of caves have both stalactites and stalagmites in the same cave. Most people love to interpret their own thoughts on the shapes. The caves wear a shade of yellow and white and to a good extent are untouched by human hands (well.. the top at least). During peak season, you’ll find scours of tourists at the cave which can become a bit crowded. You’ll have to wait around a bit to find your spot to enjoy the caves. When you do, take a deep breath – you are sitting around an amazing natural wonder that has existed since time immemorial… and it is here to stay long after you and I leave this world.
How limestone caves are formed
Limestone caves around the world are formed over millions of years as a natural cavity underneath the surface of the earth. The world’s earliest ocean life form is said to have existed 3.8 billion years ago. The single celled algae called cyanobacteria performed photosynthesis, releasing oxygen into the air. There were many other chemical reactions performed by these algae which resulted in the formation of dolomatic limestone – a sedimentary rock. During this time, the acidic groundwater or underground rivers dissolved some of the limestone leaving cavities behind. Eventually, due the movement in the earth’s crust, these became exposed to dry land.
As time passed, the weak carbonic acid in rainwater dissolved and continued to erode the limestone formations to give it various shapes and structures. Some of the structures you’ll see in the limestone caves are:
Speleothem: The general term for calcium carbonate deposits in a cave
Flowstones: These are speleothems on the walls or the floor of the cave
Stalactite: Stalactite finds its origin in the Greek word stalaktos, which means “dripping”. These are the conical shapes you see hanging from the roof of the cave. Water reacts with carbon di oxide to form carbonic acid which drips through the roof of the cave making calcium carbonate deposits. The deposits harden over a period of time to form stalactites.
Stalagmites: Stalagmite finds its origin in the Greek word stalagma, to “drop”. Stalagmites are stalactites in reverse. They are conical rock like structures formed on the floor of the cave. They rise when calcium carbonate builds up over time as mineral-bearing water drips from the roof of the cave.
Columns: In a rare occurrence, the stalactites and stalagmites meet at a point and as a whole harden into one ‘column’.
Back to reality:
Once you’ve seen the caves to your heart’s content, you can stop by for a quick snack of cucumber and coconut water. You’ll have to make your way back to the jetty, take the speedboat into the mangroves and a long ride back to your ferry.
At this point, some people choose to club this trip by also visiting the mud volcano. You’ve come this far so it simply makes sense that you gear up and make this visit to see another of nature’s wonderful phenomenon in Andaman.
Once you are done, you’ll be making your way back to Port Blair via a drive through the reserve again.
Needless to say, you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day and want to have a quick dinner and get to bed. After all, tomorrow will be another adventure filled day in Andaman!
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