Untouched Depths

Birding, by its very nature, makes one an intrepid traveller as it necessitates voyages to the remote.
Untouched Depths

Birding, by its very nature, makes one an intrepid traveller as it necessitates voyages to the remote. And the mysterious Narcondam Island is by far the remotest part of the country located 240 km northeast of Port Blair. A volcanic island, it is one of the 572 Andaman and Nicobar islands. Though Narcondam’s impenetrable dense tropical rainforests make it impossible to access most of the island, its untouched beauty is what takes the curious travellers there. The island’s name is said to be derived from Tamil words Nara Kundram (Pit of Hell), which refers to its dormant volcano status. 

Another feature that makes the island stand out is its pyramid-like structure rising from the water’s edge with hardly any beaches along its perimeter. The volcano has not known to have been active in recent times. The last time it threw out mud and smoke was on June 8, 2005. 

Perhaps, the biggest highlight of the island spread in an area of 6.8 sq km is the Narcondam Hornbill. The island was even declared a Wildlife Sanctuary essentially to protect the endemic bird. It’s a strikingly beautiful bird characterised by a long, down-curved bill, which is red and ivory. Plumage differs in male and female. The male has a rufous head and neck, and a glossy black body, while females are all black. They have bluish-white pouches and white tails. 

The area was uninhabited till 1968, when the government created a police lookout post. Each team of 17-18 policemen spends three months rotational duty on the island. While the speed-boat trip to Narcondam and back is long, there is plenty of action on the way.

The open seas are great for pelagic (birds that live in sea and away from land) birding. Birds such as Shearwaters, Arctic Skuas, Bridled, Black-naped and Sooty Terns can also be found here. And if you are lucky enough, you may get to see dolphins too. 

Narcondam is not an easy place to travel to. Logistics are complicated because one has to hire a speedboat to reach there. Also, special permissions are needed from the home and environment ministry and Coast Guard. There is no accommodation in Narcondam. Sleeping bags stretched on shacks with wooden planks near the beach form cosy resting quarters. In short, the place makes for an adventurous trip.

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The New Indian Express