The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are also known as Emerald Islands. This Archipelago of 572 islands, islets and rocks is stretched over an area of about 700 kilometers from north to south; out of these only 38 islands are inhabited. The northern part with 544 islands forms the Andaman group and the southern part with remaining 28 islands forms the Nicobar group. These two groups are separated by a ten-degree channel. The uppermost point of Andaman is just a few dozen miles away from Coco-islands of Myanmar, infamous for its prison. The southern most "pigmillion point" of Nicobar, now known as Indira Point is a few hundred miles away from Indonesia's Aceh Islands, the epicenter of 2004 Earthquake which triggered the devastating Tsunami The capital of this Union Territory, Port Blair, lies at an equidistance of around 1200 Kilometers by sea from each of Kolkata, Visakhapatnam and Chennai. Andaman and Nicobar groups of islands are situated in the Bay of Bengal, mid way between peninsular India and Mayanmar, spreading like a broken necklace in the North-south direction. Total geographic area of Andaman & Nicobar Islands is 8249 sq.km. of which Andaman group of islands cover 6408 sq.km. while Nicobar group cover 1841 sq.km.
Floating in splendid isolation the topography of these islands is hilly and abounds in evergreen forests. The sandy beaches on the edge of meandering coastline are fringed with coconut palms that sway to the rhythm of the sea. The sea around the islands offers excellent scope for water sports. Adventure tourism like trekking, island camping, snorkeling and scuba diving are the real attractions. A visit to these islands is a memorable and lifetime experience. The sandy beaches are natural choices for the turtles. Under-water marine life, corals, crystal clear water and mangrove land creeks present a rare view, are the precious gifts of nature to this land. The flora and fauna of these islands have certain features common with those of Chinese, Malaysian and Myanmarese regions. It is a fact that the array of the species and sub-species found on these islands is not found anywhere else in the world.
Any mention of this place brings to the mind the infamous Cellular Jail, which was built during British regime. Standing on the seafront this jail has a unique architecture. In its original form it had seven wings much like the spokes of a bicycle. It was actually a three storeyed structure with 698 solitary cells. The Central Tower was used by the sentries to keep a watch on each and every inmate. Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, the Supreme Commander of I.N.A., visited the jail in December 1943 when the islands were under the control of Japan. Two wings of the jail had been demolished by Japan during the World War II and two more were demolished after Indian independence. In May 1969, the Union Government announced preservation of the remains of the cellular jail as a national memorial. A martyrs' column was declared open in September 1985 by the then President of India. To keep alive the saga of the freedom fighters epic struggle, the eternal flame at the "Cellular Jail National Memorial" was lit by the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas on 9th August, 2004, coinciding with the anniversary of the Quit India Movement.
On December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake measuring 9 on the Richter scale accompanied by Tsunami struck the Andaman and Nicobar islands at 6.29 A.M. The Nicobar group was worst affected being close to the epicentre in Indonesia. According to the official estimate, 1,386 people died and 5,764 went missing. The Island Administration with the help of military authorities rendered yeoman services to mitigate the suffering of the victims. There are numerous places of tourist interest on these islands. The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor, Mount Harriet, Neil Island, Havelock Island, Baratang Island, Long island, Rangat, Mayabunder and Diglipur are among the important places in Andaman group. Car Nicobar, Kakana, Kamorta, Tilanchang, Katchal, Teressa, Little Nicobar and Campbell Bay of great Nicobar are a few very interesting places in Nicobar group.