Spread over a little more than 1,000 sq km, the island of Great Nicobar in the extreme south of Andaman and Nicobar islands is remarkable for a number of reasons. This is the island closest to the epicentre of the earthquake of December 2004 that created the gigantic tsunami, which in turn caused unprecedented damage across South and South East Asia — Great Nicobar is located only about 100 nautical miles from the Banda Aceh in Sumatra, where the earthquake actually happened; the island has been home for thousands of years to two indigenous communities, the Nicobari and the Shompen. It is covered with thick tropical evergreen forests; it is surrounded by pristine oceans that are teaming with life, and, the island also has the southernmost tip of India — Indira Point — located at about 6-1/2 N latitude.
The island is also the site of the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve. Spread over nearly 885 sq km, it is rich in biodiversity, including species of plants and animals that are not found anywhere else on the planet. Declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India in 1989, it was included in the Unesco list of such reserves in 2013 and is one of 10 such biosphere reserves from India to be recognised by Unesco .
In December 2017, the Zoological Survey of India published the first comprehensive account of the biological wealth of this island — 1767 species of animals that include 558 terrestrial and 1209 marine species.
A glimpse here of what this richness is all about!
Pankaj Sekhsaria is a photographer and author.