Katchal Island, Andaman & Nicobar Islands Overview
One of the many beautiful yet secluded islands of Nicobar archipelago, Katchal Island is a destination that combines a hair-raising past and an abundant beauty waiting to be explored. Between Andaman and Nicobar, talks about the latter is mostly overshadowed by its more popular and much more visited neighbour. Thus the stunning beauty of the pristine Nicobar Islands stays hidden from the world at large mostly. Among the many such isolated islands of the archipelago, one of the remotest ones is Katchal Island. Brimming with a historical origin story, a tale of a tragic past and an almost-unexplored stretch of natural beauty, the virgin island of Katchal awaits its curious tourists in silence and serenity.
Things to do in Katchal
The island has only recently been declared open. Before that, permission had to be taken from Port Blair administration to enter Katchal. But there sure are things to see and do. Like the other islands of Andaman, there is a white sand beach here, stretching for the entire shoreline, occasionally broken by greenery. Thus Katchal Island makes an excellent destination for a day out at the beach.
The hills of Katchal are made of calcareous sandstone and marble slates and are covered with lush tropical forests. The forests hide a plethora of endemic flora and fauna, including a spectacular opportunity of birdwatching. Sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking out here at Katchal.
Best Time to Visit Katchal Island
Like the rest of Andaman Islands, Katchal too is best visited during the winter months. November to May is the ideal time to visit. Although climatic conditions are not harsh or extreme during the summer, being tropical locations, it can be pretty hot and humid from April through June. However, temperature does not cross 35°C on an average. The monsoon season brings heavy showers, which is not suitable for outdoor visits.
How to Reach Katchal Island
One can reach Port Blair either by flight from any major city of India or by ship vessel from the ports of Kolkata, Vizag, and Chennai. Katchal Island is 300 km away from Port Blair. The only mode of transport to get there from Port Blair is via helicopter as of yet. The helicopter service is provided by the government of Andaman and Nicobar and has subsidy prices for islanders and government members.
What is Katchal Island all about?
History of Katchal Island
One of the restricted islands of Nicobar, Katchal, previously known as Tihanyu, is an Aboriginal Tribal Reserve Area and foreign individuals needed special permission to visit the island. Even for the Indian tourists, it is only a day-tour destination. No residence was allowed either, except the government employees who were posted there. Recently, some islands were opened up by the Ministry of Home Affairs in India for potential tourists and Katchal was among the 29 inhabited islands which made it to the list. It would no longer be under the rules of Restricted Area Permit that was applicable for foreign tourists until the end of 2022 as of yet, to develop tourism in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Katchal is home to both indigenous and non-indigenous people. As per history, Katchal was part of the overseas kingdom of the Cholas of Tanjore, Tamil till the Danish explorers started coming over, and then finally the British Empire took over the island in 1869. Later with India's independence, Katchal Island became a part of Andaman and Nicobar and was included in the country's administration.
Apart from occasional events, Katchal is an island that preferred to stay hidden with its little world. It got a bit of a crowd on January 1, 2000, when eminent people had gathered for the millennium's first sunrise.
Native Nicobari tribes reside here in Katchal, and so do migrated Tamil people. The tribal people from West Bay Katchal believe that the current population of the island came from the worms who survived the great flood of ancient times. In the urban areas, there is a jetty, post office, police station, schools and residential houses, and a PWD Guest House for those who visit the island. There is no hotel as of yet, as the island is yet to be commercialized.
Rebirth of Katchal Island
Katchal was one of the islands in the Indian Ocean which were devastated by the 2004 Tsunami. On the early morning of 26th December, surging waves caused by tectonic plate movements washed the entire island. Among the 5000 people missing from the whole Andaman and Nicobar, more than 1500 were from Katchal itself. The few who survived did so by taking refuge in the hills of the island.
After the restorations were done, the natives regrouped and formed five tribal villages, by the name of E-Wall, Meenakshi Ram Nagar, Japan Turkey, Sallo Turkey, and Upper Katchal. Slowly and steadily, the island has managed to come back to its former glory.
1. Do not spare long holidays for a vacation to Katchal itself. Include it as a part of Andaman visit. Otherwise, it would not be worth the trouble. There aren't as many attractions there yet.
2. Although enough urbanized, Katchal Island is not your usual metropolitan city. If there are any specific commodity you use - a medicine, equipment for health or anything else which is needed urgently - carry it with yourself. Do not expect it to find over there easily.
If you want to explore the hidden treasures of Andaman and Nicobar, that goes beyond the main islands and hides in the many small locations scattered around in the Bay of Bengal, then Katchal Island is a great place to start.
Photos of Katchal Island
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