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An Uncontacted Island In India: North Sentinel Island

by Aishwarya

February 10, 2023

In today’s modern world, we all look out for vacation destinations that are close to nature. Maldives and Mauritius are the two islands that will be there in your travel bucket list. What if we say that, there is an island that is banned for tourists? Well, if you were shocked knowing that, then let us take you through the most isolated island in the world; North Sentinel Island. 

North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal. It is the part of the Andaman Islands that is voluntarily isolated by its residential tribe. North Sentinel Island is home to the Sentinelese people, who are indigenous people in voluntary isolation. We all love our solitude, but Sentinelese loves their solitude way too much. They are considered to be the only uncontacted tribe in the world. The island is not known to many and the Government of India has also banned tourism over there. Under the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Protection of Aboriginal Act of 1956, people are prohibited to visit this island. The North Sentinel Island is protected and looked after by the Government of India. 

Many attempts to visit this island have resulted in violence. There isn’t much information about the island and the government has decided to let them be isolated only. In 2018, the Government of India excluded 29 islands- including North Sentinel- from the Restricted Area Permit region, in an effort of boosting tourism. In November, the government stated that the relaxation of the prohibition was to allow researchers and anthropologists, with pre-approved clearance, to visit North Sentinel. The anthropologists are fascinated by this island as the Sentinelese have not been studied much before. They are violent with the visitors and hence, we don’t even know the exact size of their population. 

The relaxation of the prohibition was done in the hopes of knowing them and their culture, but the result of it was something different. We humans always have an attraction toward the unknown, and hence, many people traveled to the island illegally. In 2006, the death of two fishermen, Sundar Raj and Pandit Tiwari was reported. It is said that their boats drifted too close to the North Sentinel Island and the Sentinelese attacked them. In a similar incident, an American Christian missionary, John Allen Chau was killed in the year 2018. 


The case of John Allen Chau took over the news pretty quickly. The 26-year-old, John, invaded the island illegally, with the motive of spreading Christianity. He went there to preach to them about Jesus and was killed by the Sentinelese on November 17th, 2018. The boatmen who took John over there reported that he saw the tribe dragging John’s dead body to the shore.

In the same fashion, in 2006, when Sundar and Pandit were killed, they were buried on the shore of North Sentinel Island. The government authorities excavated one body, with great difficulty, and handed it over to his family. The body of John is, however, not found. The officials have opened a murder case but have not arrested anyone yet. John’s diary also reveals that he knew he would die and he has made a statement saying “don’t excavate my body”.  

One of the most notable events between outsiders and North  Sentinel happened in 1981 when the Primrose cargo ship struck a nearby coral reef- north sentinel is covered with coral reef- shipwrecking sailors for nearly two weeks. The sailors were also attacked by the Sentinelese, and it is also known that they used the ship's debris to make metal tools. 

There have been more than 11 such violent cases that happened on North Sentinel Island. It is believed that they have their language, Sentinelese. It is an undescribed language and due to the lack of contact, nothing is known of their language and its vitality. After the incidents of violence, India ceased visits in 1997. The first peaceful contact with the Sentinelese was on 4th January 1991. Triloknath, a director of the Anthropological Survey of India, and his colleagues were the first ones to have peaceful contact with them. He also says that the contact didn’t bring much of the secrets out, because they weren’t allowing them to reach them. 


One more miraculous fact about North Sentinel Island is that it survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The Indian government sent some helicopters to see their situation and give them food, but the tribe attacked the helicopter and swayed off the government officials too. While the much-developed cities suffered due to the tsunami, the North Sentinel Island- covered by water on all sides- survived it. Maybe, that is the reason we say that nature protects us when we live with it in alignment. 

The Sentinelese tribe is known to be the last hunter and gatherer civilization to exist. The government has now banned any tourist visits, respecting their desire to be isolated. It is also said that they are not immune to the pathogens of modern society, which makes them prone to modern-day diseases. While we desire to explore every part of the earth, it is better to leave some of the places on their own; untouched, uncontacted and unknown. 

North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal. It is the part of the Andaman Islands that is voluntarily isolated by its residential tribe. North Sentinel Island is home to the Sentinelese people, who are indigenous people in voluntary isolation. 


An island that remains uncontacted, unknown till the date. Let’s know about North Sentinel Island, an island that is nonetheless a mystery to the human race. 


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