Andamans (7 days)
Places to See: Port Blair (Cellular Jail, North Bay water sports, Corbyn’s Cove beach), Havelock Islands (Radhanagar beach, Elephant beach), Jolly Buoy Island/ Redskin Island, Mount Harriet
Best time to visit: October-March
Things to keep in mind:
- Telecom connectivity is not very good in Andamans. When I visited 3 years ago, only BSNL connections were working there.
- One can expect thorough sun tanning in Andamans. It is good to carry a strong sunscreen lotion.
- If you are game about exploring the under sea life, a snorkeling kit might prove to be very handy. They are also available in Andamans.
- Lot of travel is needed in Port Blair for travelling from one port to another and from and to the hotel. It is more convenient to hire a taxi for the entire trip. You can give your schedule to them and they’ll arrange pick-up and drops as and when needed.
Andamans & Nicobar islands is an archipelago in Bay of Bengal with over 570 islands, out of which, a handful are permanently inhabited by people. The tourist hub is based in Andamans. The Nicobar Islands are further south and not very easily accessible. Andamans is nothing short of an exotic trip in India. The coastal nature and sea life here leave a lasting impression. Pristine beaches, amazing seafood and lazy cafes are bound to unchain you from your daily routine and show you the relatively untouched part of the subcontinent.
Day 1: Port Blair
It was the first week of March. We took a flight from Delhi to Port Blair via Chennai. Most of the passengers seemed tourists. As soon as we entered Andaman skies, we could see many small Islands scattered in a purposeless way over the sea. Soon after, we landed at the Veer Savarkar airport and the adventure began. We got ourselves comfortable in our hotel and after couple of hours, hit the first beach: the Carbyn’s Cove beach in Port Blair. Seeing a beach after a long time can be very refreshing. It is more of a commercialized beach in the capital city of Andamans. Remains of Japanese bunkers that were built during World War II, can be seen here. In evening, we visited the cellular jail, which held the great Indian freedom activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The light and sound show narrates the story of the horrors inflicted upon the Indian political prisoners by the Britishers before Independence. Notoriously also known as Kala Pani jail, the stories of the then jail and now monument can be enticing for history lovers. After the show, we explored the food options in the city. Andamans is a bliss for seafood lovers with myriad types of fishes, crab and prawns available for feasting.
Day 2-3: Havelock Islands
One of the most popular islands in the archipelago is Havelock Islands. It is named after a British General, Henry Havelock, who served in India. There are 3 ways to travel to Havelock from Port Blair. One is the government operated ferry, which take around 3-3.5 hours to dock in Havelock. Another is a private operator Makruzz, which offers a better and luxurious ship at a slightly higher price. It is also faster and takes 2-2.5 hours to reach Havelock. A third and more expensive way is to board a seaplane. It would fly you the distance is less than 15 minutes. But if you want to appreciate the ocean views and are in for a bumpy ride, I would suggest going for the ship. Travelling by ship can be a little difficult for someone who is not used to it. I could see many people feeling nauseated during the 3-hour ride. A good way to avoid that is to go to the deck of the ship and not sit in the in built chambers.
Havelock is a treat for nature lovers and has some of the beat beaches. If you believed south Goa has the best beaches, you might get second thoughts after visiting Radhanagar beach here. The beach is pristine with white sands and crystal clear water. It has a long beach line with thick forest on the other side. A good thing is that no commercial sports activities are allowed on the beach, which helps in keeping it clean. A snorkeling kit can be very useful here if you want to swim and capture the sea life from your own eyes. The clear water here, unlike any other beach I have ever seen, is addictive and can make you compare the other ‘beautiful’ beaches with it. On the way to the beach, there are souvenir shops, which mostly have items built using seashells.
After spending a full day on Radhanagar beach, it was time for the widely anticipated Scuba diving. We got a small training in evening and the next morning, after which we plunged into the sea depths. There are a number of diving schools in Havelock and most of them take you to a small beach by a boat. The normal standard is up to 12 meters depth for amateurs. Time seemed to have slowed down underwater. It is a great way to appreciate the underwater life and explore the beauty that lies beneath the surface. There were colorful fishes, big and small fishes, scary and pretty fishes. It is a great experience and should not be missed while visiting Andamans. In the evening, it was time to head back to Port Blair. Our ferry arrived at 4PM with its captain wearing aviators.
Day 4: North Bay Island and Water Sports Complex
North bay is an island not far from Port Blair and is a hub for water sports activities. One can try water scooter, banana ride etc., but the best activity was the Sea walk. We were given giant helmets that were connected to the mother ship by a long hose, which supplied oxygen. We were told to hold hands and form a chain before we started to walk on the seabed. We even got the chance to feed the fishes from our hands. As soon as I opened my hand full of fish food, hundreds of fishes jumped on it. It caused a little tickling, but was a great encounter.
Day 5: Jolly Buoy Island
There are two Islands in Andamans that have a thick coral reef on seabed and are open for tourists. One of them is Jolly Buoy Island and the other one is called the Redskin Island. They are used alternatively for tourists because the huge number of tourists visiting the Island can damage the Corals extensively. So while the Redksin Island was recuperating, we got a chance to visit Jolly Buoy Island. There are only designated boats from the administration that go to the Island. And you also need a clearance to travel there, which can be arranged by your travel operator/guide. It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the Island. The route is mesmerizing and reminds of a mysterious river flowing quietly in the midst of a dense jungle. There are numerous small islands on the way, which seem to be virgin islands, totally untouched by humans. I wish I had a boat with which I could travel to any small island I wanted. After reaching a hundred meters before our destination, we were loaded into small boats, which had glass floors. We covered the last 100 meters on these boats. The glass floors were for us to be able to see the corals. After spending an entire day there, it was time to go back to our abode, Port Blair.
Day 6: Mount Harriet
Mount Harriet is a national park is situated around couple of hours from Port Blair. To go there, a part of sea needed to be crossed. For this, there are giant vessels that regularly run from one shore to another. They carry people, cars, buses and trucks. The national park is located at a height and from there, the picture found on our 20 rupees note can be seen: a lighthouse against the backdrop of green hills.
Day 7: Port Blair to Delhi
Like all vacations, the day arrived when we had to pack our bags and board our flight to home. With lots of memories and promise to visit the captivating Radhanagar beach again, we let the Boeing fly us back to Delhi.