With shimmering crystal sandy beaches, gem-like emerald waters and a tropical diversity so vast, these islands beckon travelers looking to unwind and relish the serenity of nature’s bounty.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is an enclave of around 600 islands and islets at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. A majority of these islands are occupied by the Andaman group while Nicobar makes up a minor portion of this archipelago. The Nicobar Islands are 150 km from the Andaman Islands and have been sealed off from visitors by the government of India at the request of the indigenous groups that inhabit the area. However, the Andaman Islands are enchanting enough and you would have to set aside plenty of time to see and do everything they have to offer. With its fascinating marine ecosystem and the well preserved vast submerged mountain range, it is considered one of the world’s best diving spots. The island is inhabited predominantly by Bengali people, indigenous tribal folk and migrants from Kerala and Tamil Nadu which is mirrored in the cuisine that is available throughout the islands.
Our journey begins on a sunny morning at Port Blair, which is the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and sits in the Southern district area. Soon after arrival, we step onto the first ferry and begin our island hopping excursion. Havelock Island sits 41 kilometers north-east of Port Blair and it takes about an hour and a half to reach there. The government ferries are available all days of the week except Sundays and there are private ferries which carry passengers throughout the week. However there is a big difference in the ticket fares between the two, so one should choose what is suitable.
Havelock is one of the larger islands in the Andamans and also the most popular tourism destination since the government has taken pains to promote eco-tourism here. We were booked at the Green Imperial in Govind Nagar from where the beach is just a few minute’s walk. The accommodation matched the authentic nature of a coastal lifestyle with bamboo huts and lush forests in the background. The next day we headed for Radhanagar beach, which is just a 20 minute bus ride. This beach has received ‘the Best Beach in Asia’ award given by Time magazine in 2004. The water here is a deep turquoise in color and the shore is so vast that you can easily find a perfectly quiet spot away from the hum-drum. A short walk up the coast leads to a hidden gem, Neil’s Cove, a small semi-circle of a beach where dense exotic plants and trees hug the coast while emerald waters shimmer in the tropical sun.
Soon after lunch, we were driven to Kalapathar Beach which is a 20 minute bus ride with sea facing views. The beach has a short shore backed up by fragrant tropical jungles and is dotted with black rocks, although one can still swim in the waters. On the way to Radhanagar Beach is another popular beach called the Elephant Beach with the option of a 2 km hike through a forest. One can indulge in various water sports such as jet-skis, snorkeling, scuba-diving or go for long boat rides around the islands. The next day after a scrumptious meal of fish and rice, we boarded our ferry to visit Neil Island. The ferry takes around 45 minutes to reach there and the view of all the other islands is something to behold. Neil Island is small and the beaches that dot these shores are interestingly named after mythological characters of the epic Ramayana. Our accommodation here was at Break Water on Ramnagar Beach and is highly recommended for backpackers. You can hire a bicycle at a decent price and pedal your way through the island tirelessly. Bharatpur Beach is one of the popular sandy beaches, where all water sports are on offer and a great way to spend time is also by taking a glass boat ride for viewing corals.
Come evening, we set off for Laxmanpur Beach which is known for great sunset views. The trail leading up to this beach is a beautiful myriad of coconut and beetle nut trees reminding us of the coastal topography. The sea current here is strong and the waves wash up in every direction. The next morning, at the break of dawn we cycled to Sitapur Beach which rewarded us with a spectacular sunrise. It is also a haven for meditation. The energy one feels on that warm morning, sipping tea by the shore, watching the sun refresh our vital energies is something that everyone should experience at Neil. Then after a nutritious breakfast we caught the ferry that took us back to Port Blair. Upon arrival we made our way to Port Blair’s only beach, Corbyn’s Cove which is livened up by food and souvenir stalls, fancy restaurants with bars and is a great viewpoint where you can sit back with a beverage and enjoy the sights and sounds. The road leading to Corbyn’s Cove is especially a treat for seaside lovers.
The next morning we boarded a ship and set sail for a 7- hour cruise to Little Andaman, an island 120 km away from Port Blair. On the way to this destination one can spot many islands from the viewing deck, such as Sister Islands, Ross Island, Viper Island, Wandoor and Chidiyatapu amongst many others. Little Andaman is known as one of the best surfing destinations in India with waves as high as 15 meters. Upon arrival, we boarded the local bus and headed for Butler Bay. We were to spend the night at this lovely place named Jina Resort where we met like-minded travelers from around the world. Little Andaman is also known for mystical waterfalls in the middle of exotic jungles. We hiked 4 km through a treacherous trail to reach one named Whisper Wave with local guides showing us the way. All nature lovers will be enchanted by this wonderful sight. We indulged in snorkeling for a couple of hours in Butler Bay and found the experience thrilling to say the least.
The owner of our resort, a sweet man presented us with fish dinner cooked in the traditional way using banana leaves and roasting it in a fire dugout, primitive style. On our last day, we heading back to Port Blair and hopped on a bus that would take us to Chidiyatapu. This place is full of saltwater crocodiles, so swimming is naturally prohibited. However, it has a unique view which is not that easily accessible in the Andamans. The beach is surrounded by hills giving the landscape a feel of a lake rather than an ocean. There is also a hiking trail which leads up the hill to a surreal viewing point that commands a panoramic view of the entire coastal area.
It was an exciting ten days filled with diverse activities. The tropical flora and fauna is something that will not fail to capture your imagination with its uniqueness. The biological diversity of both marine and land animals of these islands leaves you in awe. The Andaman Islands awaits you, offering a magical vacation you can cherish for the rest of your life.