Travel Diaries: Andaman & Nicobar Islands

One thing that I love about my husband is that he has a bigger travel bug than I do. Granted that his profession ( he is a sailor) takes him around the world but he seldom finds time to explore the city he is in and at some level I am glad he doesn’t because then it would have been a pain to convince him to take me to places he has already been to. One country my dearest hubby has nit had the chance to explore is India…yup…sounds crazy but its true so this year for our anniversary trip, we decided that we were not going to go around the world and travel withing the country and one of the first options that came to our mind is the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands consist of 572 islands in all among which only a few are counted as tourist attractions. Nicobar is totally out-of-bounds to tourists as it is inhabited by the protected tribal communities of the island.

There are just two ways to reach the island – by sea or by air. There are passenger ships from Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam that take around 3 days to reach Port Blair. If you are planning to fly in then you will find that most pocket-friendly options have a layover at Kolkata or Chennai though I think Vistara has a direct flight which doesn’t burn a big whole in your holiday budget as well.

As I mentioned before, even though Andaman is a cluster of more than 500 islands only a few are accessible to tourist. If you are visiting Andaman then you have to visit Port Blair because none of the other islands have an airport or a port big enough for the ships used to reach the islands so the capital city welcomes every traveler who wants to explore this beautiful piece of paradise.

We had decided to visit three Island – Port Blair, Havelock Island and Neil Islands and on these islands we decided to stay with the Sea Shell Resort. Sea Shell is one of the more well-known and luxury properties on these islands and I am so happy that we decided to stay with them. All our rooms/villas had a beautiful view, the property at all three locations was gorgeous with private beaches on Havelock & Neil Islands, service was impeccable and the food was amazing.  Out of the three, my favorite has to be the villa we booked at the Havelock Islands which had two floors, a little balcony and a porch that had a hammock. Needless to say, me and the hammock were absolutely inseparable during my whole stay :p

Even though we stayed at Port Blair for two nights, I would say a single day is enough to explore this hilly island. Port Blair is the commercial center of the island clusters so it’s obviously busy like any other city. Tourist attractions worth visiting are the Cellular Jail and the Corbyn’s Cove Beach. Cellular Jail is one of the most famous attractions of the islands, the history is fascinating and the view from the roof is breathtaking. The jail also has a daily light and sound show that takes you through the history again but I would say that if you are alone and not with kids or elders, just skip it because it’s not that great. Corbyn beach is a pretty small beach, not ideal for swimming but great for a stroll. They also have really cheap jet ski at the beach where they take your around for a good 30 minutes at 500 bucks so its worth a visit if you want to try the ski.

The Cellular Jail

The next day, we went on the three island tour where a ferry took us to Ross Island, Viper Island and North Bay Island. While both Viper and Ross Island have ruins of buildings that were created when the Britishers used these Islands as their winter homes and prisons. North Bay on the other hand is water sport fanatic’s heaven. There are dive shacks on the whole island that offer Scuba Diving, Sea Walking,  Snorkeling and Glass Boat Ride. All these water sports are pretty cheap compared to what they cost in any other part of the world. I unfortunately couldn’t try any of the water sports as I had a bad cold so wasn’t allowed to be underwater. Hubby on the other hand like a true water baby tried scuba and was super happy with the experience.

After Port Blair, we took a passenger ferry to the Havelock Islands. This place was the highlight of my whole trip and the moment you get down at the jetty, you are greeted with clear blue water and clan white sand. After our experience at Krabi, we knew that the best way to explore a small island is on a scooty so we decided we wanted to do the same here as well.  The roads in the town are pretty safe but you don’t find direction signs anywhere so you have to depend on asking the locals or the traffic cops for help which is not to bad because they are pretty tourist friendly.

 

In Havelock, there are 3 places you can visit – Kalapathar Beach, the famous Radhanagar Beach and Elephant Beach. While Kalapathar and Radhanagar are accessible by road, you need to take a boat to travel to the Elephant Beach.  Elephant beach again is a hub for water sports so if you haven’t tried water sports at Port Blair then Elephant Beach is a good option.

Coming to the other two beaches, Kalapathar was a 6 km drive from our hotel while Radhanagar Beach was around 15 kms. I would advice not taking your scooty to Radhanagar as the roads are not to great so take a car but if you have hired a bike or a scooty, then you have to drive down to the Kalapathar Beach and  by have to I mean “you will regret it if you miss this”. The whole drive to the Kalapathar beach is along the beautiful waters on one side and lush greenery on the other. There are a few secluded spots just before the main which is good of you are looking for some peace and quite. The main beach has huge black rocks lined against the sea-shore and hence the name. I think more than the beach, it was the drive that made this trip unforgettable.

 

Radhanagar Beach on the other hand is the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. The water is perfect for swimming and the sand is so clean and soft that all you want to do is nothing except just sit and take in the sound of the waves. Also, there are a few shacks around the beach where you can grab a quick bite after a swim and shops selling local stones and handmade jewelry for you to shop.

Our next destination was Neil Island which was an hour away from Havelock. Neil Island was the smallest island out of the three we visited but beautiful nonetheless. There are a couple of places you can visit there which includes Bharatpur Beach, Lakmanpur or the Sunset Point and The Natural Bridge. Bharatpur is a nice little beach but after visiting Kalapathar and Radhanagar beach, we kind of felt disappointed.  The Natural Bridge on the other hand-made our visit to the Neil Islands totally worth the effort. The natural bridge or the Howrah Bridge was formed when two living natural corals acme together and formed a structure that resembles a bridge. Make sure you go when its low tide because the way to the bridge is a little slippery and waves make it worse and hire a guide there as he will help to take you to the bottom of the bridge.

Food wise, Andaman was definitely one of the best trips I have had in a while. The sea food is amazing and even though we were told that everything is imported from Kolkata and Chennai, the food was surprisingly reasonable. I am obsessed with sea food so I obviously had a blast and tried everything from prawns, pomfret, crab, lobsters, snapper and so much more. In Port Blair, try Sea Shell for their fish fry and the tawa chicken, then there is The Lighthouse near Marine Park where you have to try the Crab fry with onions, fried snapper, grilled lobster, fish tikka and kolhapuri chicken. In Havelock try Full Moon Cafe for a quite evening and good food, Fat Martin for their fresh juices and pancakes and the Golden Spoon for their lobsters and grilled snapper.

 

The best time of the year to visit the Andaman is between October and May. The waters are very clear and relatively placid after the monsoons making them perfect for under water activities. To answer the ” What to pack” question well, get those light summer dresses, shorts , comfortable tees and swimwear in that travel bag of yours. Also, do not forget to carry flip-flops, sunglasses and a very good sunscreen.

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