What can prepare you before visiting an archipelago of more than 570 islands, known for their palm-lined, white-sand beaches, mangroves, tropical rain-forests, coral reefs and not to forget, some of the world’s last aboriginal tribes? Nothing. Take my word.
You can take a flight from Chennai, Kolkata , Delhi to Port Blair with an average flying time of 2.5 hours.
Alternatively, if you have a long holiday and intend to soak yourself in the deep blue sea, you can take a cruise from Chennai, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam to Port Blair which usually takes 3-4 days (50-60 hours).
Read Also: 10 Best Places to Visit in Andaman Islands
I preferred flying from Chennai to Port Blair (the only airport). Halfway through the book that I was reading in the train, Siddhartha, and the flight started to descend and Andaman’s aerial view is a pristine beauty. What book did I say? A man contemplating life? This is life!
Ahoy Andaman! Here I Come!
Andaman is a paradise for photographers, a scenic beauty waiting to be shot, with every turn you take.
Without much ado, here’s my list of places to visit in Andaman.
This will always remain on top of the list, whether or not you like history. Located at Port Blair, the grief of Kalapani can still be heard in the walls of the Cellular Jail.
The freedom fighters were prisoned here as a part of exile where they have to gone through immense tortures from the Britishers before the independence. And if you are going there, do not miss the light and sound show. It gave me goose-bumps hearing to the plight of the freedom fighters imprisoned here.
This place remains closed on Mondays.
Havelock is one of the handful of islands those are open for the tourists. It is a perfect place to get lost into the scenic beauty and experience the adventures.
Every beach in Havelock has got a serial number of its own. There are some beaches which are dedicated for water adventures like scuba diving and snorkelling.
Points to Remember:
- A minimum of two days is needed to explore the island.
- All the beaches in Havelock are closed after 5 pm in Havelock island.
- One can reach Havelock from Port Blair either by Ferry or by Helicopter. The most common means to commute are the ferries. Private luxury ferries can be booked
either online or through the agents.
To avoid the last minute rush it is always advisable to book it before seven days. Usually the ferry tickets per head costs around Rs 1200-
1800 depending on the type and class of the ferry.
There will be two kinds of ferry one is closed one where it’s not allowed to stand o the deck of the ferry. And in the another one you can stand on the deck and sail along the scenic beauty.
Here is the list of places I visited in Havelock along with the adventure activities I have experienced:
The turquoise blue sea and white sand make this beach a postcard-perfect place. Crowned as “Asia’s best beach” and “7th best beach in the world” by Time Magazine in 2004.
The beach provides a captivating panoramic view of the sea surrounded by lush green forest, satiating your eyes and mind. And when I say captivating it indeed stopped the time for me. If you are a photo enthusiast then this will be your place.
No water sports activities are allowed in the beach. Only swimming is allowed here, though it is suggested not to go too far into the sea or near the mangroves.
There are a lot of diving clubs in Havelock which will offer you a perfect deep sea scuba diving experience. I choose to keep it in a different section because diving is not something which can be completed in a jiffy.
Also Havelock is one of the best place to go for deep sea scuba diving because of the clear water. A minimum of 2 hours is a must if you are going for the first time. There will be professional trainers who won’t allow you to go inside water unless you are not totally confident about it.
The bespectacled people like me need not be worried as they offer you special swimming eye-gears if you have more power. And if its minor then the normal eye-gears they provide will give you a bit magnifying view inside the water.
The mantra is simple, “Never hold your breath” and adhere to the instructions provided.
Currently they have formed associations and have flat rate of Rs. 3500 for deep sea scuba diving (including under water photos and videos) across all the diving clubs in Havelock. However it varies in Port Blair.
Visit it to believe it, as the sheer beauty of the Elephant Beach is difficult to describe in words. Located in Havelock Island, it is famous for the numbers of water sports activities it offers to the tourists. Always keep in mind not to buy any water sport ticket from Havelock Boat Jetty. You can always look out for options after reaching Elephant beach and then decide.
One can reach to Elephant Beach through high speed fibre boats which takes around 20-25min from Havelock Jetty at Rs. 950 per person including both onward and return journey.
They will provide 3hours of time at the beach. This also includes a complementary snorkelling for the all who have travelled by the boat. One can also go by car to a point near the Elephant beach but then one has to trek for 1.5 kms to reach the beach.
The prices for water sports in the beach revolves around ₹500 per sports (Jet skiing, banana ride, glass bottom ride, full mask snorkelling). Only for deep sea snorkelling which is not complimentary, you have to pay ₹800 per head. This also includes under water photos and videos of yours and the marine life. To be noted this beach does not have provisions for Scuba diving and Sea walking.
Ross Island and North Bay Island
You can have a day in hand for hopping these two islands. You can find cruises from the Aberdeen Jetty to Ross and North Bay Island. However if interested you can include Viper island also which I choose to skip because of time constraints.
Ross island is Known for its historic ruins. The Japanese had occupied the island during the 2nd World War. Even now also the Japanese bunkers can be found here.
The locals in Port Blair are very thankful to the Island as it had saved them from the wrath of Tsunami in 2004. The island went totally devastated and damaged after the Tsunami.
North Bay Island or Coral Island houses the famous light house which is found on a Rs. 20 note. Apart from this the coral reefs here gives an opportunity for scuba diving, snorkelling, glass bottom ride, etc.
The boat ride to North bay island from Ross island will give a view of the city of Port Blair and the Cellular Jail.
The top view from the light house is a must recommended sight (only if you are fit enough to climb to the top) which will give a panoramic view of Port Blair including Havelock Island, Neil Island and unending Bay of Bengal.
Goes by its name (Chidiya=Bird, Tapu=Island), a calm, pristine and tranquil place housing varieties of migratory birds and a beautiful sunset point attracting a lot of tourists during the evening.
One can easily spend his/her whole evening sitting here, listening to the chirping of birds and enjoying the view as the sun goes down behind the hills.
The place where the journey will be more exciting and adventurous than the destination. This will take an entire day and one needs to start really early to return back the same day unless you have time and want to stay back.
From Jirkatang (45km from Port Blair) the Convoy starts (There are 4 convoys throughout the day, so the timings need to be taken care of because you cannot cross the forest unless you are in one of the convoys).
From here starts the stretch of 48km Jarawa Reserve forest, where you cannot halt your vehicle or walk on foot or overtake or take photos and videos. The stretch ends at Middle strait jetty from where ferry services are available to Baratang Island.
You will come across Jarawas during the to and from journey across the area. It is strictly prohibited to take photos or interact with the Jarawas which is being strongly implemented.
Crossing the Jarawas is one of the most exciting parts of the journey. Offering food to the Jarawas is also strictly prohibited. It is said that once they were offered some spicy food by some random tourists which had led to the death of some Jarawas. You will notice many young Jarawas asking for food on your way.
They sometimes become furious and attack the tourists too. There are stories of the tribes attacking the convoy with bows and arrows also. So please give respect to their independency and do not treat them like some animals in the zoo.
The fun part- The construction workers working in the area have exposed them to the taste of Paan (Betel) and have taught them how to ask for it in Hindi. So every time you will cross a Jarawa, you will find them shouting “Paan Do“.
After reaching Baratang from the Middle Strait jetty, you can avail the ferry ticket for the limestone caves. These caves are located at about 30min journey downstream from the Baratang Jetty for which you have to travel by speed fibre boats carrying 10 people at a time.
Which will also wait for you to bring you back after seeing the caves. The boats will drop you at a place 1.5km before the caves and the last part is a muddy trail which has to be covered by walking.
The boat ride is a lifetime experience for anybody traveling to Baratang. The kind of which you get to see only in NatGeo or Discovery otherwise. The journey through the lush green and dense mangrove forest with small mountains and clear sky is simply breath-taking providing a treat for the eyes.
The cave is a small one with various natural rock formations which will remind you of the stalactites and stalagmites of the geography classes from school days. One has to be really cautious before starting the walk for the cave. Due to untimely rains, the trail is mostly a slippery one. The 1.5km is more of a jungle adventure and the cave inside is pitch dark. It is advisable to carry a torch along.
One can also visit the mud volcano which is 8km from the Baratang Jetty by road. You can easily get shared cars from the jetty. The mud volcano is one of its kind in India.
Andaman, a little Paradise on Earth, will never disappoint you at any moment throughout your trip. So much to see and feel in the archipelago which you might not find in any other parts of the country. If you can manage time then do visit the museums in Port Blair to understand more about the aboriginals of the island.
Points to Remember:
- Best time to visit – October to mid of April.
- What to Pack – Good quality high SPF sun-screen, dark sunglasses, swimsuits, light and bright cloths, raincoat/umbrella, trek shoes if you have plans to trek. AND Beach wears (goes without saying)!
- Internet and Connectivity – Mark this only BSNL and Airtel cell phone networks work in the island. If you are lucky, then you will get 2G internet connectivity which works in some parts of Port Blair. Nevertheless the hotels provide wi-fi for some hours in the evening. (To be honest, it’s a blessing in disguise to stay offline for a few days and enjoy the trip).
- Getting Around in Andaman – To avoid last minute rush, it is advisable to have your bookings done prior to visiting the island. Rented two-wheelers, Cabs, Buses and ferries will take care of your transportation in the Island.
Last but not the least it would be unfair if I won’t acknowledge the islanders residing there for their continuous efforts to keep maintaining their place and making it so beautiful and lovable one, inspite of all the hardships they have to go through.