Discovering the Andaman
It is truly said: “The Andaman Islands are pearls in a sea of blue” The islands on Andaman are the most favoured Indian islands due to their exotic beaches, lush greenery and which is why it draws many visitors. The Andamans is a great place to go exploring, do island hopping or just laze around in the lap of nature.
What is pleasing to the eye and to the mind is the sparkling turquoise water all around the island and its sugar-white sand beaches and which is then surrounded by mangrove forest. There are a total of 572 islands, but only a few are open to tourists. Havelock is by far the most popular for its marvellous clean beaches and astonishing adventure and thrill options that it offers. The Nicobar Islands are strictly off limits to tourists, due to the several spots of inhabited by tribals.
Living an Island life was always on my bucket list. As I was getting married in Feb 2017 I and my ‘so-called Husband’ decided to take a break from work and the marriage chaos for a week. Yes, many of you would ask why I am not calling it as my Honeymoon trip as I was leaving right after my marriage and that’s because I wanted a bigger month long trip for my honeymoon. That wasn’t feasible due to prior work commitments. So right after we got married on 5th Feb 2017, we took off to Andamans on 8th Feb 2017. We were really excited about this trip as it was our first trip to an island.
Another reason why I don’t call it a Honeymoon trip is because I had planned it all by myself and my husband was completely clueless of the destination. But, all thanks to my mom, this secrecy could only last for a month from the date it was planned as she spilled the beans.
I chose TravelTriangle to execute my plan on the island… while doing it, I realised that I had turned into a loyal customer of Travel Triangle (http://www.traveltriangle.com/) as in the last three years, I had planned and booked all my trips with them. Honestly, they are good at what they do, we get 4-5 quotes from different travel agents and you can pick and customize accordingly basis your budget. In fact, they have special discounts for booking your first trip through them.
So our journey started off from Mumbai and we had a small but not so small layover in Chennai for about 6-7 hours, we decided to unwind at a hotel and save energy for the upcoming trip. For that, we picked the closest hotel to the airport. To our surprise, we got a great deal on Goibibo- with my GoCash+ discount it came up to 700Rs. which also included airport transfer to and fro. The hotel was strictly average but okay for a layover of 6-7 hours.
We took our connecting flight and finally arrived in Andaman the next day. It was really sunny and humid for the month of Feb, But it was still the right time to visit the island, as we could move around the island in a ferry (seas are not that rough) and also explore the adventure activities (sunny days are excellent for deep diving).
The Island Life:
Our experience of spending a week on the Andamans was decent, I wouldn’t say the experiences were marvellous or spellbinding. It didn’t offer a moment of awe.
On our first day, we had planned to visit Ross Island – it was the smallest of all islands and also the least commercialized, which means its offerings were limited to serene environments. We chose to visit Ross Island on our first day because of its close proximity to Port Blair.
Post our some bit of exploration on day 1, we started to get mixed feelings about this place. We’d get up each morning with a hope that today we will see something good, something that’ll strike us. But within ourselves, we knew that it will be mostly the same. Don’t get me wrong, the place is great in itself with some really mesmerizing beaches to explore, but the tourist crowd and the food were all blah. As with most Islands across the globe, connectivity was limited. In the capital of this union territory, Port Blair, the connectivity was limited to 3G data. So expecting any data connectivity or Wi-Fi on remote islands like Ross, Havelock and Neil were a complete NO NO.
The food was a big letdown on this trip, we had some great expectations on trying various seafood, but I would rate it 2 out of 5. The taste of the food was bland and nowhere close to tasty. Our stay was spread out and we stayed at all the civilized, tourist-free islands and in the hunt for good food, we experimented with many restaurants both starred restaurants and the community kitchens but all that further added to our disappointment.
Though Havelock had some good places to eat like-
1- Something Different– A beachside Cafe 4/5
2- Anju Coco- 5/5
3- Barefoot Bar & Brasserie 3/5
4- SeaShell Havelock Restaurant 3.5/5
These are the once we tried and are the ones kept us happy and satisfied while we were in Havelock. I have rated them based on our experience.
While the Andamans had our taste buds wanting for more, it served a great feast for our eyes. Basis my experience, it’d recommend to stay at Havelock and enjoy some great water sports activities around. If you love riding, you can rent a bike for about 400-500Rs per day and choose to explore the entire island, at least the famed the tourist spots. I’d list down few of my must visits.
1- Radhanagar Beach- It was as clean as it could get and one could imagine. I got a great chance to capture a great time-lapse video of the sunset on my Mi action camera.
Scuba Diving- Havelock Island
2- Kala Patthar- We found an isolated place on the beach which was not accessed by the tourist crowd and spent 2 hours relaxing on the branch of a tree which was swinging by the beach.
3. Elephant Island Beach- (Can only be accessed through a boat/ferry) It is a tiny island which seems like the adventure hub of the Andamans, one can do all the adventure activities here like- Snorkeling, Banana Ride, Sea Walk, Scuba and maybe more. It’s a pooled ferry to and fro from the beach, where you’d be put up with others to fill the capacity of 7-8 people. It’s a great way to interact with new people but if you are an introvert like I am, you may not like it. We had planned for scuba diving on a different island, so we didn’t consider doing any activities here. My husband went on for the complimentary snorkelling while I decided to stay back and unwind on the beach.
To be honest, the beaches, mangroves, forest and water were so beautiful, they served as the best landscapes to picture and click some of the best pictures/portraits/selfies.
Advice: The best place to do Scuba diving is on the Havelock Island- there are many centres where you will get the best scuba divers who can give you the best experience of underwater diving.
Neil Island was the creepiest of them all, here we got a chance to see creepy snakes, insects while we ventured just beyond the beach to get some clicks, the only good place here was the beach next to the port. Would recommend not to waste your one night stay here, you can arrive in the morning and leave by evening in the last ferry. It will take 2-3 hours to go back to Port Blair. On our way back to Port Blair we felt sick and nauseatic as it started to rain out of nowhere and it got all cold.
Our final leg of the trip was at Baratang, which was the longest travel time, about 100KMs from Port Blair. To reach here one has to travel by road, cross a creek on a ferry through Middle Strait to reach Baratang. The Baratang island trip brings forward the tropical side of the Andaman islands. It is complete with dense forest, a chance to see the disconnected tribe, explore mangroves, beaches, exotic birds and animals, caves and more. Well, Baratang has all of these to offer.
It took us 4 long hours to reach this place and some bit of struggle. On the way, you’d be made to stop at the checkpoint which is put in place to protect the indigenous Jarawa Tribe. Visitors are supposed to wait at the check post for the gates to open at their fixed time. While passing through these tribal areas, you aren’t allowed to take any pictures. Later reaching the jetty you get into a Ferry to reach on the other side of the island and from there you take a speedboat to explore the Baratang creeks and then walk for 15-20mins to reach the limestone cave. Phew…. a lot to take in. I can understand
In all, the journey to this island was good not so saddening. It is a gateway to the pristine islands. An Island town offering water-based activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, sea-cruises, mangroves, forest and glimpses of the history and culture of the region.