One of the 6th Union territories of India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are scattered across the Bay of Bengal on the east side. It is said to host one of the most beautiful sets of islands. Often, this place is quite neglected or forgotten by people mainly because it is thought to be unsafe. But lately, I have noticed people travelling to this peace haven. Through this blog, I want to take you through the most memorable trip I had with my sister (a dual girl’s trip).
So now the question is why you would travel here when you have similar places like Bali or Maldives and the like to go. Well, what if I say, you will get the best of the palm-lined white sandy beaches, volcano mountain trails, nature hikes, tropical rainforests, coral reefs and sea life, star gazing, untouched, pristine islands and much more all in a single place at an affordable price!! 😊It’s worth a try, isn’t it?
Most of the Nicobar Islands are not accessible especially for the foreign visitors and parts of Andaman as well. It is mainly to preserve the indigenous tribes that live there, some of whom are quite hostile to visitors. They are usually dressed in leaves or barks of plants and are hunters by profession.
So, before we get into details, lets pin down some necessary information:
How to get there: Regular flights are operated from New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Vishakhapatnam and Bhubaneswar to Port Blair. There are cruise ships as well from Chennai, Vishakhapatnam, and Kolkata which take about 2 nights/3 days to reach depending on the weather.
Best time to visit: April to June (Summers - 24°C - 37°C), May to September (22°C - 35°C) and October to March (Winters - 20°C - 30°C). The monsoons have heavy rainfall and hence, avoidable as the water gets murky and inaccessible for snorkelling, scuba, etc.
Languages spoken: English, Hindi, Tamil and Bengali
Currency: Indian Rupees (INR)
Entry requirements: Indian nationals need no permits. Foreign nationals can get a permit on arrival at Port Blair for 30 days, extendable for 15 days more. Visiting the tribal areas is prohibited to all! More information on permits can be found here.
With so many activities and places to visit, it is difficult to make an itinerary. Based on the must do’s and the most beautiful spots, I have penned down the best places to visit.
The whole of Andaman is very famous for its seafood. However, we being vegetarians, obviously didn’t venture into it. But if you love seafood, then this place is a treat for you!!
So, here are the top things to do in Andaman:
1) Port Blair
a) Cellular Jail – The Cellular Jail or Kaala Paani is one of the most popular places to visit in Port Blair. Here, you can take a trip through the Jail to see the architectural marvel it is. They take you through the jail blocks and the assassination chambers, where the Indian freedom fighters were exiled, tortured and imprisoned by the Britishers. It is known to be one of the most gruesome jails to have existed. It is estimated that a total of 80,000 people were prisoned during the British Raj, out of which hardly any survived due to the torture. Along with the tour, another famous thing to do here is the Light and Sound show. It will leave you teary-eyed and fill you with patriotism to see the historic struggle of Indian freedom fighters. It’s a very thoughtful and soulful narration by a Peepal Tree which witnessed all the tortures done in the inner walls of the jail. The voice is of the very famous Bollywood actor Om Puri. There are two shows daily which are scheduled at 6 pm and 7.15pm in Hindi except on Monday, Wednesday and Friday when the latter show is in English. The tickets cost Rs 30 for Indians and Rs 100 for Foreigners. You have extra charges for camera recording.
b) Port Blair Nightlife – Experience the chilled out and relaxed nightlife in this city with live music and cosy lounges. Try out Nico Bar, Sea Sip, Pink Fly and Look Out.
c) Corbyn’s Cove Beach – Just within a 10-minute drive from the jail is the beautiful palm-fringed beach with jet skis for some adrenaline rush and relaxing chairs to bask in the sun. It also has small eateries along the beach where you can enjoy some snacks and drinks.
d) Ross Island – Officially known as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, it can be reached by a ferry from Aberdeen Jetty in Port Blair . It takes an hour to reach this secluded island. There are regular ferries which start from 8.30am until 2.30pm. The ferry ride costs Rs 75 per person for a return trip. You can enjoy this then colonial capital of the British and witness an old church and a bakery from those times. This island is also famous for snorkelling and glass bottom boat rides which are conducted by Government officials. Since it is a naval base as well, you might be required to sign in and out in the register on entry and exit.
e) Samudrika Naval Marine Museum – A museum run by the Indian Navy, it creates awareness about the ocean environment and marine life. You have five different sections in the museum which takes you through the history of the Andaman Islands, geographical information, the locals of Andaman, archaeology and marine life. For all those who do not prefer snorkelling or scuba diving, you can have a look at the marine life here at the museum 😉. The tickets cost only Rs 20 per person.
f) Wandoor (Jolly Buoy Island and Red Skin Island) – A tiny scenic village located at the southern tip of Andaman, houses the well-known Jolly Buoy and Red Skin Island. These are open six months in a year, alternatively. Regular boat services run from Port Blair to these islands (takes around 1-2 hours). The trip costs Rs 750 per person + Rs 50 for a permit and Rs 20 for a camera. We had gone to Red Skin Island. Both these islands are known for snorkelling. Scuba diving is not permitted here. Government-assigned swimmers conduct snorkelling. (Well, after taking the snorkelling tour, my instructor told me that he didn’t know how to swim!! That shocked me quite a bit because I went up to 10 feet deep with him!! Haha. But we were given tubes and life jackets, so nothing to fear, just warning you guys 😉). The tour depends on how far you want to go, and the prices range from Rs 500 to Rs 1500. If you do not wish to do the tour, there are glass bottom boats as well (costs around Rs 500), which take you deep into the ocean, and of course, it is so clear, you can easily spot the marine life below. The sea life you can witness here include – colour changing corals (when you rub them they change their colour), mushroom coral, sea cucumber, clown fish (Nemo), tigerfish, jellyfish and lots more. A piece of quick advice, carry enough food and water with you as it does not have any restaurants or eateries here. Also, the changing rooms aren’t too well equipped or easy to access. (We found a quiet place and changed in the woods).
g) Chidiya Tapu – Located at 30km from Port Blair (around an hour drive), this place is famous for one of the best sunset views in Andaman and is also known for bird watching. It has a beautiful trek trail which leads you through the forest which ends at the Munda Pahad (Black Mountain). The view from the mountain is breath-taking. You can see the entire turquoise coastline, black cliffs, and lush green lagoons and mountains. Here comes the punch – more than birds you can see crocodiles here. So, beware of them. You never know when you might spot one right next to you while strolling on the beach!! 😉. On the way stop at Kala Patthar beach. It is one of the most spectacular beaches I have seen. Gem blue water, dense forests, white sandy beach and sparkling clean – you have it all.
2) Havelock Islands
The is the best island of Andaman. It is located 69 km from Port Blair (3 hours). It is accessible only by a Government ferry, private boat or helicopter. The Govt ferry costs Rs 750 per person for a return trip, helicopter costs around Rs 2000-3000 one way and private ship costs around Rs 1500-2000 one way. If you take the ship, I recommend not to sit in the underground deck but stand on top to have a look at the view. Since, the boat sails through Neil Island towards Havelock, the view is mesmerizing. The Govt ferry timings are 6 am, 11 am and 2 pm. (We took the 6 am ferry to reach there asap!!).
Radhanagar Beach – The most famous spot in Havelock is the Radhanagar Beach. It is considered as the 8th most spectacular beach in the world!! There are a lot of amazing wooden beach hut style resorts (we were put up in TSG Blue Resort in Havelock). You need to stay here for a minimum of 3 days to give it complete justice. The beaches are so relaxing and spectacular that you don’t feel like doing anything else, but laze!! Another thing to do here is SCUBA DIVING!! This place is a treat for marine lovers!! There are multiple diving spots to choose from, and all of them are SSI and PADI recognized divers. The dive costs a minimum of Rs 3500 for 30 minutes. The cost increases depending on your time. We chose the 30-minute dive as it was our first time. The price includes all the diving equipment, costume, a video of your dive along with some fantastic pictures. We then started our beautiful sea life journey. You can get to see baby sharks, jellyfish, octopus, sea cucumber, starfish, a variety of fishes, corals and lots more. If you wish to become a certified diver (SSI and PADI recognized), Havelock has various courses as well. These courses are for a minimum of 7 days, and the costs start from Rs 30,000 onwards. It is worth it, if you love scuba and can continuously do it for seven days. It usually involves two dips a day. One during the day and one at night for training. (The night dip is very mesmerizing!!).
Must try restaurants in Havelock:
Full Moon Café – Run by an Irish-Indian couple, this mellow thatched-roof restaurant shares a sandy-floored site with Dive India and does fabulous seafood, salads, pasta, wraps, fresh juices, falafel platters, etc. Do not miss the Banoffee pie here. They also have a pair of cute labradors, who are an amazing company!!
Anju Coco - One of Havelock’s favourites, down-to-earth roadside restaurant, Anju-Coco offers a flavour-packed menu of zealously guarded Indian-international family recipes, with outstanding breakfasts, barbecue dishes, etc. Do not miss the chargrilled paneer platter.
Barefoot Bayside Brasserie (B3) - Right by the jetty, with sea views, B3's breezy wooden deck serves some fantastic Italian dishes. We tried the Aglio Olio Pasta, Bruschetta, Feta Salad here.
Another famous spot in Havelock is the Elephant beach. You can reach here by a 20-minute boat ride from the Havelock Jetty, or hire an auto, or a bike. You can also take the local bus to get here. This beach has a lot of water sports and has got a magnificent coral reef. Another striking feature here (as the name suggest) are beach-friendly elephants. You can take a stroll with the elephants on the beach or even take a ride on them. This beach was also famous for the only swimming elephant – Raja, who unfortunately passed away a few years back. There are plenty of restaurants here to enjoy a great meal. Also, when you get here, ask the ferry to take you to the mystical blue lagoon at the end of the island, it is a magical experience.
The largest town in Andaman, it is located at 290km by road and 180km by sea from Port Blair (around 8 hours). You can get here, by helicopter rides, boat or by road. The best being the helicopter and worst being by road. The bus journey can get very tiring and takes around 12 hours. Also, you cross the tribal area, which makes a bit risky. Also, if you go towards this side of Andaman, then it gets quite challenging to cover the other locations, but it’s worth it. Diglipur is known for Ramnagar and Kalipur beach. It is very similar and as scenic as the other beaches mentioned above. But one striking difference and my favourite is the turtle nesting. The best time to witness this is between November end to March mid. The beaches are not very swimming friendly as they are quite rocky. Another thing to do in Diglipur is the Saddle Peak mountain. It is known for bird watching and has got beautiful nature hike trails.
4) Barren Island
Located at 135 km from Port Blair, this island houses the only active volcano in South East Asia. As the name suggests, the island is barren and uninhabited by humans. It is said to have last erupted in 2005. You can get here by hiring a ferry from Port Blair, which takes you to the Island. Indians can enter the island for a while, however, foreign nationals need to be on the boat, and the boat encircles the island three times and gets you back. Another exciting way to see the island is by hiring a sea plane from Port Blair (my recommendation). You get to see the volcano and the island from the top, which is a sight not to be missed! The tickets for the plane cost from Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 15,000. For more info, you can contact on this email id [email protected]
5) Baratang Island
This island which lies between South and Middle Andaman has beautiful beaches, mangrove creeks, mud-volcanoes, and limestone caves. Limestone caves can be explored with the permission of the Forest Department at Baratang and proper local guidance. It is located at 100kms from Port Blair. Regular boat services run from the Port Blair jetty. From Baratang island (Nilambur Jetty) Lime Stone Caves are half an hour boat ride through a wide creek which leads to Nayadera Jetty and a further one and half km walk through the tropical forest. There is a boardwalk winding its way through mangroves from the main creek to Nayadera Jetty for about 240 meters. Tourists either may directly reach by boat or walk through the boardwalk to reach the jetty. Some caves are so dense, deep and dark inside that you need to light a torch to be able to see anything. Also, it may get slippery inside the caves, so it is advisable to come in floaters or shoes. Another attraction is the mud volcanoes. Mud Volcano is approachable by road from Nilambur Jetty. One must reach up to Jarawa creek by vehicle. From Jarawa Creek, Mud volcano is at a walkable distance of 250-300 meters. A mud volcano is created by natural gases emitted by decaying organic matter underground. As the mud is pushed upwards by the gas, it deposits and hardens above the ground. As more mud oozes out and spills over the edge, it grows, gradually forming a miniature volcano with rich, creamy mud crater at the top. It is a very unique thing ot witness!!
Located near Baratang Jetty is a small uninhabited island called Parrot Island which is a must visit. What makes it attractive for tourists is the mystery that this island holds, which calls thousands of parrots every evening. To reach here, one must take a boat from Baratang Jetty and cross through a creek. It is better to visit in the evenings if you want to see parrots. Each evening, thousands of parrots flock together and roost here. They leave this island the next morning. In the meantime, they trim the island and leave it perfectly pruned. As the sun sets, the silence turns into a roosting ground for many parakeets. It is a beautiful and a mysterious experience.
That's all I have on my list for the must visit places. If you are an Indian, Andaman should be in your top lists for a holiday. Though it is slightly tricky for foreign nationals (due to getting permits and all), I would recommend a trip here, as it is totally worth it. Also, on a safety point of view, my sister and I use to roam around the streets of Port Blair and Havelock, late at night without any issues.
If you have already visited, share your views here, or if you need any further information, feel free to contact us!!