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THE BACKPACKSTERS

Travel tales from Andaman!

If you have been looking for your next beach destination, then look no further than Andaman!
 

Turquoise water and rusted boats

 

It has some of the most picturesque spots and idyllic beaches we have ever seen. The turquoise water, the coral reefs, the ginormous trees.. to put matters into perspective, just take a look at this photo!
 

We had been planning to go there for a long time and the moment finally came in May! Tickets, check. Rucksacks, check. Action cam, check. And we set off on our six day visit to paradise!
 

A little info: the archipelago of Andaman & Nicobar comprises 572 islands spread across the south of the Bay of Bengal. These islands are surrounded by some of the best coral reefs in the country and are also home to the some of the nicest white-sand beaches, thick mangroves and lush tropical rainforests. Not to forget, some of the tribal communities in Andamanese islands are cut off from the modern world even today. So enchanting!
 

We landed in Port Blair, the capital city of Andaman on a cloudy afternoon. Although the monsoon had just set in, the weather was not too bad and there were many tourists in town. A short tuktuk ride took us to the Aberdeen Bazaar neighbourhood, where we checked in to our hotel. We had planned to spend the first and last nights of our trip at Port Blair, keeping in mind our flight schedules and the fact that we wanted to cover as many interesting places as we could in the city, some of which were open only on specific days of the week. 

 

Port Blair is comparable to any other Indian city. It has lots of businesses, hotels, vehicles and people, but is much less chaotic. Most places are within short reach of the airport and getting around is very easy. Cellular networks are fairly good and using maps is quite helpful. Of course, there are enough sign boards to help you find your way to any place in town, so you won't really get lost.

 

We grabbed another tuktuk from the hotel and rode off to the first spot on our itinerary, Corbyn's Cove.

 

Corbyn's Cove is a good place to spend a spare hour or two in Port Blair

 

It is the only beach in Port Blair and is a picnic spot for tourists and most locals, especially at sunset. You can spend about an hour there enjoying the beach side, relaxing on the chairs and playing around in the shallow waters. There are many water sports like jet skis and boating (to the nearby Snake island), and a huge number of shacks selling seashells, souvenirs, fried snacks, Maggi noodles and chaats! We were very hungry after the long journey so we gorged on some fresh bhel puri and tender coconut water.
 


The road from the Cove winds along the ocean and the views are picture perfect. We stopped at a local science museum on the way. We stepped out after about 20 mins and it was just about sunset time. Thats when we saw this!

 

Ledge in front of Science museum

We found an amazing view point on a ledge, overlooking the Indian Ocean

 

Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex, just a couple of kilometres from Corbyn's Cove is the perfect place in Port Blair to sign up for some water-activities like scuba diving, undersea walk, submarine rides, snorkelling, etc. Day trips to Ross Island, North Bay and Viper Island are also conducted from here... all during day time only. From here, we saw the lighthouse of North Bay which is printed on the backside of a 20 Rupee note! At sunset, the marina was decked with glistening white street lamps set against the darkening skies and the deep blue sea.

 

View of Ross island from the Marina, at sunset

 

The next day we started early. We had to catch our ferry to Havelock island in the afternoon, and so we planned to visit the Cellular Jail and then the Aquamarine museum just down the road. 

 

Built during the colonial times, the ghastly Cellular Jail housed many freedom fighters from all over India. The bodies of prisoners who were hung were flung into the deep ocean behind the walls, and thats how the name “Kala Pani” or black water stuck. The pillars still resonate the cries of the brave men who fought for a free India. Originally, the jail had seven wings with three floors each, but today, only three of the wings have remained. 

 

The jail is now a national monument and one can learn about the Indian freedom struggle by exploring the jail and the museum within. Guided tours are also available, and the prices are fixed. In the evenings, light and sound shows are conducted in the cellular jail in Hindi (daily) and English (only 3 shows on weekdays) and are a must-see! 

 

The walls of the first wing in Andaman Cellular Jail, Port Blair

 

Other attractions in Port Blair include the Aquamarine Museum (very close to the cellular jail and the water sports complex), Samudrika Naval Museum (close to Phoenix Bay Jetty) and the Anthropology Museum (close to Aberdeen Bazaar) which are all located within the city. From learning about corals and other sea creatures, to understanding about the history of Andaman and the native tribes (like the Jarawas, Onge and the fierce Sentinelese) - these museums are very insightful. 

 

Although Port Blair was a little crowded, we absolutely loved walking around. Aberdeen Bazaar is a great place to shop at and there are so many stores to choose from. In the centre of Aberdeen Bazaar is the famous Clock Tower. Built during the pre-independence era, this tower has clocks for four different time zones. There are also a number of restaurants in the Aberdeen Bazaar area. Seafood is the obvious delicacy around here, but for those who prefer vegetarian food, Hotel Annapurna is the best in the neighbourhood.

 

The Government owned Sagarika Emporium is a great place to pick up some souvenirs. The store also has a large collection of pearls and jewellery. While walking on the same street, we found a whole bunch of small souvenir stores. The collections are quite good, but make sure to bargain well - most of the items were available for nearly half-price when we shopped! 

 

After our first night in Port Blair, we had planned to spend the next two nights in the beautiful island of Havelock. It is about 55 kilometres away from Port Blair, and we took the two hour ferry ride from Phoenix Bay Jetty to Havelock Jetty. 

 

Havelock is a pastel of so many hues - green, blue, gold and white. Every beach looks surreal. The turquoise water, the white sands, the mangroves extending their canopy over the water, the thick tropical rainforest and the quietness of the island left a very wonderful memory in our minds.

 

The view from Havelock jetty

 

A quick tuktuk ride from the Jetty took us to the Symphony Palms Beach Resort, a hotel on the Vijayanagar Beach. A palm lined pathway from the rooms led us to the beach. The beach itself was lined with many mangroves with a couple of swings hanging from the branches. 

 

The beach outside Symphony Palms in Havelock

 

The cloudy sky and the occasional shower did not deter us from exploring the island. We had signed up for a day trip to Elephant Beach and Havelock Beach with Experience Andamans, one of the many tour operators in Andaman. On account of bad weather, our trip to Elephant Beach (which included a short trek through the rainforest and snorkelling at the beach) was cancelled. So we ended up spending the entire day at Radhanagar Beach.

 

The Radhanagar Beach has been voted the 8th best beach in the world by Tripadvisor, and one of the best in all of Asia! It is accessible by taxis, autos and public buses from the Havelock Jetty and every tour operator includes this in the itinerary. The waves were perfect even in the monsoon season and we spent over five hours just playing in the water. We felt like we were cut off from the rest of the world looking at the vast ocean on one side and the towering rainforest on the other! 


Radhanagar Beach is perfect for some fun in the sun

 

We had lunch at one of the many shacks that line up the road to the beach. Although the variety of the food was limited, we loved the simple roti and rice meal served by the locals! 

 

Elephant beach is quite popular for water activities like scuba diving and snorkelling and you can also meet Rajan, the famous swimming elephant; during the off-season (May-September) the entry is restricted, depending on the weather conditions. Kala Pattar beach has some picturesque spots with its large collection of black sea rocks and views of the ocean - the perfect muse for sunset. 

 

The cottages at Symphony Palms Beach Resort

 

In the evening, we explored the neighborhood of Vijayanagar on foot. The grey skies and the chilly weather was the perfect excuse for a hot serving of masala fries at the local shack. After a couple of hours of walking we decided to dine at the restaurant in the resort. And thats when we found The Full Moon Cafe, a cozy, pet-friendly cafe that serves a good spread of food and drinks, and is quite popular with young travellers! 

 

Our next destination in Andaman was Neil Island. Neil is a much smaller island, just south of Havelock. There are far fewer visitors and perfectly secluded. The ferries dock at the jetty which is right next to the Bharatpur beach. At high tide, which lasts throughout day time, this beach is amazing for lazing around in the water and the coral reef is perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving.

 

Bharatpur beach has a beautiful coral reef for snorkelling

 

We walked from the jetty to our hotel, Silver Sands Beach Resort, which was about a kilometre away on the southern side of the island. The roads are lined with tropical greenery on both sides. The beach at the resort was scenic, with mangroves on both sides and light blue hues all around. 

 

One of the many quaint beaches spread all around Neil island

 

After checking in, we hired a scooter and rode off to the Bharatpur beach. We swam in the shallow turquoise water until 4 pm and then decided to explore the rest of the island. In the town centre, we feasted at a small shack that was selling lip-smacking Samosa masala and juicy Rasgullas and it was a perfect combination for the cloudy weather! We went to the natural rock bridge, a view point on the south eastern edge of the island. From there we went to Laxmanpur beach, riding through the village roads and lush greenery. 

 

The trees are so huge, its almost like time-travelling to the Jurassic Era

 

Early next morning, we went snorkelling in Bharatpur beach. The activity lasts for about 30 mins including a short boat ride to the diving spot. The house coral reef at that sport was amazing! We saw so many schools of different fishes swimming around the dense corals. 

 

Snorkelling at Bharatpur beach

 

Once we got back to Port Blair, we could not stop thinking about the time we spent at Neil. The remoteness of Neil was something we had been craving for and we absolutely enjoyed every single moment we spent there. 

 

If you are planning on visiting Andaman, don't forget to include Havelock and Neil on your itinerary! In fact, if you are short on time, include a day trip to these paradisal islands at the least. We know you won't regret it and you can thank us when you are back!
 
For more information on the planning and budgeting a trip to Andaman, check out our set of pointers here.
 
 
 
 

 

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Awesome pics with your writeup of the island very beautifully explained. Thank you and expecting you to do more when you go next tour to anywhere and you both made for each other keep it up.bye

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