Is travelling more to you than just the destination? Would you enjoy diving deep both into the ocean and the history? Do you enjoy the colour green around you? Have you at least once imagined yourself all by yourself on a virgin sandy beach? Do you enjoy diverse cuisines and sea-food? Are you an explorer by default?
If the answer to two or more of the above questions for yourself is in positive, then go to your calendar. Look for the next break in your schedule; and book a ticket to Andaman and Nicobar islands of India.
Where the Andaman Sea and The Bay of Bengal meet, there rise the Andaman & Nicobar clusters of islands. These two clusters in between each other cover a total land area of more than 8000 square kilometres. The islands after being occupied by first the Danish and then the British was finally merged with the Indian territory in 1950. The island clusters consist of exactly 572 islands in total out of which more than 35 are permanently inhabited. The Ten Degree Channel separates the Andaman from Nicobar Islands. They stretch over a distance of more than 800 kms from North to South. Some of the main Islands are Middle Andaman, North Andaman, South Andaman, Baratang and Little Andaman islands. The northern most point is Landfall Island and the southernmost, Indira Point.
Due to majority of people living on the Nicobar Islands being tribal people, the Nicobar cluster has been kept out-of-bounds for tourist activities and is used only for administrative and defence purposes by the Indian government. Rich forest cover runs throughout the hilly topography of the islands providing ideal habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna like wild boar, potted deer, pythons, gecko and crab-eating macaque. The bigger attraction though is the marine life, with amazing reefs, and spectacular habitat under the water Andaman has become one of the favourite spots was exploring marine life.
The capital is Port Blair which comprises most of the mainland population of the islands and offers and array of interesting tourist spots. The first on any list would be The Cellular Jail. The structure encompasses both enriching history and brilliant architecture behind its high walls. It has been a close witness of the freedom struggle of India and confined thousands of freedom fighters behind these very walls in solitary confinement for years. The story of this desperate struggle and its brave soldiers is told in the Light and Sound show at the Jail.
Chatham Saw Mill, once Asia’s largest Saw Mill is located in Chatham Island & is connected to Port Blair by a Sea bridge. Other spots of tourist interest are the Gandhi park where people go to relax; the mini-zoo and more than a few museums.
The ethnographic museum called The Anthropological museum showcases the background, culture and history of the original inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar, the tribes. One can learn all there is to learn about the marine life around the island and in the Bay of Bengal or the Andaman sea at the Fisheries museum. The other notable museums are Samudrika, which is similar to the fisheries museum, The forest museum which has minutely detailed models of forest activities in Andaman and the Zoological Museum.
Port Blair has its own fair share of nice beaches like the Carbyn’s Cove and North Bay Beach which are ideal for swimming and sun-basking but Radhanagar beach at Havelock Island feels like it’s from another world. Hailed as some of the most picturesque and pristine beaches of not just India but the whole world, a visit to Andaman is not complete without a visit to the Havelock Island. Accommodations of all sorts are not hard to find at both Port Blair and Havelock Island. The trip to Havelock from Port Blair takes 4 hours by the ship which is the only mode to travel. Most people take the next ship back to Port Blair after staying only a couple of hours at Radhanagar beach but the true enjoyment of Radhanagar Beach lies in being at the beach all by yourself with not a soul to be seen, which can be achieved only if one chooses to stay at the Havelock Island.
There are more scenic beaches in Andaman than anyone can imagine; Elephant Beach, Vijayanagar Beach, both located at Havelock, being a few of them.
If one is for adventure and activities to make the trip memorable Andaman never disappoints. Scuba diving is the most popular marine activity and it indeed is a life time experience; for those who do not wish to go too deep, snorkelling is arranged very easily; and for ones who would take it a step higher they also provide for Sea-Walking where one walks on the sea-bed. Water sports of all kinds from motor boating, game fishing to water gliding are available and popular.
For the other kind of nature lovers Andaman can mean camping both in the forests and the beach. Treks and hike are organized by tour operators on regular basis which take you on amazing stretches of varied distances.
With people from all over India residing in Andaman the place has come to be known as mini-India with people of all ethnicities and religions living harmoniously through ages. This also means the Andaman has a very rich variety of cuisines form south Indian to north Indian. Sea food as one can guess is delicious and easily available.
Andaman can be reached by air from Delhi, Kolkata or Chennai and it is connected to Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam by sea with voyages taking 50-60 hours and ships running every month.
Tourist from abroad need to avail prior permission for accessing the islands, which is easily available on arrival at Port Bair by flight or ship from the Immigration Authorities for 30 days.
Andaman and Nicobar islands are best bet for a different people to go together, as they encompass so much in between them that nobody would come dissatisfied from the trip.