Amazing Andaman

Forget Kokomo. The Beach boys should have really been singing about going to Andaman. You read all about Andaman and hear everyone recommending that one should go there atleast once in their lifetime but once you do land there, the beauty is something that cannot be captured by a camera. It’s indescribable and something that has to be experienced first hand. From the clean pristine sands to the clear blue waters for snorkelling, Andaman is India’s answer to Hawaii or Mauritius. One must keep pinching oneself to realise that this isolated little island is still a part of a country that fights for clean streets and mundane daily problems. A complete stress buster and a favourite for honeymooners. With predominantly Bengali cuisine and a sea food lovers cloud nine, this tiny island is accessible from Chennai or Kolkatta only. Once you land at Port Blair, the jetty is a 2.5 hour ferry ride to Havelock island.
I had rung in the 2016 New Year at Andaman. Unfortunate but true, this island gained popularity only after the 2006 Tsunami almost destroyed it. Curious travellers come to see what happened that fateful morning. Andaman is also a history buff’s paradise. From the Kala pani jail to some of the old British settlement houses, the legacy behind each of these places is very humbling.

We chose to stay on Havelock Island. It’s the most buzzing of all islands with all the happening tourist spots and restaurants. Things you can do around here include:

Elephant Beach:

Named after the fact that elephants used to frequently swim here before the tsunami, this beach is a 20 min boat ride away. A haven for snorkelling, water sports and sea walks (walking under the sea). With corals barely a metre under the water, it doesn’t matter if you do not know swimming. There are enough agencies you can go through to experience these once in a lifetime moments. Plenty of tress that were uprooted during the tsunami are left as it is to add to the natural beauty of the beach. Plenty photoshoot opportunities.

Beach no. 1:

This is right at the main jetty where the boat arrives from Port Blair. Have some coconut water and visit the local market to buy some amazing souvenirs like lanterns and photo frames that are made out of shells.

Beach no 2:

If you are looking at something secluded and away from the hustle and bustle of the tourists that throng this destination, look no further than this beach. And while you are here, you might as well learn a little deep sea diving as most diving schools conduct their training here.

Beach no 7:

Also known as Radhanagar Beach, this is the most popular beach in Havelock. We stayed at Barefoot hotel. Their cottages were so comfortable and beautiful. A home away from home. The staff was extremely warm and friendly. The spa which is situated amongst the trees must not be missed. The sunset views from this place is something I will carry back with me. Every morning we would be greeted by an unbelievably gentle and cute elephant at the hotel.

Kalapathar beach:

Located next to Kalapathar village, this beach is named after the black (Kala) rocks that you find here. This place is also great for snorkelling.

Now coming to the food in the island. If you are a seafood lover, you are in good hands. Full moon cafe, Something different, Anju coco and Barefoot Brasserie serve the most delish prawns, calamari and lobsters. In Indian food, authentic Bengali options like fish with mustard, rice, dal, fried fish are available in dime a dozen shacks found across the island. If you would rather not experiment, Continental and Chinese non spicy food is available. Fear not if you are a pure vegetarian. This is India after all and one is bound to find options and pure vegetarian restaurants too.

A tip while staying in Havelock – the island shuts down pretty quickly after sunset. Public transport is also difficult to find. So do find a hotel which has some great indoor activities as you will need it to keep yourself occupied in the last quarter of the day. Regarding network connectivity, I was on BSNL. While I got signal to make phone calls, data and WiFi was very poor.

We also stayed one night in Port Blair.

Do not miss out on Ross Island. This is a 45 min ferry ride from Port Blair. You get to see some really old British settlements and houses, free range peacocks and deers. It is also called as Paris of the East. Famous for its light house, there is no specific beach per say. Be careful of the boat operators who could literally take you for a ride at high costs.

Cellular Jail:

Also known as Kala Pani, this place was used by Britishers to bring in Political prisoners during India’s freedom struggle. The light & sound show is definitely worth a watch and will bring a tear to your eye.

Port Blair is also a shopper’s paradise with mirrors, pens, a variety of statues including Lord Ganesha made with shells.

On the whole Andaman is more than just a tourist spot to check off your list. Spend enough time here, eat like the locals, unwind and relax amongst the beautiful scenery. Disconnect from the world to connect with yourself.

Cost for a couple for a 5 day stay:

Tickets from Kolkata/Chennai to Port Blair by flight – approx 150 USD per person x 2 people = 300 USD
Barefoot Havelock (during New Years which is peak season. Rest of the year costs are about 60% lesser) – approx 300 USD a night x 4 nights = 1200 USD.
One night in Port Blair = 90 USD
Cost of 1 meal = 25 USD x 10 meals = 250 USD (more economical options are available on the island)
Jetty cost to and fro – approx 40 USD x 2 people = 80 USD
Other expenses, recreation, taxis – max 300 USD
Total cost = approx 2520 USD (for a luxury trip in peak season).

*Costs given above are for a luxury trip taken around the New Year of 2016 which is one of the costliest times to visit any tourist destination. Economical options in food and boarding are also available around the year. Please research before setting out.