Andamans! A date with the ocean

Why Andamans?
India being a country of diversity, one is well aware every state has something different to offer with respect to culture, geography, language and even food.
What is special about Andaman and Nicobar Island is, though it is an important part of India, it geographical position tends to make us forget its importance or even existence at times. Since Andamans is located in the Indian ocean its rich in its bio-diversity and one can be marveled to discover much more than just a beach holiday destination. Thanks to the recent increase in tourism and frequent commercial airlines flying from the Indian mainland to this island that we can connect more to this place.

Why we chose it? 
The simple reason was, we wanted to travel to a destination with the whole family, most importantly with my mother who had just been through a major surgery a year back. We did not want the travel to be very hectic and did not have confidence to travel to mountainous locations owing to the challenging roadways we might have encountered there along with her.

Here is an account of our experiences at this island which has a lot to offer than one can even image-

Port Blair – 
This is the junction to connect to any other place in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Port Blair is like any other Indian town. The main tourist attraction is the Cellular Jail and the stories dating back to the Indian Independence History. The Cellular jail had held captive many freedom movement prisoners because of the fact that even if they escaped the prison premises, they could go nowhere from the island as it was surrounded by the ocean. A light and sound show is held in the evening here which is like a visual storytelling of the Jail premises.
Cellular Jail Premises

Outside Cellular Jail - Before Light and Sound Show

Apart from this, Port Blair has many gardens around the town. One can spend time there like the Mahatma Gandhi Park, Joggers Park. Rajeev Gandhi Water Sports complex is also like a recreational garden for both kids and adults. Also there is a park adjacent to the central jail where we spent the evening before the light and sound show. There are some museums in Port Blair which gives an insight into the tribal lives on the island and their evolution. Also the aquarium complex, Samudrika have many varieties of unique fishes and sea creatures to gain some information about the marine life. There is a privately managed museum known as Kalapani which too has a lot of collection about Andaman’s history and could be worth a visit if one has some extra time and is willing to shell some money.

View of the Airport runway from Joggers Park
Port Blair may not exactly seem as a beach destination, but there are a few sea sides near or around Port Blair which is good for the evenings or Sunsets. One of our evenings ended at the Corbyn’s Cove Beach. We had a relaxing stroll and some high tea while enjoying the sunset there. This place was bustling with people and also had many water sports options. We especially liked the drive from this beach because of the distant view of the glowing Navy ships celebrating Navy day in the ocean while the island decorated for the New Years’ Eve. The other short distance escape from Port Blair was that to Chidiya Tapu Botanical park. This place has a small garden along the stretch of the sea and is also surrounded by Mangroves. The Sunset view is very beautiful from here and the drive through the dense, cool forests is also an escape from the hustle of the city. Anyways people have been warned not to wander very near to the sea here because of some crocodile sighting recently. So it’s definitely, not for a beach experience.

Places from and around Port Blair -

To Baratang Island –
A day excursion to the Baratang Island was very adventurous. We had to start very early in the morning, while it was still dark outside. By the wee hours of the morning we were at the checkpost of the Jarawa Forest. This is a dense forest which is inhibited by one of the oldest tribes of the Andaman i.e. the Jarawas. It’s always that the vehicles cross the forest in groups so as to avoid any attacks from the tribes. While passing this forest one may spot a few of them with their family or in groups. They are not very primitive anymore due to government interactions and regular aids. Its advised not to get into any interactions with them or disturb them on your way.
After crossing this forest, we were led to the Baratang island by a convoy. It’s worth enjoying the surrounding views from the deck of the convoy. This is the best possible mode of transport in Andaman. Even vehicles get transferred in the convoys. From the other end we had to again take a boat ride. And as we neared the island, the boat sailed between the mangroves which was a very exciting experience. After a short trek through the foot bridge between the mangroves and the local village crossing paddy fields, we reached the limestone caves, which is the attraction here. Though the limestone caves and the mud volcanoes (which we could not cover due to some local strike) are the main attractions in Baratang. We especially enjoyed the whole journey of reaching there; crossing the Jarawa forests, convoy and ferry sailing in the creek while soaking in the surrounding views of the tiny islands, the mangroves and the on-foot trek to the caves.
Mangroves at Baratang Island
North Bay and Ross Island –
North Bay and Ross Island can also be reached by ferry rides from Port Blair. North Bay Island is well known for the water activities here. Beautiful coral reefs and aquatic fishes can be seen here. One can choose between Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Sea Walks and glass boat rides to get an experience of the aquatic life here. It was my first time to Scuba Diving and it was a mesmerizing experience for me. The activities range from Rs. 500 to Rs. 3500 based on what you choose to do. One can chose the activities based on their level of physical fitness. Snorkelling and glass boat rides are for all.
Coral seen on our Scuba diving experience in North Bay Island
Ross Island is known as a very beautiful island and has remains of the British colonies. It also hosts a national park and you can play with the deers there. We had heard a lot about this Island, but could not visit it due to bad weather warnings during our stay. Will definitely try for the next time!
Ross Island as Viewed from the Ferry
Mount Harriet National Park –

This is the highest point of South Andaman Island and is converted into a small park to enjoy the view of the neighboring islands. After a short drive after a convoy ride from Port Blair we reached this hill station like place. The temperature and humidity here was considerably less compared to most of Andaman.  One can enjoy a calm stroll here in the cool breeze and lush greeneries.
Though Andaman and Nicobar comprises of many islands, all of these are not accessible to the tourists, especially the Nicobar island to protect the tribes there. The most popular ones frequented by the tourists are Havelock and Neil Islands which are well connected by Govt. Ferry Cruise services. One needs to start early morning as these are not very frequent and also ensure the bookings are done in advance.
These ferry journeys are adventurous, fun and worth the experience. We took the journey on Christmas day and so got the extra fun with DJ, on the deck dancing and Santa’s amusement. The journey seemed to have ended very soon and most of us could also avoid the sea sickness.

Havelock and Neil Islands –
These are the most beautiful places to be covered on ones Andaman travel itinerary. These places the synonymous to Paradise. Staying on these islands and waking up amidst turquoise blue ocean with the sounds of gushing water echoing in your ears is an experience to rejuvenate your soul.
These islands are rich in their flora and fauna and is also the main attraction for the underwater adventures. So these are the best places to dive into the Indian ocean and explore the world beneath.
Some renowned beaches in Havelock Island is the Radhanagar Beach, Elephant Beach and Kalapathar Beach. Radhanagar beach is ranked as one of the best in Asia and it is worth spending an evening strolling through this beach. We had a sisterly bonding while exploring through this beach and even watch the sunset but could not figure out where the beach ended. One can see the white sand and green bushes along the beach till your gaze can see. People visiting this beach enjoy it to the fullest whether one just wants to sit or roll on the sand or have a sunbath or spend the whole time jumping and swimming in the water. To add to it, there are many local eateries outside the beach where you can munch some snacks or even have wholesome meals.
Kalapathar Beach, Havelock Island

Neil Island is more picturesque than Havelock. Homestays and Resorts are a very good option here to enjoy the local life and cuisine. We tried a Crab Curry and to our surprise the Crab tasted more like a coconut. We were told these crabs mostly eat coconuts. Strange but tasty! ;)
Lakshmanpur, Bharatpur, Sitapur, Ramnagar beaches can be explored here. Curious, why they have been named after the Mahabharata Characters!

One should definitely plan to get the views of sunset (Lakshmanpur Beach) and sunrises (Sitapur Beach) from this island. Neil island is small in area and can even be explored on a rented bike if you do not have a strict package schedule. Also from every beach it seems you can see the other end of the island. One should not miss getting a guided tour of the coral remains on the Bharatpur beach. It’s an opportunity to see many varieties of sea creatures and corals at the beach itself especially for people who would not want to get underwater. The main attraction is the bridge like structure formed by the coral fossil depositions. Its giant and marvelous. This beach is mostly the result of after tsunami effects where the sea has shifted from the beach thus exposing the underwater world.
Coral Bridge formation at Neil Island

Our date with the ocean -
As per geography, Andaman island are a part of the mountain ranges stretching from Myanmar to Indonesia and hence its flora and fauna are so different from that of India. So it is worth seeing this part of the country, knowing its history and importance as the Indian boundary, experiencing the presence of Indian Navy and its role in protecting the country.

Personally going this island was like feeling gratitude for the beautiful world I have lived in. Our family vacation was majorly a celebration for my mother’s recovery after a major surgery. I was overwhelmed to see her explore the place, the long wait to finally be outdoors had come true, to swim in the ocean, to snorkel and see the undersea. 
Memories of Footprints on the sand

This is why we go to the ocean, the salty breeze and water had cleansed and healed our souls. Most importantly it was our disconnect from the social media and gadgets because of no connectivity and actually we did not find sufficient time for it. Our biological clock had reset to that of the nature. 

Do visit these islands to receive and acknowledge what the oceans have to offer us, and you will surely be marveled by the once in a lifetime experiences here...