Text By Saurabh Kalkar
When we think of Andaman islands, all that comes to our mind is sea and beaches, but there’s lot to it than what meets the eye! This archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, has a rich historical past, and also houses one of the world’s only Paleolithic era tribe, which do not like to interact with outsiders. Now don’t worry they are on a secluded island so no harm will come to you as long as you don’t give them a surprise visit.
Andaman is way different from any touristy destination in India. This tropical retreat has simply lot more to offer, just checkout the list below with some of the best places to visit in the Andamans, pack your bags and enjoy the Andaman Islands before the season gets over as one of the best times to visit Andamans is from October to April !
1.) Cellular Jail & Ross Island
The whole reason of why you talk and hear about the island was due to the historical linkages this place has in the Independence struggle of India. The entire island was a penal colony during the British occupation of India. The most respected of the freedom fighters were incarcerated here.
Even if you are not a history buff, the entire story will surely move you, and make you think of all the hardships the torch-bearers of Indian freedom struggle had gone through in this god-forsaken prison, then known as “Kaala Paani”.
The moment you see the architecture you would understand what type of psychological torture each and every freedom fighter must have gone through in this jail which was designed for complete solitary confinement and to break the morale of the revolutionaries. It’s a must visit place to understand the reason how the islands came into existence in the first place.
2.) Jolly Buoy or Red Skin Island
There are many coral reefs around the archipelago but no doubt Jolly Buoy or Red Skin trip Island is a must. These islands fall in the Mahatma Gandhi National Park, which protects the island from harm caused due to human intervention.
On alternate basis the islands are closed for outsiders for almost six months which helps the coral reef to grow freely, which is one of the reasons why the corals are more beautiful on this side of Andamans. The most commercialised spot of North Bay is still recovering from the damage caused due to the 2004 tsunami, so Jolly Buoy or Red Skin are the best options available to see corals in their true form.
The snorkeling trips here are heavily monitored and has to be undertaken with a local guide, which may sound like a downfall, but coral can be nasty for beginners; well it’s not the same as swimming in a pool of chlorine filtered water, so its better to get a guided snorkeling tour of the place. Also, there are no shops available on the island so it’s advisable to carry food items before you board the ferry from Wandoor jetty to these islands.
3.) Take a Stroll on the Vast White Sandy Beaches of Havelock or Neil island
Though both the islands are heavily commercialised, beach goer tourists end up enjoying or swimming near the road heads of the beaches. The rest of the beach is absolutely left for the explorers.
If you need solitude just keep on walking towards any of the opposite corners of the beach and you’ll easily have your own private beach enough for some soul searching. There are many beaches which are not connected via road, so you’ll end up trekking to such places through the dense Andaman forest or paddy fields or the mangroves. And we can assure you that this little hardship is worth every bit to enjoy the pristine beach by yourself.
4.) Visit Mud Volcanoes and Limestone caves of Middle Andaman
The entire Andaman & Nicobar chain of islands sits on top of an active tectonic plate and the only active volcano of India is on Barren Island which can be seen through ferries but from a safe distance. Going on the island is prohibited by the government due to safety reasons. But you can see miniature models of a volcano in the form of mud volcanoes which are pretty harmless. Taxi’s ply regularly from Nilambur Jetty to Mud volacones, and it takes approximately an hour to reach there by road.
Limestone caves can be visited from the same jetty point, but this takes you through the dense forest which is inhabited by the indigenous Jarawa Tribe. Sadly, the limestone caves are not big enough to quench the thirst of an explorer, but if you haven’t seen anything like it, then this is worth your time, at the end of the day, experience matters the most. Also a word of caution, photography in the Jarawa inhabited area is not allowed, so you’ve got to capture the experience just in your thoughts.
5.) Checkout the Marine Life by Snorkeling or Diving or Sea Walking
No where near mainland India would you get such a diverse sea life, and with under water visibility being better than rest of Indian diving/snorkeling sites. There are plenty of dive shops as well as snorkeling vendors at Port Blair as well as on Havelock & Neil islands, offering activities for single to multiple island trips at a competitive price.
While snorkeling or diving you can expect encounters with Clown fish, Parrot fish, Lion Fish, Eels, various species of Angelfish, Octopuses, Sting rays, Scorpion fish etc. If you’re lucky enough you might even spot a Dugong which is the state animal of Andaman’s. In all this we can’t forget to mention coral reefs, such a diverse marine life is possible just because of them, also the coral formations are really beautiful to see while snorkeling or diving.
6.) Complete a Basic to Professional level above Certifications in Scuba under PADI
We’ve already mentioned that Andaman’s is blessed with rich and diverse marine life, also adding up the visibility factor; the islands are paradise for divers. What is a better place than to learn SCUBA diving … Andaman has one of the few oldest and best diving schools in India, which offer a range of different diving courses as well as recreational (basic) diving. Most of the dive schools are registered under PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or SSI (Scuba Schools International) or both and have very experienced instructors to teach SCUBA.
7.) Trek to the Highest Peak of Andamans (Through Chuglum & Padauk forest)
Trek seems like a misplaced word when someone mentions Andaman’s but a trek to Saddle peak (732 m) is worth experiencing. The trek route is almost 8 kms long starting from Lamia Bay, of which 3 kms goes alongside a beach through the dense evergreen forest with trees towering to whooping heights of over 100 ft! (i.e. roughly around 10 storeys) and then around 5 kms of gradual climb.
The view at the top is mesmerizing, with high tree tops & green vegetation slowly giving into a small strip of white & golden sand and then further to graduating hues of blue.
8.) Visit Ross & Smith islands
This twin island is seriously worth mentioning because of the sand bar formation between the two islands which connects them, during high tide the water crosses over the sand bar but still people can try to cross it. The beaches of both the islands are comparatively cleaner than the beaches at Havelock and the water is absolutely clear which makes the place worth visiting.
Snorkeling is possible there but there are no guide services available on the island. The sand bank facing the Bay of Bengal experiences waves and would have slightly warmer water during the day, whereas the opposite side would be calmer and cooler till the tide crosses the sand bank. The place is excellent for Sun bathing or swimming in the sea waters.
9.) Eat Delicious Sea Food
Sea food is mostly accounted as a staple food in Andaman’s and is fresh as it is consumed on daily basis. Andaman offers a variety of desi sea food cuisines as the island has mixed population of mainlanders. Also the local Andamanese or Nicobarese cuisine is worth trying for the foodies whereas Hotels on Havelock and Neil’s Island offer a range of continental dishes.
10.) Drink lots of Sweet Coconut Water (Sinduri Coconut, King and Queen Andamanese Coconuts)
Where there is sea there is coconut. We mainlanders except a few coastal areas are deprived of this opportunity of drinking tender coconut water. So only if this wasn’t enough, Andaman would have few more varieties of tender coconuts which have sweeter water than the usual to relish.
We can blindly recommend you to chuck soda or any aerated drink to this energizing natural drink during your stay in Andaman. Coconut is not just best for oral re-hydration but it is also a source of sugar, minerals, vitamins & amino acids, and also helps killing intestinal worms.
Did you know that coconut water is as sterile as saline and was used by Americans & Japanese as a substitute for intravenous sterile glucose solution.
Anyways if you happen to be in Andaman ask for a King Coconut or Sinduri tender coconut to enjoy its sweet and refreshing taste.
Here’s some first-hand advice for you while visiting Andamans
i.) Always check into the local forest outpost to enter your details in case you’re trekking through the jungles.
ii.) Study the tide timings and then chart out your exploration trips or simply follow government/local guidelines and exit the forest before it gets dark (as it gets darker fast) as the islands lie on the eastern most side away from the mainland & the forest is typically evergreen dense type with trees growing to whooping heights you can only imagine, this place can get close to Amazon jungle with the looks of it.
iii.) Salt water crocodiles are present and you’ve to be cautious enough to not end up visiting them while you’re alone on the beach. Generally the beaches have forest outpost which update the info about recent croc sightings in the vicinity.”
Go to Andamans! Chase the hermit crabs and get kissed by the sun 😉
Do share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section.