Have you been to the Andaman and Nicobar islands yet? If not, here’s a glimpse of their breathtaking beauty and interesting history. From the sad stories of Kala Pani to wonderful beaches and serene beauty, Andamans is going to mesmerize you from the moment you land.
The Andamans really are a jewel in the sea, surrounded as they are by the Bay of Bengal on all sides. On landing at the Veer Savarkar International airport in Port Blair, we first checked into our hotel, located about five kms from the airport.
After a quick wash and change, we began our sightseeing with a visit to the famous cellular jail. This was the spot where Indian revolutionaries were incarcerated during the freedom struggle.
The individual cells (measuring 13.5 ft. x 7 ft.) were constructed in such a way that prisoners could not communicate with one another, in order to keep them divided. The memorial monument has some great architecture, and also houses gallows and other cruel memories of the kalapani.
After that extremely powerful revision of history, we next headed to Corbyn’s Cove beach, a small curve of sand backed by palms. It makes a nice little spot to lounge in and relax.
We closed with the most important activity of the day – the spectacular sound and light show at the cellular jail. Narrated by an old peepal tree in the complex (which was witness to all the horrors in the jail), the spellbinding show was a moving tribute to all those nameless faces who had laid down their lives for the sake of the nation. It serves as a reminder to all Indians about the freedom struggle – ‘lest we forget’.
I happened to watch it around the Republic Day weekend, so it was very appropriately timed, and brought a lump to my throat.
The next morning, we set out early to take a 2.5 hour Makruzz ferry ride to Havelock island. A picturesque natural paradise fringed by a green canopy of the rainforest, Havelock has some of the nicest sandy beaches. The Elephant beach here can be reached by small boat cruises, and offers several exciting water sports options like snorkeling, scuba diving, and undersea walking. It is also a photographer’s delight – complete with fallen trees and a large coral reef.
The Radhanagar beach (beach number 7) is breathtakingly beautiful, serene, and calm – it’s also a great place to watch the sunset daily at about 5 pm. Voted as the best beach in Asia by Time magazine (2004), it is a 2-km long crescent-shaped beach with soft silver sand.
At Havelock, we explored some of the eateries that serve some divine schnitzels, sizzlers, and trout fish. Another eatery at the Havelock jetty served some of the most delicious chicken cordon bleu I’ve ever tasted!
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The next morning, we took a private ferry to Neil island. This tiny, lush green island with sandy beaches and the bluest of blue waters is 36 km by ferry from Port Blair. With a total population of just 4,000 people, its relaxed vibe will drown you in its charm!
Located about half a kilometer from the jetty lies Bharatpur beach, which is a great spot for sunbathing and shopping for souvenir T-shirts and other trinkets. But undoubtedly the loveliest beach here is Lakshmanpur, a secluded beach in Lakshmanpur village, having white shell sand and shallow water.
It just makes you realize how much cleaner, greener, and untouched the Andaman islands are when compared with conventional beach destinations like Goa.
In the evening, we took a government ferry that brought us back to Port Blair. The next morning, we left for a full-day excursion to two more neighboring islands close by.
Known as the Coral island, North Bay is perfect for viewing marine life in the form of rich coral reefs and colorful fishes. A glass bottom boat ride is also available for the not-so-adventurous! North Bay is also famous for being depicted on the Indian 20 rupee note.
Located a short distance away is Ross island. Known as the Paris of the East, Ross was once an exclusive preserve from where the British governed the entire Andaman & Nicobar islands prior to India’s independence.
It also served as the residence of the Chief Commissioner during the British Raj as well as the administrative headquarters of the settlement during those times. The entire township was modeled on a Scottish village that existed here, including a swimming pool, tennis court, printing press, hospital, church, cemetery, and community hall.
The island was rocked by a massive earthquake in 1941 and was later brutally attacked by the Japanese during the Second World War. Today, one can only see the skeletal remains of the buildings with photographs of the bygone era. An exotic variety of birds, peacocks, deer, and rabbits also inhabit the island.
Finally, on the last day of our visit, we walked to the Aberdeen market near our hotel to buy some of the famous local supari. We also headed to the Sagarika Government Cottage Industries Emporium that exhibits a spectrum of artifacts made of mother of pearl, sea shells, and local wood products along with miniatures of Nicobari canoes, palm mats, furniture, etc.
There is also a Khadi Gram Udyog Bhawan in the adjoining building from where we picked up some knick-knacks to carry back home.
With that, we packed our bags and left for the airport to bid goodbye to this paradise called the Andaman islands!
Where we stayed:
Fortune Resort Bay Island, Port Blair
Munjoh Ocean resort, Havelock island
Where we loved to eat:
Anju Coco resto, Havelock island
Barefoot Bar & Brasserie, Havelock island
Fat Martin café, Havelock island