Exploring The Andamans - A long awaited trip!

We'd recently been to one of our most awaited trips - the enchanting, amazingly breath-taking, historic and splendid islands of Andamans! We'd been keeping to busy to share our incredible experience and we didn't want to post something in a hurry- and there's a big reason for that - we wanted to post a series of well-thought out posts, blog posts that match and do justice to the exotic memories the Islands gave us!
Neil Island , Andaman, India 

Oh thou Exotic Islands!

The Andamans is not just one single destination - it is a destination within a destination - an archipelago of mesmerizing Islands - a place so vast one can spend a whole year to explore the beauty of the Almighty in true spirit! Ours was just a meagre 7 night and 8 days vacation, that's the maximum duration our regular jobs allowed us the freedom for! How we wish it could have been longer! 

Planning for and reaching the Islands:

We'd been quite concerned while planning our trip from our research about the limited connectivity, dicey telephone network and the almost non-existent internet in the Islands. Finally we thought it was inevitable to take help from a local sightseeing operator - a personalised and private tour was the outcome of our long-hour discussions. We struggled finalizing the itinerary too - so many places and so little time! - but here's what our final itinerary looked like:

Day 1: Landing + Cellular Jail with Light and Sound Show
Day 2: Neil Islands
Day 3 and Day 4: Havelock Islands
Day 5,6,7 till departure on 8th day - Base at Port Blair city with trips to Jolly Bouy Islands, Ross Islands, North Bay Islands alongwith the port blair local Corbyn's cove Beach.

Pearl Park Beach Resort Neil Island
Come to think of it now that we have been there, done that - Do we think it was a fair itinerary? Pretty much yes! But we might have well included the adventurous Baratang road trip which includes witnessing the tribals enroute if one is lucky and perhaps the Ross&Victor Islands in North Andamans alongwith limestone caves- but that's a tough ask - a 14 hour long bumpy roadtrip from Port-Blair followed by ferries . Someone who is prepared to spare additional two days must definitely give these places a try!  Indeed it is definitely worth repeating here again that there's so much to visit and it's well upto you to decide the places you want to visit given the time and budget constraints!

Winter is the most appropriate time to visit, that's what we thought and hence planned our trip in January - of course to coincide with our wedding anniversary. Locals though, shared that weather remains almost the same throughout the year. 

The Islands are a couple of hours flight from Chennai and Kolkata. So choose whichever is convenient. We chose Chennai as flight timings were convenient. The Veer Savarkar Aiport at Port Blair is not a  fancy airport - quite ordinary and understandably so given the remoteness of the place. Passenger ships are also operated from Kolkata/Chennai/Vizag but we're not sure if it is worth it given the time it takes - 3 long days for one-way.

The local tour-operator we chose was "Experience Andamans"! And what a wonderful experience it was with them throughout our trip. Professionals in a true sense, they ensured every inch of our journey and each minute of our vacation time was spent in comfort and joy. We'll talk more about them in our upcoming posts when we share our day-by-day detailed experience of our trip. 

View fro Neil Island Harbour

For now, here's a few things that research never told us, only experience did:

  • No matter what weather you plan to visit the Islands, you carry the same set of clothes - simply 'coz the weather stays the same throughout the year - its a typical tropical climate. We needlessly carried a handful of winter gears - how stupid does it feel now!
  • Carry lots of sunscreens - your skin will scream "save me"! Thankfully, we did. The sun is hot out there and the beaches so beautiful - you wouldn't feel like leaving them.
  • Shoes are as good as wasteful luggage - slippers and sandals all the way! Plus, t-shirts and shorts are all you need. Beach hats are pretty much available everywhere - better get them there as a souvenier instead of carrying them over the seven seas! Good UV protected glares, swim-wears and a small bag just enough to carry your extra pair of clothes for each time you visit the beach - that's all you need for this trip. Make sure to avoid carrying lots of luggage as there will be lots of movements - island to island - ferry to ferry - hop in and hop off - and all this with bulky luggage won't be a breeze in a slightly humid weather.
  • The scary essentials - Mobile connectivity and cash: Postpaid connections don't work here. BSNL, Airtel and Vodafone are the only networks that work here but not everywhere! Also, only BSNL is a reliable network as confirmed by locals. Airtel works in Neil and Havelock too. Both of us had only Vodafone SIMs and phone was as good as a dead for the three days we spent at Neil and Havelock! Vodafone worked well in Port Blair. Coming to the internet, it is as good as non-existent. Even the hotels provide free wi-fi only at the reception area . And the result - guests spending more time in reception than hotel rooms :D . Plus, carry CASH! How important is that here! As your credit cards can only be used as playing cards especially in the remote islands like Neil and Havelock. Nobody accepts cards and understandably so because there's no reliable internet. We didn't find any ATMs in Neil. Havelock has only two ATMs. However, in Port Blair there are lots of Banks and ATMs. Ironically, the ticket counter at Cellular Jail in Port Blaironly accepts card payment! No cash accepted here please !
  • The emergency kit : Ensure to carry first aid, emergency medicines, spare glasses and anything else you can't live without since the Islands are still not that commercialised - they are remote, barren and isolated from the rest of the developed human societies - and that is the exact beauty and sanctity of the Islands. Just to give an example, there's no optician in Neil and Havelock. Broken specs in Havelock? Take a 2.5 hour long ferry to Portblair your only option. or fevikwik perhaps. But we haven't been able to fix anything with fevikwik till day but that's a different story altogether lol!

Sunset enroute Havelock to Port Blair!

Join us in our excitment as we share what stood out, what we brought back with us, and why the Andamans will be etched in our memories for the rest of our lives!

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