Jewels of India- Andamans

29th Oct 2017
Photo of Jewels of India- Andamans by Ginny Bansal

I have taken this name “Jewels of India” from a famous documentary featuring the late Tom Alter. The title is completely apt and only once you visit the place you would know what all hidden gems India has in this diverse nation. This trip has been on my bucket list for a very long time.

We started planning for this trip long back and we booked the tickets well in advance in July. This helped me booked the tickets at a pretty cheaper rate and that too in Vistara. I had every reason to be delighted. We made a trip for 6night/7 Days to cover the things in totality. Though any numbers of days are less to cover a place but we zeroed down on a week to sink into the beauty.

When I started booking the hotels I had thought that I would make it a budget trip but as I started doing it I realized that most of the nice hotels were on a higher end. I went on to devote the days in such a manner that I get best of every place:2 days each to Port Blair, Havelock and Neil Island.

Day 1

Day 1

We flew from Delhi in morning around 8:10. Since it was not a direct flight to Port Blair, so we had a halt at Kolkata. In spite of a long flight; the journey was a good one; courtesy Vistara. I had taken many flights in my life but trust me the kind of food they serve is outstanding in comparison to other domestic flights. We reached Port Blair around 1. Veer Savarkar airport as it is called the Port Blair airport is a small one but very well managed. We took a taxi from the airport and went ahead for the very first destination of our trip i.e Sinclair’s; Port Blair. I had booked the hotel as it was one of the good properties in accordance with various reviews on different portals. The façade was good so was the eating area and the outside area; it was sea facing; you start sinking into the feeling that you are away from the madness of the city life. Then you enter into the room and expect some out of the box service and room; but even being a 4 star; it does not pretty much live up to your expectations. The best part of the room was view and only the view; the bathroom was small and untidy and there was a lot of seepage in the room. When asked about the same; they say we are an old property. Wow; is that even an excuse. After that we rushed to the cellular jail but wait we don’t knew ferries will be such a big problem. The tourists are many but the ferries are few, quite a few. The helpful autowala took us to Makruzz ferry office; and the staff was pretty helpful in getting us the ticket next morning at 8am. We rushed to cellular jail but they are pretty punctual and closed the door thus missing out on the opportunity. Next catch: Sound and light Show. Now, here comes the Digital India initiative on ground. You can’t buy the ticket till you connect your phone to the Wi-Fi; only once you get the token number online you are issued a ticket. The internet connection is poor in fact very poor; you basically go back to the time when in order to get a signal you roam here and there with the phone held high hoping you might just get a connection, anyways a helpful localite got us the tickets and then we moved to Corbyns cove beach; a beautiful beach with sea hitting the shore and the sound of the waves making you feel alive and refreshed. There are hardly any distances but just like any other city; the auto-wallahs don’t leave any chance to dig a hole in your pocket. We were lucky enough to get a to and fro auto from Corbyns to cellular jail for the light and Sound show. We reached back in time as the show was scheduled for 6:15 .There were proper cues on the road with no hindrance to the ongoing traffic; that’s when you get a lesson in how civilized people are.. In fact the not –so civilized ones like a lot many of us also get a reality check once in such a town. The Sound and Light show was pretty good and gives the feeling of patriotism when it reminds you of the sacrifices and the struggles that the freedom fighters had to go through to get the nation independence. You hear some familiar voices of Tom Alter and Om Puri in the sound and light show to make it even more memorable experience. It was time to call it a day and we went back to hotel to catch up on the much required sleep; in order to be back for the next day of excitement.

Day 2: Havelock

Day 2

A beautiful morning with a beautiful weather; we rushed from Sinclairs to the port from where we had our ferry. Unlike Delhi; the transportation system is very punctual over there. The driver told us 8am means 8 am and the ferry would leave; we rushed just in time to make it for the ferry. Makruzz is a private ferry and a very beautiful one which is properly organized; though little expensive but it has all the comforts of music; refreshments, documentary on Havelock & Andamans; thus giving you more insight into the city. We reach our hotel Sea Shell Havelock; a beautiful boutique property with sea facing rooms and surround by tall coconut trees. A sight just out of a Bollywood movie. We got a comfortable duplex cottage. We had understood this by now that the motto of the city is; “Early to bed and early to rise”. We rushed to Kalapathar Beach; such panoramic scenic view and clear water. The best part: Coconuts. They are huge you actually need to stop while taking sips; I have seen Coconuts that almost have 1 to 1.5 liters water n its different fresh n with fizz ..That was like OMG moment. Since we don’t get to see such coconuts here in Delhi. One big sip and its finished. The next stop was the Radha Nagar beach; regarded as second most beautiful beach in Asia it actually is true to the expectations. The shops are outside the beach premises so that was the reason of a lot of cleanliness around the beaches. It’s endless wherever you see its just water n water. This is one beach where you actually feel like soaking up in water. Though, they really need to work on the basis; washrooms and changing rooms are in a messy situation and so are the locker rooms. The beach is so endless you actually soak in the nature; one look and you get mesmerized in the nature’s lap.. After some me and you time; we left for the hotel Sea Shell. The room service was very prompt and they made food according to our taste asking our specifications and preferences. Even at 6 in the evening it was so dark as if it is 12 in the night.

Day 3

Day 3: Havelock

This day we had reserved for Elephant beach and Scuba Diving. Andamans is a scuba paradise in India. The clean water and the pristine beaches make it a different experience altogether. I couldn’t sleep all night thinking how difficult it would be with such a heavy cylinder on your back and being a little Claustrophobic. I ensured with the hotel staff at least 5-7 times that is it safe; I know how to swim but then also I just wasn’t sure of doing it. After a little of thinking and coaxing, me and my husband thought let’s give it a shot. We reached at 6 in the morning as the clarity is best during that time .My instructor Ashley was really helpful and supportive. She gave me complete training made me comfortable to get in the water. She taught us all the signals and it was a scene straight out of Zindagi na Milegi Dobara with me being Hritihik Roshan; who is shit scared to even try this. Anyways after her lot of attempts; I tried to breathe with that lifeline that was a pipe stuck in my mouth in an “O” position that I could barely move my lips .. All I had was that thing to rely on to breath with my nose inside the mask. She took me to the deep waters with back floating and moved me upside down into the water. I was so happy but I got uncomfortable and came out of the water. She warned me that if I do this again the Dive ends. This time I ensured that I am doing it for sure. We got in the water; she took me deeper; introducing me to the new species of fishes; the corals; the marine life and such an unconventional silence where all you could listen was the dub dub sound that you were breathing in to the pipe. The feeling is out of the world and unexplainable when you see that there is a life that exists where you can’t even reach out. We came out almost after 15-odd minutes but it was victorious and I was overjoyed. When we saw the time it was actually time for Elephant beach; but we had no regrets at all even if we missed out on it. To our surprise; it was closed as there was some inspection and they didn’t allowed the boats on the beach that particular day and a day before. It was time for some relaxation; after a good meal we hired a scooter and went to Radha Nagar Beach. There is a different fun altogether to ride on those two wheels in a new city. Somehow exploring thing on an unknown path is a different feeling altogether. That adrenaline rush pumping in your body of both nervousness and excitement of what the journey unfolds is something unsaid. Today we just walked n walked; talking about life experiences; things that matter; things that don’t matter; anything and everything under the beautiful sky with water touching the feet and pushing away. We took our scooter and crossed the beautiful fields with no pollution no dust just the breeze lashing through the hair. We came back to the hotel; packed the stuff to set for the next destination, Neil Island. I was deeply excited to be going to another island.

P.S: Don’t expect the internet anywhere; just soak in the sun and the spirit of the city.

Day 4

Day 4

Now was the time for Neil Island.. A small island with beautiful beaches, few people on the road and barely any noise. After a taxing ferry which was government ferry; we reached the peaceful Neil Island. Government ferries are on time but not hygienic and neat. So, travel at your risk. There are steep differences between the price of government ferry and Private ferry; but if you want comfort and some entertainment rather opt for Makruzz or Green Ocean.Neil Island is pretty small and barely in 5kms you can actually roam around the whole place. We stayed at Silver Sand Beach Resort; it was a nice property with very clean room and antique furniture. Though it does not have beach facing rooms, but you can access the beach. Less commercial of all the islands, to my surprise it was the only place where we could finally access internet. Since we had reached late, we dedicated this entire day to laze around, roam around the property and get some rest. We wanted this rest as the next day was completely dedicated to roaming around Neil Island.

Day 5

Day 5: Neil Island

We got up completely geared up to explore this pristine island. We started off with a special on request breakfast as there were few guests. The staff at the reception informed that a day was good enough to roam around Neil Island. We chalked out the four places that we had to visit: Bharatpur Beach, Natural Bridge, Sitapur beach and Laxmanpur beach.We headed to Bharatpur beach firstly as we were informed that adventure activities close by 12. We reached there and surprisingly all the water based activities were closed for the day as the water was being cleaned and the visibility was not good enough for glass bottom boats, snorkeling etc. At this point I breathed a sigh of relief thinking thankfully I did scuba in Havelock. We started off with some shopping besides the beach there were shell plates, beautiful coasters with shells insides, tried out hand at blowing the Conch Shell , also got to know as how to test the difference between a real pearl and an artificial one. This was like knowledge directly from the experts, you scratch the pearl on mirror, if it leaves a mark then its real else it’s fake. After this we resumed with our coconut drinking session, sipping on freshness and energy for the next adventure. Bharatpur beach is completely white sands, where you can actually walk on the dead corals, it seems like where sand, water and sky; it is a view to watch out for. You have to see it to believe it; we walked and walked till the point tides started getting high, it was time for the next place.The next we went to Natural bridge; I had seen this place in the documentary and was pretty excited to see it as it was difficult to believe that such a place exists where the rocks have actually placed themselves in such a manner thus forming a natural bridge . It is sea facing though the place is not very clean but you see different corals and other little insects. The place is a definite watch out; see it to believe it. The best part about all these places is you don’t pay an unnecessary entry charge for any of them. All you have to do is get down to the place and enjoy it.P.S: If you are going with this expectation that you will line up things to do, It’s a strict No. Andamans is all about the spirit, wallpaper beauty anywhere and everywhere , the feel of the place is good enough to keep you happy and high( you don’t even need Alcohol for it.)Next we went to Sitapur Beach, this beach was the most silent one with actually no one around Probably we went in the afternoon that is why but it was only me and my husband on the whole beach front to cherish those moments and observe a fisherman doing his daily task of catching the fish on order to earn his livelihood. You realize that life’s best moments are when you watch out something without really judging anything. The kind of silence and contentment on his face made me believe that life is a little more beautiful in small cities than the big towns which are nothing but just rushing to one place and another.And the last spot for the Neil Island, Laxmanpur Beach. This beach is famous for its sunset. Perfect weather and good company makes it even more a beautiful place. There was a lil market with few stalls with beautiful products. I bought a shell plate with a stand which was made out of one single piece of wood without any joints. An antique which you will find only in the Andamans. There were people in large number to catch the glimpse of the beautiful sunset. When I observe these people the only common thing is everybody is glued to their phone even when there is no network. The sunsets by around 5 and it’s the most surreal thing you will see, it seems like the sun is going down in the water. It’s a sight to store in your eyes and keep it in the best memory folder. The sunsets and the people stock up at the tea shop for Chai and Pakoras. With a view like this and chai to sip on and those tasty pakora to satisfy your hunger pangs, do we really need anything else from life. Well, I wish we humans had that kind of contentment. We don’t. We rushed back to the hotel and crash in the bed and dream about the Neil memories.

Day 6

Day 6

This was an add on day to go back to Port Blair and catch on what all we had missed. We bid a good bye to Silver Sand Resort and head back to Port Blair with an afternoon ferry. We reached at around 2 in the afternoon. We checked in to the hotel, kept our bags and rushed for Ross Island as the last ferry was also scheduled for 2 pm. We reached there only to find out that all the boats are already booked by the travel agents. We did not give up and thought that we should wait. In the event of any cancellation; we might just get a chance to go there. We requested everybody from the ticket collector to the helper to the security but all in vain. We still did not give up and waited as the luck had it, we two got a chance as the security guy helped us as there were less number of people on the boats. It was hardly a 10 minute journey in the boat from that port. We were damn excited as we did not wanted our day to go waste. We reached Ross Island and it started raining, there were hundreds of deer’s in that secluded island. People were feeding them with the coconut and they were happily eating it. Ross Island is very huge and shows the grandeur with which the Britishers had lived at that place. It was once the administrative headquarters of the British but now it’s a secluded island. A huge bakery, church and there are many other points of interest as well. There are huge trees all over the island with roots are all across the walls. The local says that even during the Tsunami; this was the place which had saved the Port Blair city from any kind of damages. We went all over the place; it was a huge place and only with 2 hours of stoppage there as the boat was scheduled to pick up after 2 hours. You will be fascinated with the kind of construction and the detailed architecture with a separate zone for everything. Huge buildings of their residence and trees as tall as your eyes could see high. The weather was just perfect to complement the beauty of that place. We then went back to feeding the deer, and people were also picking up the coconuts as there were many trees there. A fine was there on both the things but nobody to keep a check. Our boat came in and we boarded it to be back to the port. We were very hungry and no food there, just a canteen which was there for the travel agents who had got their big groups. They were given food packets to satisfy their cravings, but what about us, we were watching like those 90’s kid who doesn’t even need to speak to tell. I looked at my husband and he knew it with my look that we also need to take this food packet else my stomach would further punish me with those endless cramps. Though it was just taking a food packet without paying up, but the thrill it had was just unmatched to buying a thing. By saying this, I am in no way promoting the ideology of “Don’t pay up and eat”. It was just in the spur of moment. After a good box of variety of food items it was time for Corbyns Cove beach. Though, we had been there but tomorrow we had to go back to that mad city life and it would be time before we get to see this beauty yet again. We went back to the beach only to walk hand in hand, walking with the slippers in my hand and the cold water touching the feet and that shhh sound of the beach waves was good enough to make me happy. We just discussed how much we are going to miss this when we head back to the monotonous lifestyles and our workplaces with a mundane routine and the traffic sound. Even thinking about it makes it worse. We went back to our coconut drinking session and just watched the waves touching the shore back and forth. Time to go back to the hotel, we took an auto. This particular auto –wallah was too fond of talking and he told about his recent trip to Mathura and Vrindavan and how he was conned in the name of religion and faith. His vision of life in simplicity and small moments made me introspect the kind of life we are living. He dropped us back to the hotel telling about the various things and the history of places around. We went back to sleep as next day was scheduled to come back to Delhi.

Day 7:

Day 7

And we had to come back. We had our flight at 1 in the afternoon. We woke up early to go to Cellular Jail as we had reserved this day for seeing the premises inside as we had already seen the Light and Sound. We went only to find out that the Jail was not open for the day due to a Public holiday. This was the only place where we found that such kinds of people attraction are closed on a public holiday. As, we have always seen with a higher ticket fare the places are open on public holidays as well. After a lot of coaxing and requesting the guard and taking the emotional factor in account, he allowed us till a point where we could see the jail from the distance. We couldn’t visit the prisons in general but even getting to see it was satisfying enough. We went back to the hotel and rushed for the airport with a suitcase full of memories until next time we see the pristine beaches and the wallpaper beauty again.

Hotels: Sinclairs, Port Blair

Sea Shell Resort, Havelock

Silver Sand Beach Resort, Neil Island

Mandatory things to do: Scuba Diving (No more than 3500Rs.)

Shop for: Sea Shell Plates, Shell coasters

Soak in the sun, sip the coconut water and relax…