My trip to Andamans, the far off island was not a planned days ahead trip. It happened with one phone call from my just retired dad and my happy to travel anywhere mom, asking me if I would like to join in the trip with them. The inner me exclaimed with a loud 'Yes!', but me being a strong independent, earning woman in early 20's wanted this trip to be my very own. And by very own I mean I wanted to do my own bookings and decide the itinerary my self. My parents had started their post retirement Andamans trip 2 days earlier than the day I landed in Port Blair. So there we had separate itineraries.
The breathtaking view came in sight once the plane started its descent. Once out in Port Blair, I had done the cab bookings from local tours and traveler agency, which really solved my issue of local sight seeing. I grabbed hot idlis in a nearby restaurant for breakfast and made way to the port where I had to catch my Ferry or a small ship ride to the Neil Islands. Yes, if you want to tour Andamans you have to travel by the waterways as Andamans is a collection of little islands.
Traveling by water ways was a new thing for me, and exciting. I was by myself now, traveling solo, talking to the locals and foreigners who dominated the tour.I waited in the queue to board the little cruise which was also used as local transport means by the people there.Once inside it felt like I was in a chair car train. It was very comfortable and fast. I reached Neil Island in 2 hours time. As I had done my hotel and cab bookings in advance(still not quite ahead), I had the head of the tour agency waiting for me with the cab. Mind you, I traveled in March and the sun was very generous! I reached at 2 pm in the sweltering heat, but thanks to the extra caring tour head, he was ready with full AC cab which was relief in the heat.
Another plus point and a tip for all the solo women travelers, I found the tours and travels agencies to be very concerned and cautious for my safety. They made sure I had the best and safest arrangements possible. So please do not hesitate if you want to travel solo. My hotel was not the usual hotel that you have in mind but it was a small 1 bedroom cottage. It felt like a farmhouse , and believe me the line of cottages were too beautiful to be true. It had the proper country-side feels. The arrangement was superb, the cottages were as pretty as you can imagine. I immediately got ready, and left for the beach by 4 pm. Remember, Andamans are more towards the east of mainlands of India so the sun rises and sets earlier.
The Neil Islands are famous for the pristine white sands and the clearest blue waters. The beach is neat and clean, which it even more dreamy. The sunset at Neil Islands is very famous, for which top photographers from the world sit and wait to capture it forever. I made it in time to see the beautiful sunset and oh my it was one hell of a sunset!
Another thing I noticed in Andamans is that people live of the sea, for the sea and by the sea! Once the sun is set, you dont have much to do but to tuck in well only to rise with the sea. The network is very poor and only 2g is available, which makes it vital to learn how to live free of our daily gadgets. Make the most of the sunrise coz thats when you will be able to go for maximum sightseeing.
The next day -14th March,was a day that is etched in my mind for forever. Ill get to it soon :) The first thing to see was the natural bridge made out of live corals! Yes, it is something worth seeing! Very beautiful but you have to watch your step as you cross the rocky coastal line to reach there.
And then , the reason that made this day special- Scuba!
Finally I got the chance to do Scuba Diving- and checked off one from my bucket list. Scuba Diving is best done in Neil Islands, by Scuba Adventures Pvt Ltd. They are awesome, high in spirits,very professional people who will be your rock in the entire process. But please do Scuba diving, it is an experience of a lifetime! The equipment is A-class, the location is amazing as you dive deep in the middle of the Andaman Sea.
Point to be noted is that Scuba Diving takes quite a lot of time if you opt for a later slot. Try to go in early and experience the mind boggling life that persists beneath the ocean without any hassles. Also, after scuba I was hungry like a monster. I treated my self to hot vegetable maggi served by a sweet aunty on the beach. Yumm! The rest of the day I just chilled on the beach, relaxed and de-stressed.
On 15th we went to tour the Baratang Island, famous for the dense Mangrove Forest.It was an adventurous trek to reach the heart of the forest. After crossing the shaky fragile bridge made from tree branches over brackish water where live crocs were looking up to have their lunch, we reached near the mangrove forest. It is one of its kind and world famous. Deep inside the forest there are caves made from limestone deposits,where you will be surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites. Some hell of a view!
After the walking tour to the forests and caves, we returned to Port Blair on 15th night. The next day , 16th, we visited the Corbyn's Cove, a place to have a family picnic with the beautiful view of the sea , water scooters and some beach activities going on, recliners available on the beach to chill and barbeque station on the side. It was perfect. Another place, last but not the least, was The Cellular Jail. You will realize the reason it is called 'Kaala Pani'(Black water). With no route to escape , the Britishers kept the Indian politicians imprisoned in the cellular jail. After visiting it you feel proud of the Nation and heart swelled with pride and respect for our freedom fighters!
On the 16th evening I had my return flight. My heart got torn a bit, as I was soaked in the bliss that was The Andamans! It is a place which is yet to be the vacay-land, the go-to place marked by tourists as a holiday destination. Maybe the reason behind it being so neat and clean. But with me I had taken a thousand memories, myriad teachings, the sweetness and simplicity of the people there and the beauty of the entire archipelago!