Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is situated at Wandoor around 29 km west of Port Blair. It consisted of 30 islands and rocks out of which two islands – Jolly Buoy and Red Skin, are open to tourists depending on the time and season. Necessary permits and boat tickets have to be obtained a day before the trip.
I had booked the trip to Jolly Buoy Island with http://www.onlineandaman.com for the 2nd last day of my visit to Andaman after making payment of boat fare and necessary charges for the permit which I got on the previous day of the trip.
I started the journey towards Wandoor Jetty -the gateway of Jolly Buoy island by 5.30 am. The roads were empty and for the first time of my 8 days stay at Port Blair, I felt a little cold in the air. the roads were good and it took almost one and a half hour to reach there. It had yet to open so I went to take a peep into the adjacent Wandoor beach.
It's a lonely beach with one or two thatched shops closed. Nobody was there except a small group of tourists. The adults were roaming around and children were playing on the beach. I struck a conversation and came to know that they were also from West Bengal.
I saw a gate on the beach marked as ' Crocodile Sanctuary', may be for the tourists consciousness about the sighting of crocodiles.
Wandoor Jetty :
I got back to Wandoor Jetty after taking some good clicks of endless stretches of deep blue sea and distant small islands. The jetty was yet to open, hence I finished my breakfast in a small hotel adjacent to the entry gate. This is the only hotel here that served the tourists.
After having done with the breakfast, I joined a long queue in front of a counter next to the entrance of the Jetty that was providing a water bottle after depositing Rs. 200/- (When you return the bottle you could get the deposit back ) as plastic bottles are not allowed in this park because this island is a plastic- free zone. Although you should carry dry foods as no food items are available there.
The gate was opened by 7.30 am. Afterwards, tourists were allowed to the jetty after checking the permit and boat tickets one by one.
Jolly Buoy Island/Red Skin Island :
We gathered at the beautiful wooden jetty and boarded 9 am ferry. The ferry started sailing within a few minutes through deep blue sea along the dense forested coastline.
The journey was enjoyable. Soon an announcement was made that Red Skin Island would be visited instead of Jolly Buoy because of the high waves for the strong winds as the small boats that would carry the passengers from the large boats to the shore wouldn’t be able to sail.
It took almost 45 minutes to reach Red Skin Island. A complementary glass bottom boat ride for 10 minutes was offered to view the beautiful corals and underwater marine life while going to the shore from the large ferry.
Island greeted us with a beautiful pristine beach with white sands, lush green mangrove forests and clear water. We were given sufficient time to explore the Island. A small thatched shop was there selling cakes and cold drinks. The beach is rich in sea shells.
Various kind of seashells of different sizes and conch shells are found scattered everywhere. Tourists were warned beforehand not to take back the shells and go inside the forests area.
Jolly Buoy View Point :
There is a viewpoint for Jolly Buoy Island around 80 meters away from the shore following a narrow trail. You may visit this place to get a glimpse of it. I couldn't get a clear view due to haze.
Both jolly buoy and red Skin Islands are rich in underwater marine life. The glass bottom boat ride for 30 – 45 minutes is done here on payment basis for willing tourists. As I had done this at Neil Island so did not go for it here. Else nothing much to do here.
Coming back from Red skin island, I had my lunch at the same hotel. There is a Marine Interpretation Centre near the jetty. It is worth visiting.
Chidiyatapu Trip :
Chidiyatapu is located at the southernmost tip of South Andaman,around 25 km away from Port Blair. Chidiyatapu Biological Park, Chidiyatapu beach and Munda Pahad beach are the prime attractions.
After delicious lunch, I headed towards Chidiyatapu following the narrow roads through the lush green deep forest. In some places, roads are not good at all. The driver said that the repairing work was going on, but the last few kilometre stretch along the coast was very scenic. It took more than one hour to reach Chidiyatapu.
I dropped in Biological Park first. It's spread over a large area and houses crocodiles, turtle, variety of birds, monkey, spotted deer and barking deer. Although you can avail the battery van facility to roam inside the park but I did it alone on foot to capture the beauty of it. But if you go alone, it's a little bit difficult to locate the enclosures as there were no proper directions.
Mundapahad Beach :
Next I headed to Munda Pahar beach that lies next to Chidiyatapu beach. After registering the vehicle number at the entrance, I went ahead. Beautiful wooden benches amidst the large tall trees found near the beach to sit and relax.
This beach also known for crocodile sightings, hence a nylon safety net is found to be put up along the coastline to protect the tourist. Many uprooted trees laying on the beach and huge trunk of these form a nice place to sit and watch the sea and enjoy the sunset. Toilet facilities are also available in this beach.
A short trek at the far end of this beach through the dense forest takes you to the top of the Mundapahar. The lonely trail is filled with the huge roots of the surrounding large trees and fallen leaves.
You have to trek carefully otherwise you might be stumbled upon at some places. The rustle of the fallen leaves sometimes get you scared otherwise there's nothing to be frightened of.
On the way you might met tourists, coming down or going up and get a view of the ocean in the left amidst tall trees.
Although the forest is said to be the paradise for birders but I did not find or hear any. Birds might be seen early in the morning.
Eventually you will come across a beautiful light house. A few meters more to walk and you will be at the top of the Mundapahar that offers a panoramic view of the beach on the backdrop of hill.
After getting down, I went straight to Chidiyatapu beach as the sun started going down to the horizon by then and this beach is famous for beautiful sunsets.
The place became very crowded with abundant tourists and vehicles. Everyone was eagerly waiting to soak into the glory of setting sun. Soon we blessed with one of the most stunning sunsets.
Soaking in the sunset vibes, we made my way back and reached Port Blair around 7. 30 pm.
My cab driver was a very humble and knowledgeable person. Without him, it wouldn't have been possible for me to cover both the places in the same day.
How to reach:
You have to hire a cab from Port Blair to visit both the places.
Best time to visit :
November to February is the best time to plan a visit to the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. During the monsoon season (June to August), the park remain closed.
You can visit Chidiyatapu through out the year.