50 Shades of Grey might have made for all the erotica and stuff that titillates. Just in case you would have thought of giving nature a chance, to titillate, not with erotica but ‘exotic’a (wish there was a word such), and with a slightly different hue, say blue, the Andamans would have jumped at the opportunity to author a book by the title, ‘50 Shades of Blue’. And, quite justly so.
I am one of those who is kind of biased towards the idea of choosing a foreign location for a honeymoon spot. The motive behind is plain and simple, honeymoon comes once in a lifetime (hopefully and statistically) and hence, it should be given the best choice of place to be enjoyed, albeit not burning a hole as big in your pocket that the entire wallet slips out. I mean, people like me have almost synonymized the idea of honeymoon to having a foreign trip. Unfortunately.
Andamans is just the right, tight slap on our faces.
Ours was a short trip, short, as it was not enough to capture Andamans to its fullest. We had to leave out a lot many places such as the Mud volcano, Diglipur, the forest of the Jarwas(which was then prohibited) and so on. But even then what we were left with was nothing less than splendid.
Day 1: First footprints on the island
We landed in Port Blair after a 2 hours Jet Airways flight from Kolkata. The journey doesn’t have much to offer apart from the last ten minutes before the touchdown. Boy! The island looks amazing from up there. Wish I had ignored the “Please turn off all your electronic devices” warning! I could have had a handful of snaps to show how the first view of the Andamans made it look like a piece of stone dipped in a puddle of blue paint left carelessly on a palette.
The Port Blair airport must be one of the cutest airports around. The runway finds itself placed carefully in a valley and seems to be just enough for a plane to come to a halt. No point looking out for a bus or an aerobridge to take you to the main building as it is, well, just a couple of steps from where the plane halts. Well, we landed, and right there at the gate was our guy, Mr. Sanjay, with all the smile in this world, waiting to receive his guests.
We had spent a good couple of months to figure out which property would be best suited to our taste and pocket. Thanks to the extent the reach of the internet has spread to, we got a decent number of options to choose from. The one that was to become our “nest” for a day was the Megapode Resort. We had booked a Bamboo cottage that overlooked the sea and it was wonderful in one word. Priced at around INR 2500, it had very spacious rooms, clean and a view from the adjacent balcony so relaxing that you might not even want to leave your seat and the cup of coffee at hand. I wish I had a good visual to prove my words, but as I just said, probably I was too lazy to leave my seat and get the camera!!! :P
Well, Port Blair is, without a doubt, a nice little town to unwind peacefully. There is this light n sound show at the famous Cellular jail for which you need to book tickets beforehand. Although I didn’t enjoy it much personally, having already seen better such shows around the country earlier, someone else might find it a lot more interesting. So, midway through the show, we left and went to another place we had heard about in passing, Corbyn’s Cove, and felt we had made a good choice!
Corbyn’s Cove is a must visit place to take an evening stroll. There’s this lovely evening beach, dotted with coconut trees and a lot of benches to sit and relax. Not a lot many people to snatch the peace of the dawning evening from you, so you are ensured of a quiet time here. Just when the evening has set in and you feel like there’s not much left to stare in the dark, why not go for a cup of coffee at the Peerless Sarovar Portico just behind?
The night in Port Blair is quiet and would taste just better with a beer in hand and legs stretched out on the balcony, looking out to the dark sea in front.
Day 2 : Oh Boy!! Jolly Buoy!!
Blue sky, green mountains, white sand and blue waters. Seems God has painted with His own hands. Famous for its crystal clear water and underwater corals and this is by far the best place for scuba and snorkeling for all adventure junkies.
The journey to Jolly Buoy Island takes a little more than an Hour from Wandoor Beach (about 30 kms from Port Blair). All boats leave the beach b y 9 am and you can come back by the same boat by 2 pm. The tickets, Permit etc cost around INR 600. The 1 hr journey is definitely something to look forward to. All possible shades of blue and green play hide and seek. Pictures speak louder than words, so here’s few clicks that might convince you what I experienced.
There is glass bottom boat ride in Jolly Buoy, not that great but of course worth a shot. You get to view some amazing corals and marine creatures.
Take a stroll around the forests of the island once the boat ride is over. Though it is extremely hot but the pristine white beach. The emerald green water and azure blue horizon will keep you awestruck to the awesomeness of nature. I have never seen experienced this color play before in my life.
Once back from Jolly Buoy, we strolled in and around Port Blair, watched the light and sound of the famous Cellular Jail of Port Blair and spend lazy cozy time at our resort in Megapode.
Day 3: Neil Islands: Painted with Infinite Shades of Blue
Neil Island is Andaman’s least known island compared to Havelock and all such. But this is by far the best Island of Andaman that we visited. A little island covering an area of about 18 sq kms , Neil is a way peaceful option compared to the pulsating typical tourists of Havelock. There are a couple of small beaches dotting the island of Neil, namely Sitapur, Bharathpur, etc. Sitapur has a strange landscape, filled with dead corals all over. Got to learn from our guide that this was caused during the tsunami that rocked Andamans, a lot of corals were destroyed and that’s what formed this landscape.
Bharathpur is Neil’s challenge to the beaches of the Carribeans (as much as I could make out from the pictures of the latter). You can choose to laze around, sunbathe yourself or take a snorkelling trip at a good distance within the sea. And once you are done with all your activities, don’t forget to have a sip of the coconut water available. Finishing off a single coconut can be a good challenge to anybody!! Pictures speak louder than words. Let Neil surprise you.
How to Reach Neil Island: Boats ply between Port Blair and Neil Islands at 6.30 am and 11.30 am. Tickets are priced at INR 285.
Where to Stay: We had a nice stay at the Tango Beach Resort in Neil Island that we had found out after quite some research. The rooms are nice and clean and are decently priced. We booked one for Rs. 1800/night and it was a comfortable stay. Fortunately they have got a decent site up now, that allows online reservation as well. The guys there are extremely helpful and always greet and treat you with a smile.
Day 4 and 5: Havelock Islands
Havelock is Andaman’s most popular island. It boasts of two beaches, Radhanagar and Kalapatthar. Radhanagar is more popular being the 2nd best beach of Asia and is truly spectacular. We had a dark cloud coming in which formed an out of the world backdrop against the blue waters and the white sand. Suggestion would be, get yourself a place on the sands, if possible, at some distance from the commercial crowd that’s there, and let yourself get lost in the beauty of the surroundings. You won’t regret spending some time of your life here.
Unless, of course, if you have not seen Kalapatthar till now.
Kalapatthar takes your breath away with it’s unique landscape. As the name suggests, it’s mostly a rocky beach, and looks blackish due to the colour of the rocks. Add to that, a couple of partially uprooted trees forming the perfect setting for a dramatically fashionable photo shoot. Don’t hesitate even if onlookers pass a comment or two while you are busy deciding on that perfect pose, as the jealousy in their eyes would be worth it with flooding ‘Like’s on your pictures later!! So, in short, Kalapatthar steals the show from Radhanagar, at least it did for me. I cursed myself for not having come here earlier thereby managing to spend some more time on this beach.
On our way back from Kalapatthar to the hotel on Havelock, we treated ourselves to some absolute delicacy. We kind of had made ourselves a pledge that we would let some chickens live longer but show no mercy towards fishes while we are at Andamans, and we stuck to the same. The restaurant served us a whole cooked fish, priced reasonably at INR 2/gm making it around 600 bucks for the entire thing. I better not tell you anything about the taste as there was no trace of the fish left but just a couple of bones that could not be had; it was this yummy.
The evening, leading to the night, is best spent with a candlelit dinner by the private beach of the hotel.
Where to Stay: We booked ourselves a room at the Sea Shells Resort which seemed to be the most romantic property around (honeymoon mood, you see). It was good, no second thoughts about it, but a tad high in price (approx. INR 6500/night) compared to what it had in offering. So unless you are willing to shell out a lot behind Sea Shells, my suggestion would be go for other options like Cross Bill or best of all, Dolphin Resort which is a govt. property and hence boasts of the best location and hence is a pain to get a booking for.
Day 6: Return to Port Blair
The journey to Port Blair on a govt. ship that moves at a sloth pace, takes almost 2.5 hrs. So we decided to board the Makkruzz which we learnt, covers the same distance in about 45 mins! Thrilled to the core, spending 1500 bucks a ticket, we boarded the vessel. It was nothing short of what you find inside an airplane, air-conditioned, seats with spacious legroom, a glass wall so that you could enjoy the view outside and so on. So with everyone seated and with all the safety precautions announced loud, the boat announced its start.
Boy!! what a ride it turned out to be at the end. The sea was expected to be a bit rough as it was drizzling, but when you, along with the boat, start oscillating in such extreme as to find on one moment the sea and the next moment the sky by your side, trust me, any roller coaster ride in any amusement park of the world, fails to match up with this one. All that you are left to do is vomit, vomit and vomit, outpouring possibly every single thing you had had in the breakfast that morning (may even be from mornings before) and pray that this hell of a ride comes to an end as soon as possible.So, read this very carefully, if you are someone with a weak heart, or a weak gastrointestinal system, this is not a ride recommended for you!! Save yourself the extreme thrill if you can!! :) Or at least, have a light breakfast if you are indeed hell bent on having the ride!!
Where to Stay: We chose to stay at Diviyum Manor, which is, literally a walk down the airport. So you can safely check from your room window if your plane has arrived and then start from your hotel for the airport. This is extremely budget option but a decent hotel to just spend the night before heading back home. Priced around INR 1100
(Disclaimer: Don’t blame me if you find boarding gates have been closed for you for being so super cool about checking in).
Day 7: Return to Kolkata
We return with all the memories of Andaman, and a promise to come back, again and again.
I shall never be able to get enough of the Andaman Island and its inexplicable. Meanwhile, I remember one of my favourite poets quote as I draw the line:
"I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over”
And I shall be back to the Blue Sea of Andaman and so should you!