In school we had to write Essays as part of our curriculum and I remember my father helping me in writing those long essays which was always a tough thing to remember and pen down. Still I remember a part from an Essay “Bhraman” where my father wrote – “it’s not necessary someone has to travel long distance to enjoy the beauty of mother earth. Morning sunrays falling on a paddy field in winter when the grass is still wet with morning mist can too bring captivating joy and happiness”.
This year, we were not sure where to go after Durga Puja and in September also we were battling and not being able to decide. Suddenly this sentence from my old schooldays came to my mind and in search for this joy and romance, we finally landed on Andaman. The first view of cluster of islands from GoAir G8-101 took us to a different world and I thanked myself for choosing Andaman as our destination.
Andaman has 325 islands which cover an area of 6,408 km2 (2,474 sq mi), with the Andaman Sea to the east between the islands and the coast of Burma. North Andaman Island is 285 kilometres (177 mi) south of Burma, although a few smaller Burmese islands are closer, including the three Coco Islands. The Ten Degree Channel separates the Andamans from the Nicobar Island to the south. The highest point is located in North Andaman Island (Saddle Peak at 732 m (2,402 ft))
Andaman has been a centre of attraction for various things starting from virgin beaches of Radhanagar, Elephant, Laxmanpur, beautiful islands like Havelock, Ross, Neil and Viper Island, variety of Water Sports like Scuba Diving, Sea Walking, Snorkeling, Tribes like Jarawa and above all the infamous Cellular Jail. This land witnessed the barbaric punishment our freedom fighters went through during British period which one can understand and partly imagine during the light & sound show in Cellular Jail. But today, except the history which people of the land still mourn, Andaman has become an important Tourist Destination of the world. The beautiful amalgamation of Sand, Land and Sea can take you to a world beyond imagination.
After we landed in Port Blair, our guide took us to hotel TSG Emerald where we quickly refreshed and started our journey to Viper Island. Viper Island is a small island which was used by the British for carrying out capital punishment. This small island derives its name from the vessel `Viper' in which Lt. Archibald Blair came to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1789. The vessel, it is believed, met with an accident and its wreckage was found near the island. Another story says that the name originated from the presence of vipers, snakes, on the island. In any talk about Andaman and its role in the freedom struggle, it is the Cellular Jail that finds frequent mention. But, many years before the Cellular Jail was constructed, it was the jail at Viper Island that was used by the British to inflict the worst form of torture and hardship on those who strove to free the country from the British rule. The cemented beam where from the convicted were used to be hanged still cries out the agony and helplessness which gives goosebumps.
While coming back, we cherished the view of succession of ships of different kinds along the harbor. Port Blair being the nucleus of the entire islands, dozens of ships from the mainland anchor everyday with necessary supplies for further distribution to various islands. In the evening, we enjoyed the Light & Sound show at Cellular Jail. One must visit the cellular jail during morning hours to see the star shaped jail. It is one of the places that vividly depict the freedom struggle, the stories of those known and unknown fighters. The jail's one part is opened for tourists and rest have been converted into medical office and for other purposes. From the top of the jail you can see the entire Port Blair surrounded with green and dark blue water. The sound and light show is fairly a good one in the voice of the veteran actor Mr. Om Puri. It is a must watch destination for anyone visiting Andaman.
After watching the Light & Sound show, we dined and packed for tomorrow. We are going to board “Makruzz” from the Jetty and destination is Havelock Island.
Havelock Island is a popular destination among the water sport lovers and the main tourist destination with an area of 113.93 km2 and is the largest of the islands. Havelock is situated 57 km North East of Capital City Port Blair with mostly Bengali settlers. It was a 3 hours journey from Port Blair. We put our foot on the white sand of Havelock at around 11 am and rushed to hotel Symphony Palm. The island has a lot of resorts by the beach to cater to the tourist with all food and beverage facilities. However if anyone expects WI-FI and internet, it’s a challenge to get an uninterrupted connectivity.
The beauty of Havelock islands is beyond description. The white sand, blue water, virgin beaches, series of trees some of which date back to thousand years as per Carbon Dating can bring a feeling beyond explanation. Entire day we just enjoyed the Sea. In the evening, we went to Radhanagar beach and enjoy the sunset. Gradually darkness fell over the island. The beauty of Havelock beach during night is beyond explanation. The deserted beach, the non- stop sound of the sea water pounding on the rocky beach, whisper of the wind, the dazzling moon, and the glittering stars amazed me.
Symphony Palm Resort is a fairly good hotel with airy spacious cottages, restaurants, bars spread over both the sides of the road. Though our room was on the other side of the road, just to be in the vicinity of sea, spending some extra bucks we took a cottage on the beach side. Hotel staffs were friendly and mostly Bengalis. We were served with some delicious delicacies accompanied with some local fish which was indeed mouthwatering. Post dinner, we cherished the mysterious beauty of the beach for some more time before going to bed. Tomorrow, we will be going for Scuba diving in Elephant beach.
Today we first went to the place where from we need to take all our necessities for the scuba diving. Scuba Diving has been a dream for me for years and I was excited to see my dream coming true.
Unlike other modes of diving, which rely either on breath-hold or on air pumped from the surface, scuba divers carry their own source of breathing gas, (usually compressed air),allowing them greater freedom of movement. In Andaman, number of areas in the sea is full of corals which attracts sport lovers from around the world. The guides who accompanied us were all experts with years of experience in diving and briefed us about the DOs and Donts. I did diving earlier with air pumped from surface in Pattaya and was aware of the pros and cons and quickly understood the art of this kind of diving which is new to me. Within no time, we started our boat ride and reached the place where the diving to take place. The dive duration is 30 minutes to a maximum depth of 18 meter where you can see different sorts of corals reef and marine life. Coral Reef is a beautiful creation of nature which is comprised of living corals growing on top of the skeletal structure of dead corals. Each species has a particular coloration and structural complexity which distinguishes that species from others. The living coral itself is an amalgamation of polyps which feed on plankton at night and photosynthesize during the day. However the marine life was not so exciting due to less variety of species. Still I must say, it was a value for money and worth spending half day.
In Havelock you can hire motorbikes, bicycles etc to roam on the island and I really wanted to enjoy a ride to the inner part of the island which otherwise is not coming in the itinerary. the Hero Honda made motorbike ride to the interior of the island turned our to be a thrilling one when darkness started to fall and I found myself alone on the 8 ft deserted streets of Havelock with one side covered with thick forest. I rode for around 12 km and found a Tea Stall and enjoyed the last few golden rays before the run settled down in the horizon. Honestly I was worried thinking about the road I have to take while going back due to various kinds of fauna in the jungle which sometime do not mind coming to the street to experience the human existence. However I had no option but to start and so did I. Driving a motorbike through such a deserted forest while listening to the natural jingles of the forest, the background sound of cricket took away my little bit of fear that I had before starting and I reached the hotel.
Havelock has a small market with various apparels etc mainly getting delivered from the mainland. We spent later part of the evening in the market. A little rain made the weather cool and we felt alive after a hectic day. Dinner was as usual with local delicacies and fishes. We could feel a sense of ending as only two days are left for our vacation to get over. Tomorrow we will move to Neil Island and port blair the next day and then to Kolkata.
Neil, with its very relaxed vibe and long, deserted beaches is a place to chill out after the "bustle" of Havelock Island. Neil Island is named after James George Smith Neill, a British soldier who had sternly dealt with the insurgents during the suppression of the 1857 Mutiny. It occupies an area of 18.9 square kilometres (7.3 sq mi). The island is located 40 kilometres (25 mi) north-east of Port Blair. This is also an island mostly populated by Bengali who are mainly residing in five villages – Sitapur, Bharatpur, Neil Kendra, Lakshmanpur and Ram Nagar. Agriculture is the primary occupation of the villagers, and the island supplies vegetables to the rest of Andaman. There are a handful of restaurants and basic beach hotels that cater to international and domestic tourists. We reached the island at around 11 am and was escorted to Tango Beach Resort. We liked the bamboo cottages erected on the high platform so to keep away snakes and reptiles from entering the cottages.
Apart from the beaches and a Natural Bridge, there is hardly any other place to see in Neil Island when seen from a materialistic point of view. However for me at least, the island has lot more to offer.
We went to Sitapur and Lakshmanpur beach and then to the Natural Bridge which is a small strip of land that connects the mainland to a small (3*3) island of sorts. The long walk on the corals was difficult and one has to walk very cautiously so as to avoid any sort of injuries. After returning to the resort, we walked down to the Sunset point which is the west most point of the beach. Due to cloud, we could not fully cherish the sunset. While coming back, we experienced the High-tide which gradually had eaten away the 50 mtr beach and water started reaching almost the edge of the Resort. There are some uprooted trees scattered on the beach which became our evening destination. In such a night with dazzling moon above us and water flowing below those fallen trees and washing our feet, we enjoyed our evening snacks and drinks. This resort organizes night fishing where small boat takes you to the interior of the sea and in case you succeed to catch some fishes, the hotel guys will cook it for you once you come back. Amazing !!
Early morning, we moved around the island and went to the Jetty to board the cruise for Port Blair. We reached at around 6 pm and spent the evening roaming around the city. After such a hectic day, an early dinner with beer is always a mood changer.
Post dinner, we started packing our luggage…….tomorrow we have Go Air G8-102 to catch for Kolkata…a sense of ending engulfed us ...I do not know should I term it as an ending or a new beginning - a new beginning in search of next destination...till then good bye