A week of Island hopping… In the Andamans

Hellooo everyone! Happy New Year! 😛

I hope your version of 2018 is doing well. Mine’s great. The year started with a week-long vacation – a family trip to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Oh, wait! Only to the Andaman group of islands. Nicobar is inaccessible to tourists. Many think Andaman (and Nicobar) as a foreign land, but in spite of the islands separated by a distance of 1000+ km from the mainland, it’s still India. Indonesia, though, is only 150 km from here.

(Beware! It’s going to be a long read)

Day 1 –

And the trip starts with an early morning rising. Horrible way to start the vacation, isn’t it? We had a 5:30 AM flight (from Kolkata), and I had to get up at 1. 1 AM is early morning, no? Ahhh, leave it. The plane took off on time, and we reached Port Blair by 8. A journey of 2 hours (and a few minutes more) and there we are, in the sun, wearing sweatshirts. 😀

The Veer Savarkar Airport (IXZ) isn’t a busy one, and we were at the exit soon. The vehicle was waiting for us, and we were off to our accommodation. Some rest, a bit of sleep and it was lunchtime. Our first destination was the infamous Cellular Jail. We roamed the jail for an hour. It was beautiful, yes.

Cellular Jail

I now feel sad that I couldn’t climb the top. Heard that view was amazing from up there. Now, we were headed towards the nearby Corbyn beach. Nothing special, we had to pass our evening time. Our booking for the light and sound show at the jail was at 5:30 PM. The drive towards the beach along the sea felt fresh. But, after spending some 15 minutes at the beach, rain happened.

It was still drizzling when we got into our car, but soon it turned into a heavy downpour. Attending the show was out of the question, and we drove back. We had tea, coffee and light snacks, and spent rest of the evening in our respective rooms.

Day 2 –

It rained the entire night, and it felt there was more to come. But no such thing happened, and we were ready for our next ride. I have spent hours in the air, but it was going to be the first time with the sea. Our ferry was going to leave for Neil Island at 11.

Government ferry Bambooka

We had our breakfast and reached the jetty for our cruise. Little did I knew about the surprise that was coming! This government ferry, Bambooka was on time, and we already were waiting to get onboard, and shit! This was not what I expected.

Our seats were on the lower deck. Sounds cool, right? But it wasn’t so. It was an enclosed sitting space without any windows to enjoy the view. And for the entire duration, I felt like we are travelling in an illegal way. Dark passages, not-so-good stairs and many other things reminded me of the unlawful means used in the movies to smuggle people. 😛

I started feeling sick. Was that sea-sickness? I don’t know. But I was able to take few naps in those two hours on the sea. There was nothing else to do. By the way, there also was another sitting arrangement upstairs, with small windows to look at the sea. It didn’t feel any luxurious either.

Well, we arrived Neil by 1 (PM). And it was drizzling there. We all reached our rooms, freshened up and had our lunch. Then I went to sleep while rest of them went to the Bharatpur Beach. There they took the glass-bottom boat tour about which I can tell nothing. But I did see the photos afterwards, and the boat’s glass was clean. 😛

It was evening when they returned. So, I did absolutely nothing the whole day. Very productive, yeah? Nevertheless, I watched some TV and then went for dinner. It was going to be a busy day tomorrow.

Day 3 –

We had an early checkout and then, went to see the natural bridge. It rained last night. The air was fresh, and I enjoyed the breeze while travelling towards our spot. It was a bit of walking, and there it was the big bridge. The bridge which I thought would be some tree branch along with green vines.

Natural Bridge, Neil Island

Well, it’s a bridge made of dead corals. You can see lots of sea life during this trek on the rocky (or should I say, corally) terrain. A guide may come handy there, but not required. After about half an hour, we drove towards the jetty. Our ferry was to depart at 9 AM.

After the previous experience with the low-cost government ferry, we booked the private Makruzz today. And for the price paid, it was worth the upgrade. I was now able to watch the sea while on the sea. 😛

Makruzz

In the meantime, we had our packed breakfast, and after a cruise of about one and a half hour, we were on Havelock… Island.

There wasn’t much to do then, except rest. Post lunch, we were on the way to Radhanagar Beach, claimed as one of the most beautiful beaches in India (and it indeed, was). The drive to the beach was a good one hour drive among greenery because the roads were bad. Or maybe they were just left unrepaired to get you enjoy the greens for a little more time. 😉

The intermittent rains added to the beauty, keeping those trees fresh. It can rain anytime there, no months fixed. OK, we spent some two hours on that stretched sea shore, bathing and some more eating. There were many food stalls at the entry point, but none at the beach. It was clean and the water green (or sky or blue). Better go there and decide for yourself what colour it is.

Radhanagar Beach

Then we headed back to our hotel. And more rains, heavier this time. It was dark by the time we were in our rooms. And that’s the end of day 3 (obviously after dinner).

Day 4 –

Some of us went for scuba diving. We paid for it, the previous evening, and the appointment was at 8. I don’t know what happened there and would like to skip to the checkout. Before lunch, we spent an hour at the Kalapatthar beach. The sea was few metres off the road, and it was quiet.

It was the day to go back home, to Port Blair. Yes, once we returned Port Blair, the room felt like home. Our ferry was coming at 3 PM. We had our lunch at a restaurant near the jetty, and then we waited. It was Green Ocean today, our ferry.

Green Ocean ferry

Although it wasn’t as comfortable as the Makruzz, I at least got to enjoy the sea breeze. Couldn’t do it earlier and today was going to be the last day on the sea, on a ship-like thing. 😛

We were in Port Blair in a little over two hours, and in another one hour, we were at the hotel… our home, for the next three days.

Day 5 –

It was a lazy day ahead. I got enough of sleep and went to the anthropological museum. A good 3-storey building containing the whole Andaman and Nicobar, its past and the present. No, nothing about the future.

There are infographics about the cultural distribution and models depicting the life of the Jarawa, and other tribes in the Andaman. It is a must-visit. Another one in the list is Samudrika, the marine museum. It was somewhat beautiful and displayed the marine life and underwater architecture of the islands. There also was, a separate section dedicated to the tribes.

We then returned to our hotel for lunch, and then to Chidiyatapu. It is a place known for chidiya (birds) and a beautiful sunset. I was tired by the day’s exercise, the walk in the museums and decided not to go. But I should have. Sunset didn’t look that beautiful in the pics but the place, the beach was. It’s about an hour drive from Port Blair.

Day 6 –

We were going to Baratang Island today and had to get up at 1 AM, again. On the way, falls the area protected for the Jarawa tribe. The government restricts the entry except for certain times when police vehicles go along with the group of tourist vehicles.

Our booking was in the 6 AM slot, and it takes about 2 hours to reach the check-post. Well, we were there 1 hour before. The submission of identity proofs and details took some time, and we were ready-to-go.

In the next 2 hours, while the convoy was in the protected area, no vehicles were allowed to stop. Luckily, we didn’t have to, and unluckily, we couldn’t spot any of the tribesmen. We reached the jetty by 8. It was another 10-minute (or 15) ferry ride to the Baratang Island.

We were going to visit the limestone caves, and going there; you need speedboats. Too confusing, isn’t it? In simple words, it takes about 4 hours from Port Blair to reach Nilambur jetty, from where you get the ferry for Baratang. Now, we were in Baratang Island by 8:30, and in another half an hour, the team was on a speedboat. 😀

Limestone Caves, Baratang

I wasn’t. I can’t board non-stationary objects, those small boats moving with the waves. So, I waited on this side along with my mom. Also, there was a 1-km long forest trek to reach those caves, after the boat ride. And it’s not possible for me to do a trek of about 2.5-km (going there and coming back) at a stretch.

So, it was in my best interest to wait. They took some 2 hours to return. And the only thing I regret is, not getting to drink the nimbu-paani (lemonade) which others enjoyed there. 😕

Then we had our lunch there and took the ferry back. At 12:30, we were with the convoy going back to Port Blair. There was nothing else planned for the day. But we did see some of the members of the tribe. Few of them stopped our vehicle and asked for something to eat. You are not allowed to give them anything. Drivers usually carry paan (betel leaves) with them for such situations. And I assume he gave them that.

Then we moved on.

Day 7 –

I waited for the evening and did nothing, the whole day. Others went to the Chatham Saw Mill and some shopping. In the evening, was the trip to Ross Island. Another cruise? Well, sort of.

OK then, we reached the jetty at about 3.30, but there was no sign of our ferry until 5. We were already late for our light and sound show (not the one at the Cellular Jail). The show time on the ticket was 4.45 PM. Then Meenakshi, our ferry arrived, and it started towards Ross by 5.30.

The seats were comfortable, and so was the 30-minute ride. It didn’t feel like a sea cruise as it was dark outside and could see nothing. The venue for the show was at a walking distance, and it started as we took our seats. You need not worry if you’re late. It begins only after the ferry arrives, with its passengers. 😛

We missed the Cellular Jail’s show, remember? So, I don’t know how both these shows compare, but it was good. You get to see the history of Ross Island and the role others played in the pre-Independence era.

The show ran for about 45 minutes, and we took the 7.30 ferry back home. Be on time, or you will be left alone… on an island. Wow? OK, we were, by the way, in Port Blair by 8.

Day 8 –

The vacation is over, and we are going home today. Got up at 4 AM to catch the flight and… Bye-Bye Andaman.

Thanks for the read. Comment if you felt tortured. 😛

Note – Make sure your hotel has Wi-Fi connectivity, and that it works. Airtel, Vodafone and BSNL provide mobile services on these islands, but they don’t work everywhere. Mobile internet does not work, not even in Port Blair.

P. S. – Shown below is the Dolphin cruise, a glass-bottom boat available at the Water Sports Complex in Port Blair. We knew nothing about the place and missed enjoying many other water sports there. Internet connectivity may have helped.

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