Heading to Andaman & Nicobar Islands: Get a Travel Agent
January 1, 1970
by Priyanka Roy
Like most couples planning their honeymoon, my husband & I turned to the internet for suggestions. We had a fair idea of what we wanted and it was simple- we wanted to relax in the lap of nature. There were overwhelming number of options but we had our heart set on Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and so it was decided that this is where we will unwind after our wedding. At the time of planning, we knew we would really appreciate the solitude that Andaman promised to offer after our fun filled but extremely tiring wedding. We got all that and much more!
We had all our bookings done through a Travel Agent including the flight tickets. Collaborating with a local agent is advisable, they can not only help out with the inter-island transport but also get the best deals on resorts, which is difficult to do if you are trying to do this via internet. We had given him a brief of what we were looking for and our budget. He then customized the trip for us, which made the whole experience even more special.
Port Blair – Here we come
So, on a beautiful, cool December morning, we started on our honeymoon trip! We had our flight from Kolkata to Port Blair, which is the capital of Andaman & Nicobar Island. Port Blair is connected to major Indian cities by means of air, sea & railways. So one can chose their mode of transport based on their budget & time in hand.
On arrival, we were greeted by our highly energetic travel agent, Vineet, who had come to pick us up in his fancy modified car. And we zoomed out of the airport, fast and furious style! My husband being a car enthusiast, chatted with Vineet about engines, suspension and horsepower while I stuck my head out the window and enjoyed the cool breeze and the lovely backwater lake views.
We were staying at Port Blair only for a day as we wanted to spend most of our time in the remote areas of Andaman. So, we had asked Vineet to book us into a non-fancy hotel in Port Blair but luckily he managed to fit into our budget a nice, small little place away from the city and a room with a lake view. It was a perfect start to our Romantic getaway. Vineet came to pick us up later in the evening and took us to Corbyn’s Cove beach with a caveat, that this place could be crowded and not to prejudge the fate of all other beaches in Andaman based on this experience. The beach was indeed filled with people so we decided to go to Aberdeen Bazaar to do the regular touristy things like buy sunhats, “I Heart Andaman” tee-shirts and seashell souvenirs. Then we headed to the light and sound show at Cellular Jail, which to our delight was absolutely stunning. Vineet had booked our tickets in advance so we could skip the queue at the counter. The show described the bloody history of the jail and struggles of the Indian freedom fighters in this beautiful place which was earlier infamous as Kalapani (Blackwaters). Although this was contrary to what most people would want to do on their first trip as a married couple, we loved it.
Let’s head to Havelock
Next morning, we left for Havelock Island which was a ferry ride from Port Blair. Our agent had pre-booked our tickets in a super cool sounding named cruise called Makruzz, so all we had to had to do was arrive just before the departure time. On reaching Havelock, we were received by another cheerful chap, arranged by our agent. He helped us with our bags into the car and drove us to our beach front cottage, the Holiday Inn Beach Resort. We were certainly enjoying the royal treatment. After checking into our room, and a quick shower, we rushed to the in-house restaurant. We were famished by then and were excited to hear the catch of the day was a huge, a foot-long lobster. We ordered it at once. The finished product, lobster curry was a work of magic! Spicy & hot yet fresh & tender. After licking our plates clean, we decided to laze around the beach chairs which were
conveniently placed by the palm trees on the private beach. In the evening, our travel agent drove us to the Radhanagar Beach which had picture perfect clear blue waters, pristine white sands and huge green palm trees by the beach. The water was so clear that we could see our feet even when we went deep into the sea with water rising almost up to our chest! We clearly didn’t think it through and were smashed in the face with seawater when the waves gushed in. After much coughing & laughing at each other, we changed into dry clothes in one of the eco-friendly changing rooms made of dried palm leaves. We then got ourselves fresh coconut water sold on beach and waited for the sunset. The beauty of the setting sun was accentuated by the coconutty fresh smell of the sea combined with the gushing sound of waves and a cool sea breeze.
Scuba Diving : An Absolute Must Do
Next day, we had signed up for some adventure and we headed to one of the scuba diving centers early morning. Our agent had given an interesting tip and told us to be the first ones there, as there would be more sea life in the early mornings as well as the instructors would be in their best energetic form. We were given scuba kits and a 15-minute one-to-one tutorial. This was my first scuba diving experience so there was that initial few moments of panicking when the instructor was pushing me down into the bed of the sea. I was sure that he was trying to drown me and I turned towards my husband for plea for help, who was busy looking at fish. Anyways, after overcoming my morbid fear, I soon realised that I was amidst the most colorful and vibrant paradise. There were numerous interesting creatures and a variety of schools of fish. We were fortunate to have this moment captured by the diving instructors who clicked our photos with underwater cameras.
Neil Island: Last Leg of the Journey
Next day we headed to the Neil Island by ferry. Once again we were welcomed by one of the travel agents who took us to our beach front resort. He suggested that we dump our bags and immediately head out to the Lakshmanpur beach to see the natural rock bridge which can be accessed only at low tides. The walk to this bridge was something of a mini adventure as I braved along a rocky path along the sea for about 15 minutes in my flip-flops but it was surely worth it. The rock bridge I was told is actually made of 2 natural corals.
This place was filled with crabs, snails, starfish and other exotic aquatic creatures. After that we went to the actual beach, which was another breathtakingly beautiful unadulterated shore with clear blue waters and corals of various colours and shapes. The presence of rough corals made it extremely difficult and painful to enter the water. It almost seemed like the sea’s way of saying “Do not enter! Why don’t you just chill by the beautiful sandy beach and enjoy the mesmerizing sight?” So, we did just that. Although all the islands of Andaman offer a similar ambiance- quiet, relatively isolated beaches (even during peak season), extremely safe environment, clean immaculate waters & lush greenery but we felt Neil Island ranked a notch higher than the rest and we fell in love with this place almost immediately. We asked our tour operator to arrange an extra night here , which he did with within a few hours with only slight extra charges and was very worth it!
Next day, we headed to Bharatpur beach which was relatively busier than the other ones as this had many water based activities such as glass bottom boat rides, snorkelling, scuba diving and Jet ski. As everyone on the beach was doing one or the other adrenaline pumping activity, we succumbed to the peer pressure and decided to do the least dangerous of the lot- Glass boat ride. Having said that, all these water-based activities were very safe, in fact the glass bottom boat had more life jackets than people. The ride lasted for about 25 minutes, although it was a fun experience, we decided to go back to our lazy mode so found ourselves a quaint secluded spot where we just lied around, watching the colour of the sea turn from aqua blue to translucent green and then to everything in between, enjoying the cool breeze and watching the rhythmic moving sands. The entire beach seemed to be moving due to various snails and hermit crabs heading to the sea creating a hallucinatory imagery.
My suggestion to anyone contemplating whether to take a trip to this small island or not- Just Do It! I strongly suggest you go through a good travel agent, it will be worth every penny spent. They really do know the pulse of Andaman and can to a great extent help you get the very best of out of it. Keep in mind, except for certain parts of Port Blair the internet connectivity is almost absent on the island. Andaman is not a party hub, it is a destination where you come to unwind, de-stress, detox and go back rejuvenated. The entire experience has tranquility written all over it , with its pristine sandy beaches, turquoise coloured water, simple and honest local folks, and amazing food. All these sums up to a memory of a lifetime.