Guide to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an archipelago of over three hundred small crops of land, governed by India, in the Andaman sea although they are closer to Burma and Thailand.
There are some uninhabited islands and others which are off-limits to tourists due to the protection of the indigenous population. The Nicobarese are a tribal people and the government is now making every effort to stop modern influences disrupting their traditional way of life as has happened with other groups on some of the main islands. There was controversy a couple of years ago as video footage emerged of “human safaris” being carried out where tourists could go and view local dances and rituals, observing from a jeep as if these people were wildlife. These were the islands on old maps marked “here be monsters” due to the wild nature of their inhabitants.
The contrast between pristine white sand beaches and dense rain-forest is breathtaking at times, and the Andamans have truly some of the most amazing and beautiful beaches in the world. Clear turquoise water framed by bush as far as the eye can see, on Havelock Beach 7 I could go down at 8AM and have the entire Radha Nagar stretch entirely to my self.
There is cultural diversity you can explore in the Andamans but given the history of the place and how the British and other rulers treated the indigenous population it is perhaps best to stick to the amazing beaches and nature. The Scuba diving and snorkelling in the Andamans is some of the best in the world with great visibility and a huge array of fish, rays and other sea creatures. Dive sites include shipwrecks gorges and the like to explore.
Flights to the Andamans are from Calcutta or Chennai and they are sometimes expensive, check for deals! There is also a boat that goes from Chennai or Calcutta, it takes 3 or 4 days and some will say is the only “real” way to get to the islands, man.
The Capital: Port Blair
Port Blair is a hub, where flights land and boats dock and although it’s a pleasant enough town in its own right generally it isn’t a place you would want to stay for more than a night or two. It’s small enough that you can stay around the main Bazaar in some cheapish hotels and explore the whole town either on foot or by auto rickshaw. We stayed at Azad lodge where the owner was helpful and you can choose between super cheap and grotty or pay a little bit more for a nice room.
Things to do in the Andaman capital:
– Visit the old Cellular Jail to learn about the history of the islands
– Treat yourself to a massive Royal Falooda at one of the Cool Bars in the Main Bazaar
Outside of Port Blair there are several other islands which are on the backpacker trail…
1. Havelock Island
Popular for being one of the closest Islands to Port Blair, excellent for diving and with the closest the Andaman Islands have to a party scene. Hang out amongst the scattered guesthouses with large groups of Israelis on Beach 5 or escape to Radha Nagar, Beach 7 with fewer places to stay and a much more relaxed vibe (and a far better beach).
- Little Andaman.
More off the beaten track as it takes about 10 hours by ferry from Port Blair and isn’t as developed or hospitable in many ways than Havelock. You kind of need a motorbike to get around and the beaches are notorious for sandflies (some bites can get really infected and cause swelling so be careful). It’s worth it though for the surfing, amazing jungle, waterfalls and end of the world feeling – bring a hammock.
3. Neil Island
The island next to Havelock is less developed and so more relaxed. It’s more accessible than Little Andaman so if you want the easy middle ground between the two then this is a good option.
TOP 10 BEST Experiences / Adventures in the Country
1. Scuba Diving
2. Becoming a beach bum at Radha Nagar Lagoon
3. Surfing Little Andaman
4. Riding a motorbike through the jungle to the crocodile infested waterfall on Little Andaman
5. Exploring villages down little roads
6. The freshest seafood grilled to perfection with magic sauce at Swapan’s on Havelock, the best little local place you will find…
8. Did I mention the beach?
9. Going up to the north to visit jungle or the beautiful Smith & Ross islands
10. Bonfires, beer and brilliant simplicity