We live in such an era where everyone is talking about Pollution, Melting of glaciers, Climate change, Ecosystem breaking down, this, that. Basically, the whole world has shaken up. And then there is this kickass destination that just doesn’t care about all that because it’s still as pure as 24 carets. It’s one of the greatest Island destinations around the world, but still manages to look untouched. Has an airport, but ‘Hunting-collecting’ tribes live stone’s throw away. Has more mystery than the half of the world’s, but has one of the most chilled out atmospheres of all.
Known for its Clear Blue Waters and Super-clean beaches, it’s none other than ‘Andaman & Nicobar Islands’ we’re talking about.
Although really close to Thailand, ‘Andaman & Nicobar group of Islands’ is a Union territory of India that lies at the juncture of Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. It was captured by the British East India Company in 1789 and that’s how it became a part of India. Maybe that’s why it’s also called ‘Mini India’. It is second to only Goa, if we talk about best beach destinations of India. As the name already suggests, it comprises of two parts – Andaman and Nicobar. Both the parts have their distinct culture and traditions. However, the Coco Island that sort of falls in the vicinity of Andaman & Nicobar, is actually a part of Myanmar that is 414 kilometers away from Yangon city of Myanmar.
How to get here and When to visit
When a place is as beautiful as this one, you wish you could just fly out and reach here. But then…
You can reach this dreamy archipelago either by Airways or Seaways. Talking about Air route, you can get Direct flights from Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and indirect flights from Delhi for Port Blair, which is the capital of Andaman & Nicobar. You can even get last minute tickets.
Or you can take the wavy sea tour on passenger ships that sail 3-4 times every month. It’s a tiring 50-60 hour journey, but if you have loved Captain Cook, you’ll certainly love the trip.
As Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a part of India, no separate Visa is required for a visit here. However, as per Foreigners (Restricted) Area Order 1963, entire Andaman and Nicobar region has been declared a ‘Restricted Area’ for foreign nationals; no such restriction for Indian nationals. So for foreigners, it is important to have a 30-day ‘Restricted Area Permit'(RAP), which can be easily obtained at the immigration counter at Port Blair Airport or while embarking the passenger ship at the Sea-port. This RAP can be extended either at the Havelock Police Station or at the immigration office at Port Blair, where you will have to show a Confirmed Return ticket.
Once you get to Port Blair, you can take only Ferries to travel to different islands of this territory.
The tourists are allowed to visit only Andaman islands, and Nicobar region is allowed to be visited in exceptional cases. The climate at Andaman & Nicobar Islands is pleasant throughout the year. However, it has a little more humidity than usual. There’s an abundance of rainfall here, so it’s green as a Broccoli. Summers knock early here in comparison to rest of the India and lesser hot too. There is no winter season here. Keeping in mind that you’d be more comfortable within an optimum temperature range, it is advisable to visit this place during December to February when it is 20-30 degree celsius around here; the so-called ‘Winter season’.
Culture & Tribes
This archipelago has one of the most fascinating cultures around the world. It has preserved its traditions and customs better than a pickle, by choosing to lag in this modern era of jets and deformed music genres. Nothing, for them, is better than their Bongos!
The Islands have two types of Tribes – The Negritos and The Mongoloids. The Negritos are a South-east Asian tribe that are scattered around various other regions like Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. Negritos tribes in Andaman are – The Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawas and the Sentinelese. These are the people who still live in a self-sustained caveman era and need no external help to get things going.
The Jarawas are the most notorious among the four. This tribe inhabits the Southern and Middle Andamans. They wear ornaments like headbands, bangles, necklace, waist bands etc. and use clay for cosmetics. An interesting fact about Jarawa tribe is in still in that phase of progress that they haven’t even discovered the importance of clothes! Yes, they roam around naked in their region.
The huts they live in are called ‘Chadda’, where they live with much simplicity. These people are good hunters and depend completely on it for sustenance. They always carry their typical hunting tool ‘Towa’ in their waist bands. With the help of government’s efforts, the Baratang Island where a portion of these tribes live has been developed as a Jarawa Tribe Reserve. You can tour around in this area to get closer to the tribes. There are trips organized to Baratang Island.
The tribes of Mongoloid origin here are Nicobarese and Shompen. The Nicobarese is more of a modern tribe and is dominant on ‘the Great Nicobar’, the largest island of Nicobar region. On the other hand, the people of Shompen tribe are indigenous people of Nicobar Islands. They received the relay torch of preserving the indigenous Mongoloid culture when the Nicobarese decided to, somewhat, get along with the world.
The indigenous ‘Nicobarese tribes’ inhabit the Nicobar islands as a dominant tribe. Their main food is Pork and Coconuts which they collect from the dense regions of the island. These tribes don’t wear much ornaments and are fully clothed.
They have villages where they live in permanent circular huts built at a height of around 7 feet from ground.. Each family is known as a Tuhet and the Chief of Tuhets together constitute an ‘Island Council’, which handles the administrative aspect of the village.
The tribe has a Law and Order of their own in which a village captain is in charge of solving disputes of a village. The marriage system of Nicobarese tribes has hints of Matriarchy as the groom has to give gifts and presents as ‘Bride price’.
Because of the diverse culture of this island, all the big Indian festivals are celebrated here with great participation by different ethnicities. And the biggest proof of that is Durga Pooja, Holi, Diwali and many other Indian mainland festivals that are celebrated here just like in India.
You wish you were a cat with 9 lives, because 1 isn’t enough to get a taste of all the crazy things you can do at this amazing destination. But then Cats don’t go for world tours. Or do they?
Island Tourism Festival
If there was a way of measuring the fun you could have, the Island Tourism Festival of Andaman would surely blow up the gauge. This is the biggest festival of this place and it is celebrated with great enthusiasm by tourists all over the world. It’s a 10-day annual cultural event organized in the month of December, to promote tourism and let’s just say, it is serving the purpose. There are indigenous cultural performances, best of Andamanese food, Music bands, Handicraft stalls with exquisite souvenirs and much more. The island is typically crowded during this festival and the whole city of Port Blair looks like a carnival.
Just so that you could soak up the fun of exotic Andaman beaches, the Beach festival was started. It is a 3-day festival held across beaches of Port Blair. There are a number of beach activities like Volleyball, Kabaddi (an Indian sport), Coconut tree climbing; and the best Sea food cuisines too of course.
The food festival is another much awaited annual event that is held on the same day as World Tourism Day i.e 27th September. It is held in Port Blair and features exceptionally great indigenous recipes of this place. And if you’re lucky, you might even get to try some of the lost recipes on this special day.
Snorkeling is the most natural way of interacting with the aquatic life. It is almost like Scuba Diving, minus the heavy equipment. You get to witness the awakening picture of inside the sea. The vivid coral reefs, cute little fishes and an aesthetical underwater setting is all that you need to end your weekend with. The best spots for Snorkeling are Elephant Beach, North Bay Island and Jollybouy Island.
If Snorkeling gets you crazy about what you saw underwater, you will certainly go for Scuba Diving that is an advanced version of the aquatic life exploration. It is totally safe and certified by authorities here. The equipment is pre tested and you also receive a short training session about basics of Diving. Scuba Diving takes you deeper into the sea, closer to the deep bed species like Turtles, Octopuses, Deep bed corals and more. Read more about Scuba Diving at Andaman.
Undersea walking is a must because walking on the ground is too mainstream these days. It is a unique activity where you walk on the ocean bed and interact with the aquatic species. You do that with the help of a helmet that has an air tube on the top. It is also perfectly safe and instructors are involved at every step.
Parasailing is a common sport around the world. But Paragliding over the Clear-blue waters where you can see the ocean bed from above is an entirely different experience. This makes Parasailing at Andaman a common sport with a very uncommon experience.
Places to Visit
Located in the Havelock Islands, this beach is the most popular one in Andaman. Located at a distance of 68 km away from the Port Blair airport, you have to take a ferry to reach this beautiful beach. It is one of those typically beautiful beaches which have clean blue waters, shimmery white sand lined up with palm trees. And the way it is feels to be out here is what has earned it the ‘Asia’s best beach’ and ‘7th most beautiful beach in the World’ title by TIMES magazine in 2007. And most amazingly, the island’s serenity has always stayed intact, in any season.
Baratang Island is where you can get a glimpse of Jarawa tribe people. There is a trip organized everyday at 4AM, to the Jarawa Tribe Reserve in Baratang Island. All the vehicles are lined in the form of a convoy which passes through the roads of this mysterious tribal reserve. At the end of this ride, the Bartang Jetty awaits you, from where you can take the fiber boat ride to the start point of the trek to the beautiful Limestone caves.
The reason why this known as Guitar Island is simple: It looks like a Guitar. To reach this place you have to take a dunghi (a small pointed boat) from Long Island of Andaman and it takes around half an hour to reach this place. This island beach is known for absolute tranquility. There are no resorts or restaurants or any kind of commercialization here, whatsoever. It’s just you strolling around the beach with the quietest of ambiences. For many, being here is a dream they never realized they had, come true.
Jolly Buoy Island
Jolly Bouy is the pinnacle of cleanliness as it allows no plastic at all. To reach Jolly Buoy island, you have to take the passenger boat from Wandoor beach, which is 30 km from Port Blair. All your plastic items are submitted before taking off from Wandoor Beach. The island is famous for underwater corals with clear water and, hence, is a great spot for Snorkeling. Other than that, it’s pristine ambience and clear blue water is another factor why a tourist would never miss this island on a trip to Andaman.
Smith & Ross Island Beach
Preferably the choice of most of the tourists around the world, in search of tranquility, the Smith & Ross Island beach is a must visit. It is less crowded, clean as a whistle, has a long coastline and a beautiful sunset to be enjoyed with your pals. The beach is actually made up of two islands – Ross and Smith – joined by a silky sand road that keeps appearing and disappearing during low and high tides.
The most dreaded place for criminals in the history of India. Also known as Kala Pani (Black Water) jail, the British used this island as a prison for Freedom fighters engaged in digging the roots of British Empire. Thousands of people rarely made their way out of this jail. It is located at Atlanta Point, Port Blair. As a token of respect; post-independence it was declared a National Memorial and has been attracting thousands of tourists ever since. You can visit the cells inside the jail and also some of the remnants of the events that took place here.
The timings for visiting this place are 9AM-1PM and 2PM-5PM. There’s also a Light & Sound show in English, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:15 PM, which shows the freedom struggle of India.
This museum gives you an idea about the flora and fauna of the Andaman Nicobar Islands and have an interesting way of putting it. The museum is full of wooden art explaining the vegetation and wildlife of this place, with intricate details reflecting the artistic side of these islands. It is run and managed by Forest Department here. You can visit this place between 10am to 2 pm.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park Situated 30 km away from Port Blair, it is located in the Southern Andaman region, in the Bay of Bengal. This marine national park comprises of 2 major Islands: The Labyrinth Island and Twin Islands. Covering an area of 281.5 km sq., it has 17 islands under its vicinity. The park has a wide array of species such as White-bellied sea eagle, Parakeets, Andaman teal, Heron, Terns, Waders and Swifts and it also has striking variety in terms of white sandy beaches, vegetation, and marine life. Fringing Coral reefs are the most common form of corals found here. The park is also the home to over 270 bird species.
The Andaman & Nicobar Islands have a food culture that migrated from the Indian mainland. That is because it was reined by tribal people for a long time and the tribes didn’t interact much with the outer world. Consequently, the food culture here couldn’t really develop an identity of its own. People from parts of India have settled here for work and hence, have influenced the food culture of this place, a lot. So, mostly the people from North and South India have developed the food culture here. People from the north brought the Chinese, continental and regional cuisines, whereas the southern people brought their own food culture to this archipelago.
The North Indian cuisines you get here are Curry Dishes, Tandoori (roasted) cuisines and pretty much everything you get in North India.
The South Indian cuisines available here are Idli, Dosa, Sambhar, Vada.
However, another genre of food that has developed here is because of the abundance of aquatic life here. The sea food at Andaman is great and has a diverse menu, including all kinds of popular sea foods around the world like Prawns, Lobsters, Shrimps, Fishes and also vegetarian sea food.
A vacation at Andaman & Nicobar Islands reminds you that fun is not always in the rush, rather sometimes it’s in the quality time you get to spend. The beaches, subtle festivals, array of Indian cusines, the adventure, the culture; the amalgamation of these produce a cummulative effect that cannot be explained in words, rather only be experienced. It’s a destination that you should visit after you’ve tried the all frenzy around, so that you may realise how much you needed a Sunset with only the sound of birds around you.
You can try this Solo destination or our Tailored Itinerary ‘The Big Blue’ ; your call!
And in case you still need a more concrete reason to visit this place, look at this: