February 23, 2011

Perfect Vacation : Andamans

We did this trip to Andamans way back in Sept 2010 and never got a chance to blog about it.  The itinerary, useful notes and trip suggestions follows.....

We did not plan much for this trip except for booking the flight tickets and 2 days stay at Havelock. In fact, if you are planning for a travel in India, I do not think you have to book anything well in advance anywhere unless+otherwise you are visiting a top tourist destination during a peak season. I am sure you will end up something nice with your adventurous spirit and the diversity that is present in India (I love this Country!).

 Leave Bangalore for Chennai by Bus at 10:30pm.

Day 1 [Sept 4]
Reach Chennai by 5am. Go home, quick bath etc. Proceed to Chennai Airport. Morning flight at 10am to Port blair from Chennai in KF red. Reach PB around 11:30am. We could only see a white carpet outside our window ; terribly overcast. I had certainly opined that this vacation was going to be a total washout due to the rains; but , on an optimistic, we hoped for the best. It was drizzling when we got down from the flight at the Port Blair airport. Took a taxi from PB Airport to the jetty. The ticket counter at the jetty closes at 12pm, and we just missed it; but the guys told us that we can always buy the tickets on the ship. The Ship departs at around 2:30pm. Luckily got the tickets onboard.

You get to sit in a big hall in the ship which is a little damp with no proper air circulation - though there are fans , but they cause more noise than the airflow. We went to the deck and sat there till we reached Havelock. The nice wind along with the beautiful landscapes is a treat to watch. It was surprising that the air did not contain much moisture - i mean, the saline air which kind of clogs your brain when exposed for atleast an hour or so -- that was not present!

Reached Havelock around 5:30pm. We had booked our stay at Emerald Gecko for the next 2 days. Placed our bags in our beautiful bamboo hut and went out for a stroll. It was already a bit dark. Had an amazing meal at the Gecko's bistro.

Note : Sun sets in this part of the world quiet early and it is always nice to venture out early in the morning and retire early too. Plan to get up around 5am and sleep around 8pm.

We also enquired about scuba diving and were advised by the Gecko guys to approach Dive India which was just a walk away from Gecko

Day-2 [Sept 5]
Got up at around 5:30am and went for a nice stroll along the beach at Gecko. The high-tide was almost touching the boundaries of the Gecko resort. The morning tranquility along with the sound of the waves lashing on the trees along the beach was nothing less than nirvana.

Then we proceeded to Dive India - those guys had asked us to come around 7am. We also had a sumptuous breakfast at Dive India (the tea sucked a little though). The dogs at DiveIndia - Sam and Frodo - followed us. They were two adorable darlings whom i cant forget so easily. We hardly heard them bark even once, and they loved the coconuts and its water, so much so that they followed us and stood next to us when we had our own share.

DiveIndia guys made us wear the scuba gear and took us to Elephant beach which is around 20min ride in a fast boat. The ride was enjoyable and weather looked promising with hardly any clouds around. I forgot their names, but the two instructors from DiveIndia were excellent. They were extremely freindly, and i felt as if i knew them for ages. After a quick round of introductions and hand signals underwater, we were to experiment in the waters with the gear on.

The initial view underwater was good (not great though); the water was a little murky, but i could see the various dried corals. A few minutes of experimentation and the instructor took us in...deep in. The view was AMAZING. The murkiness had vanished and the water was clean! I wished i had a underwater camera to click the pictures!

After a 45minutes underwater dive, where we went 12-15m deep it was time to return back to the surface. DiveIndia guys had our snacks and Tea ready; and after a few click-sessions and snacks it was time to return back to the water and float around...float float float!

We returned back around 10:30-11am and we could see the low-tide in action, with the water having receded by almost 200-500m from the coast line. The dried corals and the rocks of Havelock were visible now. Havelock's ocean floor is not smooth and i had cut my foot the previous evening when i ventured without any caution; but the virgin beaches are worth ogling ;)

We returned back to Gecko and after a shower, we rented out a scooter and had a nice meal at one of the restaurants there. Went around and then proceeded onto Radha Nagar Beach. This beach is one of the best in Asia(and in the world). I did see some photos of this beach without any tides, but when we went, i guess due to monsoon, there were gentle waves. The beachline was long and there were only a handful of people there. Almost no litter, but lots of dried up leaves on the sands. The whole of evening was spent here.

The dinner at Gecko was awsum. They did not have a great spread for vegetarians like us, but the pasta that we ordered was luscious with a beautiful taste and smell of the spices. The paneer butter masala along with the rotis was pretty heavy for dinner, but when something tastes nice, you dont think about your stomach much :)

Day-3 [Sept 6]
Wake up at 5:30am. (Trust me, but it was as if 7am in the mainland! )
Swim in the silent waters at the Gecko , breakfast at German Bakery. Come back to hotel , packed bags. Lunch again at German Bakery, then leave hotel and reached the Havelock jetty by 1pm. Leave Havelock at 2:45pm and reach Neil by 4:30 pm. Checked into Tango hotel.

Since it was already 4:30, we quickly went on for a stroll along the beach. The beach here contains loads of sea-shells and there we went again collecting them. The ocean floor here too is not smooth and you can see the rocks and dried corals popping up from the waters. Though the hotel guys told us that the were 'swimmable'  beaches on the other side of Neil Island (we werent much interested).


It was getting dark fast and we strolled till the end of Neil Island to a place called Sunset Point. There was absolutely no one around and we could only hear the waves. The ocean floor was smooth and the waves were pretty powerful. The slight overcast along with the orange rays from the sun was beautiful. It was getting dark fast, and we hurried back to the hotel. By the time we reached the hotel, it was completely dark.

Sunset Point at Neil Island

The next few hours were spend in the restaurant overlooking the beach in the hotel at Tango. The food wasnt great at all. Retired early to sleep in that unventillated room ;)

Day-4 [Sept 7]
Getup at 5am. Stroll along the beach.The mornings here are beautiful and a stroll along the beach is mandatory. Collected a few more sea shells.

Reach the Jetty at 8am and then catch the next ferry to PB.

View of the Neil Island from the Jetty

Neil to Port Blair in the Ferry starts at 8:30.  We again preferred to sit on the deck than settle in the dingy cabin. Reached Port Blair by 10am. Checkin into Ashiana Hotel near the Jetty. I would highly recommend this hotel - the rooms are clean and well ventilated; and the owner is nice too. We accidentally stumbled on this hotel when our autowala suggested this. The hotels' proximity to the neighboring market and also the quietness was good. We then relaxed for some time in the hotel and then strolled along Aberdeen bazaar, had lunch at a hotel. The sun was bright, but it was not too uncomfortable for a long walk. We did not perspire much. We then proceeded onto Cellular Jail and the Rajiv Gandhi park.

Place where the prisoners were chained and belted/caned

Gallows at Cellular Jail

Cellular Jail

Evening was spent roaming aroud the streets and trying to find someone who would arrange a plan for us for the next day.  We wanted to do Baratang Island and stumbled on an agency who had tickets for the next day.  Evening snacks at Gagan restaurant(near the clock tower), packed dinner , reach back hotel and retire for the day early as we had to get up pretty early the next day.

Day-5 [Sept 8]
Getup at 3:30am and start for Baratang Island at 4am. The bus picked us from from our hotel and thus we started our day. It was raining continuously. The ride to Baratang Island is adventurous and you get to view the indigenous tribes of the land while going through the forest sections. One is not supposed to be in touch with these tribes, and hence the bus goes full throttle when the driver sees any tribes near the road. Also, he shouts 'jarawa!jarawa!' which is the name of the tribe and all the people in the bus get excited. Inspite of the instructions, a few lunatics threw chocolates and other eatables at them. If you are visiting this land, please see to it that you dont appreciate such behaviour. The tribes do not know plastics etc and we dont want to endanger their lives.

Then on, we stopped at a place(forgot the name) to board a ferry to reach the other side of a river. Though the distance between the shores would be hardly 300, the time taken is close to 20-30minutes. Its a slow float across the river. Then we board small boats in batches of 15-20 and were served breakfast on it. The ride along the mangroves was enjoyable (and i think this was the only highlight of the day, otherwise, it was pretty much uneventful).

You visit Limestone caves and then the Mud volcano. The Mud Volcano site looks like a place where some building construction recently took place - do not expect any sort of mountain or hillock here, its flat land with hardened clay.

Limestone Caves

Elephants helping move the logs

Back to PB city by 5:30pm. Lackluster Dinner at Annapurna Cafeteria and retire for the day.

Day-6 [Sept 9]
Sleep well in the morning and board flight at 12pm for Chennai. Reach Chennai at 2pm.

And thus a vacation, which was feared to be a total washout, happened to be one of the most memorable and beautiful ones. (I still remember Frodo and Sam and there does not exist a day when i don't think about them).

And, by the way, i think 6-7 days in Andamans is good enough to cover most of the places and have a good spread between adventure, relaxing, beach bumming etc. This can probably be extended by another few days to cover a few more islands etc, but again, this depends on totally on the time schedules that you might have. ONe big factor would be on how you are going to plan your island hopping as some islands need that you come back to PB for going to any other islands.

Also, prefer the time form just after monsoon till Jan end. I heard from the DiveIndia guys that the weather changes are affecting the corals and many got dried and washed last year, so try hitting this paradise as soon as possible.

Expenses (For two): 40, 000 INR approx (or less)
  • Blr-Chn (bus)                 500
  • Chn-PortBlair(air)      17050
  • Chn-Blr(bus)                  720
  • PB airport to Jetty         100 
  • PB to Havelock             390
  • Havelock to Neil Island 390
  • Neil Island to PB           390
    • Havelock, Gecko, 2 Nights -2*1250 = 2500
    • Neil Island, Hotel Tango, 1 Night =  400
    • PB, Ashiana, 2 Nights -2*350 = 700
    • Food                6000
    • Sports              7000
    • Misc                 2000
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