Replete with picturesque shimmering beaches, lagoons of turquoise blue waters and a bit of history, Andaman & Nicobar Islands is a little slice of paradise tucked around 1,400 km away from the east coast of India. The union territory comprises a total of 572 islands, only 37 of which are inhabited and a few are open to the tourists.
Port Blair, the capital city of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, is the gateway to the archipelago and is connected with various islands via multiple daily ferries. Havelock and Neil Island are some of the most famous islands among tourists and is known for pearly white sands, palm-lined shores and offer some of the best snorkelling and diving options in India.
Once known for its Cellular Jail- ‘Kaala Paani’ in Port Blair which primarily imprisoned the freedom fighters who were exiled from the mainland of India during the British Era, the graph of the Andaman and Nicobar islands have lately changed drastically and it is now known for its flourishing tourism industry which especially attracts honeymooners, families and adventure enthusiasts.
You can either laze around on the sandy shores and enjoy the mesmerising sunsets or try your hand at scuba diving and explore the vibrant coral reefs. Besides, it also has virgin immaculate backwaters for those seeking solitude and ataraxy.
Havelock Island is one of the largest and the most popular attraction of all of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Blessed with pristine beaches and coconut groves, this one offers myriad adventure sports opportunities to its guests. From snorkelling to parasailing, scuba diving and kayaking etc., there is no dearth of thrilling activities here, for that much-needed adrenaline rush, on an otherwise tranquil leisure vacay.
In addition to this, you can visit the bustling city of Port Blair to get a glimpse of the local lifestyle. Steeped in colonial history and boasting of striking architectural monuments, you can also browse the local markets and savour the traditional cuisine.
Scuba Diving In Andaman
Large coral reefs, an assortment of marine life and the calm blue waters of the Bay of Bengal all make the name “Emerald Isle” highly suitable for the Andamans. Most popular island among all the islands for the dives, however, is Havelock. It is an ideal diving destination for everyone, right from a novice to an experienced diver.
Havelock Island is one of the largest and most popular islands in Andaman and Nicobar. Spread over a massive area of 113.93 square kilometres, it is situated 57 km north-east of the capital city Port Blair. Havelock Island is a paradise of silky white sand beaches, crystal blue water, rich corals and verdant forests. There is no dearth of beauty on this little island as the reputed and much-loved Radhanagar and Vijaynagar Beaches are also right on its southern shores. Havelock Island is also a favourite amongst those who want to engage in scuba diving, snorkelling, and deep sea diving.
The pristine shores and the aquamarine waters of the island stretch right across its expanses! Elephant beach and Kalapather beach are two other destinations where the sunrise and sunsets are divine. A long walk along the stretch of the sand is the perfect way to explore the island on your own.The island was named after a British General and comprises of Ritchie’s Archipelago and a collection of five villages. Surrounded by the most popular beaches on Andaman, it is among the most popular places to visit on the archipelago.
Awarded with the title of ‘Asia’s Best Beach’ by the TIMES magazine in 2004, Radhanagar Beach with its turquoise blue waters and powdery white sands lives up to the moniker. Its vast shores of endless white grains stretch across 2 kilometres, making it a prime attraction of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Located at a distance of a mere 7 kilometres from the much adored Vijaynagar Beach and approximately 12 kms from the main Havelock Island, it is a hop, skip and jump away to serenity and beauty.
Being located so close to the main Havelock Beach has made it a favourite among tourists. It is also among the most reputed places to enjoy water sports in the Andamans. The best way to reach Radhanagar Beach is via a ferry from Havelock Island.
Apart from enjoying the spectacle of the beach and the melange of colours, visitors can also enjoy water sports like boating, parasailing, and scuba diving. Food stalls and vendors can be seen on the fringes of the shore, keeping travellers refreshed with the provision of fresh and delicious seafood as well as beverages. You can also book beach beds, parasols, and umbrellas while they spend hours merely lounging at this exquisite wonderland.
The Cellular Jail, also known as ‘Kala Pani’ is an old colonial prison situated in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar islands. Constructed by the Britishers during their colonial rule in India, Cellular Jail was used particularly to exile political prisoners where they were subjected to many atrocities at the hands of the British. The construction of the jail began in the year 1896 and was completed in 1906, after which it was used to house many notable freedom fighters such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The aura of history and struggle around the Cellular Jail is palpable and you just cannot help but be overcome with a strong patriotic fervour. The jail complex is now owned by the Government of India and it is recognised as the national memorial monument that showcases the life of prisoners during the British era.
The jail narrates of the horrifying and darkest period in the history of India. Soon after the Sepoy Mutiny in the year 1857, Britishers began to use the islands of Andaman and Nicobar as the jails to put fighters behind the bars. The secluded islands were chosen due to their distant location from the main parts of the country where the prisoners would be kept in the dark depriving them of the situation in the country and excluding them from the society. During the independence movement of India, thousands of Indians were imprisoned in the cellular jail, many of them died due to inhumane conditions, many were hanged till death and many simply perished. Today, the Cellular Jail is a solemn reminder of all the struggles that our freedom fighters fought through to win the independence of the country, and is an imperative part of our history that ought to be upheld.
Snorkeling in Andamans
The unique position held by Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean guarantees a great avenue to experience snorkelling. There are various centres that offer short courses and provide the equipment required for snorkelling. They consist of various programmes for the beginner, intermediate and advanced swimmers. You can experience snorkelling at North Bay Island, Jolly Buoy Island, Havelock Island, Red Skin Island, in Wandoor, Long Island, Andaman Water Sports Complex, Neill Island, South Button, Henry Lawrence Beach, Rutland Island and Kalipur. Tourists can use local transport (roadways and waterways) to reach these required snorkelling locations. So, it is advisable to keep a close tab on the ferry schedules and make sure you reach in time.
Snorkelling is a water sport that allows swimmers to observe marine life without diving deep in the ocean and without having to carry heavy equipment. The only equipment that aids Snorkeling is a 30-centimetre long tube called a snorkel attached to a diving mask with glasses. Swimmers can be close to the surface of the water and yet see as much as possible of the life underwater.
Located just 2 kilometres east of Port Blair is the Ross Island; an island which was once the administrative headquarters of the British, but today is only an uninhabited island that is recognised solely for its beauty and scenic views. Following an earthquake that hit Ross Island in the year 1941, the British left the island and shifted their settlement to Port Blair. The island was not able to overcome the grief of this sudden withdrawal, and decay and neglect ultimately set in. One can see traces of a prosperous past in the rubbles of the church, swimming pool and the chief commissioner’s home with its extensive gardens and magnificent ballrooms. There is also a cemetery and a small museum managed by the Indian Navy.
As in the case of its sister-islands, Ross Island also has thick forests. At first sight of the island, it is tough to believe that this abandoned place was once the seat of British power and housed everything from a bazaar, a church, stores, bakery, a water treatment plant, tennis court, printing press, secretariat, hospital, cemetery and other vital institutions. Today, everything has disappeared except a few buildings, which housed some of these landmarks. Large banyan trees have engulfed the other buildings and have successfully managed to replace the grand structures built by man. The island is enveloped with a sense of nostalgia and takes the visitor back in time. The Indian Navy has managed to rebuild some old buildings, such as the local stores and the bakery, to provide the visitors with a feel of the bygone era. Souvenirs can also be purchased from these shops.