The Andaman and Nicobar islands are an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. In this blog post, I explain how you can plan a seven day trip to the Andaman Islands on your own.
I recently returned from my second trip to these islands. I revisited some of the islands I had visited earlier, visited one new island and left out some that I had visited last time. This post draws from both my visits. I have also included the islands that I was unable to visit on either of the visits but maybe you could plan a trip there. I visited with my family on both the visits.
How to reach?
You can book a flight from any of these cities (Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Vishakhapatnam and Bhubaneshwar) to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
You can take a ship from Kolkata or Chennai, subject to weather conditions.
Once in Port Blair, you can either book government ferries to some islands or private ferries.
Tickets for the government ferry can be booked at the Directorate of Shipping services, located in the same complex as the Phoenix Bay Jetty. You can find more information through the official website.
The islands that are connected by government ferries are- Havelock (Swaraaj Dweep), Neil (Shaheed Dweep), Long Island, Rangat and Mayabunder.
The schedules for ferries are released on Mondays and Thursdays. The agents line up from a couple of hours before the ticket counters open and tickets sell out fast. In Port Blair, there is a separate queue for the tourists but this is not the case in Havelock. The agents get in the line and you need to be vigilant or you would end up wasting a couple of hours there and still leave without the ticket. The office hours are from 9:00 AM to…
Senior citizens get a discount. You need to produce valid photo id in order to buy a ticket and to board the ship.
The islands we visited through the government ferry were Havelock (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil (Shaheed Dweep).
The government ferries are almost half the price as that of private ferries. However if convenience is what you are looking for, a tour operator can arrange a private ship for you for a date and time that suits you the best. You can even book them online.
Requirements for foreign nationals
Barring the nationals of a few countries, Restricted area permit is not required to visit the 30 islands listed on the official site. RAP can be obtained from Port Blair on entry. You can get all the information from the official website of Andaman and Nicobar tourism. RAP is still required for certain areas like Mayabunder and Diglipur.
Where to go?
Havelock Island/Swaraj Dweep
The crown jewel of the Andamans, Havelock is certainly worth a visit. I could not visit it on my last trip but I made it there this time, and stayed there for almost 4 days. You can do all various activities such as Scuba diving, night kayaking, jet ski, snorkelling, swimming, trekking and sun bathing in this island. The locals are friendly and the place has a relaxed vibe about it. Cramming all about this laid back island here would not do it justice so read a comprehensive guide to exploring Havelock Island in three days here. Are you all packed for the beach? Because you will need all those accessories here. Read my post essentials for a beach holiday here to check things off of your checklist.
Neil Island/Shaheed Dweep
Lesser known cousin of Havelock island, Neil is fast picking up as one of the most visited island. Due to a lack of listings however, most people only take a day trip to this island. I was determined to spend at least one night on this island time I visited it but I ended up taking another day trip this time. To avoid making this blog too long, I have written another post things to do in Neil Island on a day trip. I also noticed construction activities very close to the beach and trash strewn around one of the most pristine beaches which initially made me resent tourists but eventually led me to ponder on the life style changes needed for sustainability.
Ross/Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Viper and North Bay Islands
You can book a day trip to all three islands, two islands (Ross and North Bay Island) or just Ross or North Bay island.
The ferry leaves from the Marina jetty at Andaman Water Sports Complex, also known as Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex.
Charges for Ross Island/ person: Rs. 350
Charges for Ross Island and North Bay Island/ person: Rs. 750
Charges for Ross Island and North Bay Island/ person: Rs. 550
The last time I visited, I visited all the three islands, however, most people prefer to drop Viper Island these days so I am not sure if you can still find ferries for the same.
The ferry stopped there for barely 15-20 minutes. The island is an integral part of the Indian struggle for freedom as it was at this island that the harshest forms of tortures were inflicted on the revolutionaries who opposed the British rule in India. The defining point on this island are the now dilapidated gallows where the freedom fighters were hanged. It stands there as a testimony to the cruelty inflicted by the colonialists on the people o occupied territories.
North Bay Island
This island is popular for water activities. That is the only attraction. This is where I tried Scuba for the first time and in spite of all claims of it being the best in Havelock, it was here that I saw schools of fishes swimming in front of my eyes. It could have been that the storm this time upset the sand making the waters murkier, but there were certainly less corals as well.
If you couple your trip with another island, you will not get more than 40-45 minutes on this fascinating island. A tiny island, it is unique for the network of roots of trees as they overtake the ruins of once splendid buildings built by the British empire. The space here is not enough to describe the awe that nature inspires and for all the pictures I want to share so you can read all about it in my blog post Ross Island in the Andaman Sea- Wonder at the ruins, walk among the deer herd and soak in the views.
I went to this island for a day trip on my last trip as a part of an organized trip. We had booked the trip with a tour operator in Port Blair and had to board the bus at around 3:30 in the morning, from the point that was designated to us. It was close to where our hotel was. A three hour long bus drive to the north of Port Blair., including the forest reserve area where the native Jarawa tribe lives, took us to the Nilambur jetty from where w boarded the ship. We were then transferred to a steam boat, which took us to the the place where we could see the limestone caves. This boat ride was through the mangroves. A short 10-15 minutes trek takes you to the caves. When I last visited in 2016, the caves were open only till a short distance after which they were closed. The other attraction is the mud volcanoes. Apparently, Baratang island is the only island in India that has mud volcanoes. They aren’t particularly impressive but they are still a rare phenomenon and they have erupted in the past, so you should definitely visit them. A combination of jeep ride and 10 minutes walk takes you to the mud volcanoes. There aren’t many options for night stay and you need to book in advance for the only option available. You can also proceed to the parrot island from here, but for that you need to spend the night on Baratang. Since the journey is long, you will have to spend the night in Port Blair, so plan accordingly.
Jolly Buoy Island
Conserved under Mahatma Gandhi marine reserve, this is one of the most pristine islands in the Andamans. You need a permit to visit this island. It was wrecked by the 2004 tsunami and remained closed for many years before being reopened. I visited this island in 2016.
I booked the tour through a tour operator and it is advisable that you book it early because a permit is required for visiting this island. If you are here for an definite period of time, it is best to plan ahead. You will need to take a cab to Wandoor beach 30 km from Port Blair. Reach by 8:00 or 9:00 AM. A 45 minute boat ride will take you to Jolly Buoy. The corals here are well preserved. The island is small and changing rooms are available. This is a no plastic zone, so you will be required to surrender plastic water bottles. You will be rented Milton water bottles instead for a refundable deposit, to be returned once you come back. The area allowed for swimming is enclosed by a rope. You can take a glass boat ride here. I went for snorkelling with a local guide but I am not sure if it is allowed. You have to return the same day after spending a few hours there.
The hub from where you can visit different islands, Port Blair also some points of attraction about which you can read on my post A day in Port Blair here. The dreaded Cellular jail or Kala Pani are must visit for every Indian in order to never forget the price of independence our ancestors paid, and, to fight for democracy at all costs.
Ross and Smith Island/s and North Andaman
The beaches in the north are untouched and you can visit them by first going to Diglipur. A domestic airport is under construction but as of now, you will need to travel by road and ship to reach Diglipur. The most popular islands there are Ross and Smith. They are a shoal complex, separated by a sand bank during low tide while separated by water during high tide. One way journey will take a day so you need a minimum of 3 days to visit these islands, so plan accordingly.
- Crocodile alert: Ask the locals before you go swimming. Some areas specifically, the back waters may have crocodiles, so be careful before you go in. Neil’s cove at the end of Radhanagar beach has clear warning signs posted in the area. You are less likely to have an encounter in the open sea but still ask the locals.
- Wild dogs alert: As forest cover is still considerable, avoid isolated beaches, mainly before sunrise and after sunset as wild dogs from the forests may attack.