Neil island is rapidly picking up as a favored tourist destination. I first visited this island in Feb 2016 and was in complete awe of this pristine island. Few tourists visited it at that time and the beaches were much cleaner.
How to reach?
The ferry from Port Blair to Neil takes around two hours and from Havelock round half an hour. To know about the intricacies of bookings, take a look at my post how to spend seven days in the Andaman Islands -plan your own itinerary. Read about Havelock Island in my post a comprehensive guide to exploring Havelock Island in three days. We took the ship from Port Blair to Neil island and were pleasantly surprised when passengers on deck were invited to soak in the stunning views from the captain’s deck.
You can rent a bicycle or explore on foot if you are making an overnight stay, however, if you have to return back the same day, rent an auto at the jetty. Based on your bargaining skills, the auto driver will take you to all the main spots listed in the official tourist booklet for somewhere around Rs. 600.
The farthest point to visit for visitors is the Sita nagar beach, which is just 5km from the Jetty.
Let’s dive straight into places to visit and things to do in Neil island on a day trip.
Where to stay?
There are few listings on internet, however, they are expensive. I saw many resorts on the island, so you can risk booking an accommodation on arrival.
Don’t forget to get a quick bite at the canteen after disembarking from the jetty, and before setting out on sight seeing. There are many options on the menu, the price is reasonable and the food is delicious.
Points of interest
Broadly speaking, there are three beaches of interest and a natural bridge.
It is famous for sunrises and is also known as the sunrise beach. It is 5km from the jetty. I was awestruck by this beautiful circular beach when I had visited the last time, however, was disappointed to see it littered with plastic trash, syringes, plastic bottles and other medical supplies on this visit.
Laxmanpur beach is the crown jewel of Neil island and will woe you even before you disembark from the ship. It is best known for beautiful sunsets and is famed for the clear water color gradient-a beautiful light green merges into emerald green which turns to dark blue. This long white sand beach is lined by a grove of very tall trees with thick trunks and wide canopies. Keep an eye out for exotic shells and corals on this beach.
Destructive human activities at Laxmanpur beach
When I had visited earlier, the beach was pristine, however this time I saw trash strewn around. A few temporary shops have also cropped up very close to the beach and the area right outside the beach is being cleared for a parking and a resort. It was all very disheartening.
You can walk to this beach from the jetty. It is known for activities such as boat scuba diving, snorkeling and glass boat ride. Shore scuba diving is not allowed because it can damage the corals. It is dotted with small shops that offer food, coconut water, artifacts made from pearls and corals etc. When the tide is low, the sea recedes leaving behind a sand bar that you can walk on, the time when you should visit the natural bridge.
A short paved path opens on a rocky dead coral beach. The sea recedes at low tide and makes way for the tourists to step over rocks and peek at marine life in tiny pools left behind. You can see small colorful fishes, corals, eels, star fish in these natural aquariums. Tadpoles jump from one rock to the other so be careful not to squish them because it is their territory. At a distance, you can spot a natural arch, called the natural coral bridge or Howrah Bridge after the original in Kolkata.
Beyond the bridge, is another bridge, however I don’t recommend walking till there, because you will only be trespassing an undisturbed area. The marine life there is no different from the shallow water pools around the natural bridge.
Some older people or someone with injury may find the walk tricky, however, it is suitable for most people and is an experience worth having. You can hire a guide to know more about the sea life there.
Local fruits and fresh fruit juices at temporary local stalls
You can buy local fruits and fresh juices, served on biodegradable butter paper and in reusable glasses, at one of the several shops at the entrance. Make a stop on your way back and get a taste of the local flavors. I highly recommend amda, a local fruit, similar to raw mango due to its tangy flavor.