Recently we went on a trip to Andaman with our family and I want to share my experience. So I thought of writing an article regarding the same. I have two kids, both boys. First one is studying in first standard and the second one is one and half years old. In the summer holidays of my first son(April-May) We were planning for the trip. Initially we were having a lot of doubts if it will be safe for both of our kids to travel, as the place is very hot and there will be lot of exposure to the hot sun and sea water. We were also doubtful if the food there will be ok with my kids. Me and my hubby browsed a lot and we also checked with our mutual friends who had already visited to get feedback. And the feed back which we received were mostly positive, that the place is totally awesome and also safe for kids. Internet also advised the same.So we decided to go for it.
Now if we look into the geography of Andaman , it is a group of islands located centrally in the Bay of Bengal. We have both Andaman and Nicobar Islands. And inside that itself we have lot of small small islands. If you plan a trip for Andaman, the itinary itself is varied depending upon your choices. The tourism in Andaman mostly consists of the various islands namely Havelock Island,Neil Island,Ross Island,Baratang Island to name a few. Depending upon your budget, number of days you are staying you make your choices.
Havelock Island is a wonderful Island with three of the most beautiful and crystal clear beaches like,
Radhanagar Beach(It has been named as the Best Beach of Asia by the Times Magazine in 2004),
Elephant Beach : The beach itself is awesome here and along with that we have a lot of water sports like Snorkelling, Sea walking, Squba diving, Glass Bottom boat ride,Jet Ride,Banana ride etc..., Third is the Kalapathar beach.
Neil Island is a very small Island and only recently Indian Tourism has turned its attention to this Island. Here we have the Natural bridge,Sitapur,Laxmanpur and Bharatpur beach.Ross Island is 12 hours travel distance from Port Blair and it contains the only active valcano in India. If you want to have a look at the valcano you can go there.
Baratang Island is the Island which is still in the control of the local tribes there and if anybody to want to have a look at the native tribes can visit but we wont be allowed to land there.
So as for our trip,me,my husband,my kids and my parents (As they were also interested in visiting -- good for us as they were interested in doing some babysitting also:-)) started from Bangalore Airport on a fine morning . Our flight was at 12:30 p.m, so we started around 9:00 A.M from our home on a safer side as we were well aware of the Bangalore traffic. Luckily we didnt face much traffic that day(It was election day by the way :-)). We reached the airport on time (around 11:00 A.M). We checked-in, got the boarding pass, did the security check and got inside. We had lunch quite early and boarded the flight. Since it was daytime we were able to enjoy the scenery outside which consisted mostly of clouds and the sea down. After an uneventful flight, when we were nearing Andaman, a gorgeous sight met us as we looked down into the small,small islands with thick forests surrounded by the sea. It was one of the best welcome any place offers. I was reminded of the introduction scene in Jurassic Park where the founder of the Park along with the other crew visit the island in helicoptor.
We have only one airport in Andaman and it is located in Port Blair. It is named after Veer Savarkar , who was a freedom fighter. We landed in the airport and shortly collected our luggage and came out. Since we have booked our trip with a famous tripAgency , a reprentative was waiting outside to take us to the hotel. Port Blair is like any other small Indian city, and the city's population consists of mostly Bengalis, followed by Tamils and Hindi population. As per our represntative , it has a Governor and the crime rate there is nil. There is no robbery or crime there.We checked in the hotel and in theday's plan we had the Light and Sound show in the Cellular Jail that evening at 7:00 P.M.So we got ready and were driven to the Cellular Jail.
Now whenever we hear the name Andaman we may be reminded of the beautiful beaches and scenery, but this place also has another black face in terms of the Cellular Jail. Also known as Kalapani(Black Waters) in the olden days, this Jail has been used by the British to mete out unthinkable tortures to our great freedom fighters. The British took 10 years to build this Jail, to make it in such a way that it will never allow even a single person to escape and also to give both mental and physical tortures to the inmates who are sent to this place of doom.The Cellular Jail earlier had 7 separate wings with around 600 separate cells in which only 3 are remaining now , while the others have collapsed. Each cell in the jail will hold only one person. They have only one ventilator and also the ventilators in each block are kept in different directions, so that the person from one block cannot communicate with the other. Each prisoner is given a daily task of either generating 30 pounds of oil from mustard or coconut manually which or by breaking the coconuts and making 2 pounds of rope everyday which is an impossible task even for a cow,and failure of doing the same will result in punishments like flogging. The person should continuosly move,if he stops for a second also he will be whipped. The food and water given to them was also very meagre and unhealthy with dirt and worms. They were allowed to use the toilet also at only specified timings. The Light and sound show explains the misery experienced by our freedom fighters and it is with a heavy heart and sad face we come out thinking about the hardships our ancestors have faced for getting our independence.
The next day our plan was to visit the Havelock Island. In order to reach Havelock Island from Port Blair we have to travel in either the government ferry or using a private cruise.It takes roughly 2:30 hrs travel. We have to book the tickets in advance and also the procedure is similiar to a flight where our credentials are checked before our ticket is stamped. We had booked in a private cruise called Macros and travelling in the ferry was a pleasant affair.. Though the sun was blazing outside, the cruise was cool inside and we were able to see the sea water lapping in the sides. After the 90 minutes travel we reached Havelock, and that day we visited the Radhanagar beach in the afternoon.As mentioned earlier it was one of the finest beachs. The sand there was very white and fine grained .Best place for kids to build sand castles and play. My son had a beach-set which he for his last birthday and was longing to get a chance to use it. Finally he got his chance. We seated our kids at a place not very far and not very near to the waves so that they will get access to water and at the same time will not get wet fully.They got settled and had fun time playing with the sand. We also had a great time playing with the waves which were coming in and out.At the same time there were 2-3 lifeguards present and they were whistling and warning at people who were going too far inside every now and then.
The next day we were taken in a small motorboat to the Elephant beach for the water sports activities. Of all the beaches I saw in Andaman, I feel that the Elephant beach is the best with its crystal clear water and enchanting waves. Here we have corals and marine life very near to the shore. We have lot of activities like Sea walking,snorkelling,jet skiing and bottom glass boat ride. First we did snorkelling. Actually my husband is a good swimmer, but I am a novice and also have a fear of water. So I initially hesitated to do it. But the equipment which they provide, like full oxygen mask, lifejacket put me in ease and also the instructor also was always by our side, so after some time I got over my fear and started enjoying it .
For snorkelling, after putting the mask, we have to keep our head inside the water. so that we will be able to see the marine life below.After floating for some distance, we were able to see beautiful corals and small fishes here in there. After sometime more fishes and quite colourful ones too.It was quite a new experience seeing them so near.Next we did jet skiing and then we went on the banana ride. Before getting in I was not aware what banana ride was. Me and my hubby got in a small banana shaped floater which can hold four persons. There was boat in front which was towing us. After I got in I came to know that in the banana ride they will take us to the midddle of the sea and will topple the floater , so that we will be pushed inside the water. Since we were wearing lifejacket we will come up.Once I knew this I was quite scared and started shouting,"Why did you put me in this , I am not coming!!!!!" , but it was too late . My husband had not told me about it purposefully as I would have backed if I had known.But the boat had already started and we were midway and imagine my situation. Suddenly they toppled the floater and we were pushed in the middle of the ocean. I went inside for one split second, drank a lot of water and came up and was able to float.. Thanks to the life jacket. Then the driver pulled us all up one by one to the floater.While nearing the shore they pushed us again.. Phew... What an experience..
In May , the monsoon season in Andaman starts and so there were showers now and then bringing relief from the heat. Rain comes suddenly and also stops suddenly. Another notable phenomenon is low tide and high tide. If you take any beach, in some time of the day the tide will be very much inside, allowing you to walk more inside to reach the waves and showing lot of rocks and corals outside. But the same beach if you see in the next 6-8 hours would have risen and water would have covered all the rocks and will be till end of the sand. Because of earth's rotation this phenomenon happens one or twice in a day. So you should be always careful and abide by the tourist-guide's/locals advice, as the water level may rise or reduce anytime.The next day we went for Neil Island, again 1 hour travel in ferry.
Neil Island is a small Island and is very picturesque. Here the main occupation is farming and they supply vegetables for the entire Andaman. First day we visited the natural bridge, which has been formed from a big highland which has been modified like a bridge because of the waves.At the time we visited, the beach was in low tide and the waves had receded back exposing a lot of corals. Inside the corals they were lots of small crabs, star fishes and fishes in small pools of water here n there. We were able to see a small turtle also. But after some time the waves started to increase in velocity and height and were reaching the shore fast thus closing the exposed corals again and within a short span of time the places which were land before were covered with water because of the high tide.It was both fascinating and scary. We quickened our pace and then visited the Laxmanpur beach to watch a perfect sunset.
Next morning started at 4:45 A.M after watching the sunrise in the Sitapur beach which was near our resort. The sun rises very early at 4:45-5:00 A.M and the sunset also happens very early and the place becomes dark by 6:00-6:15 P.M. Andamanese are early risers and early sleepers. All the beaches close by 5:00P.M or max by 6:00 P.M because it is not safe to be there afterwards as the wildlife like crabs,snakes and many insects get active after that time near the beaches.
Next day we visited the Bharatpur beach and went on the glass bottom boat ride. This a boat with a roof and the bottom of the boat is made of glass so that we can view the sea below.Since the water is very clear we can watch inside the sea clearly. After reaching a point the boat starts going slowly and if we look below , we are able to see lots of corals with a school of fishes going deep below. We were able to see a live Discovery Channel/National Geographic tuned in for Underwater sea life. For half n hour we visited 4 spots teaming with corals and different shapes/sizes/colour of fishes. We were continuosly exclaiming Wow, look !! look!!, see the size of that fish, see the colour, see how many fishes, see how deep!! like that and finally when all 4 spots were over we got back feeling elated.
Another thing worth mentioning is the cuisine here. There are many small hotels here and the food is both delicious and fresh and cost is also optimum.For Sea-food lovers it is the best place as they can get some fresh sea food here. And the food hygeine is also good as it got well with both my kids. We can find both bengali,hindi(roti,naan,curries,friedrice,biriyani) and tamil cuisine(dosa,idli,sambhar -- mostly in mornings) here.
Andaman is a place rich in marine life and wildlife. Because of the minimum pollution and less advancements it is still staying fresh and untouched unlike many other tourist places which have lost some of their natural beauty because of the waste and the pollution caused by the tourists. Let the place retain its charm and freshness.And as tourists we should strive to cause minimum pollution.
All good things come to and end and finally we were in the last day of our visit and with a heavy heart we boarded our flight promising ourselves that we will visit this beautiful place again......