So Covid made the travel bug bite my children too and they were eager to plan the trip. Also, as they are growing our team of four now complements each other. As the calendar displayed April, they knew they had to plan. My younger one wanted a beach destination, the elder one was interested in a foreign trip; hubby dear wanted to save and I wanted a little off-beat location to avoid the crowd. So here I was with a destination that could quench the thirst of all – our archipelago of emerald islands – The Andaman and Nicobar. Yes, it wasn’t a foreign trip but it was no less than a foreign trip too. The turquoise blue sea, the landforms, the clean and green eco-tourism of the islands, and the island hopping made us fall in love with our very own isles. Here are the five reasons for which we loved Andaman….
- Greenery: 87% of the area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is covered with forest. No wonder why this Union Territory of India comprising around 500 islands is also called the Emerald Islands. When our plane bent a little to turn for landing, we witnessed lush green forest patches in the sea. And Gosh! it looked like emeralds in the sea. This was a view to be witnessed and we were glued to windows even on our way back while taking off from the capital city of Port Blair.
Almost every resort is located amidst the lush green forest. So you inhale a lot of pure oxygen and feel as if you are on a wellness cation.
- Sea, Sea Beaches, and Sea Sports: So if you are a thalassophile and love every shade of sea, you are bound to witness them all here – from azure to turquoise, teal, cerulean, cyan, sapphire, and ultramarine. Andaman and Nicobar have some of the finest beaches in India. Do you know that Time Magazine gave one of Andaman – Radha Nagar Beach, the ‘Best Beach of Asia’ and ‘Seventh Best in the World’ in 2004? It is at the top in Asia by Tripadvisor’s traveler’s choice awards in 2022 too. This is the place where one can enjoy the sea, sea beaches, sea breeze, and sea sports at extremely reasonable prices. I mean if we compare it to those foreign destinations, especially like Europe and US. Explore the beauty of the marine world through your very own eyes. Enjoy Scuba diving, snorkeling, sea walking, parasailing, kayaking, jet skiing, etc. And in case you are not the one who likes adventure sports or for medical constraints opt for a glass bottom boat, fishing, sea sailing, dinner cruise, etc. Sea sports are available at many spots Portblair, North Bay, Havelock, Neil, etc. We did snorkeling, jet skiing, glass boat ride, bumpy ride, parasailing, etc. Though I missed scuba for medical reasons, I enjoyed Para Sailing. It was surely once in a lifetime experience. As I reached the top, I took a deep breath and watched the world beneath me. Everything appeared tiny, of least importance, as the ropes lifted me up in the sky.
- Cellular Jail: Don’t forget to visit Cellular Jail. It will give you a glimpse of the cruelest punishments given to our freedom fighters. Also called “Kala Pani Ki Saza”, the prison was used by the British Government to exile prisoners. If you are an Indian, you will understand the pain our people underwent to free our country from the clutches of colonialism. If you are a foreigner, you will understand the History of India better. It was one of the most formidable punishments of the colonial era as there was no means to escape. Numerous freedom fighters were imprisoned here. Veer Savarkar, being one of them, is the eponym of Veer Savarkar International Airport. Take a walk during the day through the premises, the jail, and its museum, and don’t forget to book a sound and light show in the evening. This will make you value your freedom and your country more.
- Island Hopping: Although there are around 500 islands only about 40 something are inhabited rest are either very small or occupied by protected tribes like those of Sentinelese which are counted as one of the most dangerous tribes of the World. Also, some are protected forest reserves or used by the Indian Military as their base. But believe me, you will not be able to cover them all so choose as per your time and interest. Notable among them are Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep (Earlier known as Ross Island), Shaheed Dweep, Swaraj Dweep, Baratang, Diglipur, Little Andaman, etc.
- Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep/ Ross Island Although this is a very small island but it holds its own beauty and charm. Even though it entails the ruins of British structures and Japanese bunkers made by freedom fighters. What fascinated me apart from the ruins was the protected forests and their flora and fauna. The island is full of deer and one can also sight peacocks. Cuddle them, feed them but don’t forget the timing of your ferry. No one can stay back on this island. You are allowed here for a limited time like our boat had given us three-hour time. We visited this island on a misty day which made this green island look lush green and more beautiful. Tall trees, shrubs, and climbers on the ruins make these structures worth for photo shooting especially if it is your wedding or honeymoon shoot. If you are alone, sit, relax and enjoy the beauty of the island with tea, coffee, or some snacks. Three hours, we felt were too less to enjoy and absorb the beauty of the island. Battery auto-drivers are good guides here.
- Swaraj Dweep or Havelock is home to Asia’s best beach, the Radhanagar Beach. Other notable beaches are Kala Patthar beach, elephant beach, Govind Nagar beach, etc. The island is famous for white sandy beaches, lush green canopies, coral reefs, marine life, mangroves, scuba, and other sea sports, etc. I loved this island, not only for its beaches and sea life but also for the mangroves, coconut trees, sweet coco water, and the hues of the sky, especially during dusk and dawn. What more? I particularly fell in love with wild mangroves and their areal roots peeping out to breathe from those marshy shores. The best way is to hire a two-wheeler for sightseeing or hop around on local AC buses which are quite cheap.
- Shaheed Dweep or Neil Island is famous for its calm environment and coastal landforms like a natural bridge. Sit back, relax, watch the sunrise at Sitapur Beach and sunset and do some photography. The island is so small that you can explore it on a bicycle. So rent a bicycle and enjoy exploring the tiny virgin island rather than hiring a taxi. You can also hire an auto which is quite reasonable. But remember, you might not get a good mobile connection here so carry enough cash for your payments. We really got stuck, as there are only two ATMs that ran out of cash. Though hotel staff was very cooperative and waited till we were connected. We could not visit other islands due to lack of time and rain. But in case you have time, do visit Baratang, Diglipur, and Little Andaman too.
- 5. Clean and Eco-Tourism: People take conscious efforts here to keep their surroundings clean. Radha Nagar Beach has also been awarded the prestigious “Blue Flag” certification from “Foundation for Environment Education, Denmark. The UT is working towards ecotourism and has banned plastic bags and plastic bottles less than 2 litres, people help each other in keeping their environment clean instead of playing the blame game. Even the sugarcane juice was prepared so hygienically on the street by a guy from Jharkhand that I wondered if I am in my country or somewhere else.
We have loved exploring foreign islands like Bali, Lombok, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodos, Santorini, etc. Of course, they have their own beauty, charm, history, culture, and geography but do we know our history? Our culture? Our Geography? Our people?
Yes, they are praiseworthy but our country is no less.