Sparsely-populated beaches that give way to an ocean brimming full with interesting marine life and coral gardens are just one of the reasons to visit the beautiful Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Gandhi Park, Sippighat Farm and the century-old Cellular Jail (now a pilgrimage destination) provide glimpses into the past and present of these peaceful islands with a mysterious and multicultural past.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are comparable to any white sand beach at an international destination. Housing 572 islands, they are among the most remote and undiscovered gems on Earth.
A popular holiday destination, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are no stranger to rich wildlife. The Islands houses unique dense evergreen tropical rain forests in splendid isolation in the Bay of Bengal. Once a hill range extending from Myanmar to Indonesia, these picturesque undulating islands are covered with dense rain-fed, damp and evergreen forests where endless varieties of exotic flora and fauna abounds.
Out of the 572 islands, most of these islands (about 550) are in the Andaman Group, 28 of which are inhabited. The smaller Nicobars, comprise 22 main islands out of which 10 are inhabited.
But the beauty of the Islands is not just restricted to sight, it is also a sanctuary for wildlife and has been declared as two of the 218 endemic bird areas of the world. As many as 270 species and sub-species of birds have been reported existing on these islands, and there are 96 Wildlife Sanctuaries, nine National Parks and one Biosphere Reserve on the islands. These islands are blessed with the bounties of both south-west and north-east monsoons.
Best time to visit
You can reach the islands with a flight to Port Blair where the main medium of transport is on boats. During your stay at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it is advisable to travel by the government-run ferry services when commuting from one island to another.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a moderate temperature all through the year within the range of 23°C to 31°C. October to February is considered the best time to visit as the weather remains pleasant and allows you to make the most of your vacation. For those who wish to enjoy scuba diving, January to May is the best time to indulge in the sport. The water is calmer and visibility is better for scuba divers during this time. The best season for nature lovers is May to December when the forest is lush green and waterfalls are at their prime.
Divers can enjoy their best during December to April and bird watchers during winter times. The Andaman Islands offer a diverse range of tourist activities. In fact, the island is among India’s best diving, snorkelling, scuba diving, and water sports destinations.
A multicultural town offering a glimpse of various local traditions, Port Blair is a scenic escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Steeped in colonial history, Port Blair is perfect as a basecamp for your stay in the Andamans. It is the gateway to the pristine islands and is also a reminder of the many sacrifices of freedom fighters. Being an island town it offers water-based activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, sea cruises, and glimpses of the history and culture of the region. The Aberdeen Bazaar forms the centre of the town, while the Cellular jail here is the most infamous spot during India’s struggle for independence. The bazaar is also home to several historic landmarks, including the Clock Tower, which was built in 1906 and served as the main timekeeper for the city, and the Fish Market, where visitors can see the catch of the day being sold by local fishermen.
Port Blair is also a gateway to other tourist attractions in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, due to its accessibility from the mainland. Ferries operate mainly from Port Blair to other islands. Famous for its sunset, the Chidiya Tapu or Bird Island is among the places worth visiting in Port Blair. Not only does it offer an incredible view of the Andaman coastline, but the place also houses over 40 varieties of regional birds.
With long treks and fascinating backwaters, Havelock promises to be an escape into adventure and scenic beauty. Havelock Islands is home to one of the most well-known beaches on the Island, Radhanagar Beach. Spanning over 2 km from the Havelock islands, you can expect crystal clear blue waters which are calm and still make it the perfect spot for a quick dip in the ocean. And if you wish to give the usual scuba diving, snorkelling, boating and fishing a miss, you can also enjoy elephant rides here. Set amidst white sands and blue waters, the sunset at this beach is a marvel to behold, and sunsets here are divine. Don’t forget to try the delicious samosas.
Famous for the Jarawa tribe, Limestone Caves and Mud Volcanoes, Baratang Island is a must-visit site for all the people who wish to truly enjoy nature. The boat ride to the island is pristine and covered with a canopy of the forest which is also home to the indigenous Jarawa tribe. A key attraction here is the limestone caves in unique shapes formed over time due to erosion. Your journey will take you through tribal reserves. You can also catch a glimpse of sun-bathing crocodiles camouflaged perfectly in the mangrove forests of the area.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands take pride in their beauty and rightly so. Neil Island is famous for its coral reefs and white shores. Snorkelling here is an experience like no other, offering delightful views of the underwater life and coral reefs. Because of the beauty of the reefs located here, the Neil Islands are often termed as the coral capital of Andaman. The coral reefs at the Andamans are famous for featuring some of the widest range of aquatic flora and fauna. Scuba diving is also a great way to get up close and personal with the vibrant, colourful corals that these beaches are famous for.
Rangat is a picturesque destination that will delight nature enthusiasts. It is situated on Middle Andaman Islands and is renowned for its Cuthbert Bay Beach, which serves as a nesting site for various turtle species, such as the olive ridley, green sea, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles. The Cuthbert Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, located on the beach, offers an unobstructed view of newly hatched turtles making their way to the sea. Visitors can also participate in marine conservation initiatives by releasing turtle hatchlings.
The Great Nicobar Island, located near Little Andaman, is the largest among the Nicobar Islands in India, spanning 1,045 sq. km. It is famous for its rainforests and houses a wide variety of wildlife. It is also a designated part of the World Biosphere Reserve. The island is also home to an indigenous tribe known as the ‘Shompen,’ one of the oldest tribes in the world. Wildlife enthusiasts can explore Campbell Bay, which is home to unique fauna such as the Crab-eating macaque, giant robber crab, megapode, and Nicobar pigeon. This island is a haven for nature lovers, with its diverse flora and fauna.
Trek to Madhuban
If you’re an adventure seeker, you’ll definitely want to check out the Trek to Madhuban – it’s widely regarded as one of the best trekking routes in the country! The trek from Mount Harriet to Madhuban is especially popular and attracts a large number of tourists. People love the lush green forests and exotic fauna in the area. To start your trek, you can take a ferry ride from Chatham Harbour in Port Blair. There are three major ferry routes in Port Blair that connect to Chatham, Bamboo Flat, Junglighat, Dundas Point, Viper Island, Hope Town and Mithakari. Ferries from these towns make 45 trips a day, so you can easily get to any of the trekking points nearby with just a few minutes on the ferry.
While planning your itinerary make sure you have a chance to try delicious local cuisine in the region. Most people consume coconut, rice, seafood and spices. Andaman offers tasty crabs, cuttlefish, prawns and lobster, along with the famous Red Snapper. You will also find numerous vegetarian options along with a blend of Bengali, Andhra and Kerala cuisine. Some of the top restaurants worth trying here include Full Moon Café on Havelock Island and New Lighthouse at Port Blair. You should not miss the grilled lobsters and fish at this open-air eatery