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ANDAMAN ISLANDS –PEARLS IN THE BLUE SEA

With breathtakingly beautiful coastline, lush forested interior, fantastic diving possibilities and a far-flung location, the Andaman Islands are a perfect place to ramble around or simply chill out on sun-toasted beaches.

Shimmering turquoise waters are surrounded by primeval jungle and mangrove forest, and its sugar-white beaches melt under glorious flame-and-purple sunsets. The population is a friendly mix of South and Southeast Asian settlers, as well as ethnic groups whose arrival here still has anthropologists somewhat baffled. Adding to the intrigue is its remote location, some 1370km from the Indian mainland, meaning the islands are geographically more Southeast Asia – just 150km from Indonesia and 190km from Myanmar.

Comprising 572 islands, only a dozen or so are open to tourists, Havelock by far being the most popular for its splendid beaches and diving. The Nicobar Islands are strictly off limits to tourists, as are the various patches of tribal areas.

Port Blair on South Andaman Island is the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian territory in the Bay of Bengal. Its seafront Cellular Jail, completed in 1906, hints at its past as a British penal colony and is now a memorial to Indian independence activists. Inland, the Samudrika Marine Museum showcases local marine life. The Anthropological Museum focuses on the islands’ indigenous tribes.

With sublime silken beaches, twinkling teal shallows and some of the best diving in South Asia, Havelock has the well-deserved reputation of being a traveler’s paradise. Indeed for many, Havelock and it’s serene beaches is  what lures most tourists across the Bay of Bengal, many of whom are content to stay here for the entirety of their trip 

Although its beaches are not as luxurious as its more famous island neighbour, Havelock, tranquil Neil has its own unique charm. There’s a wonderfully unhurried pace of life here; cycling through picturesque little villages is a stellar way to soak up the island's character. The main bazaar has a mellow vibe and is a popular gathering spot in the early evening. On Neil Island you’re about 40km from Port Blair, a short ferry ride from Havelock and several universes away from the bustle of life back home. 

Just a 20-minute boat ride from Port Blair, visiting Ross Island (not to be confused with its namesake island in North Andaman) feels like discovering a jungle-clad Lost City, à la Angkor Wat, except here the ruins are Victorian English rather than ancient Khmer. The former administrative headquarters for the British in the Andamans, Ross Island in its day was fondly called the ‘Paris of the East’ (along with Pondicherry, Saigon etc etc…), but the cute title, vibrant social scene and tropical gardens were all wiped out by the double whammy of a 1941 earthquake and invasion by the Japanese.

Those who make it this far north are rewarded with some impressive attractions in the area. It’s a giant outdoor adventure playground designed for nature lovers: home to a world-famous turtle nesting site, the Andaman’s' highest peak and a network of caves to go with white-sand beaches and some of the best snorkeling in the Andaman’s.

However, don’t expect much of Diglipur (population 70,000), the second largest urban hub in the Andaman’s, a sprawling, gritty bazaar town. Instead head straight for the tranquil coastal village of Kalipur.

As far south as you can go in the islands, Little Andaman has an appealing end-of-the-world feel. It’s a gorgeous fist of mangroves, jungle and teal, ringed by beaches as fresh as bread out of the oven. It rates highly as many travellers' favorite spot in the Andamans.Badly hit by the 2004 tsunami, Little Andaman has slowly rebuilt itself. Located about 120km south of Port Blair, the main settlement here is Hut Bay, a pleasant small town.

What is best about the islands in Andaman is that they all have very different activities to offer. While Havelock is best for water sport activities, Port Blair is great for photography, and bird watching. Those interested in history and anthropology can spend an interesting day exploring the city’s many museums. Most activities in Andaman’s are recommended for families travelling with both kids and senior citizens.
Rich expanse of beauty and serenity that the islands have to offer is, Once in life Time Journey to be cherished for the rest of your Life.


 

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