The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an archipelago of more than one hundred tiny islands settled on the Andaman Sea. Closer to Thailand than to India, they’ve belonged to the Indian Republic since the 17th century. South Andaman is the only area that is open for the tourism, and it is well-known for top scuba-diving and snorkelling experiences. North Andaman still unexplored, but there is an Indian population, with many people on the Nicobar Islands. There are many legends all around the inhabitants of Nicobar Islands, due to a video recorded after the disastrous tsunami in 2004 that hit all the coast from the Andaman Sea.
Special formalities to get into the enigmatic Indian Islands
During the 19th century, the British government used Port Blair, the biggest island from the Andamans, as a prison. Today, it is one of the touristic attractions from the link between India mainland and the Andaman Islands. Everyone that wants to enjoy the pristine turquoise waters and delicious coconuts needs to pass by Port Blair. The airport has just connections with Chennai, Kolkata and lately few flights from Delhi. If tired of flying, you can always take long ferry rides from Chennai, but the fastest is by plane. Once landed, the Government provides a permit to visit few of the islands and indicates which ones have restricted access. For example, for visiting the only active volcano in India, you need to request a special permission apart from the general permit. Take care of the license, as it is required during the whole stay in the Andamans; every time moving around in ferry or checking at a hotel, the permit is requested.
Comfortable and convenient transit accommodation in Port Blair
Tourism is growing considerably, especially in Havelock Island, the most popular from the paradise islands. The tourism of the islands is mostly Indian, so expect eastern hospitality style. Port Blair is a transit place, to spend one night on the inbound and another one on the outbound as it is the easiest way to take the ferries to Havelock or Neil Island. There are some beachside resorts to spend few more days there. Nevertheless, the best and most functional option is to stay at J Hotel. Right on the downtown of Port Blair, Aberdeen Bazaar, less than one minute walk to the clock tower and ten minutes by tuk-tuk to the Jetty. J Hotel is a classic and comfortable venue with a lovely rooftop to chill and enjoy a tasty Indian meal.
The hotel is surrounded by numerous gold and jewellery shops, along with touristic stalls selling kitschy t-shirts from The Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The streets are also full of travel agencies that facilitate the things to the lost tourists trying to get to the islands. There are a few new generations born on the islands, but there are still many people from Tamil Nadu,Chennai, and West Bengal, Kolkata, established there. While spending one day in Port Blair and staying at this fantastic hotel, do not miss the old prison and the cute Mineral Park.
One step closer to paradise
Once you arrive at J Hotel the welcoming is very warm providing all the information or special services needed. Mr Faraz Ahmed, the General Manager of the hotel, likes to provide a 100% efficient customer service, every customer is special, and all of the team follows this philosophy. As the resources and infrastructures of the islands are limited, the maintenance of the buildings and hospitality venues is not easy. The hospitality group behind J Hotel believe that as soon as the Government focus even more its attention there, the tourism will grow faster and all the infrastructures would beat/hit their best performance. Right now, the access to the Internet is quiet limited, and the light goes on and off very often. However, at J Hotel they provide wifi in all the rooms and common areas.
As another sign of the direction that everything is getting on the islands, the group behind J Hotel are opening soon a new luxury resort with private pool called Villas at Havelock. Their ethic and responsible actions include employing local people and resourcing themselves with the biggest amount of local products that are available during the extended season.
Dive into pristine waters full of exotic multicolor fishes
When you wake up after a restorative sleeping at the comfort of one of the spacious rooms from J Hotel, nothing else matters. Take energy with a delicious Indian or international breakfast full of different options. Ask for any of the tasty omelettes, they can adapt it to any preference or taste, the chefs are very accommodating with the guests culinary petitions. After the feast head to the jetty to get the ferry to encounter Neil or Havelock Islands.
Neil Island is closer to Port Blair but smaller than Havelock Island. It is starting to be more oriented to the tourism, but still very quiet. It is easy to find yourself swimming on a long beach with transparent water. In both islands the beaches have names, but also numbers . Whereas beach #1 is the best one to swim in Neil, the #7 is the most popular one in Havelock. The way to Elephant Beach in Havelock is such an adventure including a trekking through the jungle of approximately two kilometers.
In the early morning with the low tide, the snorkelling is mesmerising. A coral reef hosting many colourful fish and sea cucumbers, a protected species in the islands. Most of the tourist Indians reach this beach by ferry, and there is a close area for all of them to enjoy the Andaman Sea and to practice water sports. This is a more commercial scene, but If you walk away a few metres, paradise is waiting.
The Andaman Islands landscaping do not have anything to envy the South of Thailand, and some believe that Leonardo Dicaprio and Tilda Swinton once where there. For “The Beach” lovers, forget the crowded Phi Phi and head to Havelock or Neil.
What’s your favorite island? Have you been to India? What’s the one thing you always pack for a trip to a tropical place?