Quick start guide to the Andaman Islands

Today’s blog comes from James Greenslade who, after abandoning STA Travel headquarters, has returned to his native Australia to pine for the awful summers and “friendly” locals of the UK. He still writes a bit though.
Lesser known than their Thai neighbours to the east, the Andaman Islands offer visitors destinations just as beautiful, and even quieter. Sitting in the Bay of Bengal – and actually geographically closer to Thailand than India which they are administratively attached to – only a dozen or so of the 300 islands in the archipelago are open to visitors.
But what gems they are. Think pristine beaches, jungles, clear waters and, possibly best of all, hardly any people…

Port Blair

Come here if you like: Birds. Not the colloquial term. Actual flying birds.
Not so good for: Going to jail. The infamous Cellular Jail has a chequered past, though it now serves as a national memorial monument to India’s freedom fighters.
Don’t miss: Corbyn’s Cove Beach. Hard to miss as it’s the only beach in the port, however it’s pretty special. Soaring coconut palm-trees serve as shade along the fringe of the beach as well.
Hidden gem: Chidya Tapu. Arguably the hidden gem of all of the Andaman Islands, Chidya Tapu translates to English as Bird Island. There’s no secret meaning behind this name, it’s a haven for bird watching. The sunsets aren’t bad either!

Havelock Island

Come here if you like:
Beaches and Coconuts.
Not so good for: Night-life.
Don’t miss: Beach number seven. For some bizarre reason, the beaches on the island are all numbered. In saying this though, beach number seven is also known as Radhanagar Beach. Widely renowned as the best beach in Andaman Sea, we really don’t need to say any more.
Hidden gem: Sea Walk. Suited nicely to the ‘hidden gem’ category, you’ll be hidden for a period of time walking on the ocean sea-bed, simultaneously gazing over the beautiful marine life.

Neil Island

Image courtesy of Ana Raquel on flickr

Come here if you like: Flora and Crops.
Not so good for: Those allergic to bananas.
Don’t miss: The huge banana plantations. You’ll be singing Banana Fields Forever.
Hidden gem: The two-wheelers. Hire one when you arrive and you’ll have a brilliant time exploring the whole island. It’s best to cover as much ground as possible. Who knows what you might uncover.

Little Andaman Island

Come here if you like:
Not so good for: Salt-water crocodiles. Well, it’s a nice place for them to live, but for your own safety, just use some common sense when choosing where to take a dip.
Don’t miss: Cowabunga, surfs up! Probably not where you would expect to see an up and coming surf scene but there are surf schools and even surf tours that head here from the mainland.
Hidden gem: The accommodation on Butler Bay Beach. Positioned right on the edge of the beach next to a coconut plantation, the relaxed beach huts offer with the waves crashing almost at their front doors.

Cinque Island

Come here if you like: Islands with no permanent residents.
Not so good for: Getting there. Not the easiest to get to, though with a little effort you’ll be rewarded with what is virtually your own island for a day.
Don’t miss: The sandbar that brings the South and North Cinque Islands together.
Hidden gem: The water isn’t exactly hidden, though it’s what’s underneath that is. About as unspoiled an island as you can find in the world, the visibility is perfect for gazing at the stunning coral.

Ross Island

Come here if you like:
When nature overruns man-made structures.
Not so good for: Staying overnight.
Don’t miss: The buildings scattered throughout the island in which the British built during their occupancy. Neglected and long-abandoned, see how nature has done what it does best.
Hidden gem: The deer. Probably the last place you would expect to see them, though they happily roam the island’s luscious environment.

Long Island

Come here if you like: Locals who are genuinely happy to see tourists.
Not so good for: Those who would rather not walk. The island has very few motor vehicles, so going by foot is the most common form of transport.
Don’t miss: Lalaji Bay. You can’t miss the island’s premier beach. A two hour walk through the forest and you’ll uncover the often deserted beach.
Hidden gem: How laid-back the island is. Life moves a little slower here.

The easiest way to get to the Andaman Islands is a flight from the Indian mainland (which you should definitely see a little more ofwhile you’re there). There are also boats from Chennai and Kolkata, but beware they take at least three days and often longer! But an adventure is an adventure after all…