Out of around five hundred islands scattered in the Bay of Bengal, around three seventy are volcanic and only thirty seven are inhabited. These lush green islands have a colorful historical past. This Andaman group of islands are a wildlife enthusiast’s delight, teeming as it is with a wide variety of birds and marine life. The Nicobar group of islands retains its own identity in terms of extant endemic species. The picturesque Cinque islands is a must visit place for its fantastic variety of coral life. The sylvan sands of Chidiya Tapu make for a very pleasant outing whilst exploring around the city of Port Blair. Havelock Island is the diving center of Andaman & Nicobar offering a wide range of largely unexplored dive sites rich in underwater aqua fauna. A few places to visit in and around Andaman are
Cinque actually comprises two islets, joined by a spectacular sand isthmus with shallow water either side that covers it completely at high tide. The main incentive to come here is the superlative Diving and Snorkeling around the reefs. The lure of underwater coral gardens and unspoiled beaches especially a sand bar joining two islands are irresistible. Cinque Island is a super place for water sports such as Scuba Diving, Swimming, Fishing and Camping. Although there are no ferries to Cinque, it is possible to arrange dinghies from Chira Tapu village on the mainland. The two dive centers in Port Blair also regularly come here with clients. Currently travelers with permit only are allowed to spend the day on the island, overnights stays are prohibited.
Situated in North Andaman Island Diglipur provides a rare experience for eco friendly tourists. It is famous for its oranges, rice and marine life. Saddle Peak the highest point in the islands is nearby. Kalpong, the only river of Andaman flows from here. The first hydroelectric project of the islands is coming upon this river. One who comes by road from Port Blair has to take a boat from Mayabunder to Kalighat and from their journey by road to Diglipur. And from there to Kalipur for viewing Kalipur and Lamiya bay beaches. One can feel the innocent beauty of village life everywhere in Diglipur. One who prefers to be away from the hustle and bustle of urban life must come here to enjoy unhurried holidays.
Havelock is the largest island in Ritchie’s archipelago, and the most intensively cultivated, settled like any in the region by Bengali refugees after Partition. Thanks to its regular ferry connection with the capital, it is also visited to greater numbers than anywhere else in the Andaman’s. In Peak season as many as three hundred tourists may be holed up here, and at day times Havelock’s much-photographed Radhanagar beach, often touted as the most beautiful in India, can feel overwhelmed.
On the plus side, the boat journey from Neill, skirting a string of uninhabited islets with shadowy views of Middle Andaman to the west, is wonderful, and wildlife, both on land and in the sea, remains abundant despite intensive settlement and deforestation. Havelock’s main jetty is on the north side of the island, adjoining the village known as Havelock.
Tiny triangular-shaped Neil is the most southerly inhabited island of Ritchie’s group of islands, a couple of hours’ ferry ride northeast of Port Blair. The source of much of the capital’s Fish, fruit and vegetables, its fertile centre, ringed by a curtain of stately tropical trees, comprises vivid patches of green paddy dotted with small farmsteads and banana plantations. The beaches are mediocre by the Andaman’s standards, but worth a day or two en route to or from Havelock. Boats leave Port Blair four times each week for Neil i.e. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; depart 6:30 am, continuing on to Havelock and Rangat. From the jetty a two minute walk brings one to the ANIIDC to Yatri Niwas a dozen or so clean carpeted rooms with sit-outs, ranged around a central courtyard and restaurant. It is the only accommodation on the island, so book ahead before one leaves for Port Blair. Neil boasts three beaches, all of them within easy cycling distance of the small bazaar just up the lane from the hotel. You can rent cycles from one or other of the stallholders. Neill Kendra a gently curving bay of white sand straddles the jetty scattered with picturesque wooden fishing boats. Exposed to the open sea and thus prone to higher tides, Sitapur beach, six km south at the tip of the Island, is less appealing but the ride across Neill’s central paddy land is pleasant.
The tiny, serene beautiful island of viper is situated inside the Port Blair Harbor. The island derives its name from the vessel ‘Viper’ in which Lt. Archibald Blair came to the islands in 1789 with the purpose of establishing a penal settlement. The vessel, it is believed met with an accident and its wreckage was abandoned near the island. A Mute Witness Of The Indian Freedom Struggle – Viper Island witnessed the untold sufferings the freedom fighters had to undergo. Dangerous convicts found guilty of violating the rules of the penal settlement, were put in chains and were forced to work with their chains on in this island. Freedom fighters like Nanigopal and Nandlal Pulindas, who had resorted to hunger strike at the Cellular Jail, were imprisoned at Viper Island. Sher Ali, the Pathan guilty of murdering Lord Mayo, was condemned to death and hanged in gallows at the Viper Island. Now the ruins of jails and gallows can be seen on the island.
This island is located southeast of Middle Andaman and has sandy beaches and good coral reefs. There is a Forest Rest House and an APWD rest house on the island. It is a good place to camp. Campers must first obtain permission from the APWD in Port Blair. From Port Blair and Havelock there are boats on Wed and Sat to this island. The boat stops here before going to Rangat. You can rent a bicycle to get around. From Rangat visitors can sometimes take a lumber boat to here.
You can reach this island by boat or bus from Port Blair. The west side of the island is mainly made up of the Jarawa Tribal Reserve. When the bus passes the Jarawa reserves the bus carries an armed guard, because the Jarawa tribals have been hostile since losing their land to Indian settlers. It is not a good idea to travel alone.
The closest nice beach is in Betapur, 20 km away on the road to Mayabunder, which can be reached by bus. There is good snorkeling at Amakun Beach 9 km from Rangat. There are places to stay in Rangat and Mayabunder. To stay in the APWD rest houses, visitors need permission from the APWD Chief Engineer, whose office is near the Shompen Hotel in Port Blair (30215). The APWD rest houses are good places to stay, but are sometimes full. Permission to rent a room must be given by the local APWD officer.
Mayabunder is seventy km north of Rangat (three hrs by bus) and one hundred sixty km by sea from Port Blair. The beach at Karmateng takes half-hour by bus. There are several islands in the bay with beaches for swimming. None of the places in the area are good for snorkeling. The APWD Guest House is a good, clean place in a great location. It should be reserved in advance if possible. It is the best place to eat in town. Dhanakakshmi Lodge is the only place available for staying. Yatri Niwas Karmateng Bay, 10 km northeast of Mayabunder should be booked at A&N Tourism in Port Blair. Mayabunder can be reached by the daily bus from Port Blair (9 hrs). There are several daily buses to Rangat and Karmateng. To get to North Andaman Island, you take a ferry to Kalighat or Ariel Bay, from where you can catch a bus to Diglipur. Also private boats leave early in the morning to Kalighat.
Kalighat north Andaman location is a small settlement. It still makes a very pleasant and peaceful stopover between Port Blair and the north. You can cross the river by the mangrove footbridge and follow the path up into the forest which is good for bird watching.
The main place to stay here is at Diglipur. There is a sandy beach at Kalipur, to which buses travel. You can walk from there to Saddle Peak, but you first have to take permission from the Forest Officer at Arial Bay. There is a weekly ferry to this place from Port Blair with bunk and deck class. You can get tickets on the boat, but often only deck class is available. There is a daily boat from Mayabunder on Middle Andaman direct to Diglipur. You can also take a boat from Mayabunder to Kalighat and then a bus to Diglipur. The Yatri Niwas has rooms. It should be booked at A&N Tourism in Port Blair. From Diglipur there are regular buses to Aerial Bay and Kalighat. In Kalighat there is a APWD Guest House. Balaji is a decent place to eat near the boat jetty. From Kalighat there is a crowded ferry to Mayabunder around noon and regular buses to Diglipur.
The last 100 persons belonging to the Onge tribe live on a reserve at the south end of the island. Foreigners are not permitted to visit the reservation. The best beach is about twenty km north of the boat jetty. It is a good place to camp and swim, but is not good for snorkeling. Basic supplies can be purchased from the village a couple of km north of the boat jetty. At APWD guest house, one km north of the village. Rooms are available. It should be booked at A&N Tourism in Port Blair. When you arrive, you have to register at the police station a few km north of the APWD Guest House. Boats dock at Hut Bay on the east side of the island. There are one or two boats a week between Port Blair.
The island is five km northwest of Aberdeen Bazaar and is connected to Port Blair through a tiny land strip, with the sea lapping on both sides, housing Asia’s largest saw mill. The first British settlement on Chatham Island was made in 1789, near Port Blair during the Governor Generalship of Lord Cornwallis. The British founded the first penal settlement in 1858, with 200 prisoners, mostly rebels from the Indian Army who demonstrated against the British atrocities during the first war of Independence. The British built the Chatham Sawmill here and it is one of the oldest and largest timber processing plants in India. Dating back to 1836, the enormous workshops are built in the durable but expensive Padauk wood. Since the 1970s, logging on the islands has been banned and most of the wood now comes by ship from Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. You can observe the entire process of the logs being unloaded, sorted, cut, planed and finally stored in vast Godowns to be shipped off to the mainland. The forest here is a feast to the eyes with most colorful and rare varieties of orchards and beauty of other flora and fauna.
Interview, Narcondam, Brother, and Sisters Islands
These can be visited only on day trips, but there are no regular boats to these islands. You can take a boat to the volcanic Barren Island, but you are not allowed to leave the boat. The only places to stay on these islands are in Forest Rest Houses, or in APWD Guest Houses. Reserve in advance in Port Blair at the APWD office near the Hotel Shompen, or at the Forest Department in Haddo. Some people bring tents and hammocks and camp out on the beach. You can rent a tent from Andaman. Fires are not permitted, so you should bring a kerosene stove with you. It is often not possible to buy kerosene on the islands, so you should bring your own supply.