If you are a beach lover, you would love Andaman Islands. It is rich in history and culture too. What used to be Kala Pani, the worst prison term, the exile, it is a tourist paradise now. How times change! So here is a list of frequently asked questions or FAQs for visiting the Andaman Islands in India.
How to reach?
Flights are a convenient way to reach the capital, Port Blair. As I live in New Delhi, I took a New Delhi – Bangalore and then Bangalore – Port Blair flight. I did the trip with Makemytrip, the Bangalore – Port Blair flight it was a chartered flight (#
Flights are available from Kolkota too. I am told that it is possible to reach Port Blair by sea via Kolkota. It surely sounds like an adventure but I have not done it.
How Long to Stay?
That would really depend on your leaves, right? I did a seven nights trip and I wanted more! I would happily spend more than 10 days in the region if I go again.
What to see?
There is a lot to see. I would divide the region into two, Port Blair and the Islands. Port Blair is not a hard core beach destination. Neil and Havelock are beautiful islands with white sand beaches.
But there are many short trips available from from Port Blair. Viper Island, Ross Island, Wandoor Beach, Baratang Caves are some of the short trips available from Port Blair. Snorkeling and glass boat rides are possible nearby.
Port Blair has the historic Cellular Jail. The light and sound show is a must see there.
Havelock Island is a white sand paradise. Its Radhanagar Beach frequently listed in the world’s top beaches list. Snorkeling and diving is out of this world. Do pick up a reputed diving school for your experience. Or do nothing and just laze around the beautiful beaches.
I have not been to Neil Island but I hear it is even more beautiful. I would say do go.
There ferries to and from Port Blair to Havelock. The first ferry that reaches back to Port Blair is after the last flight leaves. So you have to budget an extra night at Port Blair.
What to Pack?
It is a typical beach holiday that I would pack for. The weather is warm. Pack a beach wear that you are comfortable in. I have seen people on the beach from sari to bikini. Sunscreen and sun glasses would come in handy.
When to Go?
Like everywhere else in India beaches are good from October to Feb/March. I visited in October and the days were hot. Other than the rainy season when it would pour, I am game for any time!
Where to Stay?
There are many hotels both at Port Blair and Havelock catering to various budgets. I stayed Sea Shell Resort at both the places. It is a decent hotel.
If you would like to read in detail about the tourist experience you could check out my article on the same.
So what are you waiting for? Get planning and packing!
It is Sky Watch Friday again! Or there are 40 minutes left of it actually! The day went in a whirl. One thing is certain, I do not like to pack. We are leaving for a short mountain trip tomorrow and as usual nothing is packed. But then we are going in the evening. So there is time to do a sky watch post quickly. While I was thinking about the post, I realized that I do so many mountain collections but I hardly ever do beach collections for Sky Watch. So I am setting it right today.
Isn’t it a thing of beauty? Havelock was a memorable destination for me. The first where I went scuba diving. Even otherwise, it is stunningly beautiful. This was just behind my hotel, Sea Shell. I remember that they used to put coconut water in water containers! And what fun it was. I will also remember Havelock because it was the place where my camera met a very watery grave!
I visited Heysham and Morecambe because they were close to Lancaster where I used to go for work. UK is the only place I have visited where beaches are cold! All my walks were done wrapped up lightly even in what they call summers! But those were pretty walks!
I saw a stilt fishing photograph on the cover of a HR text-book first! And then I went to Koggala where stilt fishing is done. It is quite touristy. The fisherman ask for money upfront if you wish to take pictures. But I still enjoyed it a lot.
I saw the beauty of coastal Karnataka on my recent trip to the region in May. This was also a first, when I saw sea meeting the backwaters.
My most exotic beach vacation has been to Maafushi Island, Maldives. It was stunningly beautiful. I wish I get to go back to that enchanted land once again!
It was a cloudy morning and I was out even before the first rays of sun! It was my last day in the paradise and I wanted to make it special. I walked the few steps from my hotel and I was at the beach. There was no one around apart from a few dogs. Thankfully they paid no attention to me. I soaked in the serene atmosphere and inhaled the sea air without any residue of fumes!
There was the lone Mangrove tree with its root all exposed due to the low tide, I could spot a few birds as well. I was content to wait for the sun to come out. For a while it felt that clouds would rule, like they did the previous evening and I was really thinking why did I even get out of my comfortable bed?
But then the sun came out and it was gorgeous! Havelock looked even more beautiful if that was possible.
After the sun got too high to get any more reasonable shots, I decided to take a walk. I love walking and I love walking barefoot. By now if you are wondering what happened to my most expensive dip, just have some patience.
With my Canon D 350 and a brand new 70-300 zoom mounted on it, I decided to click a few bird pictures. I put my cell phone (my first with touch screen and 5 megapixel camera) in my pocket and concentrated on spotting the birds. I managed to click a few pictures but of the type that never even made it to my blog! Walking with my head firmly stuck in the trees above I started wading through the shallow water to get closer to a bird. Something poked in my heel rather sharply and I started falling in slow motion. I ‘saw’ myself falling, I was falling so slow. At the same time I tried desperately tried to break my fall because I could see clearly what was going to happen.
In the end I heard a loud thud and there I was, in the water with my SLR, my brand new lens and my cell phone. This ladies and gentlemen has been my most expensive dip ever! The camera and lens were immediately gone, never to be recovered. I could salvage my cell phone after I came back and but after a few fits and starts it conked off too. However when I was narrating my woes to my husband he said, “Don’t you think you were lucky that you didn’t break a bone?” In the end we still had to say Alive is Awesome!
I have construed many ‘what if’ scenarios since then. The most prominent was that I should have just slept till late, after all it is an easy thing to do! That way I would not have the sunrise experience but I would still have my camera and cell phone. But in the end I had to let go, what happened, happened. I thought I would not buy a camera but I bought another one (my current Canon D 550) within five months along with another zoom lens. Add this too to the cost and I am sure the Havelock fall is going to remain my most expensive ‘bath’ in a long long time, hopefully forever!
PS. This post is part of Alive is Awesome Bathing Experience by Cinthol. It has been great fun reliving my memories with this series. It is also awesome to see what time does to the experiences! Many memories become dim but not the awesome ones!
Before I went scuba diving (I am one recreational dive old) I never associated sea with colors other than blue and its various shades. This was in spite of watching countless TV shows that displayed the beautiful underwater life. The beauty of the ocean registered firmly on me only when I saw it myself.
Some people say I cannot stay away from adventure. But I have a slightly different take on it. I do not go out of my way seeking adventure, they just come my way! I have had my share of fun but scuba diving was different from everything else as in every other activity I was breathing through my nose and not through my mouth with a cylinder.
It all started with an introductory video with Dive Andamans at Sea Shell Resort at Havelock. It did not look easy at all. The diving was to happen on the last day of our stay at Havelock. My friend and I decided to dive the next day itself and with the extended package called DSD or Discover Scuba Diving. We wanted to enjoy it at our pace and for whatever time we could.
So with our hearts in our mouths we went to the beach on Friday (7 October 2011, 7.30 am)and waited for our instructors to arrive. They were Anne (from France but she knew Andamans for the last 4 years) and Rehan. Off we went with them to do the skills exercises and then to dive. On the way Anne told me it was her first dive too and other such slapstick stories. At one point she told me not to flap my hands while diving as she would be next to me and she doesn’t like getting slapped. I told her back that I would of course like to keep her in good humor as my life depended on it!
The first thing they did is to hand us the wet suites. Getting into them was the easiest part. Then came the weight belt. It is a belt that has stones so that we would sink. Then came the buoyancy control device (a jacket) with the cylinder and everything else attached to it. You can see a great introduction to the scuba diving gear here. Then came the mask which covers your nose. I was OK with the mask this time because a few days back I had done snorkeling and knew how it feels when your nose is covered. Then came taking the air regulator in my mouth and learning how to breath with it first above the water and then under water! So far so good.
Then came the skills part. You need to know a few hand signals to communicate with the instructor while diving, as obviously talking under water is not possible. Thumbs Up in scuba diving means ‘take me up, I am not comfortable’ and not the original thumbs up as we understand. Thumbs down means take me lower. The OK signal is making a round with thumbs and index finger and the other three fingers pointing up. You can see a lot of hand signals here, the second from the top is the OK signal. I think I used it the most.
After that came the exercise which tells you what to do in case you let go of the regulator from your mouth. The obvious thing is to recover it, put it back in the mouth and start breathing again, while exhaling the breath underwater. I did not like the idea at all. While doing the exercise I stood up once and went over water as well. But in the end I learned how to recover the regulator even when it was not visible. Oh and I forgot the fins that you put on your feet as it helps to swim easily. Also I would need to equalize to release the pressure from my eardrums and this can be done by pinching the nose and blowing out gently.
I wonder how I went ahead in spite of so many things going through my mind. In such situations I often tell my self, “relax, you are in the hands of a pro and their business is to keep you safe.”
Then came the crunch time. We started walking underwater for our dive. As soon as I was really underwater I relaxed a bit knowing there was no escape now, I could not surface above the water without Anne’s help! Also I could breathe easily through the regulator and that too counted for something! I went with Anne and my friend with Rehan. And Rehan, the master diver is a 18-19 year old young lad!
Before the dive I was telling my friend that I would not expect a National Geographic scenario but how wrong I was! It was as if I was in a national geographic movie! It is a different world out there! I saw the clown fish (made famous by the Movie Finding Nemo) and that was the only one I could identify. Then there were big fish and small fish, blue fish and yellow fish, colorful fish in general, sea horses and what not. Then there were corals and corals. Anne would point to something that would close into a ball on our approach. She pointed out to things that were half hidden. It was a riot of colors out there! Also she picked up a sea cucumber and let me touch it too!
The day was clear and so was the water hence we had excellent visibility. At one point Anne came in front of me waved her hands and signed that I was on my own! I gave her a big OK sign but after a few second she held me again. She later told me that she could have left me but my gear and hence my weight was tilted to one side.
I found it easy to equalize so I never had any pressure on my ears. But sometimes my head felt quite heavy. I almost wanted to show the thumbs up sign but then I persisted. I was not ready to get out of the wonderland!
In the end Anne decided to come out. She was checking the pressure gauge and knew the depth and duration of the dive. I was not aware that we were on our way up. But then I saw an anchor of a boat in the water and I realized that we were heading up for sure. Then suddenly Anne’s head was no longer visible. I also surfaced after her. I have to say it was a relief to breathe through my nose once again.
As soon as the group of four came together, the chatter started. I hugged Anne and Rehan, I felt so happy for the experience. My first question was how long did we stay under water because it felt like for ever. Anne told us we were there for 52 minutes and went down to 11 meters.
Later I said that the pros must be finding this excited blabber of the first timers rather boring but they replied that they actually liked that, as it told them that people were happy! I was wondering that there must be really only a few jobs in this world where you get the money as well as a hug too at the end of the job!
And while diving I never let go of the regulator even once. I hung on it with all my might as I had no intention of breathing out under the deep sea while trying to recover the regulator! By the next day my gums were sore from clamping on to the regulator. And that is all you need to do in the end if you are diving with an instructor, clamp down on your regulator and breathe!
Later my friend said, “all night I was thinking what if we met a psycho diver who strangled us underwater!” I was glad for once that I do not have a vivid imagination and that she told this to me after the dive!
This post is part of Alive is Awesome Bathing Experience for Cinthol.