Travel story contributor: Gayatri Sivakumar
This is a statutory warning. Unless you are not willing to completely let go of your hangover and stop reminiscing about this wonderful place, its people and experience over and over again, do not visit Andamans! This place mesmerizes you, brings in that urge to not ever let go!
Surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, this cluster of 257 islands towards the east of India, is one of the hotspots famed by its blue beaches, coral treasures and hospitality of its indigenous crowd. Nicobar is home to the Jarawas and Indian navy and hence much restricted.
As I move into Port Blair, a small, clean town with tarred roads, huge trees on the sides, ruminating cows and goats, tall rubber trees, dotted by small hotels that let the aroma of freshly caught fish being cooked, into the thin air. Pepper wines and creepers poled up, little kids leaving for school, the sea wind blew carrying that smell of nets and salt, all mixed into a plate. The best part was that Maya Inn where I was staying over-looked the blue creek of the cargo port.
At this point, I must add that for women solo travelers, it is one of the safest places to travel to. Nobody bothers you; crime rate the lowest in the country and the region is highly respectful towards women.
Anyway! Soon, I brave the heat and head towards Corbyn Cove’s beach, one of the most famous beaches around port Blair. It mainly caters to families that love to laze around, enjoy a hearty mean at good eateries and relax in the homestays nearby. After Corbyn’s Cove, the Marine Museum came displaying the coral and Marine wealth Andamans have. Some colorful, beautiful and some of them utterly obnoxious.Corbyn’s Cave
I put on my glasses into the heat and veered off to the most awaited places of the entire trip. This is one that was dreaded by the pre–independent India, where the revolutionaries were punished, vigor controlled, their air trolled on – The Silver Jail, or Cellular Jail of Andamans, remembered as Kaala Paani.
The light and sound show at 6:00 pm enumerates the atrocities committed by the jailer David Berry, against the revolting citizens of India, tortured and sunk in the deep ocean for good riddance. It is a national museum of high importance now with an art gallery.
After a sumptuous breakfast, the next day, I started off to the Rajiv Gandhi water Park near Haddo and caught a ferry to the three gems of Andaman; the Ross, Viper and North Bay Islands.
The British had set the entire world with administrative offices, pubs and bars at Ross Island and a female prison at the Viper Island. These are currently in a state of ruin; tree-roots creeping between brick cracks and breaking them, destroyed by the tsunami and the rest, standing shivering reminding us of a passed era.
The little ferry boat sped through the vast sea up and down in rhythm as The North Bay came next, where I was told that I’d do, the highly coveted water sports at Andaman; snorkelling and scuba diving – which is seeing those corals in real, away from the TV set, touching them by my own and yes, adding to my belief that the world is indeed beautiful! I could barely hide my excitement and was in awe of the sea and its bounty literally every second!
I was given the scuba diver attire, an oxygen cylinder, flappy feetguards and of course some instructions. I enthusiastically dive into the waves and pass huge corals, schools of parrot fish surprise me, swimming right behind my ear! Wooh! Exploring the world of Nemos and sea urchins hidden in coral pockets for over a span of 3 km in the sea front was mind-blowing. It was the most beautiful experience of my life that left me immensely amused, excited to do it again and profoundly hungry after swimming in the sea!
On day 3, I have a paradise to visit – the Havelock Island’s famous Radhanagar beach. From Port Blair to Havelock ferry called the Bambooka plies at 6:30 am. It’s an awesome three-hour ship ride through the deep waters. The crew entertained a few passengers with a few adventure stories, as water splashed and bubbled beneath.
The ship docks at Havelock isles and at the dockyard, the autos and taxis waited for customers. Restaurants and some curio shops dotted the dock, selling local flavors.
I quickly hop on to an autorickshaw to Radhanagar Beach. As I approach the beachfront, I am charmed by the blue ocean, the paleness of the sand and the beauty around. I turned to my camera and couldn’t keep myself from capturing everything that caught my eye till twilight.
Day four was all about the beautiful blue Wandoor Beach, off Sipighat village at the end of endless paddy fields, lakes and little settlements. Clean waters, dramatic Tsunami ruins and calmness overload is this beach’s speciality! I am a big fan already that I hate to leave even after sunset!
Untouched sands and unexploited blue shores – that’s Andaman for you. After loitering around for a few hours, I head back to my hotel at Haddo, with a heavy heart, feeling awful about leaving this place.
To get me a finer essence of Andaman, I check-in at a seafood shack facing the Haddo dock, ordered a cheese-rich Andamani meal – Bingo! That hit the right spot. While I gobbled that, I made a promise to myself that I’d be a fool not to return here!
I highly recommend you visit Andamans at least once and rejuvenate yourself in and out…all for the love for travel!
Bon Voyage ladies!