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The Andaman Islands a.k.a Untouched Paradise

 
Let me just compose myself for a second before I get another wave of post-travel blues. Sigh.
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll most certainly know from all my spamming, that for three weeks in December, I was dipping my toes in the beautifully colourful chaos-that-somehow-just-works, that is India.
Although, on the surface it may be a bit disorganised, like the traffic is something else - near-misses are completely normal! A couple of days in it felt more like they're just so experienced with life there, they're really good at living in such a densely populated country.
I spent the first week exploring the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), but being major cities, they are very crowded and busy, and that's just not what India is about. Their deep spiritual beliefs and outlook on life may not be as easy to notice here unless you really stop to think about it or take the effort to look. This is the main thing I wanted to experience whilst there, so I was absolutely over the moon to spend the following two weeks in a more toned down, lesser known part, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands!
P.S. Prepare for a long post...


I found out about these stunning islands early last year. I was lusting after a lesser known island full of beaches and something I've not yet experienced to wander around. I looked on world maps and searched almost every island I could see on there. A set of islands with picture perfect beaches covered with dense jungle (the 'something I've not yet experienced') rightfully deserved a place on my bucket list and though I didn't talk about my finding with anyone, I found out months later that I wasn't the only one in my family to have heard about them. So by the end of the year, we were off! 

Now, let me tell you why the Andaman Islands should be on your bucket list...

Very appropriately (officially) nicknamed, 'Untouched Paradise', the Andaman Islands - or Andaman and Nicobar Islands (just we only visited the Andamanese parts) are a set of Indian islands located between the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea - so in between India and Thailand. The looong list of beaches make the islands inevitably more relaxed than what I experienced of mainland India but the area still maintains the same culture and traditions.
They are only accessible by plane from Kolkata, Chennai and Bangkok to Port Blair, where their only airport is, or by boat from Kolkata, Chennai or Visakhapatnam.
With a total of 572 islands, only 34 permanently inhabited, the only way to get around the islands themselves is by government ferry, no private companies are used.
Like I said, we actually only stayed in the Andamanese part of the islands, in the capital Port Blair, which we took day trips to other islands from, as well as a three night stay in Havelock.
*Pauses at the memories*
There are a list of guidelines for the islands given with your permit (which can be obtained at Port Blair's Veer Savarkar International Airport, Indian nationals do not need a permit) that you must follow and keep on you at all times. These rules help keep the tourism there sustainable and respectful to the locals as well as helping the place stay true to its nickname; with things like, how it's illegal to take photos of indigenous tribes, no persons are allowed on the beach after sunset (there will be lifeguards to tell you) or no camping on beaches or in forest areas at night.
I think this is awesome, a very considerate way to travel that keeps everyone happy!


Port Blair

So, on the 18th of December, we arrived in Port Blair, got a taxi to our hotel, dumped our bags then headed to Corbyn's Cove, Port Blair's only beach, located just 5km from us. A small curve of beach with, of course, many palm trees as well as stalls selling various handmade creations and freshly cut coconuts, the cove is a cute, little area if you need a little break from the town.






















After paying a visit to the tourist information centre, we realised that in Port Blair, the main sights to see were various museums and aquariums, a cellular jail which we, by chance, walked past anyway, and a few beaches. Personally, I felt this part of the island was more for travellers than tourists - i.e. people who would go mainly to immerse themselves in another culture... which suited me just fine, it's exactly what I wanted the chance to do there, experience a completely different way of life to what I was used to.
Aside from peering at the jail through the gates, we only had time to visit two other beaches, no museums, as we had day trips to other islands and three nights in Havelock planned too.














Sunset at Chidiyatapu

Also known as 'Sunset Point', Chidiyatapu is a popular, very pristine beach at the southernmost tip of South Andaman Island making it an incredible bay to watch the sun go down.
It is located 28km from Port Blair and also boasts a new biological park.









DAY TRIP: Ross Island, Viper Island, North Bay

These three islands really give you an 'all in one' type of day, where you get an insight into the interesting history of the islands as well as a relaxing Andamanese lunch, more stalls selling handmade items, coral reefs, unique water sports and animals, a real feel of island life.
Ross Island was once an exclusive British preserve, and though harmed by the flooding in 2004, there are remains of many churches, prisons, watchtowers and other buildings still standing.
There are also spotted deer and rabbits all over the island that (like me) will come be your friend if you feed them :)










Am I posing or did I just see a line of red ants heading my way? You'll never know.









After dropping off passengers from the ferry to North Bay, the few of us who had also booked to visit Viper Island headed there. It took 30 minutes to get there and I suppose because there is only one 'sight' to see (depends what you mean by sight, personally I like walking around looking at everything!), as well as the island being quite small - or maybe because the trip was the three islands together, we were only given 10 minutes there.
Its name was derived from the vessel 'Viper' in which Lt. Archibald Blair came to the islands back in 1768, in order to establish a Penal Settlement. That one sight was the remains of the 'Hanging Tower' and nowadays only animals permanently inhabit Viper Island.








North Bay is actually just north of Port Blair, you can see both Ross Island, and North Bay just behind it, from Marine Hill in Port Blair, which is the same view as the picture on the 20 rupee note.
Here you'll have the small cafe for lunch, the stalls and water sports like snorkeling, diving,  under sea walking opportunities as well as a glass bottom boat to see the coral reefs. We decided to do the glass bottom boat trip, the boat for this we got onto straight from our ferry. We sat around the glass bottom and when we got to the right area, we given a black tarp to put over ourselves so that we could actually see. It was so beautiful! But I have to say, it was hard to stay in that position for too long (especially when the diesel fumes started coming in...).










At the port in Port Blair you can also visit the memorials for the tsunami that occurred there in 2004.

I would definitely recommend booking these day trips through local tour companies who can get you discounts and meals included as well as making sure you know exactly where to go and what you'll be seeing - we were spoken to by a guide who was telling each group individually how things would work.



North Wandoor Beach

Close to Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park and 28km from Port Blair this beach is so gorgeous! You can hire a quad bike, there is a restaurant further up hidden amoungst palm trees, and if you go even further, you'll come to a certain point which you cannot go further from as there are crocodiles! There is a designated area for swimming  and cute little goats roaming around.




*Flashes everyone*











Crocs ahead!
 


DAY TRIP: Baratang Island

Baratang was the island we really really wanted to visit. This is where the Jarawa tribe live and through the mangrove creeks you'll find limestone caves, a mud volcano and Parrot Island. It was amazing walking through this kind of natural vegatation.
To get there, you have to drive 100km from Port Blair, and get to a ticketing station by 10am. Here there are various food stalls and toilet facilities on alongside the road where all the cars wait. Then, as a convoy, you head onto Elephant Road. No photography is allowed here alongside various other rules in order to be respectful to the tribe. We saw two members of the tribe at the side of the road and it was honestly so bizarre for them to be pointed out like that, I mean, they're just humans who have chosen to live differently! They were looking just as amused as we must have looked.

The drive is just over an hour up to Nilambur Jetty where you take a 15 minute ferry to Baratang.








The lime stone caves are a beautiful 30 minute boat trip plus about a 30 minute walk away, through dense, mangrove forest, honestly breathtaking and there are guides that will explain all about the caves. Unfortunately, due to sweaty humans touching the cave walls so much, part of the walls have been blackened and dirtied (from the sweat), losing their natural sparkle. so if you're visiting, please refrain from that.












The mud volcano wasn't quite what we imagined. It was quite funny though, we had a mad drive up to where you had to walk just over 5 minutes through the heat up a hill to see this area protected by some tape with cracked ground and a small mound with a hole in it. A wittle diddy mud volcano!












There's a samosa stall by the dock, dude if you're there make sure you get some, they were amazing!

To see Parrot Island, you'd need to be staying overnight in Baratang as boats to the island leave after 4pm.

Heading back, you must get across to Nilambur, fill out and hand in your forms (like permits), before 4pm (I think it was), or you wont be able to go back on the Elephant Road and seeing as there are no more ferries back to Baratang, you'd pretty much be stranded for the night...


Havelock

I feel Havelock is the epitome of the nickname, Untouched Paradise.
Stunningly natural, clean, white sand and non-commercial beaches with emerald-blue, crystal clear oceans including Radhanagar Beach, the seventh best beach in the world! Lusciously dense, deep green tropical rainforest line quiet, winding roads with 100% organic shops selling handmade items by locals and barefoot only restaurants serving fresh, healthy food to relaxing, chiiiilled music, mirroring the very contented, chiiiilled vibe.
Sigh. This will be my home one day.










Vijaynagar Beach





Wild Orchid Hotel

Had my first full body massage here, oMg. I'd trust that woman with my life.
There are four Kerala Ayurveda Massage centres around Havelock.



All MINE.
Not the best picture but it was soo good! Definitely check out the Full Moon Cafe, a healthy cafe with so many vegan options!

Christmas was pretty magical.

These are coconut leave decorations all hand-tied by the staff at the hotel!

Elephant Beach is a great day trip, just make sure you're at the dock early as it gets really busy. We had a mix up with our forms, we got there by 8am but the boats got full so were told by the hotel we could go back at 11am and hand our form in to get on. But that wasn't the case, we were supposed to hand them in by 9am, so we had to wait till 1.30pm. Elephant beach closes at 3pm and it's about 20 minutes to get there so we didn't visit the part on the other side of the island where the elephants are, we only stayed where the water sports were. There were jet skis, banana boats, snorkeling and many more water sports on offer.








I'd definitely recommend a massage at a Kerala Ayurveda centre, dinner at Full Moon Cafe, lunch at Anju Coco Resto - and get the fresh fruit juice, WOW. Also, check out the shop Seven Heaven, it sells 100% organic, handmade clothing, jewellery and art, such a gorgeous shop, we went twice haha!

The eco-tourism is continued with many places closing by 11pm and only hot water available at certain times (trust me, in 30C+ heat, this is not a problem haha).
There are a few wifi cafes, if you really want (our hotel didn't have wifi), but a few days disconnected will really help you embrace where you are.
As recommended by locals, the best way to get around the island is by moped, available to hire from multiple places also offering bicycles if you prefer.






Um, wyd, b?














Radhanagar Beach

Our last stop and we most definitely saved the best for last.
Like I mentioned, Radhanagar beach, or 'Beach Number 7', as named by the locals, is officially the seventh best beach in the world.
And oh my god can you tell...








































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4 comments:

  1. As usual, beautiful photos!! Looks like you had a great time :)

    xoxo
    Chic Dream Jar

    P.S. If you would, I would love to hear your thoughts on my prose—it's my latest post! You have a great aesthetic, and I thought you might appreciate it.

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    1. Hehe thank you, Jackie! It was amazing <3

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  2. What a super adventure! I’m definitely adding the Andaman Islands to my bucket list, they look and sound amazing! I love the photo of the goat SO MUCH, what a sweetheart. Viper Island looks especially cool. The Full Moon Cafe sounds awesome; I wish more places had more vegan and vegetarian options. I’m so glad you had such a good time, Vanisha, you really deserve it! Nothing beats exploring a new places :) x

    ♥.•*¨ Amanda Says ¨*•.♥

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    1. You'd love it there, Amanda! Animals everywhere and the Andaman Islands had a lot more specific veggie options than mainland India I found, I think, like Alcohol isn't drunk much, meat is also eaten less. I wish we had more time on Viper Island! Would have been truly unique wandering around an island only inhabited by animals! Soo true, whats that quote, 'Once a year, go somewhere you've never been before', it keeps you healthy! <3

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