Andaman Islands as a holiday Destination? I was a bit shocked when my dad suggested that we go to the Andaman Islands for a vacation. I mean come on, which are the destinations that come to your mind when you visualize a holiday by the sea? Probably Goa, God’s own Country Kerala and the Maldives. But certainly not an obscure and faraway place likes the Andamans which few people know and fewer people have actually been to. Well, after spending an unforgettable week in those stunning locales, I must say that I’m glad that I’ve been proven wrong!! , the Andamans may not be a very popular holiday destination, but therein lies their beauty; they are exotic, un-spoilt and just the right place to go if you want to take a break from the humdrum of daily life.
But the Andamans have not always been the Paradise that they now are. History’s been unkind to the Andamans, and they’ve always had negative connotations attached to them. During the freedom struggle, they gained notoriety as the “ Kaala Paani “ where freedom fighters were imprisoned in the unforgiving confines of the cellular jail. The British discovered the islands in the 1830’s and soon realized that they could be used for a sinister purpose due to their inaccessibility and distance from India. After the mutiny in 1857, scores of prisoners were transported to cellular jail and held there in inhuman conditions. Also, during World War 2, the islands came briefly under Japanese rule until India attained independence on August 15, 1947.
We set base at Hotel Sentinel at Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar islands and located in the South Andaman Island. Our first day schedule is to visit the North Bay Island and Ross Island. I set my alarm at 6 in the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of sunrise but viola! The sun’s already halfway across the sky and shining in all its glory. Welcome to the Andamans!!
Port Blair itself has a lot of places of tourist interest. You have the cellular jail that epitomizes the misery and the trials and tribulations of the prisoners who were held here. The jail originally had seven wings radiating out of a central point but today only 3 remain, the rest having been destroyed by an Earthquake in 1942.A light and sound show is held every day for tourists to explain the history of the jail.
There’s also an aquarium where you can view the wide variety of marine life found in the waters around the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The Andamans are the only place in India where corals can be found. These Corals are rare because they require some peculiar environmental conditions to thrive, like a particular temperature and depth of water. It’s a unique experience, getting up, close and personal with the coral formations, viewing them through a glass bottomed boat specially designed for that particular purpose. Our next stop is Ross Island, which is located at a 20 minute boat ride from Port Blair. Ross Island was the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands during the British Raj and today is maintained by the Navy due to its strategic importance. This place Is teeming with wildlife, especially deer and peacocks, which surprisingly do not show any fear for humans. In fact, one can actually feed them and take pictures with them. Ross Island has a beautiful, untouched virgin beach, Ferar beach where you can sit down on the rocks and enjoy the white sand, with the waves lapping at your feet.
Located around 50 km away from Port Blair is Havelock Island which can be reached by a 4 hr ocean cruise. The cruise offers a panoramic view of the sea and the South Andamans. Observing the enchanting cloud patterns and the sunset and sunrise with the backdrop of the ocean is really a memorable experience and is a must watch for nature lovers. Havelock island has a lovely beach with clear turquoise water and golden sand called Radhanagar beach. Well, coming from Bombay with its dirty and crowded beaches, the beaches in the Andamans were really a sight for sore eyes, with miles and miles of transparent water.
So came to an end our sojourn to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and we left them with a heavy heart and a promise, we will surely visit this mystical, exotic paradise on Earth once more. I’m sure that the Andaman and Nicobar islands can pose a stiff competition to exotic foreign locales like Maldives and Hawaii if developed and marketed properly.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”- Mark Twain.