A far-flung Andaman and Nicobar holiday is without doubt amongst Yonder’s greatest treasures. The islands are about as far down the road less travelled as you can get. In fact, from India, you’ll need a three-hour flight and then a two-hour boat ride to reach your Andaman island hotels beside a pristine Robinson Crusoe beach. But, boy, is it worth it.
Think of the greatest adventure to the most beautiful faraway destination your imagination can conjure up. Well, a trip to the Andaman islands is it!
The Andaman and Nicobar islands are closer to Burma and Thailand than they are to India. As you swoop down through the clouds towards the archipelago, you’ll see a vista of tiny densely forested islands surrounded by white beaches and translucent seas.
Most of the islands are uninhabited and among those that are, indigenous peoples, some of whom were discovered as recently as 2004, still roam free, hunting with poison-tipped arrows. But don’t worry, the chances of you accidentally encountering one of these arrows is zero as their reservations are entirely off-limits to foreigners.
In fact, the areas open for Andaman and Nicobar islands holidays is pretty small and largely consists of the islands of Great Andaman, home to the capital Port Blair, Neil Island and Havelock Island.
The Yonder Andaman islands hotels are located on Havelock Island, named after British Raj-era general Sir Henry Havelock, which is reached via a privately operated catamaran or unglamourous government ferry, depending how plush you’re feeling.
Amusingly, the beaches around Havelock are known by numbers rather than by name. And Beach No. 7 was voted by Time Magazine as the most beautiful in Asia, no less. It really is that amazing. An arc of white sand with turquoise waters lapping at the shore, backed by indigenous rainforest with humongous trees.
An Andaman islands holiday is a real adventure. You will be cut off from the world. Literally. Havelock Island has no mobile phone signal and opportunities to use the mind numbingly slow dial-up internet are limited to a couple of places in Havelock. It’s the kind of place to kick back, read a book, walk down the beach holding hands and just enjoy some old fashioned fun, such a rare commodity in the Western world.
The untouched nature of the Andamans also makes it a diving paradise. Scuba divers will be completely enchanted and thrilled at the range of fantastic deserted dive sights, from corals and pinnacles to wrecks.
Port Blair, where you will arrive before setting out by boat, has a slightly forgotten feel it to. It’s a little dishevelled but this innocence makes it utterly charming. It’s really unlike anywhere else we have experienced. And for the back of beyond, it has an interesting history much of which is intertwined with the British Raj.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are remote. And access to non-Indian citizens is carefully restricted, due to the presence of the Indian navy and the indigenous peoples who continue to enjoy their unspoiled way of life, cut off from the world. This means that scope for travelling around the archipelago is limited. It is possible to explore by boat, but there is an embargo on landing on the vast majority of islands.
Port Blair is an interesting place to spend a couple of hours. The market area is buzzing and there is a strong sense of real life going on. The highlight of any visit to Port Blair is the Cellular Jail. It’s a fascinating, but eerie, insight into the penal system during the days of British occupation. It’s all the more interesting for having housed political prisoners, many of whom were instrumental in leading the independence movement.
Havelock is basic, with limited infrastrastructure, but don’t let that put you off in any way. The Andamans are an adventure and the primitive surroundings are part of its absolute charm. There are a couple of PADI dive outfits, some basic shops selling essentials and that’s about it. The beaches are out of this world so hire an auto-rickshaw and go out exploring.
Options for eating and drinking are limited in Port Blair. There are a couple of clean restaurants which are rather local in style but produce decent Indian food. There are also a couple of attempts at Western cuisine but these are best avoided as you’ll only be disappointed.
Havelock has a small selection of restaurants around the port and shacks along some of the beaches. The food is generally good and very reasonably priced. The best food is found in the two Yonder hotels: Jalakara and Barefoot At Havelock. You’ll get a great selection of seafood, Indian and Western in both.
Unsurprisingly, given the remote locations of the two hotels and the basic roads, there is limited scope for going out in the evenings. But hey, you’re in paradise. Relax!
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