Its always been there; the dream of travelling to the Andamans. And well, it finally happened. I spent a good 12 days there, with my parents, and it was magical. As usual, now is the time when I say, ‘lets begin, from the moment i boarded the plane’.
It was about a 2 hour afternoon flight, where we landed in the Andaman’s capital – Port Blair. The Andaman Islands are broken into several parts – The northern Andamans, Port Blair, Havelock, etc. In this trip, we only visited Port Blair, and Havelock. Once we landed, we were greeted by Arun, our guide. He was a bird watching specialist. My mother is highly interested in birds, and in our research we found that Port Blair has a wide variety of birds.
That evening, we decided to go to the cellular jail, also known as kalapani (Sanskrit translation: Black waters). It was colonial prison used in the time when the British ruled over India. The British sent Indian political prisoners here, to keep them away from the mainland, away from ‘their’ territory. Although the prison was built later, the Andamans were used to exile political prisoners, as the purpose remained the same. The need to build a prison arose when the number of prisoners enlarged. Many notable political prisoners were sent here, such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and others, who were imprisoned here during the struggle for India’s independence. Today, the complex serves as a national memorial monument.
We then proceeded to our hotel : Sinclair’s Bayview. It indeed had a great bayview. It is the tallest building in the Andamans, and is just by the bay, giving a fantastic view.
We ate our dinner, and soon crashed for the night. The next morning was an early start. The entire day was dedicated to bird-watching, from 5 A.M, to 5 P.M. We took a car, and then got onto ferry where cars could also be brought, to cross over to the other side, otherwise it was a good hour on the road.
After we crossed, we had to drive for a while before we reached our bird watching mountain, where we planned to hike. On the way, we passed the exact location where the image on the back of a 20 Rupee note is from. Go ahead, take out a 20 Rupee note, and compare it to the image below.
We then got onto our bird watching, where halfway through our morning session, my father and I began feeling sleepy, and got into the car, and took a nap, while my mom went about an hour of what she said was ‘magical’. We didn’t get many great pictures, as our DSLR camera is broken. After that, we returned back to the hotel around 11, took some rest, and ate our lunch. Then, around 1:30-2, we again left for some more bird-watching, in a different location, near a lake, where we also saw some of the fishing industry.
After that, we moved to a different location, for owl watching, in the dark. The guide got help from another guide, and used speakers and bird calls to find where the owl was. It was truly magnificent, and something that simply cannot be captured by a camera.
Once we got back, we ate our dinner, and packed up, the next morning we were leaving to Havelock, and I was super excited.
We were staying at Dolphin Resort, a government owned resort, but after researching and debating quite a bit, we decided that it had the best beach view, just a few meters away. And it in the end, it was a wonderful choice. We ate or lunch at the Red Snapper, a highly rated restaurant. My father loved it, but my mom and I felt quite the opposite. It is mainly a seafood restaurant, at least that is their specialty. My mother is a vegetarian, and I only eat chicken when it comes to non-vegetarian food, but my father eats everything.
From there, we headed to Radhanagar beach, to spend the evening and for the sunset. It was beautiful, nothing short of spectacular. My father and I frolicked around in the waves, and it was beautiful. The sunset was spectacular, and playing a game of frisbee afterwards was great fun too. We then headed to Full Moon Cafe for our dinner, and we have to say its one of the best places we ate at. We also chose to eat there as in a week my father and I would be starting our PADI Open Water diving course, after my mother left back to Bangalore. DiveIndia is right next to it, so it was a good choice.
The next morning we headed to the Elephant Beach, via the trek method, through the forests, water and to the beach. Honestly, the beach is overcrowded. There is plenty of great coral, but only away from the crowd. Being so comfortable in water, as usual, I found myself wandering everywhere where there was nobody. Unsafe, of course, but I definitely recommend going with someone a little further (before the life buoys of course) to see great coral. I would also suggest going earlier in the day, as later on the jet skis and other rides affect the waves, and it becomes much harder to snorkel.
We returned just in time for lunch, and then we had a great bath, relaxed, took walks by the beach, and simply relaxed.
The next two days we planned to spend in the resort and around, relaxing, reading, lying down by the beach in the hammocks, etc. We exploited the fact that our resort was right by the beach.
(And I just have to add the fact that my father got 5389272993 pictures taken of him)
We tried new restaurants, including the highly rated Fat Martin Cafe, which I have to say was great, and Something Different, which was also amazing. We also went owl watching one day, and it was truly amazing as well. This time, we got a few good shots 🙂
The next day was for kayaking through the mangroves. When we reached, it was blazing hot, but midway through the kayaking, it began to rain, and it was simply magical. It was really fun, and our guide, Tanaz, really knew her information. Later that evening, we were also very lucky to see a beautiful rainbow!
The next day, it my dad and my first day out of four days in our PADI Open Water Diving Course, and day 1 was theory day. We were made to watch 5-6 hours of videos, given a big fat textbook to read, and made to do our swimming test (I aced it :P). Diving is something that I always loved, from the age of 7 when I first dived. Anything to do with water, I love. Being underwater is so calming, for me it is nirvana.
The day after was our confined water practicing day. Since there is no swimming pool, we had to do our skills tests off the shore. My mother was leaving back to Bangalore that day, so we said goodbye in the morning and headed off. Our instructor, Juju, would show us a skill, for example mask flooding, etc, and how to overcome it, and then we would do it. Almost everything, was very easy for me, just general knowledge. For my father, he looked at everything in a way as if we had to mug it up, and all. And being pressured that way underwater isn’t a good thing at all, the art of diving comes naturally. We also worked a lot on our buoyancy, a very important skill in diving.
We came back walking, through the beach, it was wonderful.
An important thing to say is that just a few days before our diving course started, the government put a strike on diving boats, so no company was allowed to take boats for diving, so we had to dive off shore at the Nemo Reef. The next day was our first diving day, where we wold dive twice, each dive about an hour long. We continued working on our skills, and also enjoyed quite a bit and took many pictures. The same thing happened the next day as well.
We left the Andamans as changed people, at least I did. I left as a PADI certified Open Water Scuba Diver, and was told by many instructors that I have the potential to become a professional diver. We made so mny new memories, and the Andamans are relatively close to us, we will definitely be coming back, at least for my diving 😉