The Andaman Islands are a part of India for administrative purposes, but in terms of their geographical location they are to be found fairly close to the east coast of Myanmar and to the north of Indonesia. One of the most interesting aspects of the Andaman Islands is that the indigenous people of the islands were often disconnected from the rest of the world for long periods of time, although they were often occupied because of their strategic importance in the region during times of conflict. Today these islands have a small tourist infrastructure, and offer a superb place to visit that is still largely untouched by the outside world which is why it’s on our Holidays 2014 list.
Food And Drink
Because of the Indian control of the islands much of the cuisine here has a distinctive Indian style, although its location means that many dishes use the superb locally caught fish as opposed to the meat found in mainland India. For those looking for a great meal in the islands the capital Port Blair is probably your best bet, although for those traveling on a budget eating seafood at the dhaba stalls in the towns is a tasty and inexpensive way to eat.
Alcohol is quite limited in the islands, with the only shops selling it found in Port Blair and on Havelock Island, while more expensive restaurants will often stock a small amount of wine. The most common drink found on the islands are fresh coconuts, which are cracked open right before your eyes.
Scuba Diving In The Andaman Islands
As the main tourist island in the archipelago, Havelock Island has several companies offering scuba diving trips, with most of the dive sites in fairly shallow waters with excellent visibility and pleasant water temperatures. The coral reefs around the island are spectacular, and it is possible to see the thriving wildlife and colorful species such as lionfish, puffer fish and angelfish swimming in the same water as sea turtles and other stunning animals. There is also one diving company that offers trips into the charming Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, where the pristine waters can be explored.
Exploring Port Blair
Port Blair is the largest town and capital of the Andaman Islands, and can be found on the east coast of South Andaman Island. During the colonial period the town became an important British base in the region, and was later passed on to Indian powers in the twentieth century. Visitors will often go to see the notorious Cellular Jail, which was a colonial jail built to house Indian dissidents as the independence movement grew in popularity and influence on the mainland. The Japanese occupiers during World War II also left their mark in the area, and visitors can explore the network of bunkers left on the seafront.
The Best Beaches On The Islands
Because many of the islands in this archipelago are either uninhabited or have no tourist infrastructure, many of the most popular beaches are to be found around Port Blair and on Havelock Island. Radhanagar Beach on Havelock Island is very popular with a long stretch of golden sand and several thatched buildings on the edge of the beach for relaxing and enjoying a drink, while the sunset here is particularly impressive. Laxmanpur Beach on Neil Island is another popular place for visitors, although for those who are looking to explore a little more, many locals will be able to offer their own recommendations of peaceful beautiful beaches to explore.
Getting In And Getting Around The Islands
All flights to the Andaman Islands come through India, with flights from Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi available, and visitors will need to book a Restricted Area Pass which allows people to stay for a maximum of thirty days. There are some boats that offer passenger services from mainland India, although these commonly take up to four days across the Bay of Bengal to arrive at the Andaman Islands.
There are ferry services between many of the Andaman Islands, although these can be particularly busy during the main tourist season, so you may need to book tickets a day in advance. When it comes to exploring some of the smaller islands, the only real choice is to pay a local with a boat to take you around the islands. On the main islands there are auto-rickshaws and taxis available for shorter journeys.