Returning back to the Andaman Islands after more than two decades felt special. The flight touched down at 1000 hours. The flight coming in to Port Blair flying low over the numerous islands is nothing short of spectacularly beautiful. The view from the aircraft window gives you an idea of what you are in for. And it is quite exciting I must say. Aquamarine waters dotted with countless islands with crystal clear visibility through the water even apparent from an aircraft. There was no way that I was going to be disappointed.
I had two primary reasons of coming to Andamans this time:
- Being responsible for bespoke travel to India, I wanted to explore and understand better the infrastructure and facilities available in this part of the world before designing and creating a destination out of these amazing islands. Yes, when you are creating tailor made trips to India, it is best to thoroughly know your product.
- And in the process, I wanted to get my certification started in diving. Now that was a childhood wish and dream.
Travelling in India, it was long due that I return to the Andamans. I owed it to myself. And I owe it to my friends, customers and clients who love to travel to India and return to us again and again.
I was greeted by Ebola check signs at our arrival at the Port Blair airport for passengers coming from infected countries. That did not concern me or my travel partner since we were in India.
Coming from New Delhi, the humidity was palpable. There is a special immigration counter at Port Blair that are wo-manned by smartly dressed smiling young uniformed immigration girls who welcome foreigners and help in filling out special permit forms for them. Yes, foreigners coming in even from Mainland India need to fill out special permits that they need to carry with them from the airport despite having valid visas. It is called a RAP, Restricted Area Permit that all foreigners require to travel to Andamans and move around.
Our pink MUV car was late to report. But in a place like the Andamans, time is not something linear. The idea of clocks and watches seem to dissolve into oblivion somewhere on the horizon that is so elusive in the vast oceans. I had some free time before getting to our ferry. And I put my time to good use. I inspected a couple of hotels; Fortune and Sea Shells. Somehow I do not understand this “hotel policy” in India with some hoteliers saying they do not allow photography on their premises. For me it is senseless and counterproductive. However, let this be stated that hotels in Port Blair, for the prices that you pay, are a far cry from the quality that you get from hotels on mainland. That said, let us not forget either that on a tropical island, a kilo of local mangoes cost INR120 compared to INR40 of a good variety on mainland. Everything is more expensive other than the seafood.
So, bottom line of the story of hotel visits; hotel rooms are disappointing in quality. There is nothing called 5*. And budget category hotels do not exist. But some of the views that you get from some of the rooms and balconies of the expensive hotels is something that you would die for. The views are simply stunning. And if you are going to the Andamans, the view is everything!
I went out on the street to look for lunch. It is quite surprising to see the behaviour of local people and traffic. Compared to the rest of the country, people actually follow traffic rules, stop behind zebra crossings and respect other traffic users. Coming from Delhi, this is not something that I am accustomed to where people bark at each other for absolutely no reason.
Soon the time for departure of the ferry was approaching. I was quite excited to take a sea-bound transport after a very long time. I had a few thoughts running in my overactive head. Would I be comfortable? Would I be seasick? How would the view be? Can I go up on the bridge and take pictures?
When we reached the dockyard, I saw our ship and my excitement increased further. I showed my ticket and I was asked to go down to where our seats were. There were a lot of locals ferrying between islands. I found my seat. The pleasant thing is that it is nicely air-conditioned. The bad thing is that there is absolutely no view on the government ferry that we were taking. And there are cockroaches! But eventually it did not matter. Once the ferry started moving dot on time, we could go up on the bridge and enjoy some of the most stunning views of the Indian Ocean and the islands around. That is what I did for the next couple of hours to Havelock Island; enjoy the vistas, the ambience and take pictures.
I left my luggage on my seat, took my cameras and gopro and went up on the bridge. There were a few honeymoon couples on board who were taking pictures as well. As the ferry left Phoenix Bay out into the open ocean, the azure skies and the deep blue water with the small passing islands were a treat to watch. There were infinite islands like these. It was the peak of summer but the steady strong breeze out in the open kept us cool all the way for the next 62 kilometres. Yes, you can actually do the iconic Titanic pose on the boat with your partner for all to see on social media. If you are going to such a destination, make sure to carry your GoPro with you.
And then I was on the bridge taking pictures…
Also Andamans is a destination where you go with a fun partner who is adventurous and is willing to experiment with what is on offer. It is better to go to the Andamans with an interesting travel companion with whom you share a lot.
In a little over two hours time, we started to approach our destination; Havelock Island.
To be continued…
IMP Notes: Book your ferry in advance. You can contact our travel partner Maavalan to book. Andamans is not cheap. There is a lot to do. Plan your time and trip well. Carry mosquito spray. Carry a hat. Carry sunglasses. Carry lots of sunscreen lotion.