There is no doubt in the fact that sunrise is one of the greatest wonders of nature that gets repeated each day giving us the chance to experience the mesmerizing magic of watching the sun. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of watching the sun break through the morning sky at the beach with the long stretches of sand, listening to the sounds of the waves breaking gently on the shore, and the oceanic panorama looming in the distance.
This New Year, I got the opportunity to visit beautiful Andamans with my family. When temperatures were freezing in the Northern India, Andaman was just the perfect escape far from the cold weather. So, the journey began from Delhi as we boarded the early morning flight to Port Blair, capital of Andaman. We reached Vir Savarkar International Airport, Port Blair at 10:30 and soon checked in to our hotel near the Marine Dockyard.
The city is located on the eastern bank of the Southern Andaman Island. There are plenty of things to do in Port Blair from discovering a rich tribal culture to exploring shorelines and islands and picking up coral artifacts at Aberdeen Bazaar. From the anthropological museums and colonial jails to undulating beaches, Port Blair has a lot for the tourists to keep them busy.
After our brunch we headed straight to the Cellular Jail. The place is one of the darkest chapters in the history of colonial rule in India. The prison holds the stories of many notable Indian activists during the struggle for India’s independence. There is a “Peepal Tree” here which is said to be the narrator of the light and sound show since 1990. The prison stands still as a mute witness to the indescribable sufferings of the patriots who were incarcerated in the cells of this Jail. Every brick of the Cellular jail has got a hard hitting story of resistance, sufferings and sacrifices.
In the evening, we attended the light and sound show of the jail. The show will surely give you goosebumps as it narrates the agonizing stories of the freedom fighters. It’s a must visit place in Port Blair.
Next day, we headed to the Ross Island and the North Bay Island from the jetty. A ferry takes you to the islands. Ross Island is one of the preserved heritage sites of India that was once occupied by the British. The ancient British architecture, now ruined and engulfed by the roots of huge trees takes you back to colonial times. During the British rule, Ross Island boasted of luxurious amenities like clubs, dance halls, swimming pools, open-air theatre, and splendorous gardens. But today it resembles a ghost town with crumbling structures and overgrown vegetation.
As you explore more of the island, you will come across the ruins of an old Church. The place is small and one can explore it in few hours. Though there is the facility of battery-operated car that takes you all around the island in 25 minutes. It is covered densely with huge trees and surrounded by the beautiful Andaman Sea. You will even find friendly deer and peacocks residing amidst the ruins.
For those searching for a peaceful escape, cutoff from mobile phones, internet, and stunning beach attractions then Havelock Island is the perfect place for them. It is one of the perfect beach destinations you’ll ever find in India. It’s a place that will surely lock your heart.
We headed to this paradise island on the third day by a cruise from Port Blair. The distance between the both is around 70 km and it takes usually 90 minutes to get to the Havelock from Port Blair. After reaching Havelock by noon, we went straight to one of the best and cleanest beaches of Asia as declared by the Time magazine, Radhanagar Beach which is also the most beautiful beach on the island. It is a gorgeous, silky white sand beach backed by a forest that provides shade over the turquoise water. It’s difficult to keep your eyes away from the myriad shades of clear water, the sky, the lush greenery, the blue waves and the crystal sand. The sunset here is something to wait for and experience. But unfortunately on that day, we were not able to get the perfect view due to the presence of clouds. However the presence of clouds escalated the color of the setting sun throughout the nearby sky and it looked enchanting. The entire landscape took on a surreal saffron hue as the clouds reflected the fading sun's red and orange glow. By the end I found myself clicking the pictures of the clouds instead of the ocean!!
Next day we trekked our way to the Elephant beach, a secluded beach which offers beautiful white sand beach along with an amazing coral reef which starts at a depth less than a meter. One can enjoy various water sports activities here. One can reach the beach via boat from the Havelock Island dock. However we opted for the second option, the trek to the beach. It was both exciting and enticing. The trek is an easy one and it takes around 20 minutes to reach the beach. You will find yourself surrounded by the lush green trees all around during the trail. Beware you may come across snakes and other reptiles too.
We stayed in one of the beach accommodations here which was on the Vijay Nagar beach. It is a peaceful beach with pure serenity and silent ambience which offers the visitors a soothing melody to relax or to walk around along the stretch of the sand. The clear water, the calm waves, cool breeze and the magnificent sights on the shore provide perfect beach vibes to the tourists.
Dive into the Dream:
Next day we prepared ourselves for the most popular adventure activity in Havelock – Scuba Diving. We left the resort at 8 AM in the morning and reached one of the dive centers where we had pre booked the scuba diving. Havelock Island offers one of the best underwater experiences of the rich marine life, a larger part of which remain unexplored.
Before going into the water, the instructor made me wear the scuba gear, all the equipment and the necessary weight harness. The instructor briefed me about the basic hand gestures used during underwater communication. One gets a sense of fear before going underwater and so I was a bit scared too with random thoughts crossing my mind.
After some successful attempts of breathing underwater at the shallow surface, the diver took me towards the deeper sea away from the rocky shore and kept on communicating through hand gestures to make sure I was alright with the water pressure. It was a bit panic moment and I tried to breathe faster through the breathing equipment. A series of bubbles drifted over my head. But pretty soon the vivid and brilliant colors of the aquatic life made me forget everything and I looked around to see dozens of blooming fish swimming around me. Amidst the beautiful marine life and the hue of blue everything seemed to be in slow motion. It seemed like I was in a dream with the deep blue silence surrounding me.
The corals, the grim contrast of the orange fish and the limitless vision of water around you make everything surreal. We went around 9-10 meters deep and touched the sea floor. Thus, completed the dive successfully. The experience left me feeling serene and tranquil. I recalled one of the ZNMD poems which I found to be matching exactly with the influence one gets here:
“Pighle neelam sa behta ye sama,
neeli neeli si khamoshiyan,
na kahin hai zameen na kahin aasmaan,
sarsaraati hui tehniyaan pattiyaan,
keh raheen hai bas ek tum ho yahan,
bas main hoon, meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein,
aisi gehraiyaan, aisi tanhaiyaan, aur main… sirf main.
Apne hone par mujhko yakeen aa gaya.”
Back to Port Blair:
We returned from Havelock after spending 3 days though I never wanted to. We reached Port Blair via cruise and after some relaxation went ahead to explore the places around Port Blair. We went to the Chidiya Tapu which is around 30 km from the main city. This place is famous for sunset view and for bird watching. The road passes through forest and small hills up to the Chidiya Tapu. A few kilometers ahead there’s a beach named Munda Pahad beach. This is a silent, yet crowded beach encircled by evergreen forests on one side and the short hills on the other side. As it is the presenter of the most finishing touch of sunset and sunrise views, it’s a must visit place if you have enough time.
Finally, the trip came to an end and we returned to the pollution and cold weathers of Delhi!! Coming back from a place like Andamans one is sure to have post travel blues. I literally Havelock-ed myself at this place. The place where it feels that sometimes in life you need to slow down and let nature engulf you!! Sitting alone amidst the quietude of an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude. It gives you the time to introspect and observe your thoughts.
How to Reach Andaman and Nicobar Islands??
There are only two ways to reach Port Blair, capital of Andaman & Nicobar Islands :- either by Air or by Sea.
Flight : You have direct daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore. And some flights from Visakhapatnam on certain days. Flights from Kolkata & Chennai take roughly 2 hours while the one from Delhi & Mumbai takes 5 hours.
Ship : They sail from Chennai, Vizag & Kolkata. There are usually 3-4 sailings every month and ship voyage takes about 60-70 hours.
How to Reach Havelock Island from Port Blair?
Government ferries and private cruises sail from Phoenix Jetty in Port Blair every day. The tickets must be booked in advance, there are very less chances of getting the ticket on the spot. To check train running status, PNR status or to book train tickets, just download Trainman app and enjoy easy and free information. Click here to download Train app.