Traveling to the Andaman Islands was one of my best random decisions after working a year in land-locked Austria. While I was contemplating visiting the other southeast Asian countries nearby, I am glad I chose to visit the “Islands less traveled” within the Indian territory. Not only are they well protected, but you hardly see many tourists around making it even more exotic. My trip was within the Andaman Islands and I did not venture out into the Nicobar Islands. Nonetheless, my travel was still very awe-inspiring.
Top 7 things to see and do in the Andaman Islands
- Swaraj Dweep previously called Havelock Island
- Snorkeling in the Andaman
- Stay at a beach resort in Andaman
- Enjoy real Andaman local food
- Flora and fauna in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Ferry ride across the Andaman sea
- Relive history with a visit to the Cellular Jail
Swaraj Dweep previously called Havelock Island
The Havelock Island has a lot of beautiful sights including India’s best beaches. They changed the name right after my visit.
Snorkeling in the Andaman
Scuba diving requires some training so I chose the easier option of Snorkeling. Moreover, I chose the mask below that makes it really easy to breathe with your nose. The other traditional mask you see snorkelers wear requires mouth breathing. The best thing about this experience was that I may have been the only person snorkeling around at that time along with my guide. I can imagine being surrounded by several other tourists in other snorkeling spots across Southeast Asia.
Stay at a beach resort in Andaman
The resort we stayed in was comfortable. Of course, you are right beside the beach on a rainy island away from Port Blair so you should not expect much. So be prepared to see some cockroaches and other insects around your property. Keep some moth balls aka Naphthalene balls with you while traveling around India. Although they can be poisonous and carcinogenic, they can keep uninvited pests away.
Enjoy real local Andaman food
The food at our resort was good but felt too mainland Indian. So we decided to head out and find a smaller local establishment for some real fresh fish. And voila, we found a little dingy hut full of foreign tourists and alike! They served us some real local fresh fish and it was delicious as you can see below. The pro tip here is to walk away from the beaten path into the road less traveled to find the restaurants frequented by the fish-eating Bengali locals (who migrated to the islands in the past century) and adventurous foreign tourists who do their research. A lot of Indian tourists otherwise are vegetarian and are less keen on having fresh fish.
Your go-to drink on the islands should be coconut water!
Flora and fauna in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Snorkeling in the Andaman was fun. But I advise you to do it only when accompanied by a local expert. The reason is that this is still quite a remote place full of saltwater crocodiles. As tourism and residents in the Islands rise and more food scraps get disposed into the waters, there have been increased sightings of crocodiles. Moreover, the 2004 Tsunami also created a difference in sea level between the northern and southern Andaman islands causing crocodiles to migrate from the less densely populated north to the densely populated south. Luckily when I went Snorkeling, I had not watched the hordes of crocodile attack videos on youtube. I would be much more fearful of venturing out again given that some of these Salties grow to 16 feet!
However, I was at least able to find Nemo during my amazing snorkeling trip as I was accompanied by a local expert diver. It doesn’t cost much, so you should pay the locals for their time if you plan to venture out like this.
Ferry ride across the Andaman sea
The trip from Port Blair to Swaraj Dweep aka Havelock Islands is not short (2 hours 40 minutes plus waiting), so make sure to get the best ferry service available with window seats for a memorable journey.
Relive history with a visit to the Cellular Jail
As remote as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are, a popular tourist attraction on the islands is the Cellular Jail. My first memory of this prison was from an old Indian movie called “Kaalapani” which was based on Indian independence activists who were arrested by the British Raj and brought here. A visit to the Cellular Jail can be awe-inspiring to fellow Indians. While the world is more familiar with the Concentration Camps in Europe like Dachau near Munich, the lives of political prisoners here were not really much better. Thousands of prisoners were shot, hanged, and tortured to death by the so-called heroes of World War 2. A visit to the Andaman Islands and the Cellular Jail is the best way to point out the hypocrisy of the historical narrative.
Conclusion: The Andaman Islands is a real vacation!
The Andaman Islands can be a real vacation because it is so cut off from the mainland. The internet at our resort on Havelock Island was slow like from 10 – 20 years back. If you wish to travel back in time for a vacation without modern distractions then this is the place. You can never get bored with such beautiful beaches and nature. Reading a book on the beach, drinking some fresh coconut water, and going for a swim before enjoying a delicious fish meal is my idea for a perfect vacation. If nature gets too much for you, you can always retreat back to one of the fancier hotels in Port Blair which will have a nice hot food buffet spread out for you. The Andaman islands are going to get a lot busier in the following years, so visit before it is too late!