The Emerald Islands of Andaman and Nicobar
Located about 900 km from India in the Bay of Bengal is the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. These islands are one of the few undiscovered gems that have escaped the clutches of mass tourism. There are no concrete-and-glass resorts offering all-inclusive deals, no nightclubs / discotheques, no shopping malls and no fancy restaurants. All you find here is gigantic trees, fresh air, natural surroundings, rich flora & fauna, clear blue water and delicious food.
While the eastern fringes of the Andaman Sea have now become the playground of the rich and famous in Phuket and Langkawi, the Andaman Islands retain the original wild and untamed character of this pocket of South East Asia.
Geographically, Thailand and Burma are much closer to the Andaman Islands than India. The Andaman & Nicobar is a chain of islands includes about 572 islands in which most of them are inhabited. These islands are gifted with sandy beaches, clear seawater, and coral reefs. Only 36 islands are inhabited to the day, comprising a mix of colorful mainland Indian settlers, residual refugee communities from Myanmar, and the mysterious and endangered Paleolithic tribes of the Andamans.
The Andaman & Nicobar Islands are a veritable Garden of Eden and a naturalist’s heaven. The clean environment, roads, greenery as well as unpolluted fresh air attract all nature lovers. The tropical rain forests and waters of Bay of Bengal are the home of a vast collection of plant, animal and marine life. Topographically the islands are hilly in places fringed with coconut palm, covered with tropical jungle and interspersed with flat stretches of crescent shaped beaches.
Interestingly enough, the original islanders ethnically do not belong to India. There are around 1,200 of these original islanders which are called ”adivasis”. The total land area of these islands is about 2,500 square miles. There are several services for the tourists provided by the government of India, like Scuba diving, surfing and boats. Sea food is the best order from the luxurious restaurants to the local restaurants along with alcohol. Also, make sure that you are well covered with blankets while sleeping because it is a malarial area. The life on Andaman Islands is like the one in the tropical areas, which means SLOW PACED AND RELAXED.
How to get to the Andamans
Permits and Visas
- All foreign visitors to India need a visa. This must be obtained prior to your departure, as India does NOT issue visas on arrival.
- In addition, foreign visitors to the Andaman also need a special Restricted Area Permit, which can be obtained upon arrival (flight or ship). You can also apply for the permit through your embassy while getting the Indian visa; however, we recommend getting it on arrival as it is a lot faster this way. This Restricted Area Permit, which is issued free of charge, is valid for 30 days and can be extended to 45 days.
- The places covered by this permit for night halt are: South Andaman Island, Middle Andaman Island and Little Andaman Island (except tribal reserve), Neil Island, Havelock Island, Long Island, Diglipur, Baratang, North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (excluding islands – Boat Hobday, Twin, Tarmugli, Malay and Pluto) Night halt in the Park is with permission only.
- For Day Halt: South Cinque Island, Ross Island, Narcondum Island, Interview Island, Brother Island, Sister Island and Barren Island ( Barren Island can be visited on board vessels only).
- Indian nationals need no permit to visit Andamans. However, permits are required to visit Nicobar Islands and other tribal areas, which are given in exceptional cases. Application on a prescribed form may be addressed to the Deputy Commissioner, Andaman District, Port Blair.
- BY AIR: The quickest and most convenient way to get to the Andaman is to fly. Air Deccan, Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Jet Lite (formerly Air Sahara), Spice Jet and Kingfisher all have daily regular flights to Port Blair from Calcutta & Chennai.
- BY SEA: You can choose to travel by ship – which takes 60-72 hours and is only for the tough. There are three to four sailings every month from Calcutta and Chennai to Port Blair and vice-versa. Bookings are through the Shipping Corporation of India, and can be made in Calcutta (phone +91-22- 2234 5678) or Chennai (phone +91-22-2223 4675), and typically open a few days before the scheduled departure date.
Distance by Sea (kms)
- Between Port Blair & Chennai- 1190
- Between Port Blair & Calcutta- 1255
- Between Port Blair & Vishakapatnam- 1200
Distance by Air (Kms.)
- Between Calcutta & Port Blair- 1303
- Between Chennai & Port Blair- 1330