WHY GO TO NEIL ISLAND?
You want to run away from the rest of the world.
Just want some peace and quiet.
Seeking a life-changing EAT-PRAY-LOVE experience.
You want a beautiful holiday on a tropical island.
You love beautiful landscapes and sunsets
Famous for its slow, laid back vibe, and beautiful beaches, most people go Neil Island for some quality chill-time, as there is not much to do here but this. A handful of friendly locals who live here will be glad to indulge you in some conversation or just serve you some simple, hearty meals.
There are at least two government ferries that go to Neil Island from the Phoenix Bay Jetty in Port Blair every day. The private Makruzz catamaran also sails from Port Blair and Havelock to Neil Island once every day. Three times a week, a ferry boat also leaves from Long Island to Port Blair, stopping in Havelock and in Neil. Check schedules and prices at the local ticket counter as they might change often. In the peak season make sure to book your ferry in advance as tickets do run out. However, for government ferries, only 4 days advance booking is possible. (If you are a foreign tourist, don’t forget the photocopies of your permit, visa and passport before queuing up to buy the ticket.)
Neil Island is a small place, only about 7 km from corner to corner. It is thus best to be explored on a rented bicycle. However, renting a scooter or a car is also possible. Most resorts can give you a rented bicycle or scooter almost immediately, while cars might need to be pre-booked. Prices vary (bicycles start from INR 100/day, Scooters from INR 400/day and cars start from INR 1200/day). If you are renting a scooter, make sure you refill gas before sunset as all the petrol shops close then. Auto rickshaws are also broadly available and they’ll cost you INR 100 from the jetty to any resort.
Don’t be fooled by the size of the island, Neil has plenty to offer. Like Havelock, its beaches are numbered from 1 to 5, where No. 1 is the prettiest, with good snorkelling options and a lovely sunset point. Beach No. 2 has a natural bridge rock formation that can only be seen at low-tide and on beach No.5, which faces directly east, one can admire stunning, charming sunrises. Beaches on Neil are greatly affected by tide, so during low tide swimming in many beaches is impossible due to the sharp corals and rocks. If you get bored of lying on the beach, there are fine options to go diving or snorkelling as marine life is vibrant! One might even spot the endangered dugongs feeding by beach No.1.
As a tourist destination, Neil Island is no longer just a backpacker attraction. Over the last few years, many luxury resorts have sprung up, catering to tourists looking for all kinds of a holiday. For affordable, basic rooms, head straight to Break Water Beach Resort or Kala Pani Resort. The bamboo and concrete huts are a great place to feel the warmth of Neil Island locals as well as meet fellow travellers. For more upscale options, Tango Beach Resort and Pearl Park Beach Resort have beautiful, air conditioned rooms by the beach. Sea Shell Neil and TSG Aura offer luxury holidays with all the luxury you might need on a tropical island.
Neil is known as the vegetable bowl of the Andaman Islands as many locals still work in agriculture fields here. There are plenty of fishermen as well, so when food is freshly made, it is of great quality and reflects in the taste. Dishes are usually homemade and very delicious. However, for the same reason, expect preparation to take long – sometimes upto two hours depending what and how much you have ordered. Almost all restaurants serve Indian and Chinese food, but one can also easily find versions of Nepali, Israeli, Italian and even French food. Seafood is broadly available and almost all “resorts” have their own restaurants. The Neil Kendra market is always a good option to fill your tummy at really cheap prices.
There are plenty of options of how one can spend their time on Neil. If you do get tired of lying on the beach or you have finished your book, there are some activities you can choose from. One can go diving, snorkelling, swimming, game fishing, jungle trekking, cycling or even start to learn the basics of tabla, a traditional Indian musical instrument. Basically options are plenty, just ask around!