Neil Island

The Hidden Gem

Known for its magnificent biodiversity, unexplored coral reefs, white sandy beaches, and tropical woodlands, Neil Island is perfect for a peaceful time off. This Island has an area of 13.7 square kilometers only. Given the flat landscape and the small area, Neil can be bicycled around with minimal effort. With its laid-back vibe, and lucid charm the island is soothingly different from its neighboring Havelock.

Neil Island is best suited for those who want to spend a relaxed time among long deserted beaches. With little bustle, few activities to take up, and few resorts, this island is best for those who want to explore the island’s villages. Spend quality time at the named after mythological characters from the Ramayana, or indulge in water sports in the crystal clear water – Neil Island is Andaman’s rustic masterpiece. 

Highlights

  • Neil is a tiny but beautiful island located 37 km south of Port Blair.
  • Neil Island is also known as the vegetable bowl of Andaman Islands; thanks to its climatic conditions the land is ideal for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables.
  • Neil is connected to both Port Blair (1.5 hours) and Havelock (45 minutes) by private ferries and to Port Blair, Havelock, and Rangat by Government ferries.
  • The Internet is mostly unavailable in Neil. If lucky, one can find patchy BSNL data network on phone.

Important Information

  • Weather: Neil mainly has three main seasons: summer, winter, and monsoon. Owing to its location in the Bay of Bengal, it experiences heavy winds during the monsoon and a tropical climate otherwise. Early November until mid-May sees the best weather in the islands.

  • Currency: Like the rest of the island in Andaman, the Indian Rupee is the currency used. Neil has only two ATMs, (As on 20/4/2017) both at the bazaar – Syndicate Bank and Cooperative Bank. Both also have a branch each; however, no money exchange takes place here. Some small resort owners do accept foreign currency especially in emergency situations and later exchange this in Port Blair.
  • Communication and Internet: No broadband connection is available in Neil Island. Data network is available on phone sometimes but is patchy. BSNL is the network with the best connectivity.
  • Healthcare: Neil only has a primary healthcare center. All services here are free of charge. For any specialty healthcare, one must travel to Port Blair. Primary Health Center & Ambulance Service: 03192-282627
  • Safety: The Andaman and Nicobar Police is the law enforcement agency for the union territory of Andaman and they take care of the discipline department is an efficient one and in the case of emergencies you can get in touch with them on the following numbers:
    • Police Station: 03192-282602
    • Police Radio: 03192-282676
  • Supermarkets and Bazaars: Neil has a small, humble market, made up of small shops selling all essential commodities. From stationary to common medicines, simple clothing to grocery, everything is available here. What is best available though are the fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, Port Blair gets most of its fruits and vegetables from Neil.This market is also the place for social gatherings and meetings. This is the busiest part of the town in the evening. One can enjoy the local chatty culture here.
  • Language: Though Hindi is the most commonly spoken language here, it is also Bengali that is spoken at large in Neil Island. English is understood but with difficulty.
  • Airport and Port Facilities: The closest airport to Neil is the Veer Savarkar Airport in Port Blair. The jetty at Bharatpur Beach is the only jetty on the islands and this is where all private and government ships dock.

HOW TO REACH NEIL ISLAND

The only way to get to Neil Island is to take a ferry from Port Blair. There are both government and private ferries connecting this island to Port Blair and other nearby Islands. The best way to commute is to take a private ferry. The tickets on the government ferries are mostly reserved for islanders and with no option of online booking it is mostly unlikely to get a confirmed ticket To have hassle free travel, it is recommended to book your tickets online and in advance to prevent last minute rush.

THINGS TO DO IN NEIL ISLAND

  • Neil Island 3 Point Tour: This tour takes you to 3 of the Neil Island’s natural wonders. A trip to Bharatpur Beach, Sitapur  beach and Laxmanpur is commonly called the 3 point tour. One starts with visiting either the natural rock formation or the Bharatpur beach, moves on to the next point and then ends the day with a view of the sun dipping down at the gorgeous Lakshmanpur beach.This is commonly perfect for those who are spending a day in Neil Island. This is sometimes combined with the sunrise beach aka the Sitapur Beach.  
  • Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: Neil Island has exquisite coral and marine life. There are small lagoons in Ramnagar and Laxmanpur beaches perfect for snorkeling. Most resorts in Neil rent snorkeling gear.There are only three dive centers that operate in Neil Island but many times they are not operational. Indian Scuba Explorers, Dive India, and Scuba Lov can be reached for this. If you are lucky you can spot a Dugong (Sea cow), the state animal of Andaman Islands.

  • Glass Bottom Boat Ride: This activity is designed for those who do not wish to go underwater. There are many operators at the Jetty who operate these rides and are priced anywhere between Rs. 400 to Rs. 600 per person for a 20 minute ride.

  • Go Trekking: Neil Island has some tropical dense cover to explore. Take a hike through a quaint village into the jungle and out to a breathtaking view of the beach. Hiring a guide for this activity is highly recommended as it is easy to get lost in the jungle.

 

  • Lazy Beach time: Life in Neil feels slower and more relaxed, especially when all you are doing is spending time sunbathing, reading, or just lying on the beach. Bharatpur beach and Ramnagar beach are perfect spots for this.

  • Explore Neil on a 2 wheeler or Bicycle: Roads in Neil are pretty easy to ride on (no sharp curves or elevations) and the island is navigation friendly, hence cycling or riding through Neil can be quite an adventure. Moped rentals are available right at the jetty and many resorts have their own cycles and motorbikes available for rent.

WHERE TO STAY IN NEIL ISLAND

As a tourist destination, Neil Island is no longer just a backpacker’s attraction. Over the last few years, many luxury resorts have sprung up, catering to tourists looking for all kinds of vacations. From affordable, basic huts that resonate the warmth of Neil Island to luxury resorts with stunning views and contemporary settings, the island has it all!

Budget stays ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 800 are available at Sitapur & Bharatpur Beach. Prices range from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 3000 for mid range rooms with AC. The luxury hotels with swimming pools and fabulous views are priced from Rs. 5000 and upwards.

HOW LONG TO STAY IN NEIL ISLAND

It is hard to specify a timeline for a place like Neil Island. But people with little time on their hands come here for a day on their way back to Port Blair from Havelock. Backpackers often come to Neil for longer periods and stay for weeks at a time soaking it the laid-back vibe of the island.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST PER DAY IN NEIL ISLAND

Neil had always been popular as a backpacker’s destination. But in the recent year’s many entrepreneurs have invested in the island. Various luxury properties now call the island home and cater to people looking for extravagant resort experiences.

Neil as a destination is very budget friendly, with only basic restaurants, beaches with free entry and mopeds or bikes costing about INR 400 a day.

What one-day in Neil Island costs mainly depends on where you stay. Accommodations begin at INR 500 a day and go all the way up to INR 25,000.

LOCAL TRANSPORT IN NEIL ISLAND

Neil Island is a small place, only about 7 km from one corner to another. The roads are flat, well built, and easy to navigate. Locals are friendly and you can ask for directions whenever unsure, thus making the island ideal to ride a moped or a bicycle.

  • Bus:There is a local bus that plies every hour. This bus starts from the main bazaar and goes till Sitapur Beach. 
  • Bike and Bicycles: Bike and bicycle rentals are affordable and popular among tourists and you can find a few of them at the jetty. You could also enquire about the same at your resort upon arrival – various resorts have their own vehicles for renting purposes.

  • Autos: For those who are visiting the island for a short time, autos are a great option; they are easily available at the jetty and market area.
  • Car Rentals: This is one of the most comfortable ways to travel in Neil Island, best suited for families and group travelers, private chauffeured AC cars are also available for rent. But since they are limited in number they are almost always overbooked.

Book car rentals or hire a scooter in Neil Island in advance.

WHERE TO EAT IN NEIL ISLAND

The best place to experience local cuisine in Neil is the Dugong restaurant in seashell and the Organic Khaa in summer sand. These are Great restaurants with an extensive menu and a elegant ambiance. For people looking for budget eats, the bazaar streets are lined with shacks, expect some at the beach with plastic tables and an open-air setting. However, 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.

For the same reason, expect preparation to take long – sometimes up to two hours depending on what and how much you have ordered. Almost all restaurants serve Indian and Chinese food, but one can also easily find versions of 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 – INR 100 for a meal of simple fish thali.

NIGHTLIFE IN NEIL ISLAND

Nightlife in Neil is restricted to restaurants of different resorts in the island; a few bars play some great music and have live entertainment from various national and international artists (during the high season). Emerald Gecko is one such bar in Neil Island. The bazaar shuts by 9:00 PM so does the public transport. So it is advisable to make plans accordingly.

G2A INSIDER TIPS:

  • Only two ATMs in the town center and limited money exchange facilities. Carry enough cash
  • Public transport cab be hard to find after  9:00 PM, so make necessary arrangements
  • Boats often get delayed or stalled due to weather conditions in Neil, if travelling for your flight back, keep a day at hand in Port Blair.
  • Book tickets well in advance to avoid getting stranded
  • Mosquitoes in Neil are common during the evenings. Carry mosquito repellents or buy some at the market
  • Petrol reaches Neil from Port Blair and is often out of stock. Also, petrol stations close before sunset. Enquire about petrol availability before renting a scooter.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’s) about Neil Island

  1. What is the new name of Neil Island?
    Ans. The new name of Neil Island is Shaheed Dweep. On 30 December 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi renamed  Neil Island to Shaheed Dweep as a tribute to Subhas Chandra Bose and to celebrate 75 years of Andaman and Nicobar Islands independence.  On 30 December 1943, Bose had hoisted the Indian flag at Port Blair and proclaimed the islands back from British rule.
  2. How many days do you need at Neil Island?
    Ans. Neil is a tiny but beautiful island, connected to both Port Blair (1.5 hours) and Havelock (45 minutes) by ferry. People in a hurry spend just about a day here but we suggest you keep at-least (if possible more) 2 days at hand to be able to relax and soak in the slow island life. When there, visit natural bridge, sunset beach and try scuba Diving/snorkeling.  
  3. What is there to do in Neil Island?
    Ans. 
    Neil island is a tiny island that spans over an area of 13.7 Sq. KM. Amongst other things it is known for its unexplored coral reefs and white sandy beaches so needless to say, scuba diving, snorkeling and beach hopping are few of the must do activities on the island. While there be sure to visit Sitapur beach, Laxmanpur beach and indulge in water sports in Bharatpur Beach.

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