When we’re planning a holiday to any destination, we have some fantasies about it, right? Some parts of our imaginations run wild and we pre-live everything we’ll do when we get there. This is usually a visual mish-mash of things we’ve heard from travellers, things we’ve assumed, things we’ve read about and seen on the internet. It’s that sweet pre-vacation jitter.
SO. You’re planning an epic trip to the breath-taking Andamans islands, and we’re here to clear your anxiety about the unknowns and have you fantasizing about the right things. We’ll tell you all about what the Andamans won’t offer you, so you know exactly what to expect and can focus on all the amazingness that it does offer. The idea here is to help you:
- Avoid any disappointments when you get to the islands
- Make an analysis about what are deal-breakers (we’re thinking Seafood & White-sand beaches, are you?) for you versus what aren’t
- Understand that we’re probably the most reliable, honest & informed travel company on the islands (if we say so ourselves)
Getting right into it.
What the Andamans Won’t Offer You
- Post-sunset travel schedule
The Andamans don’t have flights coming in post-noon and no inter-island travel happening after late evening. Most inter-island ferries depart by 4pm, at the latest, from any given island and arrive close to sundown. The last ferry from Port Blair, to Havelock or Neil Islands, leaves at 2 to 2:30 pm. So, when you plan your total number of vacation days, you may want to keep this in consideration. You could fly in super-early to be able to catch the last ferry to Havelock or Neil. You may even be able to catch the earlier ferries, depending on when you arrive, but it could be something of a gamble. Alternately, you’ll have to keep an extra day or two in hand, to account for this abnormality.
- A fashionable time-difference
Yep, that’s right. Although we’re technically in a different time zone than Mainland India, we still follow the IST: Indian Standard Time. So, you won’t have to worry about time difference and jet lag. But, on the flip side, the sun rises and sets super early (think 4:55 am and 5:30 pm), so your body and mind may take a couple of days to get used to it. This one is especially true for people travelling from Western India.
- “Foreign-country” feels
Although we do have a unique culture, owing to the mix of immigrants from different parts of India, it’s still derived from Indian culture and we’re very much a part of India. If you’re looking for a break from Indian culture (no judgement here, the heart wants what it wants), to explore a new culture and to visit a foreign land, the Andamans may not be the best option.
- Rich Cultural Sights
Although the islands have been referenced in many historical accounts, like that of the Chola Empire and that of Marco Polo, and they’ve been colonised by the Danish for most of the 19th century, most of our “cultural” sights are from the British Era (sadly, we think). An example will be Ross Island or the Cellular Jail.
While we do have indigenous tribes, who are thought to have lived here for thousands of years, we do not encourage tribal tourism in any way, since it’s disrespectful to the ancient peoples of this land. Tribal areas are restricted and tourists are discouraged from trying to make contact with the indigenous peoples. And that’s how we think it should be.
- A Unique, Regional Cuisine
Sorry, dearies. No Andamanese cuisine here. Unlike most Indian states, we don’t have our own, specific cuisine like Goan, Keralite and such. The mainstream cuisine on the Andamans is a little bit of everything: a bit of Tandoor, a bit of International and a bit of Indo-oriental. What we do have is mean, delicious seafood, fresh and sustainably sourced! Most restaurants stock up on seafood on a daily basis and it’s not super-expensive. So, seafood lovers are in for a real treat.
Note: While we do have the Nicobari cuisine, prepared by the indigenous Nicobari tribe, it hasn’t been popularised enough to enter the mainstream and we don’t know a restaurant that has included it on their menus, yet. Most other tribes are thought to be hunter-gatherer communities with no farming practices and we don’t know much about their eating habits.
- An Ultra-luxurious holiday
The Andamans is more like Srilanka, Thailand and its other South-Asian neighbours in that it offers a spectrum of experiences ranging from budget to luxury. So, it’s quite unlike the Maldives or Mauritius, which are primarily luxury destinations, and are all about the fancy over-water villas, champagnes and yachts. In addition, all-inclusive resorts are not a usuality. Most resorts don’t have an all-inclusive package and will charge for most services on a consumption basis.
- Vibrant Nightlife
We know. This one’s a bit of an “ouchie” for some of us. So, we have next to no “clubbing scene”, we don’t have full-moon parties and wild music festivals with people raving until dawn. The drinking scene is pretty low-key and mostly involves travellers making quiet private parties by the beach or in the resorts. Think live singing with a guitar strumming in the background, a few beers, the ocean breeze and deep conversations. It’s a real blessing for those amongst us who aren’t looking to go Notwild and can make for an intimate, no-drama vacation. In fact, a lot of people who come to the islands to do their dive courses love the low-keyness of the drinking scene. It allows them to focus on their courses and interact with people on a more personal level. It also makes for an amazing destination for families and couples, who are generally known to turn up their noses at overly-sloshed folks. So, if you’re looking to let your hair down and go to town, save the Andamans for another time?
Note: The Andamans have a limited availability of liquor brands heavily regulated by the administration. Here’s the alcohol you’re likely to find here: a) Beers: Heineken, Hoegaarden and Kingfisher. b) Spirits: Johnnie Walker, Absolute, Grey Goose, Hennessy and Beefeater. c) Wines: Four Seasons, Big Banyan, Jacob’s Creek and Sula. We don’t have draught beers, exquisite wines or a rich cocktail scene, most bars serve bottled or canned beverages.
- Night Markets and Shopping Markets
If you’re looking to shop till you drop on your vacation, this may not quite be the destination for you. The Andamans don’t have shopping markets to boast of, like Istanbul or Sydney, which is a boon to the islands because the ecosystem in the Andamans is probably too fragile to handle massive consumerism. We are mostly dependent on the mainland for recycling our waste and the lack of excessive consumerism is what keeps us pristine and clean.
- Wellness Retreat Centres
Not quite sure why this hasn’t happened yet. But we don’t have a host of yogic retreats, ayurvedic centres or wellness spas. We do know of a few, though: there’s Jiva at Taj (steep stuff but we’re guessing it’s worth it, like most things Taj), there’s a spa at Barefoot Resorts and there’s Flying Elephant which is a yoga + wellness resort. So, it’s an up and coming space, with a lot of scope. It probably also makes for a great business opportunity. Any takers?
- Year-round Surfable waves
While a bunch of adventure junkies head to the Andamans season after season to dive and experience its marine richness, you won’t see too many surfers doing the same. The Andamans has been blessed with a lot: white sand beaches, lush tropics and turquoise blue waters; but surfable waves aren’t on that list. We have an extremely short window between March and May, when surfable waves make an appearance in Little Andaman. But they’re said to be very moody and inconsistent. Also, the infrastructure at Little Andaman is next to non-existent, so you’ll have to come equipped with a private charter boat, boards and everything else. Because of the lack of access and the short season, it hasn’t evolved into a top destination for surfing.
While we’ve touched upon all the things the Andamans do offer you along the way, here’s a little summary of all the island, tropical treats that will have you rushing back for seconds and thirds.
What the Andamans Will Offer you
- Pristine, clean beaches
Don’t be surprised if you find beaches where you and your fellow travellers are the only people on it! The Andamans is home to many untouched beaches and it’s visual candy for nature-lovers.
- Lush tropics
Trust us, no amount of browsing on Google has prepared you for these two epic moments that blow almost every traveller away: the moment when you look outside your flight window and you see the lushest green islands on entering the Andamans. AND the feeling of serenity you feel when your ferry has arrived at Havelock or Neil Island. They’re both blessed with different shades of blue, which will have you craving for an instant dip. We do this all the time and it still blows our mind!
- Time travel
The Andamans has the reputation for throwing you back in time a little with its other-worldliness and an old-world feel. Welcome to a world still unadulterated by Starbucks, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.
- Marine life that will blow your mind
If you’re serious about diving, make sure you set aside a fair budget to be able to explore the best dive sites. Unlike Thailand and Indonesia, most serious dive sites in the Andamans do not see an overload of divers and so, you’re likely to see some amazing sights that you’ll remember forever, sans the plastic and nasties.
- Fresh Seafood
Scrumptious crabs, lobsters, squids and prawns (and other marine delectables) are all available for the avid seafood lovers (count us in). Most good restaurants stock up on locally-caught, fresh seafood every day, but be sure to ask for the “catch of the day” anyway.
- A slow, island life
Once the sun sets, ready yourself for a slow wind-down and quality time with your fellow travellers over a glass of beer or a game of cards. Savour this time away from the busyness of mainland India.
As locals having lived here for much of our lives, we’ve found that most things the Andamans don’t offer you has been a welcome change for most travellers. Most of us are used to travelling in crowded island countries where sales-people can get uncomfortably pushy, beaches are choking with people (not to mention garbage) and there’s constant pressure to tick items off a list. The Andamans’ slowness is also its uniqueness and it’s something to be experienced at-least once in your life.
Hi there! I’m a local from the Andamans; born, bred and raised, like they say. I’ve been happily travelling around here for the last 29 years of my life and have been to off-beat locations like Little Andaman, Long Island, Rutland, Barren Island and Ross & Smith. It may seem like a small place, but I feel like I still have so much to see! I’ve also been ridiculously in love with reading and writing for as long as I can remember. Put two and two together and it gives you this blog post.