We just got back from the Andaman & Nicobar Islands with Phoebe and Enrico, our friends from the US who stayed with us last week (they're the ones who are on a 180-day world travel tour). The islands are between Myanmar (Burma) and India, and some of them are inhabited by protected tribal populations. It boasts some of the best scuba diving in the world, and is home to "Asia's Most Beautiful Beach" as rated by Time Magazine in 2004. In retrospect, there is SO much to do and see on these islands, it will definitely warrant a return trip...or two.
We left Pune at 3:45am for a four flight journey that would take us to Bangalore, Calcutta, Port Blair (the fly-in hub for the Andaman & Nicobar Islands), and finally to Havelock Island, about 65 kms. away.
After a seamless relay of on-time (but frigidly air-conditioned) flights, we arrived at Port Blair and stepped into an oppressive wall of humid, tropical, 34ºC heat. We made a short stop to immigration for our travel visas and were met by our agent to take us to the sea plane. When we got into the car however he said there was an aircraft issue requiring several days for repair and that we would not be flying after all (we saw an operating sea plane the next morning....curious, that). By that time we'd missed the last ferry to Havelock and were stuck.
The next 12 hours were kind of a pain in the butt. We ended up staying in Port Blair, and the next day were in the government ferry line at 5:30am pushing and shoving to try and get a ticket aboard one of the big inter-island people/goods ferries. It didn't end up working out and after a really frustrating and confusing couple of hours, which ended up with us back at the hotel lobby wondering if we were ever going to make it to Havelock, the agent showed up, beeped his horn, and leapt out of the car, barking at us to get in for a mad dash down hilly island roads where we were just in time to snag 2 seats aboard the departing 8:30am private ferry (we're guessing 2 people were no-shows) Success at last!!!!!!
We docked at Havelock and after registering with immigration once more took an autorickshaw to our resort, a laid-back place called Emerald Gecko. Given the drama of getting there, we immediately booked ferry tickets back to Port Blair for our departure date. It meant we'd have to spend another night in Port Blair, but by then we had learned that there were some interesting things to do there, so it ended up being fine. Also, we REALLY didn't want to miss our flight home and the private ferry was a really comfortable, nice way to travel.
Our little straw hut was about 100 paces from a small white-sand beach on the Andaman Sea, so after dropping our stuff in the hut we made a made dash to change into our swimsuits and jump in the water, desperate for relief from the stress of getting there. As soon as we did, we were sure that the hassle and the headache was worth it.
Some highlights of the trip were:
I would definitely, absolutely recommend a trip here to anyone, but would suggest spending a first night in Port Blair to sort out transportation if Havelock is the final destination. It was unclear whether our experience was normal, but I would not want to be caught off guard during high season when good rooms might be hard to find. As for the wall of tropical heat: the body adjusts quickly and we were fine after a few days of adjustment. Can't wait until our next trip!