Just back from Andamans - a tour report

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#1 May 2nd, 2008, 17:16
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  • oops! is offline
#1
I did quite a bit of reading through on this forum before planning our annual vacation…we finally did 9 days in Andaman (April 20 – 28), got back to Bangalore a couple of days ago and we are having massive withdrawal symptoms!

We honeymooned in Andamans in July 2001 and we went back now with our 5 yr old son…it was surprising that we remembered many of the places that we’d been to in 2001, but Andamans is such a beautiful place, that you just cant forget…

We were hoping to drive to Chennai from Bangalore but change of plans had us boarding the Bangalore express from Bangalore to Chennai on a Saturday morning at 8.30 AM. We spent the afternoon and evening at the hotel in Chennai – Southern Crest in T Nagar. Now, this is a decent hotel if you want to stop over (and shop!) in the city for a day or two. The rooms are clean and the hotel is situated in the middle of the shopping area in T nagar.

Day 1:
The Indian airlines flight was 30 mins delayed…we landed in Port Blair at 8.30 AM on Sunday. We had booked our stay and travel in Andaman through an agent (Andaman Connections) and their driver, Siraj picked us up from the airport. The agent had promised an English speaking driver, but Siraj knew only Hindi – but was a great guy and we managed! We stayed in the Fortune resorts and we had a lovely sea facing room but couldn’t quite understand why the bathroom was as tiny in a 4 star hotel! The hotel décor is fully red wood and my son was super excited by the wooden floors and I am sure the people in the room below would have had an earful! We explored the hotel in the morning…had a lazy brunch of Indian chats and dosas and so much more food before we left to catch a ferry to Viper island. This is about an hours travel by the ferry and not worth visiting unless you want to see a historical spot! There is just one building in this island – this was to have been the gallows where prisoners were executed. Must have been a fully developed island during the British times – we saw a photo of a tea party in the viper island in one of the museums we visited later in the tour.
We caught the 5.30 PM light and sound show at the cellular jail – nothing spectacular, but was a good history lesson for my 5 yr old. He did not miss any of the details on torture of prisoners in the jail and now understands that there are punishments much harsher than 10 mins in a corner!

Day 2:
We left to North bay early next morning, with packed lunch…the ferry to north bay was to leave the jetty at 8.30 but finally took off at 10 AM. The waiting time for the ferrys is one sore point in Andaman…its just so annoying but have to life with it. About 45 mins and we reached the place…the ferry stops about 50 feet away from the shore and a smaller glass bottom boat takes the passengers to the shore. These guys are seasoned sales guys …they call this the trailer on corals and if you want the full show – you pay between Rs.100 – 500 per person based on the duration of the coral tour. My husband and I are not great swimmers and so did snorkeling using a float…the guy who took us in to show the corals spoke non stop (dunno how he did it with the snorkeling mask on!) and after 30 mins in the tour, we were ready to take a test on the coral species But it was an amazing experience and I took extra time and paid extra to see more. Our kiddo had great fun as well - he couldn’t do snorkeling but had a great time playing in the beach. We realized after sometime that we had not used the sunscreen…but it was too late by then
North bay, jolly bouy etc are not inhabited and only day trips are allowed….so you have to carry food and water from the mainland.
We stopped by Ross Island on the way back…the place is in ruins now with fresh signboards which show that it must have been a neatly planned city! One wonders what it was really like and it was interesting to see some old ross island pictures in the museum later on.

We spent some time on the corbyns cove beach but if your schedule is tight, you can miss this one. Nothing worth writing about.

Back to the hotel and spent the evening by the pool and having a lazy long dinner…there is nothing much to do in the hotel except laze laze and laze. The food is average at the fortune and is expensive too…but we didn’t have the energy to get out to hunt other good restaurants

Day 3:
We took the 6 AM ship to Havelock the next day…its supposed to be a 3 hour journey, but took us about 4 hours to get there. We were told that the canteen in the ship will serve breakfast and tea….what we were not told was that the canteen stocks limited quantities. After sometime, people were close to fistfights to buy food….so we decided on water and juice. The agent was to have someone pick us up by the jetty at Havelock but apparently some miscommunication! One of the taxi guys was the perfect customer relations person, allowing us to use his phone (only BSNL and Aircel network in Havelock, we had a Vodafone connection) to call the agent and finally dropped us off at the resort for a nominal charge. We stayed at the barefoot resorts on beach no 7 – we just fell in love with our cabin at the resort and the beach. This is definitely the best beach in the whole whole world… .picture perfect, extremely clean, the dense trees sandy beach and multi colored water made a perfect photo and odomos and Johnson’s baby oil kept the mosquitoes and sand flies away from us! The waves were not too strong and perfect for wave cruising if you are a good swimmer! We spent the afternoon and evening by the beach…the beach is just a 2 min walk through the woods from the resort and is very private. It’s a few hundred feet away from the main point of beach entrance and so was pretty secluded. Even if you don’t plan to stay at barefoot, I suggest you walk down the beach, away from the crowd and enjoy the place.
The barefoot resort is a lovely place but the only complaint we had was the food! An extremely small choice on the menu and no other decent eating place in this part of the island makes it difficult! The resort also runs an Italian eatery by the beach…but again the choice is very limited. We feasted on the tender coconut water and malai by the beach….you also get seasonal fruits I the beach side shops. But if you have some “cant do without” food or medicines – its better to stock it from port blair if not from Chennai.

Day 4:
We went to the elephant bay the next day in a small country boat (Dunghi) – it was just the three of us and Rajeeb (the boatsman) in this one hour ride….the winds were strong and we had our moments! The boats do not look very sturdy…but I guess those guys know what they are doing. Btw, we were browsing through the leaflets at the barefoot resort the previous day and they had Elephant bay tour package as well – but thy had quoted 4000 per adult, 2750 for kids below 12 yrs. The other resorts might not be as expensive but is probably around the same range. It works well to just get to the jetty and hire one of the dunghi’s directly there instead of booking through the resort. We were one of the first to reach the elephant bay and my son thought that it was a like a huuuuge swimming pool! This bay is waveless and shallow for a large part and is perfect for just floating around. We went snorkeling here again and Rajeeb insisted that the corals here were much better than north bay or jolly bouy…we loved snorkeling and the floating. We wanted to spend more time at the bay but it was very cloudy and Rajeeb wanted to get us back to Havelock before the rains. We had lunch at the Nala’s kingdom….they’ve added on a first floor to this place now and we loved the food. It wasn’t peak holiday season yet and so they didn’t have a lot of choice but for south Indian meals and fish fry…the food was just yum! My son is a chicken briyani freak and was angling for one…the guy at Nala’s agreed to cook it specially for us for dinner. So we went back to the resort (barefoot is about 30 mins drive from the jetty) and to our fave beach. We hired a scooter for the evening and drove back to Nala’s kingdom for Briyani that night. If you happen to get luck fishing, you can get the fish / crabs or whatever to this restaurant and they will cook it for you. The drive back to the resort was a real adventure because half way through we realized the petrol indicator was showing empty, the drive to beach no 7 is through a deserted stretch…we just about managed to reach the resort before it went dry. It started raining that night and rained through the rest of our trip.

Day 5:
We hired the scooter again the next day (Rs.300 per day) and set of in the rain to the Kalapathar beach…enjoyed the ride in the rain but the roads are not really safe and we had our moments especially since we also had our kid with us. Almost all the other resorts in the island are on the road to this beach….did not get to the elephant training camp in time to see the elephants getting trained, the kalapathar beach is nothing compared to the beach no 7. It rained non stop the whole day and we spent the rest of the day at the resort restaurant playing silly games with quick runs to the beach every now and then.

Day 6:
We were to take the afternoon ship back to port blair but the ship was cancelled because of heavy rain. There is a 4.30 PM speed boat service to port blair, makes it to port blair in 2 hours and that was running full because of the other cancelled ship. We were looking forward to spend another day at Havelock but our agent managed to get us tickets on the 4.30 speed boat. Now, this was probably our biggest mistake in the whole trip The regular ship is a 250 seater and while not luxurious, was atleast neatly maintained. We were totally drenched by the time we got into the boat and when we saw the insides of the boat - a 100 seater, we wanted to get right out, but it was too late by then. There were more than a thousand cockroaches , dirty beyond belief restrooms and the sea was so rough that the boat rocked really bad through the 2 hour journey. More than half the people were vomiting in the ship and you can imagine the mess!
The sea was so rough that we said our prayers a couple of times in those 2 hours….thankfully, my son slept through the 2 hours! We were back in the Fortune hotel and our friend in the reception gave us a room with an even better view than the last time….I did not even mind the tiny bathroom this time!

Day 7:
We were to go to Jolly bouy island and after the experience the day before, wanted to spend the day on land! But jolly bouy requires visitor permit and this is issued one or two days before …our agent had already got us the permits for that day…so we set out to jolly bouy. This is a 30 min drive on road to Wandoor and then a 45 min ferry ride. The 30 min drive to Wandoor is through a lot of backwater lines which saw the maximum damage during tsunami and some of the stories our driver told us were heartbreaking. Jolly bouy was another huuuge swimming pool for my son…a waveless bay ideal for floating and swimming. We did snorkeling again and by then we could identify the coral species ourselves. We saw some big sized fishes and had a lovely day at the beach. It was raining on and off…but did not make a big difference because we were anyway drenched in the beach. Spent the evening in the hotel swimming pool….long dinner at the hotel restaurant…

Day 8:

City tour and shopping…my son was excited to get into the cellular jail and repeated the stories that he heard in the light and sound show adding more graphic details to the torture stories. It was a Sunday and so the Aberdeen market was all but closed…but I did not plan to do a lot of shopping and just browsed through one of the shops to pick up some gifts for family back home.

Day 9:
Back to Chennai…flight was delayed by an hour and the weather was bad…it was a turbulent fight and we were glad to land in Chennai…

As I said before, we did the usual touristy things and spent most of the spare time lounging in the resorts we were staying in….we got just what we wanted – a beautiful place to unwind and relax. We’d probably go back to Andamans in a few years and do all these touristy things again…we loved it the first time, we loved it now and hope to do it again!
#2 May 25th, 2008, 13:48
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#2

Cool honeymoon in JULY!!

Quote:
We honeymooned in Andamans in July 2001 and we went back now with our 5 yr old son…
hey, i loved reading your experience.
as you mentioned july honneymoon... can you share your JULY-AUG monsoon experience ... as i am planing to go for same ..
plz
nitin
#3 May 25th, 2008, 14:17
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#3
Nice report and a thoroughly enjoyable trip, but you must have had difficulty coping with the heat in April...
#4 Jun 12th, 2008, 16:02
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#4
Hi OOPs,
Nice info on your tour.I am also planning for going on my honeymoon to Havelock Islands.Would you please share what was your total expenditure on this tour excluding the Airfare .
Thank you In advance.
#5 Jun 16th, 2008, 21:11
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#5
Very nice report with lots of detail. I will read this again whenever I plan a trip there.
#6 Jul 12th, 2008, 15:43
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#6
Great report thanks,
I only stayed on Neil Island last time, ended up vegging out on the beach there for a month! In the south now..so prob going to pop over again..earthquakes etc permitting, you have given me some ideas.
thanks again
Take Care
Jerry
#7 Sep 4th, 2008, 14:48
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#7
Could you post some of your trip photos
for IM members please.

Cheers
#8 Nov 11th, 2008, 14:47
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by karmaman View Post Great report thanks,
I only stayed on Neil Island last time, ended up vegging out on the beach there for a month! In the south now..so prob going to pop over again..earthquakes etc permitting, you have given me some ideas.
thanks again
Take Care
Jerry
Hi Jerry,
A quick question for you... When you say "vegging", were you staying in a local guesthouse, or can you camp or what? I posted in another section, but I have tickets to Andaman (wanting to go to Havelock) the day after Christmas (of all crap times), and my hotel booking got canceled. Any advice?
#9 Feb 27th, 2009, 04:08
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  • martinez is offline
#9
just go!
#10 Feb 27th, 2009, 05:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinez View Post just go!
Superb advise
eyes ,eyes that have seen all , come back to the white chrysanthemum (Basho)
#11 Mar 23rd, 2009, 09:49
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  • lizabrown03 is offline
#11
Hi
Thanks for sharing your experience. As I am also planning to go there. Thanks
#12 Mar 23rd, 2009, 11:20
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#12

thanks

Good trip report. This Scooter rental tip is useful.
I did not fully understand the dread term "Terminal Illness" until I saw Terminal 1 D of Delhi Airport.
#13 Mar 25th, 2009, 17:31
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#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by martinez View Post just go!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning to go with my wife and kids. Please suggest me from whom you had booked package tour for andman. Thanks in advance.... Atul
#14 Mar 25th, 2009, 17:53
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by martinez View Post just go!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning to go with my wife and kids. Please suggest me from whom you had booked package tour for andman. Thanks in advance.... Atul
#15 Mar 25th, 2009, 20:01
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ak_12001 View Post Thanks for sharing your experience. I am planning to go with my wife and kids. Please suggest me from whom you had booked package tour for andman. Thanks in advance.... Atul
You can probably save a lot of money and have much more fun if you just buy you flights,get there,and do the rest yourself.
If the first place does not suit you,then find somewhere that does.The government guesthouse on Neil island is a good a place as any to start as the first(or only)stop after Port Blair. If you trawl through the previous posts(some of mine also)you will find the andaman and nicobar administration web site ,on there you will find how to book the Hawabill nest guesthouse on Neil island.I would also recomend to you the Andaman Teal House government guesthouse in Port Blair. I have stayed in both these places on my first trip to Andamans and the are everything you will require and they are not inhabited by culturally insensitive forigners(your kids in mind here). I can recommend cleartrip agency in Mumbai to book your flights,and even train tickets if you need them.I do hope that is enough info for you.I would strongly recomend readin all of the posts on the Andamans at Indiamike as there is a mine of good information to be had.
All the best to you and your family....Martinez.
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