Andaman: Until you set foot on Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it is difficult to believe India has white sand aquamarine beaches, a la Mauritius and Maldives. In December 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced renaming of three islands of Andaman and Nicobar on the occasion of 75th anniversary of Tricolour hoisting by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as a tribute to the leader of India’s freedom movement. The Ross Island was renamed as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep, the Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep and the Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep. The PM announced a number of development projects, including a sub-marine optical fibre cable between Chennai and Port Blair, and a sea wall to protect the people of Car Nicobar Island from sea erosion.

Key tourism projects planned by the government for the all-round development of the Andamans include premium tents and tree houses, mangrove interpretation centre, turtle observatory centre, island hopping facility, beach shacks and sunrise points, premium island resorts, beach promenade, nature trail and camping facility besides other infrastructure.
These projects are expected to bring in investments of more than Rs. 650 crore and have in-built condition to ensure 60 per cent local employment, a Union Home Ministry official said.

The Andamans is world renowned for its pristine natural beauty, rich marine life, flora and fauna. The islands present picturesque views with rich culture and heritage. The pristine water with world-class beaches and shallow reefs are a major attraction for tourists. More than 70 per cent of visitors are honeymooners, followed by leisure travellers and corporate MICE. In September 2018, the Union Government announced that its employees can fly to Jammu and Kashmir, North East region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands while availing LTC (Leave Travel Concession) allowance, for two more years till September 2020. The average duration of stay is 5 nights/6 days.

It is a matter of delight that Andaman lacks the sophistication of over-stated luxury. It is untouched and unspoilt. Experience it before over tourism, thanks to enhanced flight frequency and hotel construction frenzy, spoils its charm

Only 10 per cent of the traffic is inbound (FTAs) and the remaining is domestic of which 70-75 per cent is LTC, say members of the local travel trade. In the last few years, tourism has registered a 30-40 per cent YoY growth. The frequency of flights and inter-island ferries have increased as demand is high. Every year, new hotel projects have been added; many are under construction. Diving centres have also increased. Paving the way for ‘Ease of Tourism’, 30 islands have already been exempted from the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime and requirement of mandatory registration of foreigners arriving in the archipelago within 24 hours of their entry has also been done away with.

During 2014-18, tourist arrivals increased from 3.11 lakh to 5.13 lakh, an increase of 65 per cent, hotel accommodation has doubled, which is more than 7,000 at present and more than 100 small size Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) tourist boats and 1,000 tourist cabs have been added. Tourism has emerged as the primary economic growth driver for the islands. The archipelago has received over 20,000 foreigners in 2018 while it received 15,310 foreigners, in 2017. In 2016, the figure was 15,467 while 14,674 foreigners visited the Union Territory in 2015.

My maiden trip to Andamans was courtesy Mountain Edge Tours & Holidays, the most sought-after Destination Management Company (DMC) on the Islands. Holidaying in Andamans is not like any other. There are quite a few variables, because the tourism and hospitality industry is not yet mature. It is an expensive holiday, too, because air fares from the mainland, hotel tariffs, island transfer tickets by ferry and local road transport rates are high even during off season as supply is limited. Thanks to poor mobile connectivity and near absence of internet on the Islands, making last minute changes to the itinerary or trouble shooting is almost impossible. So do not ever think of an Andaman holiday by booking air travel, ferry tickets and hotel room online by yourself. Rely on a reputed local DMC, so you have one neck to grab if at all anything goes wrong or there are last minute changes required on the ground. “Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, SOTC, Yatra and over 2500 travel agents across India rely on us when it comes to ensuring their customers have a memorable holiday in Andamans,” says Prakash Kumar Raj, Director, Mountain Edge Tours & Holidays.

The primary reason why tourism has not boomed in Andamans is poor connectivity. The government aims to make Diglipur airport operational for civilian aircraft by June; revive sea plane operations under Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN); form an air circuit comprising Port Blair, Car Nicobar, Campbell Bay and Diglipur Airport; bring Car Nicobar, Diglipur and Campbell Bay airports under UDAN and use existing helipads to promote heli-tourism. In March 2019, bidding opened for seaplane operations at four locations in Andamans namely Swaraj Dweep, Shaheed Dweep, Hut Bay and Long Island, under UDAN. Port Blair has already been declared as an authorised immigration check post for entry into or exit from India with valid travel documents for all classes of passengers.

“Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, SOTC, Yatra and over 2500 travel agents across India rely on us when it comes to ensuring their customers have a memorable holiday in Andaman,” says Prakash Kumar Raj, Director, Mountain Edge Tours & Holidays.

Holistic Development
There is a huge deficiency of core and tourism infrastructure in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Union Ministry of Tourism had sanctioned a project for Rs. 42.19 crore in 2016-17 for development of tourism infrastructure in Long Island, Ross Smith Island, Neil Island, Havelock Baratang Island and Port Blair under the Coastal Circuit of Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
The government has drawn broad contours for developing the Islands and taken steps to place well-defined institutional structure with an ‘Island Development Agency’ as the apex body, NITI Aayog as steering body, Union Territory Administration as Concessioning Authority and ANIIDCO (Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation Ltd.) as project management agency.

Site potential development reports have been prepared for four islands in Andaman & Nicobar namely, Smith, Ross, Long and Aves. Among these islands, six ecotourism projects for private sector participation have been identified on Andaman & Nicobar, with three projects on Smith, Aves and Long Islands, two projects on Little Andaman and one project on Neil Island. Requests for Qualification (RfQ) have been floated for projects in Long Island, Smith Island and Aves Island while Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance has also been obtained for these four projects including at Neil Island.

The lifeline of the Andamans, the Andaman Trunk Road, is all set to receive an upgrade following the grant of CRZ clearance in December 2018 for the Middle Strait Bridge. In principle approval has also been obtained for Chatham-Bamboo Flat Bridge in Port Blair, in fulfilment of a long-standing demand of the island residents. A Detailed Project Report is being prepared for the proposed Phase-1 of the Andaman Marine Drive from Junglighat to Dundas Point.

Hotels and Resorts
Except for ITC (Fortune Resort Bay Island), IHCL (Taj Exotica Resort & Spa) and Keys Hotels (Keys Select Hotel Aqua Green), there are no properties belonging to branded national and international hospitality chains. Neither are most hotels classified. Owners avoid star classification to work around GST. Amenities and services vary widely from property to property. Use a local travel agent and insist on a 3-4 star hotel. Do not expect the sophistication of similar classified hotels in Mumbai and Delhi. But your stay will be comfy and the food decent with easy access to the beach. Most of the beach resorts are excellent for MICE. A beach side candle-lit dinner can be arranged by hotels and resorts and cost about Rs. 3500 per couple.

Every hotel and resort we visited said they host at least 3-4 corporate events per week involving 100 pax plus. Events with 200-300 pax are also not rare when more than one resort takes care of the accommodation. This is good business especially during off season. Though Andamans is a favourite among honeymooners, destination weddings are rare due to high air fares.
Inter-island transfer is by ferry ever since sea planes were discontinued in 2014. The passenger terminal is at Haddo Wharf in Port Blair. Baggage screening is like in airports, only that passengers carry even checked in baggage to the ferry!

India’s first catamaran ferry Makruzz, owned and operated by Mac Logistics runs 3 vessels connecting Port Blair, Havelock Island and Neil Island. They run many services daily. Government-run ferry is also operational and cheaper though Makruzz is a far superior product and customer experience – air conditioned, 3 categories of comfortable seating, pantry, and wheelchair access. Ticket can be booked online, but during season, it’s hard to find because DMCs block seats en masse. Green Ocean is the other private ferry operator.
Since we were travelling during off season, the ferry was only 30 per cent occupied. By 5 pm we checked into Symphony Palms Beach Resort, Havelock. The hotels/resorts cluster is not too far away from the ferry jetty. The drive is through narrow well laid out roads flanked by greenery. There are so many hotels and resorts under construction and land prices have already shot up. Radha Nagar beach and Kalapathar beach are close to each other and we got to visit both. Our tour guide told us that the shade of blue green is different for each beach and even the taste of tender coconut water varies from island to island. Do have tender coconut water on the island and it’s the best you will ever have anywhere in India. Surprising, welcome drink in hotels is not tender coconut water!

We reached Neil Island the next day by the 2 pm Makruzz ferry from Havelock and checked into Summer Sands Beach Resort. The hotel is situated alongside a cluster of other hotels and resorts. As you travel to the hotel, you instantly realise that Neil is not as commercial as Havelock. There is a major issue with check out time at hotels. It is 9 am as earlier it was synced with the ferry time. But now the private ferry is at 2 pm. The day starts early due to early sunrise but the incongruent check out time is a hassle for guests. The traditional hotel check out time of 12 noon would be a major convenience for guests.

At Bharatpur beach, I did snorkelling, my first time. We went out on a glass floor boat about a kilometre from shore when the depth touches 12-15 feet. I used a full mask and the experience lasted about 30 minutes. I could see the corals and lot of fish which I have otherwise seen only in an aquarium. It is an experience worth the time. The sea was calm and the waters crystal clear.
One can do scuba diving (shore and deep sea), jet ski, banana boat & sofa boat (inflatables) and sea walk too. There are many registered water sports and diving centres offering the same options at comparable rates.

On our last day, we could not make it to Baratang Island as the access was closed due to the elections. This was a major disappointment. We filled the day visiting Chidiyatapu beach, 28 km from city centre. It’s a good drive and there are no resorts nearby. A new project is coming up soon developed by Sing Hotels. There is a famous sunset point here. From there we drove another 27 km to Wandoor beach in South Andaman. This is where the Sea Princess Beach Resort is located. At Chidiyatapu and Wandoor beaches, bathing has been banned due to presence of crocodiles.

Andamans is suddenly on everyone’s mind. Carrying capacity studies need to be undertaken with right earnestness and infrastructure, both public and private, executed in a planned manner for Andaman to retain its charm and become a premium beach destination, on the lines of Maldives and Mauritius. What I saw around during my recent trip is mostly haphazard construction of hotels and resorts.

The tourism administration should learn a lesson or two from Goa and ensure Andaman does not become another overcrowded destination. While charters and mass tourism will bring in immediate gains, the after effects will be too difficult to erase. Careful deliberations on the social fabric, environment sensibilities and development potential are necessary to foster a sustainable tourism industry in Andamans. A comfortable vacation in Admanans requires at least a week and still a lot will be left to discover. But be rest assured, there is no place like it in India. And there are very few places like it, anywhere else in the world.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the east of the Indian mainland geographically, float in splendid isolation in the Bay of Bengal. Once a hill range extending from Myanmar to Indonesia, these picturesque undulating islands, islets numbering around 572, are covered with dense rain-fed, damp and evergreen forests and endless varieties of exotic flora and fauna. Most of these islands (about 550) are in the Andaman Group, 28 of which are inhabited. The smaller Nicobars, comprise some 22 main islands (10 inhabited). The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are separated by the Ten Degree Channel. Daily flights operated by Air India, SpiceJet, Vistara, GoAir and IngiGo connect Port Blair with Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad. Air India operates chartered flights in April, May and June connecting Port Blair with Kolkata and Chennai. The islander fare (one way) is Rs. 4000 and non-islander fare is Rs. 6500.

Water Sports

Most tourists who visit Andamans want to indulge in water sports. The Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex in Port Blair is excellent. On Havelock Island, Elephant beach and Nemo Reef opposite the helipad offer water sports. Neil Island is also popular for water sports. There are many dive centres but booking is through the single window pre-booking counter at Port Management Board office managed by Department of Tourism. For a shore dive, you walk into the sea from the shore with the full equipment strapped for about 1000 m as the depth increases to about 15 feet. Deep see diving is more expensive and you need to travel by boat. It is best to undertake diving and snorkelling first thing in the morning (at 6.30 am) as the waters will be clear and chance of sighting turtles is highest.
Scuba diving (shore): Rs. 3500
Scuba diving (deep sea): Rs. 4500
PADI courses are also on offer.


  • Safe and secure beach destination; many beaches, sunrise and sunset points
  • Sunrise is quite early on the Islands – between 4.30 and 5 am
  • No haggling. No ogling. No begging. No smoking on the beach
  • Roads are in excellent condition except in some parts of Neil Island
  • No Ola or Uber. Local cabs/taxis are expensive even for short trips
  • Two-wheelers are available for rent at Rs. 500 per day without fuel
  • Liquor is cheap but can be served outside at events only till 10 pm. This has impacted MICE business
  • Hindi is widely spoken
  • The mobile connectivity is mostly patchy and mobile data is absent. Andamans is not for those who wish to holiday while staying connected

Mountain Edge Tours & Holidays

Started in 2004, Mountain Edge is your Andamans specialist. With offices in Port Blair and Mumbai, their team can manage end-to-end everything for ensuring a memorable holiday on the islands filled with activities and experiences of a lifetime. During season, when demand exceeds supply, Mountain Edge has blocks on rooms and ferry seats to ensure their customers are not disappointed. Currently, the Group is constructing three hotels of which one will be a 100-room property in Port Blair.


Port Blair

Peerless Resort (3-star)
Formerly known as Andaman Beach Resort (ABR), Peerless Resort is the only property in Port Blair on the beach. PM Modi stayed here when he visited last. 50 rooms, including four cottages. Bar and restaurant. 7 km from airport. Open air lawn is the biggest in Port Blair; Conference rooms come with sea view.

Sea Princess Beach Resort, Wandoor Beach (3-star)
Beach view property with 44 keys, including standard and deluxe rooms, cottages and suites. Large swimming pool. Lawns and closed meeting spaces for MICE. Lot of space for team activities. Bar and restaurant.

ITC Fortune Resort Bay Island (4-star)
This property is partially under renovation currently and will be ready by end of the year. 48 rooms (garden facing rooms; sea facing rooms) but only 21 operating due to renovation. Two suite rooms (sea facing) getting added. Spa and gymnasium also planned. Post renovation will become 5-star WelcomHotel. Mandalay restaurant and Nico Bar. Swimming pool.

Sinclairs Bay View (4-star)
Recently renovated sea facing hotel with 46 keys. One of the largest hotel lobbies in Andaman. Alto Espirito Spanish Bar with patio facing the ocean. Restaurant. The Valentine Room offers 180-degree sea view. Other room categories are premier, premier attic (duplex) and family rooms and suites (with pull down hydraulic bed for kids). Huge garden lawns for up to 180 pax ideal for MICE. Within the property there is a Japanese bunker from WW2!

Havelock Island

Symphony Palms Beach Resort (4-star)
Part of Sing Hotels, Symphony Palms Beach Resort is a beachfront property located just 100 m from the Govind Nagar Beach. 52 designer guest rooms, suites and cottages with all modern amenities. The in-house restaurant, Charcoal serves Indian, Chinese and Continental delights and refreshing beverages can be enjoyed at the Venom Bar. The Havelock Ocean Spa offers all kinds of treatments.

Silver Sand Beach Resort (4-star)
Beach front property with 80 keys – villas, cottages, lagoons, pool villas. swimming pool. restaurant and bar. Large central lawns for team activities and MICE. One of the largest room inventories in Havelock.

Sandyy Wavess (4-star)
The newest luxury beach resort in Havelock. 24×7 restaurant at the lobby level along with front desk.
36 keys – premium rooms; cluster of 4 rooms (superior rooms and junior suites). 32 rooms available now. One block left to complete. Two bars: sunken pool bar and one at lobby level. Sound proof 200 pax conference hall, spa and multi-gym coming up by October 2019.

Opened in 2015, Jalakara is a 7-key B&B boutique luxury resort run by UK couple Marko and Atalanta. The property has been featured prominently in travel and lifestyle publications around the world. Jalakara with three rooms, three suites and one private villa resides within what was once an overgrown banana and betel nut plantation. Large swimming pool, wellness centre for yoga and massages, library. Jalakara is closed from June to August every year.

Neil Island

Summer Sands Beach Resort (3-star)
This hotel is just a few months old. Main pool joined by a meandering pool running in front of the accommodations block with access from the rooms. 62 keys, including ocean suites and beach mansions. Organickhaa restaurant, Waters wet bar and coffee shop. Nature Spa.

TSG Aura Beach Resort (3-star)
This hotel in Sitapur beach is four years old. 38 villa rooms centrally air-conditioned with wooden flooring and walls. Restaurant and bar. Lawn parties are possible.


Port Blair
The Cellular Jail, also known as Kālā Pānī (Hindi for black waters), was a colonial prison used by the British specially to exile political prisoners. Many notable freedom fighters such as Batukeshwar Dutt, Yogendra Shukla and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, among others, were imprisoned here during the struggle for India’s independence. The complex was converted into a National Memorial in 1979. It has a unique star-fish layout enabling one guard at the central watch tower to keep an eye on every movement. The Light and Sound Show is a must watch. The show includes a touching narration by the late acting legend Om Puri, telling the poignant story of prisoners who were tortured to death in the jail.

28 km from city centre in different direction. Both beaches are closed now for swimming due to sighting of crocodiles.

Next to Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex and opposite to Ross Island and North Bay Island is 1943, the site of the first tricolour hosting in India, performed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on December 30, 1943. Here there are edicts depicting ‘Jai Hind’ in various Indian languages.

Located centrally in Port Blair, the water sports complex offers all activities for adults and children alike. The safety guaranteed here is the major reason why adventure lovers and water sports freaks frequently visit the complex. There is a walkway that goes into the sea and a huge Atlantic pool which gets filled during high tide. Sea urchins, sea cucumbers and many varieties of fish can be sighted – yellow fin tuna, red snapper, grouper, tribeli, surgeon, sting ray fish, and many more.

Havelock Island
Havelock is a picturesque natural paradise and one of the most populated islands of Andaman. The major beaches are Elephant beach, Kalapather beach and Radha Nagar. It takes two hours by ferry from Port Blair. Elephant Beach is famous for water sports. They say, Havelock is the Crown of Andaman, and Radha Nagar beach is the jewel on the crown.

Neil Island
Neil Island has four major beaches – Bharatpur, Lakshmanpur, Sitapur and Ramnagar. All the beaches have been named after characters from the Indian epic ‘Ramayana’. The Natural Bridge, a unique rock formation is at Lakshmanpur II beach which is also a famous sunset point. Sunrise at Sitapur is not to be missed either. Bharatpur is the best beach on the island, two hours by ferry from Port Blair.

About 170 km from Port Blair is Rangat, famous for Cutbert Bay beach, an important nesting ground for green turtles from December to February. Mangrove Interpretation Centre at Yerrata offers valuable information about mangroves. There is a 13 m high Mangrove View Watch Tower.

Less than 300 km from Port Blair and the largest town of North Andaman Island. Nearby attractions in North Andaman include the Ross and Smith islands, the Saddle Peak National Park, the beaches at Ram Nagar, Kalipur and Lamiya bay, and mud volcanoes. Ram Nagar beach is famous for sea turtle nesting from December to February. The Chalis Ek Caves and the Alfred Caves are a major nesting ground for the edible-nest swiftlet, whose nests are exported to China for bird’s nest soup. The corals are alive here unlike those at Havelock and Neil.

150 km north of Port Blair, and a must visit place. While driving through the dense forests on the Andaman Trunk Road towards Baratang, it is possible to encounter members of the Jarawa clan, indigenous people who reside on the island. The 175 odd limestone caves and the mangrove forests are other attractions. Ideal to start the road journey from Port Blair around 4 am.

Do’s and Don’t’s

  • Always keep tab of latest weather report from trusted sources; your plans could go haywire due to surprises thrown by the weather
  • Carry a high SPF sunscreen and apply before stepping out in Andaman Drink lots of water and remain hydrated always
  • Sun glasses, hat, pair of slippers, swim wear should also be part of your packing list
  • Preferable for women to change to swim wear at the hotel itself as changing rooms in beaches may not be comfortable
  • Carry pills for sea sickness
  • Do not enter the restricted areas or tribal areas around the islands
  • Debit and Credit cards are not accepted at most hotels and resorts, dive centres and shops. So carry cash for out of pocket expenses
  • Book ferry tickets in advance using a local travel agent
  • Most beaches remain open till 5.30 pm only
  • The beaches are plastic and litter-free
  • Hotels and resorts are not pet-friendly

Various hotels offer spa services including manicure/pedicure, facials, body polish and massages at prices ranging from Rs. 700 for manicure/pedicure to Rs. 3000 for full body massage (60 min)

Candid Photography
Candid photography services are available for prices ranging from Rs. 4000-5000/- for wedding, honeymoon, anniversary, candle-lit dinner and other special occasions at Port Blair, Havelock and Neil Islands. Most hotel front offices can help arrange

Makruzz Ferry
Rates valid till Aug 2019 (including GST and PSF)
PB to NL: Rs. 1289 per person (premium)
PB to HL: Rs. 1407 per person (premium)
HL to NL: Rs. 1171 per person (premium)
Wheel chair friendly
(Check with a local travel agent for guidance)

Day 1 | Arrive Port Blair – Corbyn’s Cove Beach – Cellular Jail (Light & Sound Show)
Day 2 | Port Blair – Ross Island – North Bay Island (Coral Island)
Day 3 | Port Blair – Baratang Island – Diglipur (Rangat & Mayabunder)
Day 4 | Diglipur – Ross & Smith Island
Day 5 | Diglipur – Port Blair
Day 6 | Depart From Andaman Islands

Day 1 | Arrive Port Blair – Corbyn’s Cove Beach – Cellular Jail (Light & Sound Show)
Day 2 | Port Blair – Ross Island – North Bay Island (Coral Island)
Day 3 | Port Blair – Havelock Island
Day 4 | Havelock Island – Radhanagar Beach
Day 5 | Havelock Island – Port Blair – Shopping
Day 6 | Depart From Andaman Islands

Day 1 | Arrive Port Blair – Corbyn’s Cove Beach – Cellular Jail (Light & Sound Show)
Day 2 | Port Blair – Havelock Island – Radhanagar Beach
Day 3 | Havelock Island – Elephant Beach (Water Sports)
Day 4 | Havelock Island – Neil Island
Day 5 | Neil Island – Port Blair (Sitapur Beach, Bharatpur Beach, Coral Point)
Day 6 | Depart From Andaman Islands

Categories: Destinations India