About the islands
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of 572 islands in the Bay of Bengal. The archipelago is approximately 1370 km from India and 150 km from Indonesia. The natural vegetation of the island is tropical forest, with mangroves on the coast. Most forests are evergreen, with over 200 species of timber producing trees. These deciduous forest are located in North, Middle and parts of South Andamans. The south has a plentiful growth of ferns and orchids.
The Andaman Islands are home, to a number of endemic or near endemic mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Only a dozen or so islands are open to tourists. Local transport comprises private cars, taxis, rickshaws and bus.
Havelock Island is the preferred destination, for its marvelous beaches and diving sites. In fact, Havelock is now synonymous with Andaman Islands.
The Nicobar Islands and tribal settlements are strictly off limits to tourists. The capital of Andaman is Port Blair.
Havelock Islands (Swaraj Dweep)
Havelock Island, named after a British general Sir Henry Havelock, is the largest of the 572 islands that comprise the Andamans. It is one of the few tourist places promoted as a part of eco-tourism, by the local administration.
For many tourists Havelock is the Andamans.
And why not?
It has pristine beaches, enticing blue-green shallows, lush green forests and some of the world’s best diving sites.
Beach number 7 or Radhanagar Beach has featured among the top 10 in TripAdvisor’s ‘World’s Travellers’ Choice Award-Winning Beaches’. It has secured No 8 position in the world and first spot in Asia. Other prominent beaches include Elephant Beach, Kala Pathar Beach and Vijay Nagar Beach.
The island is 69 km northeast of the capital city, Port Blair.
Government owned ferries and private cruises regularly ply between Port Blair and Havelock. A local bus connects the jetty and the 6 villages. Private cars, rickshaws, two wheelers make up the local transport. Bicycles are also available on rent.
Private operators offer helicopter services too.
Reaching the Andamans
There are no direct international flights to Port Blair, Andamans. There are regular direct flights throughout the year from major cities of India – Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata & Chennai. They are serviced by Air India, Spice Jet, Go Air, Indigo and Vistara.
Flying is the fastest and the most convenient way to reach Andaman & Nicobar Islands. But be cautioned; if you want to reach Havelock the same day, please make sure that you reach by 1300 hours, so as not to miss the last ferry at 1400 hours.
If your return flight is before 1300 hours, you will have to spend the previous night before departure, in Port Blair.
There are 3 to 4 departures, per month, from Chennai and Kolkata. In addition, there is a monthly ferry from Visakhapatnam. All boats arrive at Haddo Jetty.
On an average it takes 55 to 70 hours, to reach Port Blair by sea. Travelling by sea depends on variable weather and sea conditions.
Andaman Shipping Office operates boats from Chennai, Shipping Corporation of India from Kolkata and AV Bhanojirow, Garuda Pattabhiramayya & Co from Visakhapatnam.
Return tickets can be booked, from the ferry booking office at Phoenix Bay. It is necessary to bring 3 passport sized photographs and a photocopy of your permit.
Latest timetables and fares can be found at www.andamans.gov.in
Port Blair to Havelock
It takes about 2 hours by ferry, to reach Havelock Island. Ferries depart from Phoenix Bay Jetty, to reach Haddo Jetty at Havelock. Government ferries leave for Havelock twice a day; in the morning at 0630 hours and afternoon at 1400 hours. Please do note that, timings are subject to change.
Private speed ferry operator Makruzz (www.makruzz.com) plies a Catamaran twice a day, at 0815 hours and 1400 hours. The journey takes about 90 minutes.
Ferries by Green Ocean (www.greenoceancruise.com) also ply / sail between Port Blair and Andamans.
The afternoon ferry at 1400 hours enables you, to reach Havelock on the same day of your arrival at Port Blair.
Indian citizens can book tickets half an hour before the ferry departs. But an advance booking is strongly suggested. Travelers can book ferry tickets online too.
Foreigners cannot book Government Ferry tickets in advance. They can do so after obtaining the special restricted area permit on landing.
Tickets for private ferries can be purchased in advance, through their local office.
Best time for scuba diving in Andaman
Andaman is good for a dive throughout the year, especially for an introductory/ basic course, Open Water course, Advance Open Water course, Discover Scuba Dive or a Try Dive experience. The sites chosen for these courses are easily reachable and are not affected by the weather.
The most ideal season is from November to May. It is peak diving time, as the days are sunlit, the sea is placid, and visibility is excellent. These months are ideal especially for fun divers, professional divers and advance level divers.
The underwater visibility, except for the months of June and July, is breathtaking.
Monsoons in the Andamans are characterized by periodic showers of small durations. Heavy rains of long duration are rare. It is a mixed bag in June and July. The weather conditions are diverse and changeable. They can range from sunny days to heavy rains. On some days, the seas can be very choppy, and one cannot venture very far. Though, it can just be the opposite, on other days.
It may rain above normal in August. This season is for advanced divers.
The sea is slightly rough from October to November. Rainfall may be regular to intermittent and may restrict your choice of dive sites. But the marine life is stunning. For experienced divers, this is the most ideal time for a first –rate diving experience.
A windstorm usually hits the Andamans, every year in the month of December and May. The storm may last for two or three days.
Visas & Permits
India does not issue visas on arrival. All foreign visitors should obtain them, in the country of their origin. Additionally, you will also have to secure a special Restricted Area Permit.
It can be obtained free of charge, on arrival at Port Blair’s airport or Haddo Jetty. It is valid for 30 days and be further extended to 45 days. Extension is subject to approval by the Immigration Office.
This permit allows foreigners to stay in Port Blair, Diglipur (North Andamans),South and Middle Andamans, Long Island, North Passage, Little Andaman, Havelock Island and Neil Island.
A Day permits allow you a trip to Jolly Buoy, Ross, Narcondam, South Cinque, Red Skin, Interview and Rutland Islands, as well as the Brothers and the Sisters.
Foreigners pay more for day permits. However, students with valid Identity Cards pay minimal charges.
It is prudent to carry your permit all the time. Police and hotels need to check it, as a security measure. You will also need it, to clear immigration, on your return journey.
Indian passport holders do not need any restricted area permits.
Accommodation in Andaman
Please let us know your budget, food preferences and the duration of your stay, so that we can recommend, an ideal accommodation package and let you know the names of suitable hotels.
Safety on the islands
The Andaman Islands are perfectly safe, for both single women and men of all ages. It has a negligible crime rate. The Islands are quite harmless, provided you do not take needless risks.
The local people are polite, friendly and helpful. When you move around, suggest you dress modestly, especially when you are to small towns centers. At beaches you can be in your swimwear, just like in most beaches around the world.
Andaman is a Union Territory. It has a robust security system and police are on duty, at every beach and street.
A bite by a sandfly can be extremely annoying. Scratching an inflamed bite can aggravate it.
Please carry hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion. Repellents with high concentration of DEET or picaridin are effective, though they may not suit people with sensitive skin and pregnant women. Mosquito repellents are effective too.
Seek medical assistance if the bite gets infected. Also, avoid the beach at dawn or dusk.
Health & Wellbeing
Havelock Island is fairly safe, as far as malaria and tropical diseases. But, please consult your doctor about vaccines, shots and preventive medicines. Follow the other precautionary measures; drink purified water, avoid uncooked fruit and vegetables, use insect repellent.
Port Blair offers good medical facilities. But this cannot be said of other islands, where it is minimal or basic. Therefore, please carry your prescribed medicines, for emergencies.