Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Andaman Islands

Yesterday evening we returned from a 4-day trip to the Andaman Islands-- a group of 300+ islands located 600 miles (1000 km) east of the India mainland. This tropical island archipelago is much closer to Myanmar (Burma), but it is part of India.

This map shows the physical features of India, the Bay of Bengal,
and the Indochina Peninsula--note the location of the Andaman Islands
on the eastern side of the Bay of Bengal
Last Thursday we flew from Bangalore to Chennai (Madras) then caught a 2-hour flight on SpiceJet to Port Blair on South Andaman. As we approached the Andamans we flew over one, uninhabited, tree-covered island, ringed with white sand, coral reefs, and turquoise-colored waters.
Many of the Andaman Islands are either uninhabited or home to tribal peoples, where foreigners are not permitted. Large portions of the Andamans are also in forest reserve so the biologically diverse, multi-layered forests are still intact.
In Port Blair all foreigners are required to obtain a permit to visit the islands. This is provided at no charge and relatively quickly at the airport upon landing. From there we got a taxi ride to the ferry, which took us to the Island of Havelock.
The ride takes 2 1/2 hours. On the way over we took the Katchal and on the return the North Passage. The Katchal was smaller and quite stifling hot in the hold, but we climbed up to the deck to catch the sea breeze. Twice we sat near the bow and once we saw a school of bottlenose dolphins.
We arrived at the Havelock jetty at 4:30 pm, as the sun was setting.
Our Havelock destination was DIVEIndia, where Srini's nephew, Sidharth (Sid) works as a scuba instructor. There are numerous resorts on Havelock that offer scuba, but DIVEIndia is considered one of the best. DIVEIndia is located at "Beach 3" on Havelock Island.
Here is a peek at our accommodations at DIVEIndia: a large tent with tiled floor and separate bathroom, electricity, fan, and hot water; rustic but very comfortable. The best thing is that there is no internet or cell phone coverage.
I'll have more on our stay there in my next post, including our kayak paddle, first scuba dive, walking the beach and tidal flats, and more.

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