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Memories Before The Lockdown: My Unforgettable Trip To Andaman

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Natural Bridge of Neil Island

By – Upasana Bharadwaj 

It was during a cold December night; my husband and I set out on a journey to Andaman from Hyderabad.

As a newlywed couple, after surfing many options, we zeroed it down to Andaman.

Leaving our home at midnight, we headed to Rajiv Gandhi airport for our flight to Port Blair, which was scheduled at 4:30 a.m. This was my first night journey in a flight, therefore, the excitement was a bit more from my side.

While my husband was asleep, I remained awake to view the sunrise.

The sunrise had never been so beautiful to me before. A red ball slowly and steadily rose in the sky, and it seemed the crimson red ball was splashing a red hue beneath the wings of the airplane we were flying in, in the abode of the clouds.

What a spectacular view it was! After viewing the sunrise, I went on to catch some sleep. A two-and-a-half-hour journey led us to our destination, and finally our flight landed in the airport in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman.

We took a taxi to our hotel. We had our complimentary breakfast at our hotel and left for Rose Island. It was a bright sunny day. Though in December, winters prevail in other parts of India, but in Andaman, it is the opposite, as our taxi driver remarked, “Sir, Andaman never sees cold and winter.”

Upon reaching the Rose Island, I was spellbound to witness the rich colonial heritage it carries with it. Rose Island was once the headquarters of the British government in Andaman, which was later shifted to Port Blair.

It has ruins of British architecture, a church, a printing press, pump houses, a huge swimming pool and a beautiful and breathtaking view of the sea surrounded by tall coconut trees that provide shade to its visitors. The island has deers and peacocks too.

Isolated from mainland India, it provides much needed mental peace from the hustle and bustle of daily life. This island took us to our next stop, North Bay, which is well-connected by ferry.

North Bay is a busy island with a host of water activities to offer. From scuba diving, snorkeling, sea walking, glass boat ride, semi-submarine named Dolphin, etc. People, who love adventure sports, must not miss this island.

It brought a smile to my face when I watched parents play along with their children and take part in these water activities.

The island has some exotic coral reefs, luring the visitors to this island. My husband and I took a glass boat ride to view the beautiful corals in the bed of the sea.

An interesting fact about North Bay is that the view on the way to Mount Harriet is captured on the back of the ₹20 note. The scenic image of the bay is lined with lush greenery. It is the second highest peak in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.

By evening, we returned to our hotel to take a rest and get ourselves ready for our journey to Havelock next morning. Havelock is very famous amongst the Andaman group of Islands.

Transfer to Havelock and other islands in the Andaman archipelago is possible through private ferries, government ferries and helicopters. However, to enter, one must go through Port Blair first.

We had booked a cruise online, the ITT Majestic Cruise, which is one of the fastest cruises from Port Blair to Havelock. It took us around one and a half hours to reach Havelock Island. After a brief checking, we were allowed to have our seats.

As I went inside, I was amazed to see the interior of the cruise, beautiful and spacious with comfortable seats and a TV as well. My seat number took me to a window seat. Oh My God! The blue sea looked beautiful from the window, and the waves seemed deeper and closer to me as our cruise marched ahead to the middle of the sea.

By 10 a.m., we reached Havelock and went straight to our hotel, took a shower and had our lunch. We had prawns and rice. Seafood is very popular here.

At the reception, we were informed that we could rent a scooty to explore the Island. We were told Kalapathar, Radhanagar and Elephant Beach are the three beaches to look at. We were a little confused about exploring places in an unknown territory, but they assured us that Havelock was a small place and easy to explore.

We started our journey and our first discovery was the Kalapathar Beach.

Kalapathar beach is one of the most picturesque beaches with blue skies and blue-green sea and white sand, with big black stones adorning the coastline. It is the most beautiful picture for the eyes to behold.

White conch shells are in plenty, followed by white pebbles that come with the water receding to the shore. This beach does not offer many sports activities; it is only for sightseeing. In such a beautiful place, we did not miss the opportunity to click a couple of photographs.

Administration’s efforts to keep the beach clean and tidy are praise-worthy. Dustbins are installed at the seashore, and vendors are not allowed inside. Moreover, the Tourist Police Kiosks outside the beach make the visit pleasant and safe.

Outside the beach, there is a busy line of vendors offering coconut water with malai. Having our drink in one such stall, we continued our journey to Radhanagar beach through the zig-zag road.

Radhanagar is famous for being a sunset beach. Fancy hats and trendy cowboy hats for men lay out on display in shops outside the beach. We took one for each and walked inside the beach.

small fish inside the coral reefs
The island has some exotic coral reefs, luring the visitors to this island. My husband and I took a glass boat ride to view the beautiful corals in the bed of the sea.

This beach is very big compared to Kalapathar. It is one of the largest beaches and has a long seashore. We took a long walk from one shore to the other, and each step we took gave us great joy. Tourists were relaxing on the beach.

Radhanagar beach was full of people, old and young couples playing with water, bathing, swimming, clicking photos and relishing every moment of their time on the beach.

The sea is near the shore, not too deep. I too walked into the sea water, not too far though as I can’t swim. I loved how the water touched me, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Finally, the long wait came to an end. After viewing the sunset, we returned to our hotel.

The next morning, we left for Elephant beach. There are two ways: trekking through the jungle or hiring an auto and taking a ferry ride to reach the beach. Early morning is the best time to travel to take part in water sports activities as the tides and waves can spoil your fun.

From Scuba Diving to Paragliding, this beach has it all. It is one of the popular beaches of Havelock where crowds throng in large numbers from all over the world. The clear blue waters with colorful coral reefs kept us enticed for hours.

Our journey to Havelock ended here, and the next morning, we left for Neil Island.

Neil Island is known for its clear blue water, rich biodiversity, white sandy beaches and Coral reefs. Bharatpur Beach, Natural Bridge and Laxmanpur Beach are very famous here.

We hired an auto for our trip. The auto driver first took us to Bharatpur Beach. It is very big and spacious with a lot of water activities to keep you busy and entertained.

We had a glass bottom ride here. It took us to the deep sea where we could clearly see the beautiful corals and a variety of fishes swimming across it. I took a ride on a Jet Ski. There are some nice eateries and shops selling conch shells, pearls, etc.

Next, we went to Natural Bridge or Howrah Bridge. It’s famous for its naturally shaped bridge, formed by two living natural corals. Interestingly, the wall alongside bore the brunt of a tsunami and protected Neil Island from devastation.

Other than that, there are only dead corals everywhere, and small fishes like starfish, urchins, sea cucumbers, etc. residing in a few of the colourful corals slowly growing again. It is a little difficult to walk through the rocky dead corals.

By evening, we reached Laxmanpur Beach. One can enjoy the sunset view and have ginger tea and onion pakodas.

Finer than flour and pure like white, sand spread over long stretches, and the fallen tree trunks substituted as seats and provided a good photographic spot. The blue sea was wide and filled with coral. This was our last day here.

The next day, we travelled back to Port Blair with a plan of exploring the few tourist spots left as we had a flight back to Hyderabad soon.

Early morning, we travelled back to Port Blair after having our breakfast. By noon, we reached Port Blair. As we didn’t have much time because our ferry got delayed, we focussed on visiting places that were nearby.

We first went to Samudrika Marine Museum. It informs visitors about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and is run by the Indian Navy.

Then, we travelled to Corbyn Cove Beach. Sandy beach and palm trees in the backdrop, Jet skiing and Parasailing are popular water sports here.

The locals say an Andaman visit is incomplete without visiting the Cellular Jail, better known as Kalapani. It was called Kalapani because the jail was built in such a way that the prisoners had no way to escape as it was surrounded by the sea. We booked a ticket for the light and sound show.

This large cellular jail was built by the British to exile freedom fighters of India. We had an 8 p.m. slot for our light and sound show. We walked through the Veer Savarkar Park to reach the Cellular Jail.

One by one, we were allowed to take our seats. What a spectacular show it was! The amazing use of light and sound to explain the horrifying tale of our brave freedom fighters, who bravely fought for our freedom and in the process, were subjected to the most inhuman torture and solitary confinement for the lifetime.

My eyes became moist on hearing the tragic narration of the pain and agonies they endured for the freedom we are enjoying now. My head bowed to those bravehearts for their struggle in fighting for the freedom of India.

My Andaman journey story ends here. I am never going to forget the wonderful memories. From the beautiful beaches with clear crystal blue-green water, fun and thrill-filled adventurous rides and the stories of Colonial history, Andaman has it all.

I bid adieu to this enticing beauty, with a promise to come back again.

Featured Image: Pinterest

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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