Ever Heard of the Andaman Islands?
India has always been one of my favourite places to visit. The excitement, the food, the sights, the people, the history, the craziness! For this particular trip I had a few weeks booked traveling around Southern India and five or so days still to play with where I wasn’t quite sure what to add on. I really wanted a beachy holiday and while researching the nearby Maldives I stumbled across some information on the Andaman Islands. Apparently famous for swimming elephants and cannibalism. What could be more enticing?
Working out how to get to the Andamans from Cochin was the first task. It’s not the easiest place to get to. From Southern India it was two flights from Cochin to Chennai and then another flight on to Port Blair. From Port Blair it was a 3 hour, very basic, ferry to the island of Havelock. On arrival we then had a crazy 45 minute tuk tuk to our beach front accommodation. It was a journey! But it was worth it.
Even though the Andamans are very close to the popular islands of Thailand, much closer than they are to India, they are relatively ‘non-touristy’. This is due mainly to them being quite difficult to get to as well, as opposed to somewhere like Phuket, but also the fact that out of 600ish islands only 9 are open to international tourists.
This main closure to tourists of the other islands is due to the people of the little known Sentilese tribe that live on North Sentilese Island. The Sentilese are a protected group of indigenous people, who live in voluntary isolation, reject all contact with the outside world, sometimes violently. As recently as 2018 a hopeful missionary who made it to the island was killed by the locals. In 2006 some illegal fisherman, whose boat drifted on to the island were also killed. It is prohibited to approach the island any closer than five nautical miles (approximately 10 km’s). This is to protect the resident tribespeople from contracting any diseases to which they have no immunity and also to prevent outsiders being killed by arrow! Because of these restrictions not a great deal is known about the tribe and any photos that are on file are all from 10km’s away for safety reasons. This is the tribe that has earned the cannibalism story, but with no real proof.
As for the swimming elephants, it turned out there was only one, Rajan, who truly did love swimming but had retired by the time I made it to this beautiful island. Sad as I was to miss what I imagined to be an amazing site, hearing the word ‘retired’ from the locals made me happy this gentle giant was no longer working for tourists.
Havelock is the most popular tourist island and even that does not have any major resorts. The accommodation is all pretty basic with a backpacker vibe and a large focus on the amazing diving in the region. Even though your Wi-Fi may keep cutting out, your shower might run cold and sometimes the electricity isn’t working, the stunning beauty of the beaches makes it all worth it.
The most beautiful of all is Radhanagr Beach
While I did not end up seeing any swimming elephants or cannibals I was struck by the beauty of this place. After a few crazy weeks in India, it was just what I needed. Days lying on the beach, diving and riding motorbikes around the coastline and discovering the island. This, as well as tuk tuks, is the easiest way to see the island as the local buses are hard to work out and private taxis are expensive.
If you’re after a tropical stay to recharge your batteries after a full-on Indian trip, then I can’t recommend Andaman Islands enough!