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Home > Editorials > The Amazing Andamans Archipelago

The Amazing Andamans Archipelago

The amazing Andaman Islands of India is home to some of the best islands and beaches in the world, comprised of some 572 islands out of which only 36 are inhabited. The clear blue waters and white sandy beaches makes the Andamans a slice of paradise for visiting yachts.

Steeped in the amalgamation of culture and flavours of India, the islands offer a luxurious and exotic destination. Those cruising the clear waters of the Andaman Seas will find enchanting islands with miles of seclusion, drift diving over coral gardens, soft sandy beaches and pure blue waters with a temperature of 28º and cool nights with good sailing winds.

A paradise of anchorage options awaits for an adventure journey that opens onto a secret world of tropical jungles, rare lush rainforests and serene pristine beaches scattered throughout much of the islands of the archipelago.

ARRIVAL PLANNING, SOP & VISA CHANGES

“Skippers will find Thailand’s Phuket an excellent departure to cruise the 400 NM to Port Blair in India’s Bay of Bengal. And, guests & family can fly or sail down from either Phuket or Langkawi, Malaysia to the entry port / international airport of Port Blair”, remarks the Managing Director of Asia Pacific Superyachts Andaman Islands & India, Mr R Rathnam, adding: “With the pandemic slowly coming under control considerable efforts are being made towards kick-starting yacht visits. The Andamans is still open for domestic tourists only and now middle and north Andamans is also open. We hope to soon be open for International tourists.

Supporting India’s quest to encourage more international superyacht/ yacht visits, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for visiting yachts has been formulated for those seeking permission for landing/ visiting yachts. Approved by the A&N Administration and the Port Management, the SOP now has provisions for the following: Procedure on Arrival, Procedure for Acceptance and Clearance, Inter Island Cruise-Procedures, Departure Procedures and other general information required of visiting yachts. When the islands are once again welcoming international visitors the new SOP will be of keen interest and will also help support yacht participation at the international ‘Sail the Andamans” annual event.

The new e-Visa facility available at the airport at Port Blair for use by visiting yachts is another added benefit, adds Mr Rathnam: “Previously yachts must apply for visa(s) in their home country which made it difficult to visit the Andaman Islands. Once the e-Visa facility is extended it will be a great boost for yacht and cruise tourism in the Andaman Islands as the Andamans already has most of the required infrastructure – a well-developed port, fuel, water, excellent provisioning, communications and an international airport”.

“There’s been a big change in the Andaman Islands for visiting yachts as they are no longer restricted by the 30 days stay regulation. The restricted area permit (RAP) is now completely removed and foreigners may stay as long as desired, per the visa validity”, adding: “Before yachts interested in long stay had to leave the country and then return and the crew had to have a multiple entry visa if they wanted to spend more than 30 days in the Andamans. Now crew and guests may visit with a single entry visa and stay as long as they want as per the validity of the visa”.

Port Blair can be a lengthy experience requiring lots of paperwork as Customs, Immigration, Coast Guard, Harbour Master and the Forestry Department all require written requests before providing formal written approvals. Arrival and departure procedures for these needs and for visas, health and security can be professionally and efficiently handled with you by your yacht agent. Prior to arrival your agent will advise on berthing and anchoring and submit the detailed itineraries. APS noted they will also conduct the required twice daily radio check-ins to ensure authorities know where the vessel is at all times.

It may take up to a couple of days to clear in, including arranging with the Harbour Master to take on water at the commercial dock and to ensure all paperwork is completed and provisioning has been completed. The APS team can bring provisions right to your yacht from their modern and expansive provisioning facility at Port Blair.

When planning an itinerary the APS team suggests some of the following islands, sites and experiences.

PORT BLAIR

While the numerous procedures and paperwork are completed with the guidance of your experienced agent, visitors can enjoy unique sites and wonderful activities in and around Port Blair, steeped in British tradition and holding many delights for visitors.

Port Blair is the capital of this union territory and well connected to mainland India with Kolkata in the East of India and Chennai in the south of India serving as primary gateways. Surrounded by tropical forest and rugged coastline, the Andamans’ lively provincial capital is a vibrant mix of Indian Ocean inhabitants – Bengalis, Tamils, Telugus, Nicobarese and Myanmarese.

The port town’s fascinating history warrants exploration, such as the unique ‘Cellular Jail’, the colonial prison (Kālā Pānī), where most freedom fighters were shipped to before India’s independence. There is an informative light show in the evening and the tour of the jail itself is quite fascinating. There’s also some enticing day trips, such as to Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park and Chidiya Tapu.

ISLAND EXPLORING                                                       

A major challenge when visiting a new wilderness destination is knowing where to go, where to anchor and what to see. An Andaman Islands itinerary might consist of any of the following island – Long Island, Inglis Island, Rutland Island, Ross Island, Tarmugli Island, Inglis Island, Cinque Islands, North Sentinel Island, Neill Island, Kyd Island, Havelock Island, John Lawrence Island, Henry Lawrence Island, Outram Island, North Passage Island and Barren Island.

From the vessel or on land, you can explore the Barren Island volcano, the only confirmed active volcano in South Asia. This volcano may be at least 1.8 million years old according to a group of scientists at Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory and the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay.

When the monsoon season is over the scuba diving season starts with waters turning calm, clear and flat. Yachts can head north or south from the capital, viewing stunning islands along the way with the best anchorages easily reachable. 

Havelock Islands

February and March are the best months to explore the exhilarating marine life, Mr. Rathnam reports: “If you are a scuba enthusiast, choose a time to visit between February and March for heading north to visit Havelock Islands.  You can be assured of excellent and exhilarating views of under-sea marine life – thanks to a flat and smooth sea with no wind and near-perfect visibility”.

Havelock Islands not only offers some stunning beaches, it also has some of the top diving destinations in the country. It is an excellent place to learn deep-sea diving so that you can explore the underwater marvels. This is one of the few places where inexperienced divers can try out a single dive instead of signing up for a full course. The water is teeming with tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays and much more, with a healthy population of colourful live corals.  Another option is a kayaking expedition through the mangroves or a bike or cycle hire.

Havelock Beach Number 7 the busiest.  Radhanagar beach is flanked by the ocean on one side and lush rainforest on the other. This west-facing beach is ideal for catching the sunset. You can also walk down to Neil’s Cove, a secluded spot perfect for sunbathing and a spot for swimming in shallow water.

Elephant beach may not be easy to get to, but the beauty of the place more than makes up for the effort. The beach features some bleached driftwood and logs that provide an excellent backdrop for a photo-op and an ideal place for snorkelling. Vijaynagar beach is where the buzz is. This is where most of the restaurants, hotels and snorkelling centres are situated. The beach faces east and is, therefore, a great place to catch the sunrise.

More isolated islands

Exciting and adventuresome island cruising for superyachts accessible only by boat include islands with the unlikely names of Inglis, Sister, Passage, Brother, Barren, Narcondum, Little Andaman, Interview, Neil, Cinque, Henry Lawrence and Button.

Most superyachts head on to more isolated islands, offering stunning marine scenery and experiences.  Through the Diligent Strait, Peel Island and Henry Lawrence Island offer secluded anchorages for snorkeling and interesting coastal outcrops to explore.

CLIMATE & WEATHER

The Andamans climate and weather may be described as normal for tropical islands of similar latitude. It is always warm but tempered by pleasant sea breezes and can be very hot when the sun is northing. The rainfall is irregular but usually dry during the north-east, and very wet during the south-west monsoon.

The peak time to visit is between December and March. Once the festival of Sankranti ends around January 15th the weather turns warm. With no rain-bearing clouds and no winds to stir up the sea, the clear blue skies and serene cool seas can be enjoyed while cruising and anchoring.

Looking at a broader time range, October till mid-June is the best season for visitors in general to visit with October being the start of season every year. The heavy southwest monsoon showers are over by September.

Mr Rathnam says, “The entire area looks decked up in fresh greenery after the rain and each of the islands looks pretty, beautiful and ready to welcome the festival season. The weather remains temperate thanks to the intermittent rains. Happy with rain-assured bountiful crops, the local people get ready to celebrate the festival season and welcome visitors”.

Due to the Northwest monsoon, moisture laden breeze and intermittent rains keep the temperature pleasantly cool throughout November, December and January while enjoying the mild sun during the day with evenings a little cooler.

Generally there are fewer tourists visiting Andaman Islands during June, July and August, notes Mr Rathnam: “As a matter of fact, this is one of the best times and season to enjoy the bountiful showers from the monsoon. The rain-drenched highlights of the Islands, its pristine coastline and the abundant green cover will surely captivate you. They are monsoon’s best gifts to Andaman Islands.”

An incredible journey awaits those wanting to experience a different world. To learn more about cruising in the Andamans email Rathnam@asia-pacific-superyachts.com  visit www.asia-pacific-superyachts.com/andamans