Ever wondered about Andamans’ Hollywood connection? Well, you are in for a pleasant surprise as very soon it will be stars galore in beautiful Andamans. This popular tourist destination is soon to be featured in one of Hollywood’s best known directors, Oscar winner Peter Weir’s next film. This film will be shot on Havelock Island of Andamans. The movie is based on Gregory David Robert’s prize winning book Shantaram. The Andamans will, therefore, play host to Hollywood heart-throbs Johnny Depp, who is also producing the movie, Russel Crowe and Emma Watson.
The pull that this breathtakingly beautiful Islands of Andaman has over tourists and now even the film-makers is not at all surprising since this popular holiday destination is exotic, un-spoilt and just the right place to go if you want to take a break from the humdrum of daily life.
We all know beaches of Andaman are awesome, but that is not all. The history of the tribes, the settlers who migrated years ago, the Jurassic era kind of forests and not to forget the clear blue waters, Andaman is a tourists’ paradise. Andamans has the most welcoming climate in winter, making it a perfect holiday destination. One can say that you fall in love with it at first sight – the clear shimmering stretch of water, boasting every hue of blue ever seen, washing over pure white sand.
Located around 50 km away from Port Blair is Havelock Island. A trip to Havelock is the most interesting experience of all. The excitement starts with the three-hour journey by ship. The cruise offers a panoramic view of the sea and the South Andamans. Observing the enchanting cloud patterns and the sunset and sunrise with the backdrop of the ocean is really a memorable experience and is a must watch for nature lovers. Havelock Island has a lovely beach with clear turquoise water and golden sand called Radhanagar beach. Keep your cameras ready if you want to click the tribals residing in this region as you may be able to spot some of them during this journey. The Andamans is one of the last few regions in the world that still has a few indigenous tribal population left, even fewer of which are still cannibals, while the rest have mixed now with growing tourism, getting used to gifts, food and a little money that tourists offer.
Havelock Island has a relaxing air and is truly exquisite. It is also one of only two spots in the country where you can snorkel and scuba dive in clear waters with lots of corals. The other being the Lakshadweep Islands. These Corals are rare because they require some peculiar environmental conditions to thrive, like a particular temperature and depth of water. For those uncomfortable swimming, these wonderful islands have made a provision of glass floored boats. It’s a unique experience, getting up, close and personal with the coral formations, viewing them through a glass bottomed boat specially designed for that particular purpose. Gliding above the beautiful corals, as the guide speaks about the corals and the fish that swim by, would make you feel like you are a part of one of those exotic documentaries one sees on Nat Geo or Discovery. But scuba diving is highly recommended.
Ross Island, which is located at a 20 minute boat ride from Port Blair, is breath-taking. Ross Island was the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands during the British Raj and today is maintained by the Navy due to its strategic importance. This place is teeming with wildlife, especially deer and peacocks, which surprisingly do not show any fear for humans. In fact, one can actually feed them and take pictures with them. Ross Island has a beautiful, untouched virgin beach-Ferar beach where you can sit down on the rocks and enjoy the white sand, with the waves lapping at your feet.
The other experience to highlight the trip is at Kala Pani. You get suddenly transported from an exotic world to one from the dark ages. It is so ironic that the place that boasts about such exquisite beauty, holds the murkiest history of all. The cellular jail of Kala Pani, is probably the most heart-breaking historic monument that you would ever visit. A jail meant for the political and dangerous prisoners, Kala Pani had obviously witnessed several tortures and deaths. Located right in the middle of a deep jungle and rocky water body on one side, Kala Pani somehow feels like a part of some other world all together. Though on the same island, you just can’t connect the cellular jail, to the picture-perfect Port Blair that you instantly fall in love with. Sevens wings with one central watch tower, tortuously tiny cells, minimum light, torture chambers and an exhibition wing, with pictures of freedom fighters who were imprisoned here. This jail could hold tornadoes like Sukh Dev, Rajguru, Batukeshwar Dutt, Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Verma, Jaidev Kapoor and Veer Savarkar. The place has a feeling of being in a time warp, like Kala Pani stood still while the world moved on. The real magnitude of the place hits you during the light and sound show, excellently narrated by Naseeruddin Shah. Till then all of it still seems like a chapter from the history book, a story, not reality. The silver lining about Kala Pani was many prisoners that were freed after independence chose to stay right there, making the Andamans predominately a Bengali speaking region with many restaurants that serve excellent Bengali cuisine.
Apart from these major tourist attractions, there is much more in Andamans that you can explore. Museums like Samudrika, the Anthropological museum, National Memorial and the Fisheries museum are worth your time too for a quick tour of some of the rare and beautiful display of corals, sea pearls, rare species of fish, fossils and photographs of rarely spotted tribal groups on Andamans. It can turn out to be a perfect place to sum up your trip. Being able to capture the corals in your camera without the need to do underwater photography is priceless. These places are also perfect to pick up your souvenirs – pearl or coral jewellery, tribal art, paintings, under water photographs and so much more to select from.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands can pose a stiff competition to exotic foreign locales like Maldives and Hawaii. Extremely scenic and rich with history, Andamans is still quite virgin and definitely worth a visit. Quoting Mark Twain “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”