Adieu Andaman..

Day 11:

I woke up around 5 AM in the morning and went out for a walk along the shore and sat there to see the sunrise. It was as if the sea has retreated from there and I could see the rocks for a long distance; it’s a low tide and the sun started coming up from the horizon. The sea and the beautiful sun of a pleasant morning.. a perfect combo!

We got ready, had our breakfast and headed back to the jetty where our speed boat was waiting for us to take us back to Port Blair. We bid an adieu to Havelock, one of the most beautiful places. Back to Port Blair by afternoon and it’s time to pack our bags. We packed our luggage and in the evening our aunt wanted us to visit the Rajasthan temple nearby and seek blessings. So, we went to the temple which is located on a hillock and quiet.

We prayed for a while and were back home. Nothing much to do for the rest of the day! We spent watching the TV and retired to our beds.

 

Day 12:

Our beautiful journey in these beautiful islands came to an end. With a heavy heart we bid and adieu to Uncle, aunt, Swati and Sahil 😦 . Swati and Sahil accompanied us to the airport. And we took our flight back to Kolkata from where we would head to our respective places.

What I felt is that Andaman and Nicobar islands are yet to be explored fully. Many of us think of only Maldives and Mauritius when it comes to splendid beaches and luxurious resorts, but we don’t think of the hidden beauty of these islands which are our very own. And am lucky that I didn’t miss a chance of exploring this beautiful treasure!

Bye-bye Andamans.. Will be soon back again as my expedition is not yet done :-p . This time I would be covering the other treasures Neil Island, Viper Island, Jolley Bouy, Parrot Island and if possible the Car Nicobar too.

Thanks to all my dear friends who joined me on this voyage and made it more memorable 🙂 🙂

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Beach No. 7 and The Barefoot..

Day 10:

Time to go to another beach which is once rated as the No. 1 beach in Asia by the Time magazine! Radhanagar beach, also known as Beach No. 7 in the Havelock Island, is the largest of the islands which comprise Ritchie’s Archipelago, a chain of islands to the east of Great Andaman in the Andaman Islands. It is on the south coast of Havelock Island is a beach of outstanding quality. It was pretty crowded by the time we reached.

At Radhanagar Beach, we got no time to breathe as we got soaked in the natural beauty. Not only does Radhanagar beach casted a spell over with emerald and indigo colors of the sea and soft powdery white sand, it transported us to a different world no sooner do we set foot there. The beach is flat and of a low gradient it continues for almost some 100 metres from the shore. Ideal place to play and swim! This beach is also famous for undersea activities and almost all the resorts in Havelock throws packages for the tourists.

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This one is also perfect for lazy ones like me who just wants to sit, read a book and pass the time 🙂 One can just sit at the seaside and plunge oneself in the serene beauty all around; swaying palms, forests with branches swooping down intermittently to kiss the warm water, sea shells punctuating the white stretch of sand a few noisy sea-birds competing with parakeets. And not this alone, hills spring up at a distance – the sight better than any on a painter’s canvas.

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Radhanagar beach has got good changing rooms and they were clean too. Time for our lunch; we had our lunch at a resort, where the food is ok-ok. Went back to our dolphin resort, loitered around the shore and took small naps before we set out for the next activity. The important thing is one should not miss the sunset at Havelock island and the best place to watch the sun set is the Island jetty. The beauty of the sky and the sea is unparalleled.

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We took a walk along the roads of this beautiful island. There are lots of coffee corners, excellent seafood to gorge on and several local garment and trinket shops and Sahil and I brought some bright colored beach T-Shirts, while Harsha and Mounica settled out for some accessories 😉 . We had our dinner at the Barefoot resort, which is one of the best resorts in the island and probably the most known thing about this resort is the elephant ride in the sea-waters provided by them.

The food is great over here and the ambiance is simply awesome. The tree huts and restaurant with dim lights and the wide range of cuisines are amazing. We walked back to our resort and called it a day 🙂 🙂

Havelock – A Natural Paradise of White beaches

Day 10:

The debate started in this way.. Should we go on the “Makruzz” – the oldest catamaran or should we hire a speedboat. Havelock Island is around 30 kms from Port Blair and a lot of catamarans operate in between the two islands throughout the day. It takes around an hour-and-a-half to reach the jetty at Havelock. But we didn’t choose the catamaran as few of our friends have sea-sickness and we were not ready to spoil our plans.

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Uncle hired us a speed-boat and we set off to Havelock from the Phoenix Bay Jetty around 5.30 AM in the morning and reached the Havelock Island at 6.15 or 6.30. The ride was pretty good and we got a chance of watching some flying fishes and dolphins almost in mid-way. We tried our hands at steering wheel of the speed-boat on the rough sea at the early hours also 🙂

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We booked our rooms at the Doplhin Resort which is government-owned and well-maintained. We checked-in, had our complimentary breakfast and rushed back to the Havelock Jetty. As we slipped into our speed-boat, it coughed to life and in 10 minutes we were at a white-sand beach where the sea appeared like endless shimmering blue delicate chiffon laced with sparking white forth.

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The beach covered with tropical forests is calm and there were not many visitors in the early hours or by the time we reached. It was almost as if I had landed in a beach which just seemed like Maldives or Mauritius, but it is India, my own India. The blue waters which just looks like reflecting the mirror image of the blue sky was breathtaking.

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The Elephanta Beach offers a wide-variety of underwater activities like snorkeling; glass-bottomed boat rides to watch corals and especially scuba-diving. We have come with our own snorkeling gear and were out into the waters to snorkel, while my uncle and his brother were swimming and my aunt was watching us sitting under the tree shade sipping the fresh coconut water sold by a vendor over the beach.

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I don’t know whether the North Bay water were not that clear or is it just my snorkeling gear that was not clear, my snorkeling experience was way low when compared with that of the Elephanta. I saw few oysters opening up and closing down, colonies of colorful corals, groups of fishes and a sea snake too. Lucky me :-p . As my aunt and uncle missed this snorkeling part, we went on a ride on one of the glass-bottomed boats to watch the colourful corals once again and I tell you no matter how many times we see those, we won’t be bored 🙂 We ended up taking hundreds of photographs on the beach, in the water and on the trees 😀 😀 . After enough of snorkeling and swimming, it was time for us to wrap up and head towards another beautiful beach, not perhaps only of Havelock, but of the world too.

Stay tuned to see what happened in the second half of the day 😉 🙂

Exploring Port Blair..

Day 9:

There is no plan of going out of Port Blair today. All of us were tired of our continuous travel and activities. All were like it’s time to sit back home and relax for sometime. It’s a lazy day; I woke up around 8 in the morning whereas few of my other friends only by 9. As there was nothing much to do, we (the ones who woke up early) thought of visiting the Radha Govinda temple which is just behind our uncle’s place. The temple is a simple contemporary one without much architecture, but it’s serene. We prayed for a while and walked back home.

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While some of my friends went for a body message, few of us stayed back home and watched TV. It was around 3 PM we left home and reached the water sports complex to go out for a jet ski. The Jet ski experience here is different from that of Goa. While in Goa, they give you the ski to drive on yourself, in Port Blair a person will ride the Jet Ski while we sit back. The drive is from Port Blair to Ross Island and back. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling ride 🙂

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Once we were done with it, we loitered around the beach and tried our hand at fishing. While Sahil and I were trying our hands at fishing and didn’t catch a single one, I was startled to see a Nicobarese who came later than us and walked away before us with good number of fishes in his basket. It was then I learnt that the Nicobarese are very good at fishing 🙂

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It was around 4.30 PM when we reached Gandhi Park which is located at the centre of Port Blair. Built around the Diltaman tank, the park provides amusement rides, the nature trail around the lake and boating. We went on boating for a while, and then ended up playing see-saw and swinging cradles and fighting over them. Funny, isn’t it? 😉

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There were various food stalls outside the park and how can we miss the pani-puris? Again there was a competition about the highest number of pani-puris one can eat. Not only this, in Port Blair, we can experience a wide variety of seafood dishes from all over the world and also dishes from North and South of India to Thai and Burmese specialties.

Later we went on for shopping. There are a plenty of shacks on the beaches and the beach markets to buy some souvenirs and get them back home along with you. From there, we went on to the Aberdeen market to buy some pearl jewelery as well as accessories made of corals, donno whether they are the originals. It was around this time when we came to know that our final year results were out and we became engineers 🙂 🙂

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By the time we reached home, aunt asked us to refresh ourselves quick and come down to the dining hall. When once we were there, she gave us a surprise with a cake and celebrated our graduation day 🙂 Later uncle joined and congratulated us.  We had our dinner and went to bed early as we need to make out early tomorrow 🙂

On our way back..

Day 8:

Time to leave! We have seen a lot in the last two days. Now, it’s time for us to go home. We got ready, had our breakfast and dumped our bags into the Tavera and started off. The order of the positions in the Tavera didn’t change today too. Though we have to cover 300 kms today, we won’t be taking that much of time as there are no more halts on our way back. Though we wanted to visit the Mud volcanoes, we couldn’t make it out!

Most of us passed away just after moments we had started, probably because of our tiredness. It was only at the checkpost of Rangat wherein which we have to get our passes to pass the jarawa belt did we wake up to stretch our legs. Lol! We were into the afternoon convoy, I think the last but one. Today it was more exciting, as we came across not one or two Jarawas but a bunch of them over different activities.

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We saw few kids playing on the roads, while the adults watching them carefully, few were out on fishing at a small stream which is passing through their territory, while some are sitting ideally. Sometimes they tried stopping our vehicle and when we asked our aunt why they were doing so, she told us few things like the tourists feeding them with the junk which they carry while passing through this belt, sometimes trying to speak with them and all.

There were incidents in which few of the Jarawas died as they were not used to salt in the food that was offered by the tourists. That was the saddest thing I have ever heard. Also aunt told us about the Sentinalese tribe, yet another most isolated tribe on the earth living in some of the remotest islands of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago and many more stories of these beautiful islands.

It was almost evening by the time we reached Port Blair. On the way to our home, we dropped at the Aberdeen Bazaar; while aunt bought some fresh vegetables, we quickly explored the bazaar and returned home.

We called it a day just after 8 pm 🙂

The Sand Bar..

Day 7:

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After a long and tiring journey the other day, we retired to bed a bit early and slept like hard rocks. The resort which is government-owned was comfortable enough. It was only around 6.30 we woke up just to see both our aunts ready and waiting for us to wake up and get ready for our next adventure, it’s not an adventure in the true sense though!

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What is so specific about the place which we are going to visit? Why did we come on such a tiring journey so long? Is the place which we are going to visit is worth the journey? Lots of questions swirled in my mind. We quickly refreshed, had our breakfast and rushed to the Ariel Bay Jetty in Diglipur. There is a forest office at which we got the permits to visit this island. Today it’s going to be a different experience, coz we are not going to take a speed boat which we were accustomed for the past few days but we hired a ‘Dhungi’, which means a country boat.

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Though I was so nervous at the beginning, I started to enjoy my ride in the Dhingi. It took us around 30 minutes to reach an island which is known as ‘Ross Island’. Don’t be confused with the Ross about which I wrote a few days back. This is yet another gem in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago with crystal clear water and a splendid beach. It was around 8.30 in the morning, and there were only a few tourists by the time we reached there, most of them sun bathing!

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Soon we jumped out of the Dhungi into the waters as it has to be anchored in the water itself. I noticed another island which is very near to the Ross Island separated by the sea. We thought that we can pay a visit to the other island on our dinghi when once we were done with the Ross. There are few bamboo huts, benches as well as tree-houses on the Ross and our aunts preferred to sit and relax there, while we were out into the beach. The water here is warm, crystal clear and turquoise.

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It was around 12.30 in the afternoon, when we realized how worth this tiring journey was! It was a low tide at this hour of time and a silky white sand bar surfaced up gradually and it was almost like the sea splitting up to make a way to the other island which is known as the Smith Island. It was one such wonderful sight to see the sand bar emerging which was submerged 10 feet under the water when we reached the Ross Island in the morning (high tide).

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We were out onto the sand bar heading to the Smith island and the walk lasted for 20 minutes. Smith Island is entirely different from Ross. While Ross is best for activities like Sun bathing, swimming, snorkeling and Scuba diving, Smith which is bigger in size with tropical forest and inhabited, offers nature trails for trekking and hiking. These two islands which are so different in every aspect are the same when it comes to the experience they throw to their visitors.

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Probably that’s the reason behind them being called as the “Twin islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands”.  We were back to our resort by 3 pm, had our lunch and relaxed for a while. Gone out for a walk in the evening, but didn’t find anything much interesting.. But I got few good memories to hold back throughout my life 🙂

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Ross & Smith – An experience which is beyond description 🙂  

The Final Destination..

Day 6:

Did I reveal what’s our final destination? I didn’t right.. Just few more minutes and few more lines down, you will come to know 😉

Back in our car, we made a move further north from Baratang. Our next destination is Rangat and thanks to my aunt for arranging our lunch in a government guest house there. Rangat is around 170 kms from Port Blair by road and is a large island in Middle Andaman. The population here is primarily made up of people from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

It took us around 2 hrs to reach Rangat and the PWD guest house where our lunch has been arranged almost looked like a haunted Bungalow at the first sight. But the caretakers gave us a warm welcome and served us some good food. We finished off the lunch and resumed our journey as we still have to go a long way. Didn’t get a chance of exploring this island as we don’t have that much of time. But if one has ample amount of time with them, they should definitely explore the waterfalls and the pristine beaches of this island.

We travelled for another 70 kms and reached another low-key destination in the Northern part of Middle Andaman, which is known as Mayabunder. Though this island doesn’t offer much to the tourists, it is known for its cultural eccentricity due to the presence of Bangladesh and East Pakistan settlers, ex-convicts and a Burmese hill tribe – Karen.

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Our final destination is further north and is around another 100 kms from Mayabunder. Soon we were at a creek which needs to be crossed in order to enter North Andaman from Mayabunder. Thanks to the government! In 2002 a 0.5km long bridge “Austin Bridge” was inaugurated connecting this creek. In the past, when there was no bridge, a slow ferry used to operate between the Mayabunder jetty and another small creek ‘Kalighat’ in North Andaman.

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We stopped for a while here to watch the sunset over the creek and proceeded for our final destination “Diglipur”. Our stay at Diglipur is in the Turtle Resort, which is owned by the Government. It was only by 7 pm in the evening had we reached Diglipur. Though the journey was tiring, the overall experience was too good! 🙂 🙂

The Journey continues..

Day 6:

Finally we arrived at Baratang Island, which is between the South and Middle Andaman. Baratang is known for its beautiful beaches, mangrove creeks, mud-volcanoes and the limestone caves. The Andaman Trunk Road to Rangat and Mayabunder goes through this island. It was around 9 AM in the morning and we decided to go to the limestone caves.

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There is a small jetty named Nilambur jetty from where we should get the permission from the forest officials to explore the limestone caves and an official guide can also be hired here. From the jetty, the lime stone caves are half an hour boat ride through a wide creek which leads to Nayadera Jetty. The speed boat soon came to life and we slipped into our life jackets.  The wide sea covered with mangroves on both sides of it is a picturesque scene.

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The sea way leading to the Nayadera Jetty becomes narrower and mangroves denser while approaching close to it. The boat ride through these mangroves is magnificent and is an experience in itself. But one should be cautious enough as it is said that there are frequent sightings of crocodiles here. Once out of the boat, there is a broad-way winding its way through the mangroves and opens into a small hamlet where the local people sell some eateries and nimbu-pani (Sweet lime juice) for the tourists visiting the limestone caves. A further 2 kms trek from here through the tropical forest leaves us at the massive sedimentary limestone caves.

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There is no way of light to penetrate into these caves. We are awestruck looking at their size; they were so massive and dark. Our guide carried a torch with him which was powerful enough to show us every nook and corner of the caves. This is one of those rare caves that have both stalactites and stalagmites existing in the same caves unlike popularly known fact that these can’t coexist. Lemme just give a brief about them.

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Stalagmites are the formations found on the floor of the caves, reaching upward to touch the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. And yet another interesting fact about these caves is that the lime stone structures have been formed over ages and have not been traversed or exploited in any ways. It is still one of those sites that remained untouched by humans 🙂

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There are several other interesting things about these caves. The several deposits of the layers of lime formed stones in different shapes and provides different shades to a single massive rock. These caves are like a true break from those beaches, bathing and water sports and a must visit for all the nature lovers. And especially if you are a lover of geography, don’t ever miss visiting these caves.

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There are few benches made of bamboo under thatched roofs on the way leading to these caves. One can simply sit and get lost in the wilderness of nature after finishing off the walk through these amazing structures in middle of the mangroves and tropical forests 🙂 🙂

Stay tuned.. My journey for the day isn’t completed yet 😉

Amazing journey through the Jarawa land..

Day 6:

Don’t ask me where we were going.. Coz, I too don’t know our destination 😀 . What all I know was that we need to start early (around 5 am) from Port Blair; it’s going to be a long drive and the roads might not be that good; and my aunt as well as Kiron aunt is also going to join us on this drive 🙂 .

We will be going in a Chevrolet Tavera as the group grew big 😉 . Uncle and Shivangi’s father bid a bye to us when we started our journey from the School lane. Padmaja, Swati, Mounica and I occupied the rear seats while the front was occupied by Sahil and Shivangi, middle by both my aunts and Harsha. After few minutes the destination was revealed. It’s Baratang which is 100 kms away from Port Blair.

Our first halt is Jirkatang, almost 40 kms from Port Blair. Here, we encountered a forest check post as well as a long queue of vehicles, the ones who arrived earlier than us. There are 8 convoys throughout the day (first one at 6.30 am and last one at 2.30 pm) from this check post and we were late by few minutes to catch up the earlier one. We don’t have any other choice rather than to wait!

jarawa025_article_columnAs we got down and looking around the surroundings, something drew my attention.. A board of instructions, mainly about the things which we should not do during the journey on this stretch. I couldn’t understand for a moment what I was looking at and it was then I understood that we are entering a buffer zone, the zone of Jarawas. This stretch is of around 50 kms.

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Jarawas, considered one of the most isolated people on earth, they are a hunter-gatherer tribe that has lived in the dense forests of Andaman Islands completely cut off from the outside world for thousands of years. Today, approximately 400 members of the nomadic Jarawa tribe live in groups of 40-50 people in chaddhas – as they call their homes. They hunt pig and turtle and fish with bow and arrows in the coral-fringed reefs for crabs and fish. They also gather fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey.

Soon, the gates were up and we were as excited as we could see some members of the most primitive tribal group on this earth. A forest official led our convoy through this reserve forest and there was another one at the rear end. The instructions were clear that this is a no-overtake zone and we should not halt anywhere. We were watching our surroundings keenly so that we won’t miss a chance of getting a glimpse of the Jarawas. For the first few minutes, we couldn’t see any of them except few watch-over sheds kind of things. They were simple, just 4 poles and a top which is covered with straw and dry leaves. We learnt from our driver that they sometimes sit there and watch the movements on the road.

Another few minutes passed away and there they were. A child and a mother, dark skinned, red-eyed, curly haired, the child has some sort of paste or mud applied onto his face, the mother covering her lower part with some red color strings, might be roots of some trees, I donno.. But that was one stunning moment for us. How one could be so primitive while the universe is running behind super-computers and probing living chances on some other planets?? It was a billion dollar question for me….

The other end of this Jarawa forest reserve is the Middle Strait. We have to take a vehicle ferry from here to Baratang which is like 15 mins ride.

P.S – We strictly adhered to the rules here and hence didn’t click any photographs through out the Jarawa belt. We just don’t want to create any inconvenience to those most beautiful lives on this earth. It sometimes makes me feel sad when I hear the news about the atrocities the Jarawas face from the civilized people who just care nothing but their fun factor 😦

Wandoor – The Gateway to the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

Day 5:

It’s weekend! I was up and about by 5.30 am only to find all the gals still snuggled in their blankets. I decided to be nice and let them wake up by themselves. Got downstairs to check what was going on there. My aunt was already up and the maid is helping her in the household chores. Wished her a very good morning and she was surprised to see me awake so early 😉

They both were engaged in preparing our food and all, from which I sensed that it’s going to be a big day for us. My friends took their sweet time to wake up and we all got ready. Today uncle is home, and we came to know that it’s time for a good drive down south to a place called Wandoor and he is going to join us.

Wandoor is a small village near the southern tip of South Andaman and is around 29 kms from Port Blair. It is well connected to Port Blair with a very scenic, well-paved road. There is bus service from Port Blair to Wandoor, we didn’t try though and the journey won’t be that bad I guess as the roads are in a good condition. The road journey was perfect! The route is surrounded by lush green trees of coconuts and plantations and there are many agricultural research farms of ICAR too.

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We stopped at Sippighat just to have a break from our ride and also to enjoy the scenic beauty of the place. Wandoor beach is located approx. 1 km after the marine park office. Soon we were at Wandoor beach which is picturesque; the vastness of the ocean and beautiful islands adding to its’ charm! Water is clean and the beach is quite for swimming. There are lot of natural caves, formed over decades, probably carved by fierce high tides that surround the beach.

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The beach is an ideal one to sit and relax. It is full of rocks on one side and a lot of algae on the other. Also there were many boards warning about the frequent sightings of crocodiles. There used to be a crocodile sanctuary and it got destroyed because of the Tsunami. Over a chat with the locals, we learnt that there came a lot of changes in the beach after the Tsunami.

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It was around 12.30 pm when started from there and we moved ahead of the place and found another stretch of beach which is far more serene and we settled down there for our lunch which my aunt has neatly packed. Once done with our lunch we headed back to Port Blair and stopped at Corbyn Cove’s beach, a local beach in Port Blair.

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Teeming with people and encircled by lush green coconut palms, the Corbyn’s Cove is one of the busiest beaches in the Andaman Islands. It is ideal for sea bathing and sun-basking. The restaurants in the Corbyn’s Cove Tourism Complex provide a wide variety of sea water activities and some good food. We played in the beach for some time and returned home 🙂 🙂

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Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park basically includes a group of islands around Wandoor, designated as a national park to protect the flora and fauna of that area including the marine life and coral reefs. Joully Buoy Island which is very near to Wandoor and is open only for 6 months in a year and we missed an opportunity of visiting it!

It’s going to be lot more interesting tomorrow 😉