Beach vacation in Andaman (part 1)

Beach vacation

Today’s post is about our unusual, low-budget, off-season, beach vacation. We had a beach vacation in Andaman islands for 7 nights and 8 days. We stayed in Port Blair and Havelock island, had an introductory scuba diving session in Havelock.

Sounds interesting? Keep reading and you will like it more.

Please note that this is not a travel/tour guide.
I want to share my travel experience in Andaman with some background information we have collected before and during our holidays.

Please do your own research too if you want a dive in Andaman☺.

(P.S. H is my husband. D is my daughter.)

Procrastination

An unusually warm late-winter morning

“Since when spring was this dry and hot? Let’s do something cool. How about taking swimming classes?” I asked H one day.
H said, “I already know swimming. You go with D.”
I said, “She is too young isn’t she?”
He said, “Old enough to float.”
“Ok let’s see.”

An abnormally hot spring noon

“It’s hot, hot, hot, so hot,” grumbled H.
“Keep saying it, might make the temperature go down,” I offered.
“Let’s take a vacation. M has a summer vacation coming up”, H suggested.
“OK, where?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“Let’s talk when the holiday starts.”

An unbearable summer night

“No power, so hot, I don’t want to stay in Bangalore anymore,” we complained to each other.
“Let’s go somewhere,” I suggested.
“Where?” asked H.
“Hethaa noy hethaa noy anyo kotha, anyo konokhaney (not here not here, some other place, somewhere else),” said I.
“You are losing it,” mumbled H.
“How about Manali?” he suggested.

Next morning, we poured into our laptops, travel magazines and tour guides (yep, we have a shelf full of those) scouring through pages describing hill stations in India.

Nothing worked out. Some were too expensive due to the peak season that is summer, rest were too difficult for a family with a 3-year-old.

We wanted some place to relax, and relaxation meant different things for us. We had narrowed down to two categories after many rounds of arguments and counterarguments.

The thought of a dip in the warm blue sea or a trek in the cool mountains of the mighty Himalayas were equally enticing. However, snow-capped mountains in May were out-of-question.

Choosing destination

H had a particularly long week at work. He was dog tired by the weekend. Spread-eagled on the bed with his eyes closed, H sighed, “I wish I had a summer vacation.”

“Who is stopping you?” I retorted, busy ordering grocery online. I was in a grumpy mood that day. D had been particularly naughty.

With a sly smile, H sat up, leaned in and whispered in my ears, “Want to go scuba diving?”
“That is the most romantic proposition you have made to me ever!” I happily cried.

I closed the grocery page and jumped off the bed, took out all the books on beach holidays and underwater activities, from our bookcase. By then, H was looking for online lessons on scuba diving.

In an hour, we pinpointed on Andaman. The pictures of deep blue or sparkling green sea in Havelock and Neil were so alluring. I started searching for hotels and resorts while he searched for Andaman guides.

Beach vacation planning and research

Due to budget constraint, we had decided to see only Havelock and Port Blair. We will go again, for Neil and North Andaman, later in an autumn month of some year.

Places to stay in Andaman

Next day, we booked a bed and breakfast called Chaukhat in Port Blair and Island Vinnies Tropical Cabana. The booking process was quite simple for both places.

We selected our places of stay from reviews posted in Trip advisor. We had also searched the official website of Andaman government for a list of approved places. We googled the names to cross-check with reviews in other websites like HolidayIQ.

Our criteria for choosing Chaukhat was comfort, proximity to the airport and homemade food. We traveled with a 3-year-old so we had to find a place with kitchen access.

We selected Island Vinnies Tropical Cabana because the overall cost of diving+stay+food was less than the other options in Havelock. Did I mention that Havelock is the best place for diving, in India? Why? We will get there soon (next post).

Things to remember in Andaman

Andaman cannot boast of good internet connectivity. So online booking requests and confirmations take time. However, the people are very polite and friendly so you can call and confirm as many times as you want (within reason of course).

Please check the official website of Andaman government thoroughly. Especially, try to memorize the do’s and don’t’s. Andaman islands run on a different set of rules compared to the mainland. If you are not an Indian citizen, you have to carry restricted area permit.

Suggested reads

A word of advice, please read the reviews of hotels, tourist spots, and services carefully. Quite often, the individual websites are not very clear with the rules and regulations. The reviews from other travelers can be of immense help in planning and understanding a new place. You often get tips on new spots, the best time to visit them and things that you ned to carry or you can expect to be available there. Trip advisor is the bible of travelers for a reason.

We followed Andaman tourism website, outlook traveler, and lonely planet guides besides the very detailed website of Island Vinnie’s Tropical Cabana that gave us basic but important information like weather, diving seasons, clothing and transportation ideas.

What to pack for Andaman trip

We bought a backpack, a suitcase, read Scuba diving instructions, took prints of Andaman guide materials and were good to go by the second Saturday of May.

Andaman in May

The seasons in Andaman are same as the mainland. The climate is exactly like Kolkata in May. I have the first-hand experience of hot and humid summer of both places so trust me with that. The heat is scorching in the land with high humidity. On the bright side, an island summer offers a soothing breeze throughout the day.

What clothes to pack for a beach vacation

Clothing must be light, loose-fitting cotton summary and do not by any chance forget a hat and sunglasses. Try packing full-length clothes to minimize exposure of arms and legs in the sun.
We packed swimsuits, wrinkle-free cotton cargo trousers, and shorts, light shirts, and dresses.
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The sand is piping hot in May so wear open shoes/beach slippers for comfort and safety.

What to bring to the beach for a day

Beach bag, beach toys (if you are traveling with kids or like to make sand castles like I do ☺),beach umbrella (hotels might offer one) etc.sand-751017_640

Sunscreen lotion is a must. We were heavily tanned in spite of it so keep applying a coating every few hours. Carry soft face towels (wet wipes are of no use in the humidity, leaves your skin awfully dry after a few uses) and bottles of water. You get filtered water for free in all the decent hotels/restaurants). The water in Andaman has good taste (you will know once you taste it).

We carried a dozen of face towels, a couple of thin, soft bath towels we used as beach towels(the ones provided by hotels are not enough due to the sand).

I never go on a beach vacation without my medicine box. Basic first aid kit includes antiseptic lotion, a roll of cotton bandage, cotton balls, Dettol/Savlon, scissors (not in the cabin luggage ☺), paracetamol, migraine medication, anti-diarrheal, anti-histamines and some band-aid for the kiddo. Carry some around if you plan a day long trip of trekking and beach hiking.first-aid-908591_640

Sunscreen lotion/cream, sunglasses, hats and long loose cotton scarves are a must. Some websites also suggest anti-tan lotion or after-sun creams. Please do your research according to your skin types.

Here is a checklist for reference.

There are sand-flies that mostly come out in the evening. jellyfish-15066_640The curious and shy crabs peep out of their hole every few minutes to check on their new visitors. In some beaches e.g. Vijaynagar, parts of dead jellyfish can float in the water near the shore. Be careful. We saw some unsuspecting swimmers suffering from an allergic reaction (rashes). The local people attributed it to the jellyfish carcasses.

The peak season ends in May, why we could manage a budget travel. After all, what do we all want from a beach vacation? Enjoy the sea, right? The water was perfectly warm and an inviting mass of goodness. Can you imagine the Cheshire cat grin on my face now?

Next post: The trip

So what say you?