Friday, 8 March 2013

An Island called Neil

In my post about a vacation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, I had mentioned that my favorite place was the quaint little island Neil and that it deserves a long post of its own. So here it is.

We spent about 2 days and 2 nights on this island. And I could have spent a week there! We took an early morning ferry at 6:30 AM from Port Blair and reached at around 9:00 AM. The short cruise was a wonderful experience. The blue sea, fresh breeze, the early morning sun and glimpses of islands along the I need to say more? We had packed some breakfast that we had on the ferry. We didn't want to waste time finding a place to eat after reaching. 

Our ferry leaving behind a trail of white surf

When there was the "Land ahead" murmur among our co-passengers, I turned around - only to be struck by the beauty of what I saw. A piece of the island jutting into the sea with a cluster of tall trees. It looked out of this world. I don't yet own a high end camera so what I captured was nothing compared to what I saw.

First glimpse of Neil. That's the sunset point.

Can't wait to land here

People waiting at the jetty to board the ferry

We stayed on Neil for 2 and half days and were longing for more. The place we stayed at was the most advertised resort - Tango resort. It's not one of those luxurious resorts run by some big hotels group. But it was clean and comfortable with the staff trying their best to help us. Its run by a group of enterprising locals. It has standard rooms and log huts. We stayed in a log hut facing the beach.

The sea front near the Tango resort was beautiful too though not much of a beach.

Beach in front of our cottage

Sunset near the resort 

Nature patterns on corals

 There are about 5 to 6 sight seeing places listed on this island. The Bharatpur beach which is right next to the jetty, the Laxmanpur beach which is where Tango resort is located. The sunset point, the west most tip of the island, just a little walk from Tango. The natural bridge and Sitapur beach which is also the sunrise point.

The 2 and half days were more than enough to see all the places but to really experience this quaint little island I feel one should stay there for at least a week. Being a small island, with a population of only around 5000, it has such a different feel to it. And the fact that tourism is relatively new here and still very little, only makes it better. The people are wonderful. They are still nice, friendly and helpful unlike the highly commercial lot of Havelock.

You can rent a bicycle or a motorbike and go around the island on your own. Its about 5 kms at its widest point! Or you can hire a auto-rickshaw or a cab to take you around. A bicycle or motorbike would be best in my opinion. The main market is just one small stretch of road with shops and one or two small eateries. I have no idea how the food at these places would be, but the sweets were great! Having a population of 95% Bengalis, the sweets like Rasagulla, Chamcham and Mishti Doi were wonderful. My personal favorite was the Chamcham. We were told they have lots of good breed cows on the island and Neil supplies most of Port Blair's milk.

We visited the sunset point and the walk to and fro from the resort is great too.
 Waiting for the sunset

Where the sea and the sky meet

The setting sun and rising moon

We went to the Bharatpur beach multiple times. We took the glass bottom boat ride from here to look a the under sea life and the corals. We did some snorkeling off this beach too. 
The Bharatpur beach

The owner of the boat gave us the idea of  a picnic the next day to what they call 'Lonely beach' which actually is the back side of the Havelock island. We left the next morning to this mysterious Lonely beach and were blown away by the pristine sands of this lovely location. There's some great snorkeling you can do off this place as the waters are extraordinarily calm here. You can even spot a few live corals and lots of clams embedded in the rocks. There's a small strip of beach, behind which is the dense vegetation of this uninhabited part of Havelock. To one side is a small patch of mangroves and a rocky beach. You need to be very wary of mangroves and rocks as crocodiles frequent mangroves and there are some deadly Stone Fish among rocks that look exactly like rocks but sting anything that comes near them.
The place was so picturesque that each shot looked picture postcard perfect!

Each time I look at these pictures above, I wish I was a talented artist who could paint these. I even tried a hand at it. Will put it up in a separate post.

 The rocky beach and the mangroves

Transparent fish!

We even went on a Dolphin sighting trip in the same boat the next morning. We left early with a packed breakfast and were out in the open sea for around 3 hours. We did see dolphins eventually although only in brief glimpses as they swam just ahead of our boat for about 15 mins. But if you are really lucky they will swim alongside the boat and keep jumping out of the water. Though we weren't that fortunate but the trip was worth every penny. It feels so great to be out in the open sea in the early morning sun with only blue waters all around. And the boatmen took us all around a smaller uninhabited island called Small Neil. And we had the privilege of seeing the natural bridge from the sea!

The natural bridge on Neil

And soon it was time to go. I hope I'm able to go back there again....soon.

Waiting on the jetty

I'd wanted to write a series of posts covering each of the places we visited in detail. That would also give me a chance to show off more pictures :) But it's an year since our visit and I've just managed to do 2 posts!

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