Plan your trip to North Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands - The Andaman Odyssey
Most tourists know Andamans for Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep) and Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep); and of course Port Blair (because that's where their flight lands). But, there's a lot more to Andaman Islands that meets the eye. Port Blair is just a tiny part of South Andaman Island. The North Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands still remain unexplored. In this article, we give you a detailed guide on North Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands. By the end of this, you will understand the geography of the Andaman Islands, a brief on places to visit in North and Middle Andaman, the best time to visit and the ethnic tribes you will get to meet there. Happy reading!
Read our other articles of the series 'The Andaman Odyssey', by clicking on the below image or text:
Geography of Andaman Islands:
The Great Andaman Island is divided into 3 main parts:
North Andaman (Diglipur)
You will be able to get a good idea by looking at the map in the image below.
The North Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands are separated from the South Andaman Island by narrow creeks. The Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) connects all these 3 islands. However, one is required to board ferries to get to one island from the other while driving on the Andaman Trunk Road. These ferries that cross the creeks are operated by the government and can accommodate passengers along with large and small vehicles.
The Andaman Islands were formed around 150 million years ago when there was a collision between the two continents named Laurasia and Gondwana. This led to the formation of the Himalayas. It is believed that the Andaman Islands are a part of the Himalayas. The Himalayan ranges in India extend from the north of the country to the east and further stretches out to Myanmar. These Himalayan ranges then get submerged in the Bay of Bengal and again emerge back from the Sea as Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Best time to visit the North and Middle Andaman Islands:
The best time to visit the North and Middle Andaman Islands is from October to March. The weather is pleasant during these months and is ideal for sightseeing, water sport activities and beach excursions. It starts becoming hotter from March and April. May to June is the peak summertime, and though the weather is hot and humid, it is probably the peak season due to children’s summer vacations in India. Monsoon may start from end of June and visiting the Andaman Islands is definitely not recommended in the peak monsoon months from July to September because of high tidal waves, incessant rainfall and strong winds.
How to reach North Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands:
North and Middle Andaman can be reached by sea using ferries and by road using buses and hiring a private car. The cheapest way would be government ferry or government buses. However the most comfortable way would be hiring a private car. Also a private car would enable you to move around much more flexibly and cover various interesting places on the way. Here are further details on these -
Reaching North and Middle Andaman by road:
As mentioned earlier, Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) connects South Andaman to Middle Andaman and North Andaman Islands. The base to reach any place in Andamans is via Port Blair, a part of South Andaman Island. You can reach Port Blair through flights. You connect to the ATR from Port Blair. However, the drive on the ATR isn’t smooth as silk. Firstly, the roads are extremely muddy. So, you cannot even think of rolling down the vehicle windows to enjoy a cool breeze. And secondly, the route is rough, irregular, bumpy and rugged, except for some good stretches.
Apart from that, you cannot just leave Port Blair at your own time or drive at your own pace when travelling to the North and Middle Andaman Islands. The ATR passes through Jarawa Tribal Reserve, a safe habitat for the endangered and indigenous tribe. From Port Blair, you will have to drive roughly 40 kilometers to Jirkatang Check Post. This is the place from where the Jarawa Tribal Reserve starts.
All vehicles assemble in a queue at Jirkatang Check Post which has specified opening timings (6:00 AM – 6:30 AM, 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM and 2:30 PM to 3:00 PM). You can pass this reserve only during these timings. The entire long convoy of vehicles is preceded and succeeded by police and forest department vans for 50 kilometers till the Middle Strait near Baratang. If you want to catch the first convoy at 6:00 AM, you will have to start from Port Blair at least by 4:00 AM.
Once at the Middle Strait, you will have to load your vehicle on a government ferry to reach the other side, i.e. Baratang (Middle Andaman). This same process of loading and off-loading the vehicle into a ferry has to be repeated at Kadamtala (Middle Andaman). All the vehicles on ATR take the following route: Port Blair – Baratang Island – Rangat – Mayabunder – Diglipur.
To reach North and Middle Andaman Islands, you can either hop in a government bus or buy a private Volvo bus ticket. It would take you 12 hours to reach Diglipur (North Andaman) from Port Blair. The government buses are Non-AC; they run non-stop without any pitstops except the ferry boarding points and can be boarded from Aberdeen bus stand in Port Blair. The private buses are both AC and Non-AC, the tickets to which can be bought from Port Blair town. These have multiple pick-up points within the town of Port Blair, and you can choose one as per your convenience. The buses start as early as 4:00 AM from Aberdeen bus depot in Port Blair.
According to us, if you want to travel by road, hiring a private cab from Port Blair is the most sensible option. The cab will be accompanied by an experienced driver who will suggest good places to eat and places to visit on the way. The cab services are available from Port Blair, and the driver will remain at your disposal till you return Port Blair. Although hiring a cab is expensive, it is the best option if you have a fixed date schedule. During our visit, we found several parts of the road under construction. Our driver informed us that once the roads are smooth, per day driver and cab cost will come down, which is good news!
Reaching North and Middle Andaman by Sea:
A potential alternative to the journey on the Andaman Trunk Road is the old sea route. Direct ship services (government as well as private) are available on fixed days in a week to reach the North and Middle Andaman Islands. Sailing by sea is a cheaper way to reach the North and Middle Andaman Islands.
Makruzz, the best private cruise player in the Andaman Islands, operates daily ships from Haddo Jetty near Chatham in Port Blair to Nilambur Jetty in Baratang and vice versa. The sea journey from Port Blair to Baratang Island takes about 2-2.5 hours, and the tickets can be booked online or purchased offline from Makruzz’s office in Port Blair. From Baratang, you can either opt to hire a private vehicle or take a government bus to explore the further northern areas of the Middle and North Andamans. Makruzz doesn’t yet offer its cruise services to Rangat, Mayabunder or Diglipur. You can check the timings of the cruise to Baratang Island on their official website.
All government ferries to the Middle and North Andaman Islands start from Phoenix jetty in Port Blair. They run 4 times a week to Rangat, 2 times a week to Diglipur and 2 times a week to Mayabunder. The tickets cannot be booked online and are sold at the Directorate of Shipping Services at the Phoenix Bay jetty in Port Blair. The tickets are made available just 3 days before departure; hence you have to be in Port Blair a day or two before sailing to the North and Middle Andaman Islands. Please note that the return tickets are not issued from Port Blair. You will have to make the booking from either Rangat, Mayabunder or Diglipur jetties for your return journey.
Suggested Read: Places to visit near Port Blair
Places to visit or places of interest in North Andaman and Middle Andaman Islands:
Planning a trip to North and Middle Andaman wasn’t easy as very little is known about these islands and very few tourists visit it. Even very little is documented about these Islands, from a tourism perspective, on the internet. The places to visit in North Andaman and Middle Andaman are hence unexplored, offbeat, raw and pristine. Here’s a list of places that you must not miss out on visiting when you are on a trip to the North and Middle Andaman Islands:
1. Diglipur (North Andaman)
Diglipur is known for the twin islands - Ross and Smith, which are separated by a pristine white sandbar. Tourists also flock Diglipur to visit the Kalipur beach and Lamiya Bay beach, famous for the turtle nesting. From Kalipur beach, you can snorkel to Craggy Island during low tide. You will get to see lots of colorful fish and corals while snorkeling.
Diglipur is also famous for the highest peak of Andaman Island, the Saddle Peak. A slight detour from the Andaman Trunk Road while driving towards Diglipur, will take you to the secluded Ramnagar beach. Alfred Caves, located on the same route, is a limestone cave that is another decent place you can visit in Diglipur. Shyamnagar, about 25 kilometres far from the town, is famous for the active mud volcanoes.
2. Mayabunder (Middle Andaman)
Karmatang beach and Rampur beach are the most sought-after sightseeing places in Mayabunder. Karmatang is also a nesting ground for turtles. Apart from the beach, Avis Island and Interview Island, the tiny uninhabited islands located near the town of Mayabunder, can be visited after procuring special permission from the Forest Department.
Other places of interest in Mayabunder are the Forest Museum, Driftwood Museum and German Jetty. While in Mayabunder, you should also check out Webi village known for a large population of Karen tribe, a lesser-known community who were brought into Andamans from Myanmar by the British. They have their own Karen Craft center in the town, which is a must-visit for buying locally made handicrafts.
3. Rangat (Middle Andaman)
Rangat is known for its beaches. The Amkunj beach and the Morice Dera beach lie right on the Andaman Trunk Road and are amongst must-visits in Rangat. Dhaninallah mangrove walk, a kilometer walk on a wooden bridge surrounded by varieties of mangroves, leads you to the pristine Dhaninallah beach, famous for turtle nesting - another must-visit.
A mangrove view watchtower is also erected near Yerrata Jetty in the main Rangat town. Cuthbert Bay beach in Rangat is popular for mass turtle nesting. Panchvati Hills and waterfalls is another attraction that is located towards the outskirts of Rangat. From Rangat, you can also plan a trip to Guitar Island, North Passage Island and Long Island, which is famous for its sandy beaches like Lalaji Bay beach and Merk Bay beach.
4. Baratang (South Andaman)
Baratang is famous for its limestone caves and dense mangrove creeks. You can also get to see active mud volcanoes in Baratang. From Baratang, you can visit Parrot Island, an uninhabited island, which is a site for spotting thousands of parakeets and birds of other species. On your way to Baratang from Port Blair, you can also get a chance to sight the rare Jarawa tribes while driving through the Jarawa Reserve forest on the Andaman Trunk Road.
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We hope you found this article useful and are now confident in planning your North and Middle Andaman Islands trip. In upcoming articles, we will write in detail about all the places to visit in the North and Middle Andaman Islands, along with specifics on how to reach each location. So, stay tuned! Drop your thoughts in the comment section below.