Ritchie's Archipelago

The archipelago lies 20-40 km off the east coast of South Andaman and Baratang. Most of the islands are inhabited, but only three are open to foreign visitors: Havelock, Neil and Long Island. They are the focus of the government's tourist effort and can be reached by regular ferry service between Port Blair (Phoenix Jetty) and Rangat Bay (Nimbutala Jetty).

Havelock Island

This beautiful island with pristine white beaches is the government's principal centre for tourist development outside Port Blair. It is the island most visited by foreigners and for good reason -
the long stretch of beach from the jetty at Village No 1 down to No 5 beach is unquestionably one of the most beautiful in the whole archipelago. New hotels, restaurants and amenities are appearing at a rapid rate, some of which are insensitively landscaped and of an inappropriate scale for the small island, Yet, despite its popularity, you can easily - as anywhere in the Andamans - escape from other visitors and find your own private strip of sand for the day.

It is a fairly tough cycle ride (otherwise take a bus/auto) along the road to
Radhanagar Beach
(No 7), a dramatic curved bay with a beautiful lagoon at the far end. Narrow
Elephant Beach
can be reached by a jungle trek (not possible in wet conditions) and is a popular choice for snorkellers and novice divers who come by boat; note that mornings can be quite crowded. The
lighthouse
, near to Elephant Beach, is also an excellent spot for snorkelling. Sand flies can be a real nuisance on some of the beaches, notably No 7.

A week-long
Mela
, marking the birth of Subhas Chandra Bose, is held in January with special Bengali cultural programmes.

Neil Island

Neil is the smallest island in the Andamans that tourists are permitted to stay on. Lushly forested and it is very relaxed and attracts far fewer visitors than Havelock.
Bharatpur
(No 4) is the best beach for swimming although parts look onto the jetty. Good snorkelling is easily accessible from the shore, along a reef that begins at the jetty and stretches west along the coast to Beach No 1. Bicycles are for hire from resorts or in the village, and interesting half-day trips include the
Natural Bridge
on the southwest tip of the island (a pleasant spot to watch the sunset) and
Sitapur
in the east (Beach No 5). At Sitapur a beautiful curve of bay finishes at limestones caves where Hawabill birds (unique to the Andamans) construct their 'edible' nests. The tiny island of
Chota Neil
is visible from the beach; it is possible to arrange snorkelling trips through resorts or
Green Heaven
restaurant. Shops sell decent provisions but not tents or hammocks (camping is not permitted on the beaches).

Long Island

Another beautiful island, its main beach,
Lalaji
, is pristine. It is a two-hour walk through woods or by boat (Rs 200). The beach is lined with coconut trees and cattle steal any food left lying about. The drinking water from the well near the beach is of suspect quality. There are a couple of places to stay and getting around is by either bike or foot, there are no proper roads; two to three days is usually enough time to spend on the small island.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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