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Old 5th January 2013, 22:23   #1
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Default Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

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Neil is a tiny island in the Andaman Sea 25 Nautical miles North East of Port Blair. Endowed with beautiful beaches and inhabited by some 4000 odd peaceful, friendly people living in picture perfect hamlets, Neil is often skipped by tourists who throng to its more famous neighbour, Havelock Island.


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Havelock richly deserves the numero uno status among all of the islands in Andaman Sea boasting of arguably the the best beach in the region and a plethora of adventure sports including scuba diving and snorkeling.

But Neil offers old world charm, tranquility and a chance to be by oneself in a rustic backdrop.

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The crescent shaped island is no more than 7 kms end to end. After a 90 minute ferry ride from Port Blair you arrive at the lone Jetty between Bharatpur and Laxmanpur Beaches. A few hundred metres walk up the tarmac road past a colourful temple and a government run Primary Health Centre brings you to a cluster of shops that forms the only 'town' in the island, Rampur. The island has beaches all around except for a small patch on the south western side, where the sea receded post 2004 Tsunami exposing corals in low tide. Laxmanpur and Bharatpur beaches cover the northern coastline while the eastern end of the island is rounded off by Sitapur beach overlooking an even tinier, uninhabited island aristocratically named Sir Hugh Rose Island.

Where to stay

Apart from the government run Hawa Bill guest house, you get to stay in shacks that line the Laxmanpur beach, which offer cheaper and more relaxing options. You could get shacks with attached bathroom and a double bed with ceiling fan (you don't need air-conditioning; temperatures are 22- 30C for much of the year) for around INR 500. More expensive options that offer pucca structures like the one shown below are also available. I met a family staying at the island for over a month at @ INR 30 a day: they had their own tent, cooked meals on a stove and made use of the common toilet at the beachside resort!
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What to do

You are at Neil Island because you didn't want to do anything. So you should just lie on the white soft sand for hours staring at the blue sky listening to gentle waves. When you get tired of doing this, roll onto the sea and take dip.
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If you still insist on doing something else, here are the options:

Carry your own snorkel (can be bought for about INR 1000 from Havelock or Port Blair) and enjoy the colourful corals and richly patterned fishes around the island. I have seen sea turtle in arm deep water off Laxmanpur Beach. Locals say the elusive national animal of Andamans, Dugong (Sea Cow) has been spotted here grazing sea grass.

Walk down the wooded path to the beach from your shack and watch sun set over Andaman Island.
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Or occupy this wooden bench on the western tip of the island with a book and amaze at the hues of colours that the sea offers.
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Last edited by rajcs : 5th January 2013 at 23:23.
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Old 5th January 2013, 22:54   #2
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

When its time to explore the island, you could stroll down to Rampur and hire a bicycle, available at INR 60 a day. Bicycle is the best way to explore the island since its almost entirely flat.
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You could cycle your way to the eastern side of the island and reach Sitapur beach 5 kms from Rampur.

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Spend some time at Sitapur beach strolling on the surf and exploring the patterns cut by sea on the soft rock. This is a rather long but lonely beach and I have been told the waters are not safe for swimming.

When you return to the bicycle quench your thirst with sweet and nourishing coconut water available at INR 15. I have never had coconut water of such quality and quantity anywhere in the mainland.
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Return towards Rampur and take the right turn at the solar power station heading to the village. You bicycle through tree lined road devoid of traffic...
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Pass by cultivated fields....
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See farmers work amidst colourful produce....
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Make your way past some picture perfect dwellings...
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Watch ducks waddle in little ponds...
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See women tending to the household needs...
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And make friends with some beautiful people.
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Last edited by rajcs : 5th January 2013 at 22:55.
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Old 5th January 2013, 23:08   #3
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

What to eat
Rice and fish curry washed down with your favourite beverage. Fresh vegetables produced in the nearby fields make tasty dishes too. There are eating joints at many places along the road and at the beach resort you stay in.

When to go
All round the year, though January is the best time. Sea can be very rough on some days during North East Monsoons (Oct-Dec) disrupting connectivity.

How to get there
Port Blair is connected by daily flights from Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi. From Port Blair ferries ply thrice a day to Neil. Ferry ticket cost about INR 200 per head. Pawan Hans operates helicopter service few days in a week.

Connectivity
BSNL has cellular network in the Island. But its best to switch off the cell phone and forget TV to enjoy the stay.

Useful tips
- Pick up mosquito coil, match box, candle, towel, sheets, soap, shampoo, toilet paper etc from Rampur. Power supply could be disrupted at times.
- A Guide is not necessary.
- Cover yourself fully in water. Water is extremely clean, but micro organisms could cause rashes. Covering up also helps protect against sun. Although water keeps you cool, always remember you are just 10 North of equator and sun could be very harsh on skin.

Last edited by rajcs : 5th January 2013 at 23:21.
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Old 7th January 2013, 12:34   #4
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Thread moved to the Travelogues section, thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th January 2013, 14:40   #5
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

An excellent travelogue of a place less visited (thank God for that). You can really spend days doing - nothing in this paradise.
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Old 7th January 2013, 19:20   #6
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Thanks for sharing! I am always amazed by how people always throng to run of the mill tourist spots yet ignore truly beautiful places like these. And that is a good thing, since it looks so peaceful and serene. That sure looks like a vacation spot that I would like to visit: a place to 'do nothing'. It is a bit ironic that people go on vacations to 'bust' stress and then scamper to cover all the 'tourist spots' in whatever time they have. Seriously...
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Old 7th January 2013, 21:03   #7
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Simply stunning. My calendar for next Jan has been marked for a trip to Port Blair and Neil Island.

Couple of questions raj. Did you book the trip through an agent for just went ahead on your own.

Is it ok to go with small kids?
Do we get veg food on the islands?
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Old 8th January 2013, 09:24   #8
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Nice T-logue. I second your opinion rajcs. Its a great place. I've been there in 2007 and was simply mesmerized by the surreal beauty.

Empty beach, white powdery sand, and miles of emptiness. Almost like a "Cast Away" scene.
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Old 8th January 2013, 10:07   #9
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Excellent, crisp TL, raj!
Did you also go to any other islands? It would be great if you could put up some travel plans for your trip and any recommendations on the duration. It seems that even a fortnight would be inadequate for this marvellous place.

Next January, I guess there will be a tbhp meet there. A paradox considering there is no driving involved
After all the average tourist wants to go where the average tourist does not go.

Last edited by selfdrive : 8th January 2013 at 10:09.
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Old 8th January 2013, 10:29   #10
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Quote:
Originally Posted by gauravdgr8 View Post

Couple of questions raj. Did you book the trip through an agent for just went ahead on your own.

Is it ok to go with small kids?
Do we get veg food on the islands?
No, I didn't book through an agent, although its possible. I was fortunate to be at the Andaman Islands for couple of years on a work assignment. So all I had to do was to sling my backpack, catch the first ferry to Neil and spend a week doing .... nothing

The shacks on the beach are rarely full. So you can always find a place to stay (with minimal creature comforts, ofcourse) even if you just land up there. Some of the places like Tango Beach Resort and Pearl Park Beach Resort offer online booking. I haven't stayed in either of them so can't provide a review.

Unless the kids are nature lovers, there isn't much that Neil can offer to keep them occupied. Besides there are no life guards on the beach and you will have to take extra care of them although the waters are safe.

Veg food is available and mostly made of fresh produce from the fields around.

Tourist profile at the island is mostly couple / single. A vast majority are foreigners; somehow they seem to find exotic places in our country more than us. May be its the safety and privacy of the island that attract them - no crimes, no prying eyes
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Old 8th January 2013, 12:10   #11
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Wow, its such a beautiful place.
Look @ the color of the water, brilliant.
Lucky you Raj.
Im sure there are lots of other places like this in India which we are not atall aware of .
Thanks for sharing .Now im sure if someone goes to Port Blair, they will surely make it a point to visit Neil also .

cheers
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Old 8th January 2013, 18:19   #12
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Raj,
This is a fantastic place you have re-discovered on the Andaman-Nicobar belt. Would you have to spend an extra night in Port Blair to catch the flights?
This is a must visit place for sure
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Old 11th January 2013, 10:35   #13
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Wonderfully put Raj. Short and Sweet, just like the island !! I had been to Havelock a couple of years back around Feb. Had a wonderful time.. One thing I would suggest doing in the Andamans, is Scuba Diving (Don't know if that happens at Neil Island). And as you suggested, Snorkelling.
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Old 11th January 2013, 14:06   #14
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

@NMS; Yes Scuba Diving is popular. Do not forget Neil is just a short distance on the backside of the overcrowded Havelock.
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Old 11th January 2013, 15:25   #15
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Default Re: Neil Island - Don't miss the woods for the beaches

Thank you for showing us the little known yet beautiful and exotic places of our country. A visit is now on the anvil :-)
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