Cinque Island (39 Kms. by Sea from Port Blair): Declared as a sanctuary, these are enchanting islands with rare corals and under-water marine life and tropical rain forest. There is a beautiful sand bar joining the islands. It is suitable for scuba diving and snorkeling.
One of the last virgin archipelagos in the world, the Andaman islands lie over 1000km east of India, accessible by plane (or boat, for the very patient) from Chennai or Kolkata. Of the 200 forest-covered islands, only 26 are inhabited, many of them by aboriginal tribes who have little contact with outsiders.
Most of the others are off limits to tourists. Because of their isolation – midway between India and Burma, and 700km from top to tail – there’s little development and lots of wilderness: 3000 species of plant, 240 types of bird and over 80 kinds of reptile (including iguanas) lurk in the tropical jungle, and you’ll even meet swimming elephants.
Beaches are white-sand, near deserted and fringed with palms – perfect for Robinson Crusoe adventures or back-to-nature ecotourism.
South Andaman is the most developed of the 3 main islands, with the capital Port Blair, a growing town of 75,000 people, several hotel resorts, a hospital, a school and a few museums. Outside Port Blair, there is little accommodation beyond simple beach huts and campsites.
Buses head north, past Jarawa Tribal Reserve, where the indigenous negritos sing and dance by the trunk road, or – if you’re unlucky – snatch food and fart in your face. Chiriya Tapu, on the southern tip (1 hour from Port Blair), is famous for its birds.
Offshore, and served by boats from Chiriya Tapu, Port Blair or Wandoor, is the Mahatma Gandhi Marine Park, a group of 15 islands, 3 of which are open to day-trippers.
With tidal flats and gently shelving sands, Jolly Buoy and Redskin are ideal for first time snorkellers and less confident swimmers (there’s even a glass bottomed boat), while the sandbars of Cinque Island make a longer but more rewarding day trip.
More great attractions can be found in the Explore Wildlife in India page.