The Andaman Islands, part of the union territories of India, is made up of over 550 islands, islets and rocks, situated in the southeastern part of the Bay of Bengal, approximately 800 km northwest of Phuket, Thailand.
These islands remain relatively isolated and only 26 are actually inhabited. Some islands are strictly out-of-bounds, like North Sentinel, where the indigenous tribes are among the last people to remain totally untouched by the modern world.
Notable for deserted beaches, crystal clear waters, inland forests, and India’s only active volcano, the Andaman Islands are also a scuba diver’s paradise: with deep vertical wall dives, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, dugong, and very good underwater visibility.
The weather between December and April is characteristically dry, with clear blue skies, and refreshing sea breezes.
The Andaman Islands have everything you could desire from an adventurous yachting destination. There are literally hundreds of deserted islands to explore, each one seemingly more spectacular than the last. The beaches are magnificently pristine. The snorkelling and scuba diving is amongst the best in the world with an almost untouched marine ecosystem. There is a live volcano, thousands of square miles of untouched jungle, exotic and thriving wildlife and primitive hunter-gatherer tribes. The fishing is amongst the best in the world.
The Andamans is also starting to develop a superb reputation as a frontier surfing destination where the reef breaks have never been surfed before.
The Andaman Islands were declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. The Nicobar Islands are closed to all except Indian Nationals.
Plan to visit the Andamans between December and May. Mid December to the end of February is the best time with warm, sunny conditions and a reliable 20 knots of wind every day.
March and April have little wind and are the best months for diving and snorkelling – this is also the time of year when the migratory whales visit the Andamans.
April is the best month for surfing with large swell from the southwest that gives spectacular breaks along the west coast. From May to December the Andamans is effectively closed with strong winds, very rough sea conditions and near continuous torrential rain. There are hurricanes from May to July and again from September to December.
Floating in splendid isolation in the middle of the Bay of Bengal are the Andaman Islands. Administered by India, these 300 or so islands are the highest peaks of a submerged mountain range that stretches from Sumatra in the south to the Irawaddy delta in the north.
Port Blair is the main town and the only Port of Entry in the Andaman Islands. It is a quaint, dirty, crowded and friendly Indian town that looks as though it has been ripped out of the colonial 1930s and dropped into the 21st century. Port Blair has an airport with daily connecting flights to Chennai and Kolkota.
Yachts are still an unusual sight in the Andaman Islands with only 30-40 visiting yachts each year. Port Blair is however a busy commercial and naval harbour – it has all of the facilities you are likely to need but you may have to look harder than usual to find them.
Your dinghy You will need to leave your dinghy tied up at one of the jetties near Chatham Island. Theft from dingies or yachts is not an issue in Port Blair. A local entrepreneurial boy called Mupardee will magically appear and offer to look after your dinghy, move it around the ferries and fishing boats, make sure it is not chafing against the jetty, keep it clean and fetch and carry for you. He does a good job.
Provisioning Aberdeen market has excellent fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and fruit. It also has very fresh (walking!) chicken and mutton. If you are used to supermarkets with pre-packaged goods the market will be quite an experience. Anumod Bakery has fresh bread, homemade biscuits, tinned goods and ice cream. It does not make sense to buy fish in the Andamans as it is so easy to catch. Alcohol is difficult to buy in Port Blair.
Fuel and Water Good quality fresh water is available from barges or the dockside – enquire at the harbourmaster’s
Use of this anchorage has been largely discontinued due to increased ship traffic in the area. If you have a very small dinghy then ask Port Control if you can anchor here for check-in and check-out. Anchorage B is now the preferred anchorage for yachts.
Anchor in 4-6 metres with good holding in thick black mud. Only suitable as a day anchorage.
Havelock & tHe surrounding area
HAVELOCK ISLAND NO.7 BEACH 11.58.509N 92.57.079E
22 miles from Chatham Island, Port Blair
No 7 beach is 7 miles of white sand backed by tropical forest. Anchor safely anywhere along this beach in 8-12 metres. Ashore there are several resorts, restaurants and access to the main village of Havelock by road.
Elephant Bay is a favoured washing spot for the retired logging elephants. It’s a good day anchorage but can be prone to a swell, so overnight stops are not recommended. Anchor in 12-15 metres away from the coral heads. There is good snorkelling here.
LACCAM HARBOUR 27 miles from Port Blair
This anchorage is the main point of entry to Havelock Island with daily ferries arriving from Port Blair and other islands. The village has a friendly atmosphere with a variety of stores selling fresh goods and general supplies. Land your tender on the beach to the west of the jetty. There are a couple of suitable places to anchor on either side of the marked channel.
On approach, call Havelock Port Control on Ch.16. The approach to this anchorage is well marked and lit. When approaching from the east, watch the northern point of Havelock as the reef extends further than expected.
On the southern point of Peel Island, opposite the jetty, there is good holding on a sandy bottom in 8-12 metres. This is away from the jetty, reducing noise from approaching vessels, but is prone to mosquitoes
Otherwise anchor on the west side of the jetty, off the beach in 6-8 metres on a sandy bottom, but watch out for the coral bombies and the fringing reef.
To the east of Havelock are some reefs and ledges that are great for diving. Minerva ledge is extensive with a number of good dive sites but very strong currents.
3 miles from Laccam Harbour
Anchor in 12-18 metres on the east side of the southern point of the island on the sandy bottom; watch out for the edge of the reef.
There is good snorkelling and diving along the reef edge and good fishing. While the extended reef offers some protection, if the swell rolls in from the northeast, it is better to move north to anchorage (E).
5 miles from Laccam Harbour
The west side of Henry Lawrence Island provides a well protected anchorage in strong North-Easterlies. Kwangtung Strait is entirely navigable with a deep water channel throughout. Anchor in 15-20 metres on a sandy bottom anywhere along the eastern side of the straight. Good holding and very well protected. Strong currents.
The fringing mangroves are interesting to explore by dinghy or kayak with many crabs,monitor lizards, seaeaglesand the occasional dugong. The northern side of the strait in the narrows has an interesting drift dive but visibility is poor.
HAVELOCK SOUTH 19 miles from Port Blair
Beautiful anchorage away from the villages on Havelock. Anchor in 12-15m clear of the reef edge. Great fishing along the reef edge to the southern point. Good snorkelling.
17 miles from Port Blair
Well protected anchorage off the white beach that stretches around Neill to the north. Ashore along the northern facing coast there is a small backpacker resort and restaurant. There is good snorkelling to the south along the reef edge. The reef to the south of this anchorage extends much further to the west of Neill Island than is charted.
SWIMMING DOG REEF
18 miles from Laccam Harbour
Superb protection in this anchorage, especially at the start and end of the season when the wind can blow strongly from the South-East. Anchor in 20-25 metres clear of the reef edge. The island is inhabited by a single lonely dog that swims out to boats for company or food.
19 miles from Laccam Harbour
Idyllic anchorage in calm weather immediately off the small white beach on Henry Lawrence Island. Approach from the north with care as the reef comes up vertically from 12 metres; anchor in 20 metres and back in slowly. Great snorkelling along the reef, superb kayaking in the mangrove estuaries to the south-east and a perfect white beach backed by tropical rainforest. This anchorage is not suitable overnight in strong North Easterly conditions.
20 miles from Laccam Harbour
A well protected anchorage in strong North-Easterlies, tucked behind the fringing reef. Anchor in 12 metres on a sand bottom just off the low sandstone cliffs. Superb fishing along the reef edge with many giant groupers. It may be possible to surf off this reef during the North-Easterlies as there is a substantial left hand break. The reef off the south point of Outram Island extends much further south than is charted.
INGLIS ISLAND NORTH 19 miles from Laccam Harbour
This magnificent island makes the effort of getting to the Andamans worthwhile. The island is deserted, covered with pristine rainforest and surrounded by white beaches and coral reefs. Anchor about 200m due west of the end of the sand spit in 6-8 metres on a sand bottom. There is all tide dinghy access
The Button Islands have idyllic deserted beaches and stunning underwater life.
on to the sand spit. This anchorage is not suitable in easterly winds of more than 20 knots. The off-lying rocks to the north of Inglis Island do not appear on Admiralty charts.
INGLIS ISLAND SOUTH 18 miles from Laccam Harbour
Anchor in 8 metres on a white sand bottom. The channel between Inglis and Henry Lawrence Island is easily navigable. This anchorage is not suitable in easterly winds of more than 20 knots. Inglis Island is ideal for a walk around but keep an eye open for snakes.
SOUTH BUTTON ISLAND
18 miles from Havelock Island
B 12°12.5N 93°04.6E
Anchor in 25 metres on sand in the position shown keeping well clear of the reef edge (if you anchor any shallower than this then you will be destroying magnificent coral fans). There is sometimes a small mooring close to the southern reef edge which is suitable for tying your dinghy up. There is great diving around this island and spectacular snorkelling – particularly off the north eastern side.
MIDDLE BUTTON ISLAND 12.16.199N 93.01.478E
18 miles from Havelock Island
Middle Button has a striking sandy spit off the south east of the island. Anchor in 12 metres on sand avoiding the coral bombies. There is great snorkelling here. If you go ashore here take your ship’s papers and approved itinerary with you; the forestry officers who live here will want to see them.
NORTH BUTTON ISLAND
21 miles from Havelock Island
The horseshoe bay on the southern side provides excellent protection. Anchor in 10-12 metres on a sandy bottom, well clear of the reef. The sand spit at the western end Button provides all-tide dinghy access to the beach. This anchorage is easy to enter at night if returning from the volcano islands of Narcondam or Barren. The snorkelling and swimming here are superb with manta rays, dolphins and giant leatherback turtles frequently seen.
The Andaman Islands
Call on Ch.16 on approach and report to the harbourmaster’s office on arrival. Fresh vegetables, meat and fish are available, as are telephone and fax facilities.
There is a government rest house close to the harbourmaster’s office overlooking the bay, with a good restaurant and friendly people.
Austen Strait is too shallow to be navigable by a keel boat but is a very interesting dinghy trip. Be aware that there are many very large salt water crocodiles that live in Austen Strait so keep a good lookout.
AMAYA BANDAR 12.55.424N 92.55.063E 82 miles from Chatham Island, Port Blair
Anchor in 7-10 metres off Alves Island (a small backpacker camping area) about 2 miles from the village. Take the tender ashore. There is good coral off Alves Island.
The Andaman Islands interview island
These superb islands are rarely visited by yachts. However, by navigating through Homfray Strait, they can be included in a circumnavigation of the Andaman Islands. These islands are remote and wild. There are salt water crocodiles on the eastern side of Interview Island, so only swim on the western side and never swim at night in this area.
Interview Island also has a small herd of wild elephant, occasionally seen on the beach or playing in the sea. Interview is also a superb island for jungle walks.
Admiralty charts of this area are largely fictional with entire islands missing and reefs drawn in the wrong place. The chartlet provided is more accurate, but use it with care.
SOUTH REEF ISLAND 29 miles from Homfray Strait
This is a superb anchorage in a natural harbour. Approach from due south and anchor on a white sand bottom in 6-8 metres surrounded by reef. South Reef Island has spectacular beaches and snorkelling. The gap between South Reef Island and Interview Island is not navigable by keelboat.
30 miles from Homfray Strait
Another natural harbour formed by the fringing reef. Anchor on a sand bottom in 8-10 metres surrounded by reef. The southern channel of the reef gap provides all tide access to the beach. This is a great area for walking.
37 miles from Homfray Strait
Yet another perfect “marina” formed by a gap in the fringing reef. Anchor on a sand bottom in 8-10 metres surrounded by reef. Access to the beach is at high tide only. There is great fishing off the edge of the reef in this area.
INTERVIEW NORTH EAST 45 miles from Homfray Strait
Anchor in 15-20 metres off the reef edge on a sand bottom. The reef comes up very quickly here. To the west is a small mangrove estuary which provides easy access into the jungle – there is some superb walking in this area. This is a great base from which to explore the extensive mangroves along the eastern coast by dinghy. I would not recommend taking a keel yacht to the east of Interview Island.