SUPERYACHT DESTINATION GUIDE: ANDAMAN ISLANDS
Last updated: 18/07/2018
Set in the Bay of Bengal in Southeast India, the Andaman Islands offer superyachts and charter guests deserted, virgin islands – each one appearing more spectacular than the last, with pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters providing the backdrop to exotic cruising views and rare marine life.
Home to India’s only active volcano and ample untouched forest, the mesmerising beauty of the Andaman Islands is complemented by plenty of interesting island activities for superyachts and their guests.
Yachting Pages spoke to yacht agents at Asia Pacific Superyachts to create a guide on Yachting In Andaman Islands for captains, guests, owners and crew.
Yachting in Andaman Islands, India
Made up of 572 largely uninhabited islands, islets and rocks, the Andaman Islands lie along the Bay of Bengal in an arc, covering a distance of almost 800km from north to south.
Andaman cruising highlights
Cruising from Phuket, Thailand, the journey to Andaman Islands takes around two days, with a day needed for checking in and half a day for checking out.
Arriving in the capital, Port Blair, you’ll find a quaint, colonial town where your agent can fuel the yacht and source local provisions, whilst completing the paperwork. R. Rantham at Asia Pacific Superyachts in Port Blair explained that major supplies should be sourced for the yacht in advance, along with the best and freshest in provisioning items, as the islands lack developed infrastructure.
Set near the middle of the island chain, yachts head either north or south from Port Blair, viewing stunning sights along the way. There are many exciting and adventurous visits that are only accessible to those visiting by boat, including trips to the islands of Inglis, Sister, Passage, Brother, Barren, Narcondom, Little Andaman, Interview, Neil, Cinque, Henry, Lawrence and Button, with many amazing anchorages easily reachable.
Heading north from Port Blair, Havelock is one of only 36 inhabited Andaman Islands, and one of the most popular tourist islands, renowned for being a picturesque natural paradise. Here, you can find basic bars, restaurants and resorts. Lush tropical forest gives way to silver-white sandy beaches - Havelock Beach Number Seven (or Radhanagar Beach) being the busiest. It’s also home to one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world, which, undamaged by human activity, offers yacht guests some fantastic snorkelling opportunities.
Water activities such as scuba diving are world-class in the Andaman Islands, as there are many open ocean dive sites with large numbers of manta rays, whale sharks and further stunning species of whales and sharks.
Sport fishing is also great here, as there is little commercial fishing allowing fish species to grow to an incredible size due to natural aging. Fishing is especially great near Neil Island, where guests can catch beautiful Mahi-Mahi and Tuna for their evening meal at anchor at Elephant Beach, again famed for its rich coral reef formation and amazing underwater marine life.
The shoreline at Elephant Beach was largely washed away by the 2004 tsunami, but the coral reef here is still known to be the best on the island. When swimming on the north end, there’s a chance you may see rare Dugong ‘sea cows’.
Through the Diligent Strait, Peel Island and Henry Lawrence Island offer yet more secluded anchorages for snorkelling and interesting coastal outcrops to explore. Outram Island is one of the best examples of Andaman Islands’ unique flora, fauna and marine life, as manta rays and dolphins can be found feeding and playing in the deep channel that separates it from Henry Lawrence.
India’s only volcano is set on Barren Island, where an eruption can be seen every ten minutes or so – best enjoyed at night to make it all the more magical and unforgettable. By day, the island also offers exceptional diving, fishing and primeval nature, with Humpback, Sperm and Pilot Whales all regular visitors in March and April.
Onward destinations include Phuket, 400NM from Port Blair, or Langkawi, Malaysia, which is a 510NM cruise.
Cruising climate in Andaman Islands
The best season to visit the Andaman Islands aboard a superyacht is from mid-December to the end of April, when warm and sunny conditions prevail along with a reliable 20-knot wind. The peak time for superyacht visits is however usually between December and March.
Once the festival of Sankranti ends around 15th January, the weather in Andaman turns warm, with clear blue skies and serene cool seas making cruising aboard a superyacht all the more enjoyable.
On land, the peak tourist season is from October to mid-June, after the heavy southwest monsoon showers finish in September.
R. Rantham, an agent at Asia Pacific Superyachts explained, “The entire Andaman area looks decked up in fresh greenery after the monsoon rains have passed, and each of the islands looks prettier, more beautiful and ready to welcome the festival season. The weather remains temperate, thanks to the intermittent rains, and, happy with rain-assured bountiful crops, the local people get ready to celebrate the festival season and welcome visitors.”
Water activities, such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and surfing can all be enjoyed in Andaman. Sailing is best between December and mid-March, when hot and sunny daytime conditions give way to cooler evenings with a steady 15 to 20 knots of wind. Surfing here is best during March, April and early May, as winter storms break in the Southern Indian Ocean to create huge swells on the west coast of the Andamans.”
Clearing into Port Blair
When approaching Port Blair, the yacht should contact Port Blair Port Control on Channel 16 before entering the harbour and proceed as per their instructions. The vessel should be anchored at the allocated position.
R. Rantham advised that visiting yachts should always check with their agent regarding customs, as there are certain important points to consider. He explained that after customs, immigration will need to be picked up from the same jetty to board the vessel. They will provide a form to be filled out and signed by every individual on board. Personal verification of all crew and passengers is mandatory. The coast guard will then board the vessel and do their clearances.
He said, “As all this is going on, your agent can assist you with a day-cruising itinerary. After the necessary clearance from customs, immigration, port health and the Indian coast guard, the captain must go to the harbour masters’ office for approval of the itinerary and briefing by the harbour master, who will again review and approve the itinerary. This is because there are restricted islands and places when cruising the Andaman Islands, and the vessel’s position must be reported twice daily.
“Asia Pacific Superyachts recently met with top-tier government and tourism officials concerning support of an E-Visa facility for the Andaman Islands to help the growing cruise and yacht tourism industries with the purpose of creating a facility in the seaport and airport of Port Blair to grant visitors a visa on arrival. We therefore advise that visitors check with us for updates on progress before their arrival.”
Fresh water and fuel bunkering in Port Blair
Fresh water is available to yachts in the port, with a minimum supply of one ton, except during the summer months when private suppliers must be used. Fresh water bunkering can often be arranged in-berth by your yacht agent.
Duty-paid marine diesel and fuels can be also be arranged in-berth by your yacht agent in any quantity, with berthing provided for fuelling yachts in the commercial jetty.
General yacht berthing and permissions can generally be arranged with two days’ notice, with customs and immigration formalities carried out with the help of a local agent.
Beyond the port, Port Blair offers many snack and souvenir shops, as well as bars and restaurants serving outstanding Indian cuisine. Visitors can also enjoy a visit to the infamous Cellular Jail, Chantham Saw Mill and the Anthropological Museum.