Backpackers guide to Neil Island – India
The secret is out that paradise is not lost and is only a flight away. The Andamans ticks all the boxes that a backpacker could be searching for on their tropical adventure. There are turquoise waters, picture-perfect beaches and friendly locals. Hence more and more tourists are making there way to this fantastic place. The good news is for now at least, most tourists are heading to the same destinations, and countless islands make up the island chain. In my post a backpackers Guide to Neil Island, I want to tell you about just one of them.
The tiny speck of land that is Neil Island makes for the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to step life down a notch. It is unbelievably relaxing here and the very epitome of tropical paradise.
Neil island is well developed compared to the others in the group, but it is still the underdog as so many people miss this tiny jewel. That is a real shame as Neil island has a lot to offer those who take the time to visit.
It is small, but the beaches here are both picturesque and varied, making anyone’s stay here a worthwhile experience. It is increasing in popularity, but the numbers of visitors can not compare to the mass tourism of Havelock.
Neill Island is named after British Brigadier general James Neill, who had fought on the side of the British East Indian company in the Sepoy mutiny of 1857. Since the days of independence in 1947, India has begun to change the name of the streets and areas that the British colonists left behind and quite rightly so I think.
It can, however, leave tourists confused when we are trying to find a place that no longer exists. This island is no exception and has recently changed its name to Shaheed Dweep island, although I have never heard it called that. But if you see signs, you know what it is referring to.
A good portion of the island depends on tourism and makes good revenue compared to Agriculture that the rest of the island depends on. Large swaths of land have been set aside for farmland and its all very scenic in itself.
The beaches are numbered one to five, and finding your way around is the island is very easy as it is tiny compared to Havelock although you will still need transport. If like many tourists you decide to cycle, remember in the midday sun this can be brutal and can leave you burnet and dehydrated so do consider this. For my tips on staying healthy on the road, I have a separate post that is packed with information on how to avoid the common backpacker pitfalls.
Neil Island beaches.
Beach one is a long stretch of sand with adjoining mangroves. This can be a fun place to spot wildlife but tricky to make your way around at high tide without getting wet.
Beach 2 is at the north of the island and has many extravagant rock formations including an enormous rock arch that has become iconic with this island. It gets busy in the evening when people come for the sunset and its cooler. It is a fantastic place for rock pooling if you don’t want to get a snorkel on this can give you just a hint of the Andaman Islands underwater treasures.
Beach 3 is quite secluded, and I hear good snorkelling just past the rocks. Beach 4 is the best beach to swim in as its a shallow sandy bay. The downside is it is close to the dock, and there are a lot of motorised boats driven by rowdy mainly domestic day-trippers. Beach 5 is quite rugged but has plenty of charm, and The tiny caves at the end of the beach are fun to stroll around in at low tide.
Getting a nights rest.
As far as accommodation goes, there are quite a few choices compared to other places in the Andaman Islands. However, in the season like neighbouring Havelock, this little place can get jam-packed.
I have stayed in several guesthouses on the island, and my personal favourite is Kalapani. The resort is on beach three and is a well run little place with the beach is only a short walk away.
What makes it is the family who owns it. They try very hard to make sure you have a good time, and they don’t ask much for there room. The first time I came, they had just opened, and it kind of felt like I was sleeping in a chicken coup. But every time I have been, they have been making vast improvements, and the huts seem to get a little more glamorous every time I see them.
The owners Prakesh and Bina are lovely hosts and make you feel at home. They hire bikes, motorcycles and snorkels to those who need them. Rooms cost a few hundred rupees, and I think that depends on your bargaining skills and time of year of cause. I will always be honest with my readers as I have not had a bad experience here (except maybe waiting times for food), but it gets mixed reviews on trip advisor, so check it out for yourself and make your own choices.
Getting a bite to eat.
As for places to eat, I have tried several places, but I am unable to give any decent suggestions as it is tough to get away from that bog-standard tourist food that dominates all of the menus here. Some proper local places in the main village serve Samosas and chai. Some of the restaurants near the dock cater for domestic tourists and can whip up some ok options.
But quite frankly what can you expect on a tiny island in the Andaman sea miles from anywhere. Not many people would come here for the fine food and drink, and why would you? As for myself, I am just grateful I get to have a coffee while I watch the tide come in. Something I see as an impressive feat in itself.
Getting there and away.
Perhaps surprisingly, it is not very difficult to get to and from this tiny island. The government has its own ferries that run around the Andaman Islands, and they are reliable. However, if there is bad weather, there can be cancellations without notice. Bear this in mind when planning a literary.
There are three daily government ferries to Port Blair, two to Havlock and three ships a week to long island. Some private ferries ply the routes, and these can be a godsend since it is a first come first serve basis and space can run out quickly in the peak season. Like Havelock, the secret to the charms of this place is well and truly out. You can travel pretty much anywhere on the island for a hundred or so rupees for a rickshaw.
In summary of my post a Backpackers guide to Neil Island
Anyone heading out to the archipelago would be short-changed not to come and see for themselves the charms of Neil Island. The only problem is when you arrive you won’t want to leave. It is undoubtedly one of my favourite islands around and despite its remote location, is well prepared for backpackers.
Every year it gets a little busier, and it is not surprising. My advice is don’t wait too long to come to this incredible little place before it gets overrun with tourists as I can see happening in the future. So go and sip a fresh coconut under the trees and enjoy the tranquil islands beauty before you have to share it with the so many others.
The saving grace of the islands is that all flights are domestic and so that keeps the numbers down. There were talks about changing that but fortunately has never transpired. Leaving those who do put in the effort to get here to enjoy Neil in relative peace.
I have tried to make this post as clear and concise as possible. If I have missed anything or you have any further questions as usual, just leave them in the box provided, and I will get back to you. I am also very interested to hear about your experience here and how it differed to mine. Also if you have any more ideas on what you would like to see me write about, then please let me know. Thanks for reading and I hope you have found this post helpful and until next time, happy travels.
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