Enjoy these islands in the sun!
By Aditya Dogra
If you’re an avid island hopper like me and have been browsing Instagram for some travel inspiration for the summer beyond Thailand’s own slice of tropical paradise, The Maldives is what most click-happy social media influencers have to recommend. Sure, the all-inclusive resorts, scenic white sand beaches, and sunbeds with unlimited piña coladas have their allure, but what if I told you that you could do all that and more without putting a heavy dent in your pocket?
If that piqued your interest, consider exploring the gorgeous but lesser-known islands of India, Andaman and Nicobar, and Lakshadweep, for your next vacation. These remote destinations offer a unique blend of natural beauty, luxurious stays, cultural heritage, and adventure whilst staying within a reasonable budget.
Located about 1,200km east of mainland India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of 572 islands, of which only 37 are inhabited. The islands are known for their unspoiled beaches, lush rainforests, and diverse marine life. On the other hand, Lakshadweep is a group of 36 coral atolls located off the southwestern coast of India, known for its pristine beaches, turquoise lagoons, and rich marine biodiversity.
Getting to these islands from Thailand might seem daunting, but with some planning, you can easily make this trip a reality (and you don’t even require a visa as a Thai citizen). So fret not; we’ve done the job for you and created a go-to guide for all your travel queries! Here’s what you need to know:
ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR
There are no direct flights from Thailand to Andaman and Nicobar; however, you could board a flight to Kolkata in West Bengal and take a connecting flight to Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar. The total travel time can range between 10-12 hours, depending on flight connections, and it is advisable to book your flights well in advance to avoid steep prices.
From the budget traveller to those looking to relax in the lap of luxury, there is something for everyone on these islands. For those on a budget, we recommend Sun Sea Resort in Port Blair, Hotel Hilltop International, Haywizz Havelock Island Resort, GKM Grand Hotel, and Megapode Resort. However, the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Andamans; Welcomhotel Bay Island Port Blair; Munjoh Island House; Sea Shell Resort & Spa, Havelock; Barefoot at Havelock; and Symphony Samudra are for those who want their gorgeous views to come with all the luxury that the island has to offer.
Things to do:
One is spoilt for choice when exploring the islands, as there is much to do beyond visiting the scenic beaches. You can snorkel, scuba dive, sea walk (yep, that’s a thing), watch dolphins through a glass- bottomed boat, explore the limestone caves in Baratang Island, or go mangrove kayaking in Mayabundar. Tours also take you to Viper Island, the Barren Island Volcano, the Cellular Jail, Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, the Mud Volcanoes in Diglipur and the rubber plantation in the South Andaman Island. Of course, Radhanagar Beach, Elephant Beach, Kalapathar Beach, Ferar Beach and Corbyn’s Cove are worth exploring but ask locals for where you can experience bioluminescence, and they will guide you for an experience which is sure to remain unmatched.
Culture and cuisine:
The islands of Andaman and Nicobar have a rich cultural heritage influenced by their indigenous communities and colonial past. You can explore the local markets, try the traditional seafood dishes, and attend cultural shows to experience the local way of life. The island natives also give tours of their local fishing villages that might interest the culturally inclined. In addition, the Andamans are considered a seafood heaven, so explore the variety of prawn, lobster, crab and fish dishes there.
The Andaman Islands have several ‘Bed and Breakfast’ experiences with the locals. These give you deep insight into the islands’ history, offer unique activities, and a chance to sample local delicacies. We recommend you check out the Koh Hee Bed & Breakfast Homestay with the local Karen people in Mayabundar for one such unforgettable experience.
There are no direct flights from Thailand to Lakshadweep, but one could fly to Kochi in Kerala and take a connecting flight to the Agatti Aerodrome airport in Lakshadweep. The total travel time for the destination is 10-13 hours, depending on flight connections and transfers. Cruises from Kochi to Lakshadweep might increase the total travel time but make the journey more picturesque. While there are no visa requirements for Thai nationals, an entry permit is required for the islands. The access, however, can be easily obtained from the e-portal for the territory or through travel agents.
The Lakshadweep islands are dotted with several stay options and beach huts. Still, our top recommendations would be Agatti Island Beach Resort, Seagate Holiday Home, Mystique Meadows Swiss Cottage Camps, Kalpeni Tourist Hut, Bangaram Island Resort, Kasims Beach Villa, and the White Pearl Beach Hotel.
Things to do:
Much like the Andamans, there is so much to do in Lakshadweep. Our top picks would be snorkelling at Agatti, fishing and kite surfing at Kadmat Island, scuba diving at Kalpeni Island, canoeing at Minicoy Island, and visiting the Kavaratti Island Marine Aquarium. But, of course, most beaches also offer various activities for adrenaline seekers to explore. Almost every beach on the island offers a unique experience, and locals often recommend the best sites for that perfect Instagram shot!
Culture and cuisine:
The Lakshadweep islands are known for their rich culture and heritage; dance and music are vital to their traditions. Kolkali, Parichakali and Lava are the three popular folk art forms in the territory that can be enjoyed. In food, the Malabar cuisine of Kerala highly influences the islands, and one can easily find some soulful South Indian delights. Coastal delicacies are also highly recommended here, with coconut being a dominant ingredient for most dishes.
While the beaches and reefs are abundant with shells and corals, avoid having the urge to pick one and bring it home. Not only does it damage the ecosystem, but it is also illegal on the islands.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack your sunnies and a bathing suit, book an unforgettable vacation to these islands, and raise a Mai tai for us when you’re basking in the tropical sun!