Neil Island, Andaman Islands

Photo: Rajat29 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Rajat29 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Are you joining the beach crowd for the holiday weekend? The ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island have been booked for months. The line of cars out of New York City will crawl to the Hamptons. And good luck finding a place to stay on the Outer Banks. As much as you’re looking forward to the long weekend, you’re not excited about sharing the last days of summer with everyone else. If only you could find a place that no one knows about.

It’s possible. Take Neil Island, for example. Where? Exactly. Few people have heard of the small island in the Andaman Islands. Even fewer have visited the southernmost island in Ritchie’s Archipelago. Nearby Havelock Island has become a honeymoon destination for eco-minded jetsetters. This relaxed, peaceful island is where people escape when even paradise starts to feel a little too crowded.

You arrive on the ferry from Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands. The island’s only jetty sits in Bharatpur, on the northern coast. A few auto rickshaws and coconut-milk vendors greet disembarking guests. You opt to rent a bike to start exploring. The island, as you quickly find out, can be seen fairly quickly. Within an hour, maybe two, you could circle the entire thing. But there’s no rush.

Visit the beaches, where the water turns from light blue to green to dark blue. Serene Sitapur Beach is the perfect place to watch the sun rise. Beach #8 has pretty seashells and a small limestone cave. Snorkelers will love Ram Nagar Beach, where colorful fish swim among the coral beds. While Lakshmanpur Beach, on the west coast, is the best place to end the day. Pass extensive vegetable gardens and lots of mango trees as you cruise between the long stretches of sand. Search the rock pools near the Natural Bridge, which connects a small island to the main island at low tide. You might find eels, sea cucumbers, or clams in the shallow water. Sample Indian food at the main bazaar in the early evening. Then head to Sunset Point, beyond the mangroves, to watch manta rays and maybe even dugongs from a hammock as the sun sinks toward the horizon.

Sounds perfect, right? There’s only one problem: you need more than just a long weekend. Maybe next year, you’ll avoid the crowds and take the whole week off.

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