They shimmer like emeralds in the Bay of Bengal, full with scenic and picturesque extravaganza. These "Emerald Islands" are becoming known as tourist destination. It has various hotels resorts. Adventure tourism like trekking, camping, snorkeling, scuba diving, under water sea-walk are the real attractions. I spoke to Abdul Majeed of "Andaman Fiesta" about the islands, about tourism and challenges, interview.
Q: Would you like to tell something about yourself, your outlook in life, some of your favorite music, books, proverbs…?
Abdul Majeed: I was born and brought up in Andaman Islands. After completing my master degree in Tourism Administration, I worked with several firms like sales with Club Mahindra Holidays, Jet Airways before getting into this business with Kingfisher airlines.
My Great Grand Father Late A.P.SAIDALI was brought here in Andamans as a prisoner from Kerala (one of the southern state of India). He was held for freedom struggle against British Government in India.
My father is a retired government employee with State Transport Service while my mother is house wife. I have one older sister and a younger brother; both are well settled in life.
Music, it depends on my mood. At times, I love to listen to laud and sometimes soft classical, in particular ghazals.
My favorite proverb “winners don’t do different things, they do things differently”!!!
Q: You were born on the island, how do you remember your childhood, would you like to share perhaps a story...
Abdul Majeed: I was born and brought up in a village of south Andaman called Wimberley Gunj. Since my father was a government employee with State Transport Services my schooling kept changing during earlier days. For example from class 1st to class 5th, I studied in five different schools. We use to spend most of the time with friends, relatives or watching TV.
Andaman is a cosmopolitan place. One can come across all religions and cultures. People are staying together and celebrating all festivals.
Q: A journey begins in imagination, a dream about adventure and luxuries. What is the best way to reach Andaman, best time to visit and what one can hope to find there..?
Abdul Majeed: The capital city of Andaman and Nicobar islands is Port Blair – South Andaman Island, which is also the district head quarter. Port Blair is accessible by air and sea. Here are some connections which may be useful
From Chennai – mainland India - to Port Blair and Chennai (once in 15 days)
From Vishakhapatnam – Port Blair – Vishakhapatnam (once a month)
From Kolkata –Port Blair – Kolkata (once in 15 days)
From Chennai –Port Blair – Chennai (daily service),
Kolkata – Port Blair – Kolkata (daily service),
Delhi –Port Blair – Delhi via Kolkata (daily service)
Best time to visit from October to May. Temperature ranges from 34 to 22 degrees throughout the year. There are no winters, nor summers. As far as clothing is concerned, cotton clothing is recommended throughout the year
Andaman and Nicobar Island is group of 572 emerald islands (including islet and rocks). One can discover its untouched and pristine beaches, spectacular under water marine life.
Q: What makes visit or holidaying, or visit on Andaman unique?
Abdul Majeed: Andaman islands are very rich in flora and fauna. Out of 572 islands only 38 are inhabited. We can guarantee on the virginity, clean and fresh Nature
What is unique about the place – virginity –pristine nature, safety, clean environment, co-operative locals.
Approx 70 % of the islander`s are government employees and work for some government agencies, the remaining, 30 % are engaged in fields such as tourism, fisheries, Trading, coconut oil etc. Fisheries and tourism are the two major industries in Andamans
Q: What is the best way to discover the Andaman archipelago?
Abdul Majeed: The best way to discover the archipelago is to start your trip from Port Blair and move towards Northern group of islands up to Diglipur and indulge yourself in nature by snorkeling , scuba diving , island camping , trekking and much more.
Hot spots are : Havelock island , Neil island , Long island , Baratang island , Mayabunder island , Diglipur island , Ross and Smith island and hundreds more !!!
Q: Would you like to introduce Andaman in brief, some of its sounds, and scents, legends from the island?
Abdul Majeed: The Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar is a group of 574 picturesque islands, covered with tropical dense forest and rich verities of flora and fauna. Among these many islands only few are settled, the rest are uninhabited. The beaches / landscapes are absolutely virgin and unaffected by mass tourism.
The name is derived from a Sanskrit word “Angamania”, meaning the "Land of Naked People". They are said to be the oldest aborigines in the world. No evidence has been found where they came from and settled the islands. Among the first visitors to these islands was the traveler Marco Polo. In his travel account, he mentions the roaming naked people of Andaman.
In the year 1789, the British established their colony in these islands but later abandoned it. Again in 19th century British government took charge of Andaman Island and converted it into and penal colony for convicted political prisoners and freedom fighters from mainland India, for those against the British rule.
The Second World War introduced the Japanese rule to Andaman and Nicobar islands. From March 21 1942, the Andaman and Nicobar islands were under the Japanese rule and continued till October 1945. Situation was rendered worst when the Japanese regime became suspicious of the natives. The aborigines took this as insult and started a rebellion against their rule. Many innocent people of these islands were killed and the Humfrigunj massacre is one such example.
Q: You are founder of your own Destination Management Company “Andaman Fiesta”. How it all begin, idea, concept, your welcome message and philosophy?
Abdul Majeed: The Company is now Seven years old. At "Andaman Fiesta “we are advocating "Truly Andamans", Our concept is to show case Andamans in world map as a must see Island Destination and Provide class apart service to visiting guest
Tourism in Andaman is still in preliminary stage and tourism infrastructure is available only on selected islands. But let me put it this way, anybody who wishes to get away from the hassle of city life and want to enjoy the nature, and then Andaman is the right place. Beaches in Andaman Island are pristine, crystal clear and unattended.
Events turtle nesting, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, under water sea walk, island camping, tracking can be experienced at its best.
Q: What is the range of services one can choose from, what sets “Andaman Fiesta” apart?
Abdul Majeed: We are one of the leading service providers in Andamans, offering first class tours and travel services with personalized touch.
Our services range from airport transfers, hotel and resort bookings, tours and travel packages (groups, individuals, leisure, business…) photographic and honeymooner's packages.
We align ourselves with our customers as “partners" to assist them in achieving their goals and objectives during their stay. Further we have developed a reputation as premier tour operator within the industry and our staff’s is ready to assist in everyway possible. We have a fleet of brand new vehicles with average age of 1year.
We would be delighted to be called upon to send our rates at any particular time.
Q: Word about accommodation, attractions, sports or leisure activities, who are your guests, from which countries?
Abdul Majeed: There are several good resorts with excellent food; in particular, seafood, in town and on other islands. The hotel/resort range from basic budget hotels to four star category (from $ 8 to 250 $ a night for a couple with breakfast)
Some of the top hotels / resorts are
Port Blair- Rose Valley Island Retreat, Peerless Sarovar Portico Beach Resort, ITC Fortune Resort Bay Island, Sinclair Bay View,
Havelock - Barefoot Jungle Resort, Silver Sand Beach Resort, Munjoh Ocean Resort, Symphony Palm Beach Resort, Seashell Resort, Silver Spring Resort and Blue Bird Resort
Here are some must see spots and experiences
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park Wandoor – a marine park consisting of 15 to 16 islands out of which Jolly Buoy and Red Skin Island is open for tourists. (Only day trip is allowed)
Collinpur Beach – only day trip
Chidiya Tapu – known as Bird island - one can see a great variety of birds, the view of sunset is panoramic
Mount Harriet – it used to be the summer capital of British and now a well known tourist spot. One can view the entire Port Blair city and nearby islands from the top of hillock.
Corbyn`s Cove Beach – A coconut farm fringed beach, about 8 km from city centre, mostly crowded during weekend and famous with domestic tourists.
Neil Island – famous for its beaches and water sports activity like glass bottom boat, snorkeling and scuba diving. This island is preferred with backpackers
Havelock Island – about 55kms from Port Blair, well connected with Port Blair city. This island destination is the hot spot. The world's best rated Radhanagar beach by the Time Magazine in 2005 is also in Havelock.
Havelock boasts several resorts, hotels and restaurants and is famous among everyone who enjoys calm and quite nature. It has also has many scuba diving centers from which one can choose any the type of scuba diving or snorkeling trips
Baratang Island – famous for its mud volcano and lime stone cave
Mayabunder Island – good beaches and ideal place for diving
Diglipur (northern most point of Andaman island) - Ross and Smith, the twin joined islands, are the major attraction. In addition Diglipur has many surprises like “Alfred caves, mud volcano, ram nagar beach, sita nagar beach and Saddle peak for tracking.
Our clients are mostly Indians (70 %), and 30 % foreign clients from different parts of the world, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Norway..
We also do MICE – Meeting, Incentive, Conferences and Events for major corporate houses in India like INFOSYS, IBM, ZYDUS pharmaceuticals, BOSCH others.
Q: What innovative approach or novelties are being planned?
Abdul Majeed: Andaman Administration has recently proposed the concept of seaplanes which is already introduced in similar island destinations in different parts of the world. The seaplane services will initially operate between Port Blair – Havelock –Port Blair and Port Blair – Diglipur – Port Blair. Later this service will be extended to other islands too.
A 50no Yacht marina is being proposed and tender and bidding process is already on work. Several other projects are in pipe line.
Q: Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge wave of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean , at the circular motions of the stars, what experience awaits the travelers in Andamans?
Abdul Majeed: Pure Nature!!!
Q: Tourism is becoming an important source of income, what are the challenges, any interesting resorts, hotel, and sites, investment opportunities that you recommend or are being planned..?
Abdul Majeed: The biggest challenge to Andaman tourism is improper connectivity by air or by ship. The Andaman Administration is in a process to lease out many of its own government tourist homes and lands near the beach to be developed by public-private partnership concept. There is abundance of other opportunities here.
Q: You live and work in Port Blair, would you like to introduce the community, must see places, cultural events, festivals…
Abdul Majeed: Andaman is also called "Mini India" because it is settled with different cultures from all around India. Inter caste and inter religion marriages are common here. People live in harmony and celebrate all the festivals together with lots of fun and joy. The Island Tourism Festival is arranged for tourists and visitors alike during December and January each year.
Here are some must see places in Port Blair.
National Memorial Cellular Jail, here one can enjoy watching sound and light show in evening
Chatham Saw Mill – one of Asia`s oldest and largest, set by the British and still operating.
Samudrika Naval Marine Museum – it is housing a collection of flora and fauna of Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Anthropological Museum – exhibition of tribal life and culture of these islands.
Gandhi Park & Marina Park – for leisure in the evening.
Andaman Water Sports Complex – the fun ride the Jet Ski and other water sports activity
Q: Time flies and things change, any interesting undertaking , associations , invitations you wish to share…
Abdul Majeed: Come visit Andamans – at least once in your life time!!!!!!!!!!