It turns out that I can travel 2644 Kms on a great circle without having to use my passport: from Mumbai to Indira Point, at the tip of the Great Nicobar Island in the Andaman Sea. This is more than 6.5% of the planet’s circum-ference. Another 200 Kms, and I would enter Indonesia through Banda Aceh. Why wouldn’t we make a quick dash to this place in the last week of the year? The only possible reason, it turns out, is the practical one of fixing an itinerary.
The Nicobar archipelago is largely out of bounds to tourists. We could go to Car Nicobar, the northernmost of these islands, or Great Nicobar, the southernmost. Only Great Nicobar sounds sufficiently interesting; it is home to the Shompen tribe, and is a biosphere reserve with interesting birds. But it turns out that ferries are irregular, and perhaps go only a couple of times a week. There are helicopter flights which cost Rs. 13,000 each way, which is somewhat outside our budget. So perhaps we will skip Nicobar.
The Andamans are a more compact group of islands, so hopping from one to another should not be too hard.[Note added: This is completely wrong. The most difficult part of a trip is to find a seat on a ferry. Do this as soon as you book your hotel.] Flights from the main land arrive in Port Blair. The easternmost island in the map above is Narcondam. This is 262 Km from Port Blair. The westernmost island shown in the map is the North Sentinel, which is 54 Kms from Port Blair. Strange to realize that the Sentinelese reject contact with outsiders, so this island is an exclusion zone. Barren island, 144 Kms northeast of Port Blair has an active volcano. These distances can be covered by ferry. Baratang with its mud volcanoes is also close. Visiting Ross Island with its ruins of colonial era structures, now taken over by banyan trees , is probably a nice way to spend half a day. I’m also looking forward to the beaches of Havelock island, and taking my first lessons in scuba diving and looking at coral reefs. Nice way to spend the last week of the year, isn’t it?