On arrival at Neil Island we met a young auto driver called Suman. He turned out to be very articulate, and had a very pleasant way of explaining to us when we disagreed on anything: including fares. There were many pleasant auto drivers on the island, but of those we met he was the most articulate. Once we were at a loose end in Bharatpur beach, when we met him. He asked where we wanted to go, and we said that we would go to whichever place he wanted to show us. He took us to Sitapur beach.
That was the first time we saw this beach, with its spectacular crescent of yellow sand, and the wonderful submerged layers of rocks. You can see the clarity of the water in the photo above. I think the rocks must have been heaved up in the 2004 earthquake. I loved the very eroded flat slabs of rock, some with holes bored by piddocks.
The tide was out, and we walked out over the bare rocks to peer into little tide pools. Some of them had tiny fish which would dart away as soon as they saw something looming above the water. Eventually I captured the featured photo by crouching low on a rock until the fish came to rest. Until I saw the photo, I hadn’t noticed the bubbles at the tips of the fronds of seaweed.
The beach was empty except for us and a French couple swimming in a deep pool among the rocks. We walked up to a distant rock fall and came back. Suman was waiting expectantly, and his face lit up when we answered his unasked question by saying this was a beautiful spot.
The beaches of Neil and Havelock islands are fringed with coral reefs. They damp wave action close to beaches, and moderate rip tides. Swimming is fairly safe. Elsewhere, such as in Wandoor beach, I saw nets to mark out areas which are safe for swimming. Wandoor also had a couple of lifeguards watching the swimmers.
The main swimming beach in Neil Island is Bharatpur beach: a long and shallow beach which opens out into coral reefs. This is a busy beach, with swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving and boating. I saw a few lifeguards walking up and down the beach. It was low tide, and people were walking really far out in the shallow beach. It did not seem like lifeguards would be able to keep watch on such a scattered crowd. When I asked a snorkelling instructor about this, he said that all the instructors also keep a watch.
At other beaches the number of people was very small. The beautiful Sitapur beach is rocky, and there seemed to be only one natural pool where you can swim. There was a lifeguard’s shack, with a tyre tube hanging on a pole. As you can see from the photo, it is possible to keep an eye on the whole beach from there.
I did not look for a lifeguard on Lakshmanpur beach. This fills up at sunset with visitors out to take photos of the setting sun. I could see lots of families with children in the shallows, standing in ankle deep water with cameras. There were no swimmers. One child splashed out up to his neck, and was hauled back by his grandfather. Family groups are good for safety.
On almost the last day of the year I got up to see a sunrise for the first time in twelve months. The fiery photo you see above is of a sunrise seen from Neil Island in the Andaman archipelago.
Sitapur beach is the place in Neil Island where people go to see the sunrise. The photo above is a panorama of this little crescent shaped beach in the early light of the dawn. We saw about a hundred people in the morning. The beach is almost deserted through the rest of the day.