I TRAVELLED: with my family with kids
TYPE OF TRAVEL: Child-friendly, luxury, adventure
FOR: 4 nights
DATES: March 29-April 2 2023
PRICE POINT: $$$
My husband and I have decided that this is the year we explore India. After living here for five years, we have used most of our holidays to travel around South and South East Asia and the time has finally come to explore our home. This was a special trip for us, as we celebrated out tenth wedding anniversary! After seeing our friends’ pictures, we knew we wanted to go to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The pristine beaches, crystal-clear water and amazing resorts were enough to convince us to forgo Maldives and head to Andaman!
There is a direct flight from Bangalore to Port Blair, which takes a little over two hours. However, due to construction of new terminal, Port Blair airport closes every month for four days, which can be inconvenient, especially travelling with small children, so make sure to check your dates. We had a minor medical emergency on the first day and if it was more urgent and the airport was closed, that would have been a massive problem. The islands are remote and while they have basic infrastructure, it is nothing compared to Bangalore or bigger cities. After landing in Port Blair, most tourists including us move on towards Havelock island (now officially Swaraj Dweep). The last ferry from Port Blair leaves at 2 PM, so to get to Havelock you have to time your flight, spend the night at Port Blair or charter a private boat. We chartered a boat with Andaman Aquaholics and reached Havelock in just a bit under an hour. If all this sounds a bit cumbersome with a toddler- yes and no! Leo loved being on a boat and he even fell asleep 20 minutes into the ride, waking up in time for a short drive over to our resort.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the gorgeous Taj Exotica. When Leo was just three months old we stayed at the Taj Exotica in Goa and they have made our life so, so easy that we knew we will have an amazing time staying there again and we were right! After our beforementioned medical emergency, the staff scrambled to get us into a car and into the hospital as soon as possible, calling the dentist on her private number to come see us. Special thanks goes to Sasi who personally came with us to help us navigate the hospital and the language (Hindi is widely spoken on the islands). Taj Exotica has private villas, including three with a private pool, and if you want to go all out (and I mean ALL out with a price tag of 2 Lakhs a night), there is also the Tata Suite. The hotel has two restaurants, a massive infinity pool, a diving centre, standardly amazing Jiva spa and private beach access. At 4:30 PM every day they serve the high tea on the beach, which has been one of nicest experiences I have had anywhere in India. There are a ton of free and paid activities for the kids, like seashell painting and nature walks, as well as bicycles to use to get around the property. There are cots available on request, high chairs and pretty much anything you’d need to keep a toddler occupied. Leo was in love with the two singers who performed every night at one of the restaurants and had a private dance party every night.
Another amazing place to stay is Jalakara, but they have been booked a month in advance. We tried booking a lunch there since we heard amazing things about their food, but even the restaurant was fully booked for two weeks in advance, so make sure to plan accordingly!
WHAT TO DO
Sun, sea and beach! This is a proper island destination, perfect for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. If I’m staying at a resort as nice as the Taj, I like to do one day just in the resort, starting with a long lazy breakfast, pool, spa, lunch and the beach. Be warned- the sun is SHARP. We were consistently the only people out by the pool and on the beach during the day because it gets really hot. The plus side was we really felt like we were on a private island. Do not miss the high tea and the most amazing and beautiful sunsets! However, the beach closes at 5.30 PM because of the sand flies. My legs and arms have never been this itchy before (totally worth it).
We again chartered a boat with Andaman Aquaholics for a day of offbeat excursions. As my friend rightly said, Havelock is just the tip of the iceberg! The uninhabited virgin islands are just too beautiful, we kept saying “I can’t believe we are still in India”. We started our day with snorkelling around South Button island, moving onto Long Island for swimming and lunch and the onto Guitar Island. The crew has been amazing with Leo, letting him “drive” the boat, buying him coconut water, entertaining him while we snorkelled etc. They provided us with water and snacks for the whole trip, as well as all the snorkelling equipment and they’ve also arranged the lunch at Long Island.
DIVING & SCOOTERING
At the Lacadives Diving Centre located at the Taj you can do your diving course, from beginners to advanced, and they can arrange the dives for you. There are plenty of diving centres around the island and at the port itself many smaller boats are waiting for tourists to take them on excursions. You can also rent scooters at the port, which is a really beautiful way of exploring the island.
The first thing we always ask is “Where do the locals go to hang out?” and everyone’s answer has been the same: Something Different. Something Different is a lovely beach shack with really, really good food! I highly recommend the prawn toast and fish tikka. The vibe is great, they have children’s books and a trampoline and it attracts a vibrant mix of locals, tourists, divers and backpackers.
HOW TO PACK
It’s HOT. The sun is really sharp so I packed a lot of really light kaftans but with more coverage, as I burn really easily. I love the Pinklay kaftans but of course I’ve also picked up a few from the Taj boutique (do not recommend as obviously prices are much higher). I wore a bikini, but most local ladies go into the water covered. However, it did not feel uncomfortable at all, and everyone was non-pulsed about it. For the best swimsuit brands, check out our article here. I have been living in Nadi Nadi swimsuits and they are extremely high quality. For the toddler, I packed as if we were going for a month, knowing that I probably won’t be able to get the things I like on the island.
TODDLER PACKING LIST
Here are some things I highly recommend for beach vacations with a toddler:
– Rash Guards: total coverage is a must in the Andaman sun. I always get the SPF rash guards on H&M, plus a SPF hat.
– Beach Bucket: a toddler plus sand plus beach bucket equals an hour of zen for the parents. We have this one and I love the material and how durable it is. It has travelled with us for the past year and it looks brand new.
– Floaties: Taj had a ton of floaties for kids to play on, but if we stay at a smaller place I usually pack one just in case.
– SPF and insect repellent: I don’t think it did much to save us from sand flies, but still. I like roll-on sunscreen for easy application.
THE VINE PRO TIP: Ask the hotel staff if there are any baby turtle releases planned during your stay! It usually happens around 6AM on the main beach.