Wandoor and the Mahatma Gandhi National Marine Park

     Much the most popular excursion from Port Blair is the boat ride from Wandoor, 35 km southwest, to one of the fifteen islets comprising the Mahatma Gandhi National Marine Park.  Although set up purely for tourists, the trip is worth considering, as it gains you access to one of the richest coral reefs in the region.  The downside is that entry into the park for foreigners now costs Rs 500.  Boats depart at 10 am from Wandoor, which you can reach on A&N Tourism’s tour or by local bus, but it is more fun to rent a moped and ride down to meet the boat yourself.

     The long white beach at Wandoor is littered with the dry, twisted trunks of trees torn up and flung down by annual cyclones, and fringed not with palms, but by dense forest teeming with bird life.  The water’s very shallow, so you should only snorkel here at high tide. From the jetty, the boats chug through broad creeks lined with dense mangrove swamps and pristine forest to either Red Skin Island or more commonly, Jolly Buoy.  The latter, an idyllic deserted island, boasts an immaculate shell sand beach, ringed by a bank of superb coral.  The catch is that the boat only stops for around an hour, which isn’t nearly enough time to explore the shore and reef. Beware of strong currents while snorkeling off the edges of the reef.