Tiny, triangular-shaped Neil is the most southerly inhabited island of Ritchie’s Archipelago, barely two hours northeast of Port Blair on a fast ferry. The source of much of the capital’s fresh fruit and vegetables, its fertile centre, ringed by a curtain of stately tropical trees, comprises vivid patches of green paddy dotted with small farmsteads and banana plantations. The beaches are mediocre by the Andamans’ standards but worth a day or two en route to or from Havelock and, as it is far less developed with less than ten accommodation options, some visitors prefer it to its busier neighbour for more extended stays.
Neil boasts five beaches, all of them within easy cycling distance of the small bazaar just up the lane from the jetty. The best place to swim is Neil Kendra, a gently curving bay of white sand on the north coast which straddles the jetty and is scattered with picturesque wooden fishing boats. This blends into Bharatpur to the east and Lakshmangar, which continues for nearly 3km west: to get to Lakshmangar by road, head right when the road from the jetty meets the bazaar and follow the road for around twenty minutes until it dwindles into a surfaced track, then take a right. Wrapped around the headland, the beach is a broad spur of white-shell sand, with shallow water offering good snorkelling, although footing is difficult when entering the water at any time other than high tide.
Exposed to the open sea and thus prone to higher tides, Sitapur beach, 6km southeast of Neil Kendra, is also appealing and has the advantage of a sandy bottom extending into the sea. The ride there across Neil’s central paddy land is pleasant, but there are no facilities beyond the two new guesthouses on intermediate Ram Nagar beach.