Much the most popular excursion from Port Blair is to WANDOOR, 30km southwest. The long white beach here is littered with the dry, twisted trunks of trees torn up and flung down by annual cyclones. It’s fringed not with palms but by dense forest teeming with birdlife. You should only snorkel here at high tide, as the coral is easily damaged when the waters are shallow.
Most people take a cruise around the fifteen islets comprising the Mahatma Gandhi National Marine Park, which boasts one of the richest coral reefs in the region. The downside is that entry into the park for foreigners now costs Rs500 [Rs50]. Boats depart at 10am (daily except Mon; Rs450) from Wandoor, which you can reach on A&N Tourism’s tour or by local bus. 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. While snorkelling off the edges of the reef, beware of strong currents.