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Located in the Ritchie’s Archipelago, Neil Island is one of the groups of islands in Andaman & Nicobar. The island got its name from James George Neil, a soldier from the British Army, who acted pretty rudely with insurgents at the time of the historic 1857 Mutiny. Situated across an area of 18.9 square kilometres, Neil Island is situated at a distance of 40km from the main city of Port Blair, which is also the capital of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. There are lots of islands in the Ritchie’s Archipelago out of which the one at the extreme south is the uninhabited Sir Hugh Rose Island, located at 3,8km towards the south east of Neil Island. Among the inhabited islands, Neil Island is the last one at the south of this archipelago. This island belongs to South Andaman district, Port Blair sub-district and Neil Kendra Panchayat jurisdiction limits. The five villages in Neil Island with population based on 2001 census data are as follows:
- Sitapur – 267 people
- Bharatpur – 564 people
- Neil Kendra – 1064 people
- Lakshmanpur – 372 people
- Ram Nagar – 601 people
Total population is 2868. People depend on agriculture for their daily bread and butter. They supply agricultural products to other parts of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Though there are not many tourist-friendly activities here, people nowadays are beginning to prefer Neil Island to neighbouring Havelock Island. Few restaurants and hotels are set up in Neil Island to cater to domestic and international tourists. All people come in and go out of the island through a jetty available at Bharatpur.
Government ferries are available on a frequent basis to get to Neil Island from the capital city of Port Blair. These are available at 6.30 and 11 in the morning; however online booking is not possible in them. It is possible to book tickets on these ferries with the help of Andaman Tour Planners. Cruise tours are the other way to get to this island. Express Bhagya, Coastal Cruise and Makruzz are some of the cruises which you can use. These tours last around 1 hour from Havelock Island and about 90 minutes from Port Blair. Climate & weather conditions determine ferry schedules and timings. People have to be updated about the local ferry island schedule, so that they don’t feel disappointed.
Very few hotels are available in Neil Island for accommodating local and foreign tourists. They are given below:
- Hotel Kingfisher
- Sea Shell Resort
- Peark Park Resort
- Tango Resort
Internet connectivity is not good at Neil Island. It is important for tourists to complete their internet activities, ticket booking and other important tasks at places like Havelock Island or Port Blair, where internet connectivity is quick and reliable.
Events / Festivals in Neil Island
Neil Island has its own distinct and authentic culture, which is evident in the folk dance and songs that people carry out during important festivals and functions. Island Tourism Festival & Subhash Mela are two important festivals that are celebrated here with great pomp and splendour.
Subhash Mela – This is a festival to commemorate the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Every year, during January, this festival is celebrated for a week. During the whole period, the island wears a festive look as many cultural programmes are conducted during this time.
The Island Tourism Festival – Festivities for this festival go on for ten days at least. This festival marks the arrival of winter. Inhabitants decorate their island grandly during this festival, to make this the biggest occasion in Neil Island. People from across the globe arrive at Neil Island to witness the grand celebrations.
Places to Visit in Neil Island
- Elephant Beach – This is the extension of the famous beach in Havelock Island. With its excellent presence of abundant reefs and marine life, this beach was a great snorkelling and scuba-diving destination, until it was destroyed by the devastating Tsunami during 2004.
- Natural Bridge – Located in Neil Island, this bridge is known famously as Howrah Bridge, (name given by local Bengalis of Neil Island), and is one of the prime attractions in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. It is located at a natural environment, providing great ambience to tourists.
- Radhanagar Beach – The famous Radhanagar Beach of Havelock Island, which can be enjoyed in Neil Island, is one of the biggest attractions in this island. With its pristine waters and great environment, this beach is regarded as one of the top beaches in the world. This beach is famous for water sports activities like scuba-diving, snorkelling, swimming, kayaking and many more.
- Bharatpur Beach – Exotic marine life and lush green vegetation are the major highlights of Neil Island’s Bharatpur Beach, which is one of the major tourist spots in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Coral watching and swimming make this beach a sought –after holiday destination that you can enjoy with your loved ones.
- Sitapur Beach – Located right at the edge of Neil Island, Sitapur Beach is a quiet beach and a great picnic spot. Limestone caves and rich natural vegetation are some of the highlights of this beach.
Climate of Neil Island Summer Season in Neil Island – The months between March and May experience hot and humid summers in Neil Island. The heat is quite bearable and average temperatures during the day hover between 20 and 34 degrees Celsius. In the evenings, a cool breeze makes the climate enjoyable.
Monsoon Season in Neil Island - This season lasts from middle week of May to August. Rainfall is not very heavy; however it does rain on and off at few places in the island during this time, making Neil Island a picturesque destination.
Winter Season in Neil Island – The period between December and February, marks winter season in Neil Island. During this time, temperatures range between 14 and 30degrees Celsius during this time, making it apt for sightseeing and other tourist activities.