While planning my itinerary for Andaman I was in two minds whether to include Jolly Buoy Island and after a bit of deliberation I decided in the affirmative. I am counting my blessings for this decision since this trip remains as the toast of my entire week long stay in the Andaman Islands. I would recommend and urge everyone visiting Andaman to include a trip to Jolly Buoy Island which is a part of Mahatma Gandhi National Park and can be reached from Wandoor Jetty located about 30 kms from Port Blair.
About Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
Jolly Buoy is one of the 15 islands within Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. This National Park was set up in 1983 spread across 281 sq kms of which 60 sq kms of land and 221 sq kms of territorial water. The park is accessed from Wandoor about 30 kms from Port Blair. Tourists are allowed to 2 of the islands within this park during the year
- Jolly Buoy Island (2 sq Kms) between November to May ( closed every Monday)
- Red Skin Island (7 sq Kms) between May to November (closed every Monday)
Jolly Buoy is located towards the open sea and hence access is not allowed during stormy monsoons for safety reasons. Also, this alternate mode of operation between the islands allows the corals to recover and revive and maintain ecological balance.
Permits for Tourists
Visit to islands within the Marine National Park is controlled to maintain the fragile ecological balance. The permits are issued from the Tourism Office in Port Blair. To avoid long queues, it may be better to get a travel agent to organize this trip. We paid Rs 800 per head to visit the island which included Ferry Ride, Island Access Fee and a complimentary 10 minute ride on a Glass Bottom Boat to watch coral and marine life.
It was heartwarming to note that Eco Tourism is followed very sincerely in these islands. Tourists are not allowed to carry mineral water bottles or any kind of plastic packets to the island. The counter at the entrance of the jetty offers 1 Litre Milton Water Bottles for a rental of Rs 5 and a deposit of Rs 200/- and Jute Bags for a charge. Every traveler is expected to change their water bottles and plastic bags else they are denied boarding since bags are searched thoroughly. The boatmen and other officials keep a strict watch so that the islands and the territorial waters are not littered.
On the Ferry to the Island
The ferry ships leave one after the other from Wandoor Jetty each one with capacity of about 40-50 passengers. It takes about 45 minutes to complete the journey through the territorial waters to the open sea where Jolly Buoy Island is located.
It was a beautiful morning and a few minutes into the ride, I was completely mesmerised by the views around. The sky and water seemed to merge into each other at a distance. The unending tango of different shades of blue and green with a brief interlude of white clouds was a slice of paradise.
After making a special request with the boatmen, they allowed me to the top deck for a brief period. Those 10 minutes were the best part of the journey, with uninhibited 360 degree views of the surrounding. The heat and humidity were blissfully ignored by the wind on my face and a few lines of poetry bubbled up in my mind. In the absence of a jetty, the ship is docked far away from the beach and the passengers are transported in small glass bottom boats to the beach.
Coral & Marine Life Watching from a Glass Bottom Boat
At first I was apprehensive about the glass bottom boat having had a rather disappointing experience in the Dolphin Boat in North Bay. I went ahead with the 10 minute complimentary ride and was hooked for more. I signed up for the 45 minute ride around the island for Rs 500 and the views were breathtaking to say the least. I did see corals and marine life in Havelock and Neil but the views from Jolly Buoy remains the toast of my trip.
Glimpses from Jolly Buoy
I walked around the island and parked myself at the opposite corner far from the prying co-travelers. The different colors of the sea was therapy for the eyes and soul. It was a hot and sunny day, so much so that I could feel my skin burn. Though I was carrying creams and sun screen lotions, I preferred to soak in the moment; not a care for earthly worries in paradise
The tourism department has done its bit to make it comfortable by erecting thatched huts for resting, benches for quiet contemplation, washrooms, showers and changing rooms for convenience. I did not carry any change of clothes and since they did not have a counter for renting clothes to get into water, happily watched others swimming, snorkeling and having fun.
On my way back, I kept wondering about the name Jolly Buoy; and looking at exhausted but jolly faces around I had unlocked the reason for the name 🙂
- If you are visiting in the overlapping months of May or November, speak to your travel agent or at the tourism office to know whether the trips are being made to Jolly Buoy or Red Skin Island
- Start from Port Blair not later than 7am. The 30 kms to Wandoor takes about an hour. The ferries to Jolly Buoy start leaving from 8am and not later than 9am to return by lunch hour.
- On the way look out for the large pools of water on either side which were cultivable land prior to the tsunami when the sea water gushed in and turned them into ponds
- Carry Food, Snacks and Water since nothing is available in Jolly Buoy. At most you may find coconut, cucumber or a few biscuit packets
- Borrow Jute Bags and Milton Water Bottles from the Eco Tourism Counter at the jetty for a fee in case you are carrying food, water in plastic bags and bottles.
- Pack a pair of clothes for swimming or snorkeling in the island. There are changing rooms, rest rooms and showers on the island for visitor convenience
- The entire trip from Wandoor Jetty and back takes about 4 hours. Travelers return by lunch time to Wandoor.
- There are hardly any restaurants near Wandoor Jetty except for a shack selling homely Bengali food and Fish Fry which I had. It may be advisable to head towards Port Blair for proper lunch
- Pop in to the museum next to the jetty which has free entry; they have a good collection of corals and marine life. Most importantly it gave me access to a very clean restroom
- For the 2nd half of the day consider the following options:
- Visit Ross Island at 4pm and stay on for the Light & Sound show which is a 3D affair
- Visit Chidia Tapu or Bird Island for sunset or if you are up for some excitement then Trek to Munda Pahad close by under supervision for some exotic views of the islands. The trek takes about 45-60 minutes
- Relax, visit one of the museums or amble around in Aberdeen Bazaar
- Cost of Half Day Trip to Jolly Buoy
- For 2 travellers : Rs 4000/- including (Rs 2400 for the vehicle and Rs 1600 for the trip)
- Around Pristine Neil Island
- Beach Hopping in Havelock
- Guide to Choosing Adventure Activity in Andaman
- Day Trip to Mangroves and Volcano in Andaman