Neil Island now known as Shaheed Dweep is a tiny but beautiful island located 37 Kms. to the south of the Andaman Islands. With unexplored coral reefs, brilliant bio-diversity, white sandy beaches and tropical forest and vegetation, it is one of the hot tourist spots in the Andamans. Shaheed Dweep is known as the ‘vegetable bowl’ of the Andamans. Neill Island was uninhabited until the arrival of settlers in the late 1960s. Like Havelock, the vast majority of settlers at Neill were refugees from erstwhile Bangladesh, following the exodus of Hindu Bangladeshis prior to that country's war of independence in 1971. The settlers named the beaches after mythical characters of the epic Ramayana (Bharatpur, Laxmanpur, Sitapur, Ramnagar etc.) The island, with its very relaxed vibes and long, deserted beaches is a place to chill out after the "bustle" of Havelock. The widest part of the island is about 5 km in length. One can walk the whole island in about two hours. From Port Blair Phoenix Bay jetty, regular speed boats operated by Government and Private Boat operators are available. Time taken is approx. one hour and 45 minutes. Auto rickshaws, taxis, cycles and motor bikes are available for
transport within the island.
Activity options in Neil include Snorkeling, Scuba diving, Game fishing, trekking. Cycling, Sun bathing, swimming, bird watching and many more. The coastal belt surrounding Andaman & Nicobar Islands is the abode of one of the richest coral reef ecosystem in the world. The coral reefs and under water formation are untouched by human activities.
. The abundance of marine life around Neil provides a rich variety of varied diving sites. The ideal dive season is from December to May. The Jetty area and Laxmanpur beach-I are the dive spots.
The beach at Sitapur is wide enough and is sparsely populated. Swimming relaxes and rejuvenates the body, mind and spirit. It is an ideal exercise for all age groups.
The place has enormous scope for water sports activities. Snorkeling is available to view shallow areas of the coral reefs without going underwater with scuba equipment.
Cycling outdoors in Shaheed Dweep can be a great fun. Unlike most of the islands in the Andaman Group, Shaheed Dweep has a flat terrain and is ideal for cycling. The island is also comparatively small, with an area of 19 square kilometers and a population of 4000. One can feel the serenity of village life here.
For fishing enthusiasts, the sea of the coasts of Shaheed Dweep, in the Ritchie's archipelago offer some of the best catches. There are organizations that offer all kinds of fishing equipments and boats.
The secluded beach of Lakshmanpur lies 2 km north of the Neil jetty. The beach is a broad spur of white shell sand with shallow water and offers a good snorkeling option. Sunbathing and swimming are other activities. One can view spectacular sun-set from this beach. This rocky beach lies about two kilometers from the jetty with lots of coral formation , ornamental fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, star fish etc. which are best suited for people of scientific temperament. The rocky surface can get slippery and one needs to be on ones guard. The main attraction here is the natural rock formations.
Half a kilometer from the jetty, Bharatpur is one of the best beaches known for swimming and coral-watching with a vast sandy stretch. This beach is ideally recommended for youngsters because of activity options. One can hire glass-bottom boats for coral viewing. The Sea around the Jetty area is full of corals with schools of fish swimming around. The colour and form of vegetation along the beach soothes the senses. It’s great to get to the Bharatpur beach early in the morning to catch the sun rising to the sky and envelope the beach in a play of colours that reflect from the water and contrasting sand.
At the tip of the island about 5km from the market lies Sitapur beach or beach No. 5. Also known as the ‘sunrise beach’ it is best situated to enjoy the lovely sunrise early every morning. This postcard perfect serene beach has two curved bays and clear blue waters which tempt one to go for a swim. Due to its location, it is prone to higher tides and stronger currents, but swimming is possible at all times. All along the white stretches of soft sand there is plenty of shade from the palm treess.. At low tide one can walk to the second bay and explore small caves or just enjoy the peacefulness of Sitapur beach. As the beach is never crowded there are no facilities yet, one can only buy fresh coconuts.
As you disembark from the boat at Shaheed Dweep Jetty and walk towards the market village of Shaheed Dweep Kendra, the beach appears before you is in the form of a long arc. Shaheed Dweep Kendra, a gently curving bay of white sand, straddles the jetty, scattered with picturesque wooden fishing boats. Shaheed Dweep Kendra is the heart of the island. On the left side of the jetty is Bharatpur Beach and on the right Laxmanpur Beach.
Neil Island is famous for its naturally shaped bridge-like rock also known as the Howrah Bridge. It has two living natural corals formed just like a bridge. The rock formation was called by the Bengalis who settled in the island in the early days and they refer it as the Rabindra Sethu and later called it the Howrah Bridge. It is best seen during low tide.
This tiny island is located at the southern tip of Shaheed Dweep and is locally known as 'Chhota' Shaheed Dweep (‘Small’ Shaheed Dweep). This island has been declared a wild life sanctuary and is a turtle-nesting ground. Individuals have to obtain permission from the Deputy Range Officer, Forest Department at Shaheed Dweep Island to visit this island. Only day visits are permitted.