Indian government lifts yacht visiting restrictions to Andaman Islands
by Miranda Blazeby
More superyachts could soon be visiting the Andaman Islands than ever before after the Indian government lifted visiting restrictions in an effort to boost tourism to the region. The Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which prevented yachts for staying longer than 30 days at a time, will now no longer apply to 29 islands in the Andaman archipelago.
Yachts were previously forced to leave the region and gain re-entry if they wanted to stay longer than 30 days, meaning that crews were required to carry a multiple entry visa. Now visitors will only need a single-entry visa and can stay as long as the visa permits.
It comes after the Indian government previously lifted restrictions to charter yachts in 2015 to encourage more visitors into the region. It was announced the same year that six of the Andaman Islands were to be developed to facilitate eco-tourism.
R Rathnam, of superyacht agency Asia Pacific Superyachts, described the move as “a big change” for the region. “Yachts interested in long stay previously had to leave the country and then return. The crew had to have a multiple entry visa if they wanted to spend more than 30 days in the Andamans.”
He added: “Now crew and guests may visit with a single-entry visa and stay as long as they want as per the validity of the visa.”
The move opens up access to 29 islands in the region, including the Interview, Havelock and North Reef islands.
It will also enable tourists to visit the region’s 11 uninhabited islands, though only for a day. Visitors will still require authority approval to visit the area’s wildlife sanctuaries and tribal reserves.
Rathnam added, “Previously, most of the tribal reserve and forest reserve areas were totally banned for tourists. Now they are open with permission from the concerned authorities.”
Located between the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, the Andaman archipelago is known for its dense tropical forest which covers many of the islands and harbours extensive wildlife, including many rare species of birds.