Dates: December 2014
Route: Flew from Chennai, India on Jet Airways.
Ever since seeing an article on the Andaman Islands in an airline magazine, we had always planned on going there. Since we usually fly into Chennai when we visit India, we happened to also see that there was a direct flight to Port Blair, the capital of the Andamans. Scattered across the Bay of Bengal between India and Thailand, the Andaman and Nicobar are a collection of some 600 islands, most off which are off limits to tourists and many to ANY foreigner. Some of the islands have indigenous people who have had little or no contact with broader humanity. Out of the nine islands in the Andamans that allow tourists, Havelock Island is the most popular and visited. All non-Indians have to obtain a permit upon arrival and we did this with a nice lady standing under a sign that had the tagline for the islands; Emerald Blue and You. While there are things to see in Port Blair, it is very commercial, and our research led us to skip it altogether. We took a taxi from the airport to the main harbor and boarded a government ferry for Havelock. The journey is around 2.5 hrs and the ferry drops you off at the only dock on the Island.
The first thing you notice when getting off the ferry is the ‘No Service’ message on your mobile. There is very little cellular coverage on the island and it is spotty at best. WiFi is available in the hotels but best to leave data off altogether and just enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the island. We stayed at the beautiful Munjoh Beach resort which was a great combination of rustic, tranquil location, and modern facilities. Munjoh is away from the island centre and thus far quieter and peaceful than some of the larger resorts. For those seeking lux, there is the Taj Exotica or Barefoot resorts. The west and east side of the island offers different beach experiences but it’s easy to see them all regardless of where you stay.
We got there just after sunset and so had dinner at the hotel and retired for the night. We started the next morning by going to the beach for our morning workout. Walking through the lush grouping of coconut trees and local fauna, we emerged onto a white sand beach with emerald green waters. The waters here is every bit postcard-like and rivals anything found in other better-known destinations such as the Maldives or Thailand. The best part is there were very few tourists and we had the place to ourselves most of the time. We spent almost every morning walking down the beach a few miles and swimming and doing photography. The highlight of our stay at the hotel was the ‘private, romantic dinner’ they organized on the beach; A table with an amazing food selection, bottle of wine, and a circle of candles. It was just us two on the beach the entire evening and is on of the most memorable times in all our travels.
We spent our two few days just exploring the beaches on the east side of the island where our hotel was located. We rented a scooter from a local shop and just drove on Road 5. Just after Kala Pathar beach, we found a stretch that secluded and spent an entire afternoon here reading, swimming, and just chilling to the music of the emerald waters. Beaches that are not near a hotel tend to be empty of people and this is the best way to spend the day. There are also some interesting things to see inland, which we did by going along Road 4. Sights range from betel nut plantations, rustic villages, and small farms. Road 4 also gets you to Radhanagar Beach which is one of the largest and most popular beaches due to its proximity to the Taj and Barefoot resorts. There is also a few domesticated elephants kept by Barefoot and it’s a sight to see them walking along the beach or swimming. There is also the beautiful Elephant Beach which is just north of Radhanagar.
Another thing that Andamans and Havelock is known for is the excellent diving that is found all around. Though neither of us are certified, we decided to try this out and used the excellent Dive Andaman team at Barefoot Scuba. We went through a one hour orientation before getting on a boat to go to one of the many small atolls around Havelock. We literally walked from the shore of the island into a beautiful coral reef and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They also take pictures for you underwater as part of the package. All the kit is provided, and we found them to be very good for beginners.
Havelock is also about relaxation on a paradise island and not much else. All shops and the single ATM is found in the town center, which is at the intersection of Road 4 and 5. Rupa did manage to find a single Gelato shop here which was the cherry on top of her holiday. If there is one negative I would call out, it’s the large amount of garbage that is unfortunately found on most beaches. This is no fault of the locals as much of it washes up from India and Thailand. We were barefoot most of the time but do be careful where you step.
(Click on gallery images below for details)