Day 3- Havelock
After two days in Port Blair,it was time to prepare for the second phase of our trip. The plan was to visit Havelock, an island located to the northeast of Port Blair. It is one among a group of islands known as Ritchie’s Archipelago. Beach #7 on Havelock, known locally as Radhanagar Beach, is supposed to be the most beautiful place in the entire group of islands. The Time magazine even rated it to the best beach in Asia a couple of years ago. Havelock is accessible by ferry as well as a seaplane service. There are around 5 ferries which operate between Port Blair and Havelock on a daily basis. They begin to operate at around 6 am, but the timetable varies. It is best to get a schedule of departure and cost for the ferry service from the Directorate of Shipping Services office in Port Blair. Other than the government ferries that operate to various islands,there is also a private ferry service known as the Makruzz, which is much faster. However, it does only one round trip in a day. The government ferries take more than 2 hours for the journey to Havelock, while the Makruzz takes only an hour and a half.
Our plan was to take a government ferry to Havelock and halt there for two days. For our return journey we planned to take the Makruzz back to Port Blair. We had to wake up at 5 in the morning to catch the ferry which leaves at 6:30 am. The harbour at Port Blair is lively even at these early hours as it caters to to the goods coming in from the mainland, as well as from nearby countries like Thailand. The ferry which we were to travel on, was operated by the Shipping Corporation of India. Our reserved seats in the first class compartment akin to the Indian Railways chair car coaches made our travel comfortable. During the journey to Havelock, you are free to go on deck. Travelers can hear the soothing sound of the waves hitting the craft and enjoy the vast expanse of the ocean. The blue sea, and the green emeralds dotting them, complement each other, and add to the experience. After standing on deck for 15 minutes, we decided to get a quick nap. When we woke up, the ferry was docking at the Havelock Jetty. After getting off the ship, we were picked up by a taxi our friends had arranged. We were dropped at our hotel, a government enterprise called the “Dolphin Hotel”. There are various grades of rooms available and it is important to reserve the rooms early.You may reserve the rooms through online payment on the website. Make sure to get a sea facing cottage. The drawback about Dolphin Hotel was that though it was set in a nice sea-facing location, it did not have a beach.There are a multitude of options to stay at in at Havelock, which suit all budgets.
Havelock island has many beaches that are known by numbers. Many people had told us to see Radhanagar beach, the star attraction, or Beach #7, as soon as we reach. However, we wanted to built up the suspense about the beach and save the best for the last. We decided to go to Elephant Beach, a slightly less popular cousin of Radhanagar Beach. There are two ways to reach this beach, either by boat, which will cost around 3000 bucks, or a 1.5 kilometer trek through the forest. We opted for the latter, as we wanted to experience walking in the untouched forests of Andaman. The walk through the forest was an enjoyable experience, and the forests soothed the nerves. The trek is not difficult, and is suitable for all ages. The best part of the trek is just seeing the humongous trees which you don’t get to see in urban India. All the trees in Andaman, especially the Andaman Teak, are gigantic, and are magnificent. The sunlight filtering through these giants make the moments magical.
At the end of the trek, there is a small patch where you have to wade through knee deep water, in a swamp-like area. It may fell creepy, but after tide retreats, it is not an issue. It is best to tread these areas using water proof footwear such as crocs. As soon as you finish this patch, you reach Elephant beach. Broken trees, a result of the tsunami, are scattered around the beach, but they add to the rustic feel of the place. The main part of the trip to Elephant beach are the adventure activities. One of these is seawalking, which is conducted by the same agency that operates it in Port Blair. The one at Port Blair is much better. The other activites at the beach include jet-ski riding, snorkelling, and boat rides. The best amongst them probably is the jet-ski. Although it is pricey at Rs 600 for one round, it is worth every penny spent. The adrenaline rush which you get when the jet-ski whizzes through the water is one of a kind, and at the end of the ride, you feel powered up. If you are not fond of speed, there are other activities which can keep you occupied.
After trying out the various activities, you can choose to relax and enjoy the tender coconut served on the beach itself. Another option is just to float lazily in the blue, crystal clear water. It is a great way to de-stress and lose yourself in the serenity of the place. After spending around 2 hours in Elephant beach, we returned via the same route to our taxi, which was waiting for us. Since we did not have lunch, we chose to eat our food at a cosy little place called the German Bakery, close to the Dolphin hotel. The food there was heavenly, and great value for money, although the service was lax.Freshly baked pizzas and pasta are popular dishes.
After the heavy lunch, we were all drowsy, so we decided to retire.When we reached the hotel, we were taken in to one of the biggest surprises ever. In the morning the sea had come up to the hotel and the waves thrashed on the low walls giving it a picturesque setting. At 3 pm,the sea had retreated more than a kilometre leaving behind rock and sand. The corals, which would have looked nice under the sea had metamorphosed into boulders.Seeing the sea bed in low tide was a different experience. In the evening, some of us opted to hire bicycles, which are the most preferred mode for getting from one place to another in Havelock. Riding a cycle and feeling the coastal wind hitting your face is very soothing. (You burn calories too!!). Havelock has many small kiosks where you can rent a cycle, for nominal rates. They charge on a day to day basis. With the hired cycles, we roamed around the island before returning to the hotel at 7:30 pm. We were in time to see the sea advancing back to the hotel front at high tide. By 8:30 pm, the waves were thrashing angrily once again . Being from the mainland, we were all awestruck to see such a phenomenon. It was time to retire for the day and after a quick dinner we literally crashed into bed.
Day4 -Radhanagar Beach
The next morning some of us decided to explore the island by cycle. We cycled from our hotel all the way to Kala Patthar Beach, which was around 5 kilometres from the hotel. Kala Patthar beach is so called because of a large flat rock on the beach, which is visible during low tide. The ride to the beach is of utmost beauty, with the sapphire blue sea on on one side, and the green forest on the other. It reminds you of Bollywood movie shots in France and Spain, with the roads winding past the oceans. It makes us proud that our country has such natural beauty. We spent some time on the beach at Kala Patthar before returning back to Dolphin.
All of us freshened up and had a quick breakfast before leaving for the most awaited destination in our trip- Radhanagar, or beach #7. It is a 45 minute drive from the Dolphin hotel. We had checked out of the Dolphin hotel, as we had booked rooms in the Barefoot resort, right beside the beach. Barefoot is probably the most priciest of options in Havelock, but it is well worth the experience. It stands true to its name, and it is mandatory for all guests to remove slippers before stepping inside any of the cottages. The cottages are all made of natural wood, and perfectly merge with the green forest. The aim of the resort is to promote tourism, without harming the ecological balance of the island. After reaching the resort, we were so eager to see the beach that we did not even visit our rooms. Grabbing towels from the reception, we dashed for the beach. The path to reach the beach from the resort goes through around 100 metres of the Andaman forest with gigantic trees, before finally opening up into the silver sands. Our first impression of the beach was just as others had described it. One is spell bound and wordless at the beauty. For us, it was the most beautiful place in Andaman. There was no sight comparable to Radhanagar beach. All the beaches we had seen in the mainland seemed to bow down to this one. It was just amazingly good to be true. It is possibly the best reason to visit the islands of Andaman and Nicobar.We lazed around on the beach for around 3 hours, without even realizing how fast time had passed. It was fun to face the waves crashing in on the beach. However, all visitors to the beach should keep in mind that the waves at Radhanagar are huge. If the waves break on you, then you are at the mercy of the sea. The wave can violently toss you around, and you can hit the sand bed really hard. The receptionist at the hotel had told us that a tourist had drowned when he was taken unawares by a wave. By being a little cautious, you can prevent injuries, and enjoy yourselves better. The beauty of the sea lures you and resisting it becomes difficult.
Later on, we decided to have lunch at one of the tiny shacks a few meters away were the public have access. These places serve meals at nominal prices, and the food is hot and fresh. Outside these shacks, there are vendors selling tender coconut, and other fruits. One of the most unique things we tried was the banana, which was native to Andaman. Unlike a normal banana, it was slightly pink in colour and smaller. It had unusually large seeds for a banana, but it was as sweet as honey. We liked it so much that we bought a dozen to take to our room. After lunch, we returned to the beach, and relaxed in the sand, taking in the sun and the cool breeze. The beauty of the beach had captivated us so much that we just didn’t feel like going back to the rooms. The rooms, like the rest of the resort were rustic, and had a charm to it. We freshened up and left to have dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. Listening to live music in the lobbly is an option for visitors. The restaurant serves all kinds of food, but the best dishes are the wood oven pizzas. There were all sorts of toppings, from sun dried tomatoes, to the classic margherita.
Day 5-Havelock to Port Blair
Our ferry back to Port Blair, the Makruzz, was only in the evening. In the morning, we went down to the beach again and spent an hour in the crystal blue waters. This time, the waves were much larger, some being around 8 feet high. The size of the waves meant that we had to stay in shallow waters. After freshening up later, we bid farewell to Radhanagar beach. The beach had enthralled all of us, and it was a sad moment. Since we had time we set out to the one of the best restaurant on the island was the “Full Moon Cafe”, located in the Dive India premises. Dive India is an agency that conducts scuba diving courses. It is PADI certified, and is one of the best places in the island to learn the art of scuba. They have simple accommodation,but are professionals in their field. The Full Moon Cafe is located on its compound. It is mainly visited by foreigners, and is a nice, quaint place. You can just relax there for hours, with nothing to do. The best part is that it is located right in front of Beach#3, and you can just lie down on the hammocks and take in the beautiful surroundings. The Full Moon Cafe served heavenly food. We tried all sorts of dishes from the falafel to the lasagne. It was the best food we had had in our trip. The Full Moon Cafe is a must visit in Havelock, especially for food lovers.
At 4:30 in the evening we boarded the Makruzz. The Makruzz is a “High Velocity” craft, which can travel at a speed of 60 kilometres per hour. After boarding, we didn’t have much to do, so we slept for the duration of the journey, before arriving in Port Blair at 6 pm. After having a simple dinner, we retired to our beds, thinking about the memorable experiences in the islands of Andaman and Nicobar. The curtains had come down on one of the best journeys we had ever undertaken.
When we had decided to choose Andaman as our destination, we had no clue about how to plan our itinerary. We had searched the net for information, but no reliable information or experiences were available. We had to put together the trip based on the minimal information that we obtained. This dearth of information is what prompted me to write a travelogue which recounted details about these Emerald Islands. Hopefully this write up be helpful to people wanting to visit this little paradise .
As for the time we had spent in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, there are no words which can express our sense of awe. The whole journey, right from the moment we had landed at the Veer Savarkar airport, to the Full Moon Cafe, was memorable. Although cut off from the mainland, these islands are very much a part of the India. The people here are warm and welcoming. I would like to say that travel enthusiasts must include these islands in their bucket lists.