Exploring the unreal beauty of the Andaman Islands
- Despite having zero Covid-19 cases, people here continue to take precautions like wearing masks.
Havelock Islandnot only offers some stunning beaches, but it also has some of the top diving destinations in the country.
- If you are hankering for some serious digital detox there is no better place than Havelock - there is limited to zero connectivity on the island.
Earlier this month, Dr. Niveditha Vasireddy, a psychiatrist from Visakhapatnam, travelled to the
She tells Business Insider, not able to control her excitement, how she has never imagined experiencing such clean and untouched white sandy beaches in India. "I mean, you can expect such an experience in countries like the Philippines, but in India... my mind was blown,” she says.
The picturesque white sandy beaches of the
Dr. Vasireddy, along with a few friends, decided to ditch the idea of vacationing in Goa and chose a place where they can get away from it all — plus, there was the added advantage of the location being COVID-free. In fact, it was the first place in India with zero active cases as of 03 February 2021. Regardless of the fact, she was pleasantly surprised that people on the Island continue to take safety very seriously and said all the locals were wearing face masks. In case you forget to wear yours, they will politely inform you that if you don't, you will get 'challand’ (a challan).
Please note that it is mandatory to present an RTPCR Covid negative test at
The island not only offers some stunning beaches, but it also has some of the top diving destinations in the country. It is an excellent place to learn deep-sea diving so that you can explore the underwater marvels. Havelock Island is one of the few places where inexperienced divers can try out a single dive instead of signing up for a full course. The water is teeming with tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays and much more. It also has a healthy population of colourful live corals. The best part is that you don't need to be a swimmer to try scuba diving. The crystal blue waters are so clear that you can always opt for snorkelling if you want to skip scuba diving. There is also an excellent night kayaking expedition that takes you through the mangroves. The unreal experience of watching the water bioluminescence below and the sky filled stars above cannot be paralleled.
There is so much to see in Havelock that it is best to hire a bike or cycle. But we must warn you that while happily cruising on well-made tar roads you may land up literally nowhere. "Some (roads) took us to beaches and others just abruptly ended by fields or the forest," Dr. Vasireddy tells us.
Radhanagar beach is flanked by the ocean on one side and lush rainforest on the other. This west-facing beach is ideal for catching the sunset. You can also walk down to Neil's Cove, a secluded spot perfect for sunbathing and a spot for swimming in shallow water.
Elephant beach may not be easy to get to, but the beauty of the place more than makes up for the effort. The beach features some bleached driftwood and logs that provide an excellent backdrop for a photo-op. This is also an ideal place to go snorkelling.
Vijaynagar beach is where the buzz is. This is where most of the restaurants, hotels and snorkelling centres are situated. The beach faces east and is, therefore, a great place to catch the sunrise. However, because the water is shallow and strewn with rocks, swimming here is not the easiest.
The local food, if idyllic surroundings are not enough, is usually a combination of Indian and continental cuisine that is absolutely delicious. Dr. Vasireddy recommends - Fat Martin's Cafe in Vijaynagar that serves south Indian food including a delicious Nutella dosa; Anju Coco that strangely enough serves the "best biriyani”; Something Different serves excellent continental seafood pizza and amazing desserts; Moonlight Cafe is great for seafood. The restaurants here are a seafood lovers paradise, serving up a fantastic variety of fresh red snappers, calamari, prawns, and so much more. That being said, there are plenty of vegetarian options too.
There are plenty of hotels to choose from high-end Taj Hotels to more affordable options like Wild Orchid, SilverSand Beach Resort, Munjoh Ocean Resort and Symphony Palms Beach Resort. The hotels are clean, and most are environmentally conscious. Most hotels and restaurants on the Island provide only RO water and not plastic bottles, as is sadly the norm elsewhere. And if you choose to buy water, the local stores have nothing smaller than 2-litre bottles to reduce the amount of plastic used.
How to get there
From Port Blair, the best way to get to Havelock is by ferry. The government ferry from Port Blair to Havelock takes around 2.5 hours but please note that the outside deck area has no seating, so you will have to bring something to place on the floor to sit on. The booking process is slightly cumbersome, but you can get a travel agent to take care of everything, which will still be cheaper than private options. MV Makruzz and Coastal Cruise are the private companies that ferry people across to the Island. They take around 1.5 hours to get to Havelock.
If you are hankering for some serious digital detox there is no better place than Havelock. There is limited to no connectivity on the island. BSNL is the only cellular service that works but the network is patchy. Hotels usually provide wi-fi access, but most are limited to the lobby area.
While Andaman and Nicobar Islands' capital may not seem all that appealing as a tourism destination, there are plenty of places you can visit while here. There is a high probability of you spending the night there since the ferries to the islands do not operate at night. So depending on your flight timing, chances are, one way or the other you will have to stay in Port Blair.
AdvertisementIf you opt to stay in Port Blair,
Dr. Vasireddy decided to stay at the relatively new Big Tree Resort featuring only eight cabins, an in-house restaurant and a supremely friendly dog called Momo. Momo insists all guests should play with him and will bring you a coconut husk that you need to pry out of his mouth and throw so that he can fetch it, thus providing an excellent way to drive away the blues.
Another site that may be worth a visit, especially if you are a history buff, is the colonial prison called Cellular Jail (Kālā Pānī) that is where most freedom fighters, including Veer Savarkar, were shipped off to before independence. There is an informative light show in the evening and the tour of the jail itself is quite fascinating.
BARATANG MANGROVE FOREST AND LIMESTONE CAVES
To experience the fascinating limestone caves and mangrove forests in
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