Havelock Island of Andaman and Nicobar group of islands has been developing fast in recent years. A huge surge of domestic tourists have changed the landscape of the island and iron clad resorts pockmark its virgin tracts. While in Havelock, we spoke with an elderly Englishman, who has been visiting the island for a very long time. He pensively reminisced the days, when Havelock Island felt like Robinson Crusoe’s place and how he missed the original beach huts. With the construction of an international airport at Port Blair, the tourism to the islands are anticipated to boom and perhaps it will not be long before the charm of Havelock Island will be gone forever. Funnily enough, despite being the most visited island, Havelock still retains another world aura. You feel time locked and in the middle of nowhere, which is exactly where you happen to be. Anyway, before we begin with pithy travel details of a Havelock Island holiday guide, let’s browse through at what this tropical paradise has to offer.
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One of the Best Beaches of Asia
The Radhanagar Beach or the Beach Number 7 has been mentioned as one of the best beaches in Asia by the TIME magazine. It is indeed a spectacularly beautiful beach. Located on the western side of Havelock Island, Radhanagar beach has sugar white sand, clear blue waters, and a lush tropical forest as a backdrop. Coconut palms and mahua trees create a primal looking forest and it has a beautifully curving bay. The even more gorgeous and secluded Neil’s Cove is right next to Radhanagar Beach. Do visit it via a short walk and pay heed to the sea crocodile warnings.
Classy resorts and budget beach shacks nestling on the beach
The famous Barefoot resort nestles over one quiet end of Radhanagar beach. It is said to have everything aimed at a relaxing nature’s break at a price. The Taj Exotica and Spa is another piece of holiday paradise located at Havelock Island. However, these are located at sky high prices and for those looking for beach huts can opt for Emerald Gecko Resort at Vijaynagar Beach. For those looking for even pocket friendlier options can consider camping on the beach near Kalapathar Beach.
This Havelock Island holiday guide recommends exploring at your own pace
There are three main options for getting around Havelock Island. One is to hire your private car with a driver. You can also hire a tuktuk or an autorickshaw or wait patiently for the island public bus. The easiest option, however, is to rent a scooter which comes at a no-sweat price and explore the island at your own pace. The scooters come with helmets and your hotel can help you with the rental.
Jungle-backed beaches at Havelock Island give you a timeless feeling
Gnarly, old, and massive, Havelock Island’s trees are spectacular. They are also very diverse in nature and this results in a dense varied shade of green. A canopy of foliage is created by creepers, and feathery fronds of palms peep amidst mahua trees, and blooming gulmohars. Mangroves line the coastline safeguarding the land, and in the hinterlands, paddy fields, gardens, and banana plantations add to the verdure. This thick cover of trees give the beaches a sort of uninhabited, lost island look and they make perfect hikes. So whether you like the beach or the forest, on Havelock Island, there is plenty of both.
Havelock Island’s turquoise water offers world-class diving
To be honest, this is one activity which kind of put me off. Havelock Island is overrun by overzealous aspiring divers, especially the domestic tourists and how this passion is affecting the corals is my biggest concern. Unprofessional operators taking tourists for diving can result in disastrous accidents, and rows of oxygen bottles drying in the sun at Havelock Island gave me a scare. Having said that, the waters around Havelock Island are teeming with rich marine life and professionals or serious aspirants can go for diving excursions to the nearby uninhabited islands. To find out more, check out, Medhavi Davda of Ravenous Legs account of Scuba Diving in Havelock Island.
On your Havelock Island holiday, go fishing for your dinner
Angling is slowly becoming a popular sport in India and Havelock Island blue waters give you the perfect reason to go fishing. Operators such as Captain Hook’s offers excellent sport fishing packages and they believe in support, catch, and release. You can even book for a liveboard expedition and sail around Neil, Havelock, and other islands, looking for huge barracudas, yellowfin tunas, octopuses, and even marlins.
Kayak around to catch the rare bioluminescent planktons
Kayaking is one of the lesser-known pleasurable activities to do at this tropical paradise. It is also the best way to catch a rare sighting of the bioluminescent planktons at night. These minute marine animals look like sparkling blue fireworks floating on the water and are a sight to behold. Kayak around Havelock Island’s mangrove forests during the day, and paddle as far as the Lighthouse Beach. On your way back, if you are lucky, you might find the planktons blooming on the dark, still night water like a thousand stars. Make sure you have an experienced guide, who knows his way around and watch out for the sea crocs.
And now for some basic Havelock Island holiday travel facts
Best time to Visit
How to Reach
Havelock Island is accessible by ferry from Port Blair and daily domestic flights from Kolkata and Chennai takes you to Port Blair in 2.5 hours. Both Kolkata and Chennai have international airports and non-Indian travelers need to get their permits to visit Havelock Island from the Port Blair airport. It is also possible to reach Port Blair by boat or ship from Chennai. There are several ferry companies which shuttle between Port Blair and Havelock with/without a transit in Neil Island. You can buy ferry tickets at Phoenix Jetty or from any travel agent in Port Blair town. There are government operated slow ferries and a few private operators like Makruzz which offer pretty reliable services. Green Ocean is another popular ferry service provider.
Rental scooters, tuktuks, private chauffeured cars, taxis, public buses, and hiking…take your pick that suits your budget and travel style.
Places to Stay
In Havelock Island, choose the spot according to your need by following this unspoken, yet much-followed directive. Traveling with families, or on your honeymoon on a moderate budget? Stick to the resorts scattered along or near the Beach Number 7 i.e. the Radhanagar Beach. You can choose the accommodation suitable for your pocket. Options range from uber expensive Barefoot to simple homely affairs. Most backpackers hangout at the easy-going gentle Vijaynagar Beach.
We ate every single meal at the Squid Restaurant at the island’s only market. It is next to the Kashmir Emporium and serves delicious, fresh food. The prices are cheap, and the service is friendly. The other commendable places are Dakshin and Anju Coco Resto. Havelock Island is a tropical paradise, so do not forget to get your fill of luscious fruits and fresh coconuts.
Things to look out for on your Havelock Island holiday
- Flora and Fauna – Havelock Island has an exquisite forest cover. It ranges from cultivated gardens filled with orchids and papaya trees to wild, untamed mahua groves. The forests are home to many endemic birds like the purple racket-tailed drongos to Nicobar pigeons. Also watch out for the Fiddler Crab, which is famous for its awkward gait and asymmetrical claws in the males. They look like spots of colour on the pale background they live and their shades vary from bright yellow to purples, reds, and orange.
- Mangrove Forests – These natural land barriers circle Havelock Island. They protect the island’s ecosystem by shielding the land from cyclones, waves, and tidal bores. Look for their aerial roots which are natural nurseries for hatchlings of several salamanders, crabs, and many invertebrates. You might even see a turtle or two.
- The tree and sand patterns at Kalapathar Beach – The devastating 2010 tsunami left many sad remnants on the Kalapathar Beach and they lie scattered there in form of giant trees. Now all dead, bone white, and mute, these trees still display lovely tree rings which give clues to their age. Likewise, the waves leave beautiful sand tracks on the beaches of Havelock Island. Check them out especially at sunset for really captivating photos.
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