Goa on your mind for vacation? Think Havelock Island!

Few days ago when I called my cousin Rinku who is an Administrator with IIT Kanpur, she surprised me by excitedly telling me that she was going to Andaman for her April Vacation with husband Anuraag and children Gauri (Aged 10) and Gauransh (Aged 2) with group of friends. My interest grew in the place and I probed more being a travel blogger. She told me that they would be taking a flight from Lucknow to Kolkata, after which they would go to Port Blair. Port Blair would be her base but their main tourist destination would be Havelock Island. Havelock is a picturesque natural paradise with beautiful white sandy beaches, rich coral reefs and lush green forest. It is one of the populated islands in the Andaman group with an area of 113 sq. km. and is located 39 km of north-east of Port Blair. She added, “Havelock Island is blessed with beautiful sandy beaches fringed with green canopy of the rain-fed forests. We are going to enjoy the frolic and fun at the azure sea.” She would be there for nearly a week; I wished her a very successful journey and hung up.

With snow-white beaches, teal shallows, a coast crammed with beach huts and some of the best diving in South Asia, Havelock has a well-deserved reputation as a backpacker’s paradise. For many, Havelock is the Andamans, and it’s what lures most tourists across the Bay of Bengal, many of whom are content to stay here for the entirety of their trip like my cousin Rinku and her group of friends.

Now I wanted to know more about Havelock Island and I started digging for articles on the place. Luckily I bumped on with an article on Havelock in Mid-Day titled Seven Beach high in Havelock by Bindu & Radhakrishnan Unni. They shared that Andaman’s Havelock Island offers a 7-beach in 1 offer within 113 kms. Indeed it was a very wonderful account of the place.

So if you are planning your next trip to Goa, think again, in favour of Havelock Island!

Havelock Island (often just Havelock for short) with an area of some 92 Sq.Km is the largest of the islands which comprise Ritchie’s Archipelago, a chain of islands to the east of Great Andaman in the Andaman Islands. The island population is comprised of Bengali settlers. It is one of the few places that the administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory of India has permitted and encouraged development of tourism, with a focus on promoting eco-tourism.

Havelock Island avoided much of the devastation which was visited upon most of the shores affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and its resultant tsunami, and there were no documented casualties. Beach No. 7, better known as “Radha Nagar” Beach, is one of the most popular beaches in Asia. The elephant beach at Havelock is known for rich marine life, especially the corals. Beach No. 5 is famous beach for Israeli tourists.

Elephant beach is another ideal site for snorkeling. It has a rich coral reef formation and amazing underwater marine life. One can reach Elephant beach by small cruise boat from Havelock Jetty in about 40 minutes. By road one can go up to the Forest Camp which is 8 Kms from the Jetty towards Radhanagar side and from there by walk to the Elephant beach which will take another 40 minutes. Private ferry operators organize tours to Elephant beach from Havelock.

Beach-combing, sunbathing, scuba diving, seawalk, snorkeling, watersports, surf riding, swimming, game fishing, watching the sunset or sunrise, elephant ride, bird-watching, trekking, sailing, kayaking and much more you can do in Havelock.

The abundance of marine life around Havelock provides a rich variety of varied diving sites.  ‘Seduction Point’, ‘Aquarium’, ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Pilot Reef’, ‘Mac Point’, ‘Minerva Ledge’ and ‘Turtle Bay’ are promising areas for diving. The ideal dive season is from December to May.

Vijaynagar Beach, Havelock, is a long stretch of sand on the east coast of the Island, punctuated occasionally by rock section. Most of the beach is lined by mahua trees, whose trunks grow along the ground for many feet before they begin to climb vertically. These trees have lent a distinct character to the sea front and provide shade, close to the water. Vijaynagar Beach is perfect for long walks along the sea. Dolphin Resort run by the Tourism Department and many other hotels are also located on this beach.

One can enjoy swimming at the calm and clear waters of Radhanagar, Vijaynagar and Elephant beach. Snorkeling is available to view shallow areas of the coral reefs without going underwater with scuba equipment. Under the water, one can glide along the coral shelf and experience the strange and striking coral formations. One can see fish swim, nibbling at colorful algae, sea anemones and plankton right next to you.

Havelock Island is logged using elephants.  The spectacle of elephants working in the forest and bathing and swimming in the nearby sea is a special attraction. The Elephant Training Camp managed by the Forest Department at Kalapathar open its doors to tourists occasionally. The Island is surrounded by emerald lagoons and tropical evergreen forests. In some stretches, mangrove swamps line the shores.

It is a landscape of primeval splendor. White-headed mynas or the woodpecker with a white-barred black mantle and red crown, fulvous-breasted woodpecker are endemic to the island. The olive-backed sunbird and Andaman swallow are other endemic birds in the islands, which are a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Kayaking is also gaining popularity in the Havelock Island. Safe and calm creeks offer an excellent scope for kayak lovers.

The main dive sites on Havelock are:

  • Lighthouse (6-20m)
  • The Wall (10-55m)
  • Minerva Ledge (10-18m)
  • Aquarium (12-15m)
  • Pilot Reef (6-18m)
  • Dixon’s Pinnacle (18-40m)
  • Jackson’s Bar (20-35m)
  • Johnny’s Gorge (25-30m)

One of the most popular sites, this is a small rocky outcrop in the open sea surrounded by an ocean of sand. The outcrops are home to large and small species. Dolphins, white and black-tip sharks, giant groupers, rays and eels among various others are found here.

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Mid-January until mid-May sees the best weather, and often the best diving conditions. The days are mostly sunny at this time of year, and the sea sometimes flat enough to reflect the clouds. The monsoon usually hits around late May, lasting until the end of July, and is probably the worst time to visit the island – strong winds, frequent rain and low visibility underwater. August thru November see some occasional showers and slightly rougher seas, but diving can still be great at this time of year. The weather often takes a turn for the worse for the month of December through early January.

Havelock Island now has two ATMs; SBI and Axis bank. Some of the hotels and resorts are able to perform card transactions. Nevertheless, it is best to make sure you take plenty of cash with you from Port Blair. Also, it is hard to buy some items in the market – differing factors of sun cream can be hard to find, as can mosquito repellent.

 

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