A Journey to Baratang Island, Andamans

posted in: Asia, Andamans, India, Nature, Tips | 97

Quite like the heritage destinations, I am completely enthralled by caves. There is a certain mystery attached to them and as much as possible, I would hate missing out on exploring these. It is amazing how I get into the avatar of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft when it comes to exploring caves. Even more so, when there is some heritage attached to it. Andamans gave me enough of such opportunities to turn into Lara Croft. My visit to Ross Island was one such experience and the other was visiting the limestone caves of Baratang Island.

Baratang Island - Middle Andamans
Baratang Island – Middle Andamans

Baratang Island is located in the middle Andamans and reaching this island is literally a journey. Even though this is just 100 kms from Port Blair, you have to traverse through thick tribal areas, endure some crazy roads and cross over in ferries to find these unusual caves. The journey is the adventure but whether you like the fruit at the end of it or not, is a perspective that you as a traveler will need to decide. I personally, liked it and here is how my entire journey to Baratang Island went.

1) The Preparation for Baratang Island

Not many outside Andamans knew of Baratang Island and the one person who did, was not very thrilled with it. All I knew is that I wanted to get to this island. Naturally, the first information that I gleaned off my hotel staff in Port Blair was on how to reach this island. Thankfully, it is not so unexplored once you reach in Andamans and literally every hotel, taxi driver and tour operator are happy to share and direct you to this Island. What we learned was that being a restricted area, we were required to join an army convoy to Baratang and that every day, there were just 4 such convoys that you could join to visit Baratang Islands.

Baratang Island

We decided to take the first tour as we did not want to stay overnight at Baratang. Despite having 4 kids with us, we decided to brave the wee hours of the morning and head out for the first convoy at 6 am. For the same, we were required to be at the forest check-post by 4 am. Our journey started with a wake-up call at 2:30 am. Bleary-eyed, we sleep-walked our kids into our private taxi and took off.

2) Convoy Ahoy!

The convoy to the Baratang Island, Andamans
The convoy to the Baratang Island, Andamans

Traversing a lovely green forest of Andamans would have been a pleasure, had it not been for our red eyes. I thought we would be one of the first to reach the gates but to my surprise, we were quite late. There was already a winding line of vehicles parked ahead to form the first convoy that would leave for Baratang Island. Our Taxi Driver parked at the end of the line and then, went about getting us to fill our permit forms for submission to the Forest office. While he went about the formalities, we took a bio-break and headed to one of the many little breakfast places to fill our stomachs. We were warned that this was the best to do as for the next 3 hours, there would be nowhere to stop and nothing in sight for breakfast.

Thrilling Travel Tip: Please keep your Govt. IDs handy as you need to submit it along with your permit forms at the forest check post. Having said that, remember to collect it back before you leave the checkpoint.

One of the many small cafeterias at the Forest Check-point in Andamans
One of the many small cafeterias at the Forest Check-point in Andamans

3) Crossing Over the dense tribal areas

Path after the check-point leading into the dense forests of Andamans
Path after the check-point leading into the dense forests of Andamans

At sharp 6:00 am, the convoy left for Baratang. For the first time, I was a part of convoy and that itself was a thrill for me. The roads wound around hills and went through dense forests – one that I would have read of in some storybooks. Interestingly, this is the Jarawa Tribe reserve and the one thing that everyone asks you after this trip is – ‘Did you spot any of the tribals? “. It is quite an irony as normally we try to spot wildlife but here we were talking about elusive and reclusive tribal humans. To answer the same question, yes, we did spot some tribals – both on the way to and from Baratang Island. They did look a little ferocious and as per what our taxi driver said, they were quite dangerous. There were incidents where they had captured some of the people and it took a lot of help from the forest officials to get them back. Naturally, it was best to avoid them.

As a law, you are not allowed to photograph any of these areas – neither the forest nor the tribals and any offense were punishable by law. Naturally, I kept my camera and phone locked in my bag for the entire journey.

4) Reaching Baratang Island

The ferry that allows you to cross from Nilambur Jetty to Baratang Island, Andamans
The ferry that allows you to cross from Nilambur Jetty to Baratang Island, Andamans

To reach the Baratang Island, you need to cross the Baratang Jetty in a huge iron ferry that not just carries humans but also, trucks, cars and buses. 🙂 This is just a 15 minutes ride but what will kill you is the wait for a speed boat at the other shore of the Island. There are a limited number of boats and to reach the limestone caves, you have to engage one for a 30 minutes ride. Since our taxi driver kept assuring us that our number was one of the first few in the queue, we kept waiting and did not engage a private boat. A big mistake!

The waiting was quite a painful affair. After waiting for over 1.5 hours, we got our boat. Sadly we missed our 12 pm convoy back but then, it also, gave us some breathing space to explore the caves. And with that positive thought, I was off to visit the Baratang Limestone caves.

Thrilling Travel Tip: Make sure you find out your queue sequence and get your boat on time. Alternatively, you can just pay a little extra and get your own private boat to save time. This is to ensure that you get your convoy back on time

Baratang Island

5) The Enchanting Mangroves of Baratang

Along the Mangrove routes of Baratang Island, Andamans
Along the Mangrove routes of Baratang Island, Andamans

The ride through the narrow sea strip is quite refreshing – with lovely green islands all around and gorgeous blue waters around. And once you enter the tiny water lane to the limestone island of Baratang, the whole scene just changes. This is perhaps, the best view of mangroves that I have ever had. Your boat actually, goes under the low branches of the trees and you can almost, touch the breathing roots of these plants. I managed to spend some time capturing this lovely piece of nature.

The Mangrove Forests of Baratang Island
The Mangrove Forests of Baratang Island
The breathing roots of the Mangrove trees at Baratang Island, Andamans
The breathing roots of the Mangrove trees at Baratang Island, Andamans

6) A trek to the Limestone Caves

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On alighting from your boat, you will meet a guide who takes you along a 1 km walk to the limestone caves. This is more or less a flat walk during which the guide explains how the limestone caves were formed. Essentially, this is owing to the oceanic pressure on marine life and corals which form the glistening limestone blocks. The hike to the caves is quite easy and is very very scenic, with green fields and lovely rocky passages. There are enough of scenic points for you to click pictures.  Sadly, you are given only 45 minutes here to do a tour before your boat is back to pick you. I wish I could have spent some more time here. Maybe another reason, to consider a private boat.

7) Limestone Galore at Baratang Island

Entering the Limestone Caves of Baratang Island, Andamans
Entering the Limestone Caves of Baratang Island, Andamans

Entering the limestone caves was just enthralling. At first, you walk through narrow passages which have limestone walls on either side sheltering a narrow path. Later, these two walls just close over and voila! You are in the cave.  It was as if slowly two parts of the earth came over and merged with each other to form a hidey hole.

Walls of the limestone caves slowly merging - Baratang Caves
Walls of the limestone caves slowly merging – Baratang Caves
Walls of the limestone caves slowly merging - Baratang Caves
Walls of the limestone caves slowly merging – Baratang Caves

The guides here just hurry you and showcase several unusual limestone formations – some of them quite memorable and artistic. My favorite was this swan-like formation.

Swan formation of the Limestone Caves of Baratang Island, Andamans
Swan formation of the Limestone Caves of Baratang Island, Andamans

And then there was the famous Shiva Linga and the tiger’s jaw formation. The limestone in some cases, just glistened in the torchlights and I could not help but marvel nature’s architecture.

Limestone Caves of Baratang Island
Limestone Caves of Baratang Island

The caves run for over 3 kms but less than 1 km is what you can venture into. The Government has restricted the other areas owing to certain sections being affected by the Tsunami and earthquakes. Even though it was just a small area, there seemed so much to absorb and I personally, was very irked by the guide who kept shoving us around and not allowing us enough time. My visit felt a little incomplete as I wanted to absorb a little more. As restricted as I was, I had no choice but to turn back.

Thrilling Travel Tip: Carry a bright torch. Mobile phones are decent but a powerful one does help you explore better. The guides carry one but then, if you have one of your own, you can explore a lot more freely

8) Other Attractions of Baratang Island

The return journey was quite the same as the way we came in. We returned to the mainland, joined the convoy and headed back to Port Blair. Things were pretty much the same as morning except that we had a small break-down, luckily after we had crossed the forest border. Thankfully, our taxi driver arranged for an alternate vehicle and we reached our Port Blair hotel by 8:00 pm.

What I did not see was a bubbling mud volcano – a short walk from the landing jetty at the Baratang Island. It is a small bubbling one and frankly, given the reviews did not impress me.

The other thing which I would have loved to see required me to park myself overnight at Baratang Island. This was the Parrot Island where they say at Sunset you see flocks of parrots descending home. They say that the sight is unbelievable and maybe, some-day I will make it back here to just experience it.

9) To go or Not to go to Baratang Island

This is a point that I would leave you with a choice of visiting or not visiting this Island. For many of my fellow travelers, this trip did not seem worth the effort – given that the journey was arduous both in terms of time (6 hours of convoy drive, 2 hours back and fro from Port Blair, 2- 3 hours of wait at Baratang Island) and the condition of roads and at the end of it, the limestone caves were just a small enclosure that did not require so much time. Granted and quite rational for them.

Limestone Caves of Baratang Island
Limestone Caves of Baratang Island

However, for me, the limestone caves were quite unique and the journey was an adventure itself. I enjoyed the whole feeling of the convoy and the natural, unspoiled beauty of the Baratang Island. I wondered who had discovered these. Imagine – some island, far out there, where no one stays,  were these geological wonders. Someone had stumbled upon them and realized their importance and share it with us. Who was it? No idea! However, the fact that it was discovered was itself mystifying for me.

In the end, I would say, to each their own. If you do choose to visit this island, remember that you have a long journey and it is best to be prepared for it. Enjoy the journey and the destination will automatically appeal to you. Let me know what you think.

Getting there

  •  One needs to get to Port Blair in Andamans first. For this, you can either take a flight from Kolkata or Chennai to Port Blair or take a cruise from these places.
  • Getting to Baratang Island is quite arduous as I mentioned. You will either have to join a tour bus from Port Blair or hire a private car from here. Any of the tour operators or hotels should be able to help arrange for one.

Travel Tips

  • Here is the link to the official site of Andamans. You can get some basic details on Baratang Island on this.
  • To stay at Baratang Island, you will need to pre-book a government guest house. The contact for the same is available on the official website as given above.
  • Remember that you will need to carry your Govt. ID cards during this trip.
  • There are 4 convoys on all days except Monday which is a holiday. The 4 convoys from Port Blair start are at 6 am, 9am, 12 pm and 2:30 pm.
  • The roads to the Baratang Island from the forest check-post are quite bad.
  • A private cab to Baratang and back will cost you anything between INR 3500 to 4500
  • A tour bus would cost you around INR 1500 per adult. The bus would pick you from your hotel at an appointed time. However, please make sure you pre-book the same at least a day before.
  • The food at the forest check-point is quite basic but decent. You can opt for hot idlis or dosas while here
  • Remember to carry some snacks with you for the journey as it is quite long and once you are in the convoy, you cannot stop anywhere.
  • The restrooms at the check post are fairly ok and are on a pay-per-use basis. They are not very clean but there is no avoiding them, especially since the journey is long.
  • There are no fancy restaurants along the way.
  • At the island of limestone caves in Baratang, you will find small outlets selling coconut water, lemon juice, and basic snacks.
  • Here is the price-list of the speed boats that you have to hire at Baratang Island to reach the limestone caves and Parrot Island.
Information on the Baratang Speed boats




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97 Responses

  1. asoulwindow

    Now this looks like a place I will completely enjoy. I have yet not been to Andamans. Never heard of Baratang Islands before. The Baratang caves look creepy and mysterious, just the kind of places I like writing about. The swan formation is quirky.

  2. Sapna Kapoor

    I liked this place. The only thing, I didn’t liked was that we were not allowed to take pictures when passing through forest area.

  3. umeshderebail

    It reminds me of our trip to Baratang Caves in 2005 Nov precisely just nearly a year after Tsunami destroyed most of the isle’s picnic spots. Our journey by bus was most enthralling without all the hassles of a convoy, beats me. The tribals were not ferocious those days since they had a rich haul of catches of spoils from dead victims I suppose. They were demanding fruits and eatables. Photography was prohibited of tribals those days too. Ultimately reaching the jetty we found hardly a group ferry but had to be satisfied with Veerappan type of character escorting us……exciting journey.

    • Ami

      Interesting. I suppose things have changed now but one thing is certain. The Journey is what makes the destination interesting….don’t you think so?

    • Ami

      Thank you. Baratang is a little offbeat and owing to the hassles of the journey, not oft visited. But I still think it was nice.

  4. The Travel Ninjas

    Thanks for introducing another great attraction and experience. We love limestone caves. We’ve visited many in southeast Asia and we always love them. Many countries here like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and more like to put temples in the caves. That can be very interesting, but a natural cave is beautiful and alluring on its own. Do they build temples inside of caves in India very often?

  5. 2travellingsisters

    You have definitely explored Andamans fully, each post on Andamans we read in your blog is full of adventure, history, excitement! Another post goes into our must do’s in Andaman’s list, beautiful narration of your experience…:)

  6. 100cobbledroads

    There is definitely something very fascinating about caves, and these ones look really interesting too. I’ve been reading about caves in Diu and Meghalaya lately, and now Andamans has added one more to the list. Have to get to at least one of these soon.

  7. Claire Summers

    What a great post! So many useful tips and pieces of information to help with planning! Thank you so much for putting this together. Anywhere that has caves to explore and mangroves is a winner for me!

  8. Luca

    Well, I have to say that I agree with your fellow travelers. Based on your report, for me it wasn’t worth it! But I see your point, the adventure itself in reaching the place and everything, but still, maybe it was possible to spend those hours in another way! 😀

    • Ami

      🙂 Yep, there is plenty to see in Andamans and to each their own. I am just glad I managed this trip…

  9. Parul Thakur

    I loved Baratang and I too have been writing about my Andaman Adventures. I also visited the mud volcano. It’s not a big deal but I found it cool 🙂 The mangroves were the best though.
    Awesome pictures and fabulous write up, Ami.

    • Ami

      Thank you Parul. Baratang was lovely, wasn’t it? I think the caves for me was a priority over the mud volcano. WAiting for the boat wasted a lot of my time.

  10. Maps and Merlot

    It definitely seems like a pain to get there, so maybe only plan to go if I have some extra time or opt for the private boat. The mangroves look amazing though, those pictures were captivating! And of course the caves look like a ton of fun to explore.

  11. The Spirited Sloth

    This looks right up our alley. We will definitely bookmark this and come back to it when we get to Andamans!

    • Ami

      The Jarawa Tribe is quite ancient and a little misunderstood. They look ferocious and still have ancient ways of living. They have been commercially exploited in the past and hence, to protect them, the Govt has taken a few steps. It is advised to be best away from them as they are known to attack as well as are prone to be exploited.

  12. traciehowe

    It definitely looks like a fun place to visit, especially if you’ve never seen caves or mangroves before. I don’t know that the hassle would be worth it for me though. It’s good to get your perspective on the outing!

  13. Jesper, The Biveros Effect

    Sometimes the journey is the best part of the trip. Going in a convoy really sounds like a thrill and the tribes on the island are quite famous for sure. So even though the end destination might not have lived up to the expectations, just look at the adventure going there. 🙂

  14. Jessica

    What a trip! You all have much more patience that I would. Just seems like a lot of travel for a day trip. But I’ve never heard of this area before, so I have to say, I’m quite intrigued. Some places are definitely worth the extra effort, so I may do a bit more research on it 😉

    • Ami

      Well, to be honest, a lot of it you don’t know till you go for it. Since I was already on it, I decided to enjoy it. 🙂

  15. Sarah Kim

    Oh I didn’t know about this place so you’re right about people not knowing this place. I’d love going to the mangroves and hanging out there. It looks romantic and fun!

    • Ami

      It sure is quite refreshing and untouched here but like I warned, it is the journey that takes the toll.

  16. Tamason Gamble

    Until last year we never even considered visiting the Andaman Islands but we have friends that are visiting in the next couple of weeks and I have to say I am now quite intrigued to see what they thought. It sounds like it’s a really long journey but hopefully worth it.

    • Ami

      Like I said, the worth it part is based on a person’s perspective. In my view, it was lovely and I might be game for one more trip 🙂

  17. tatumskipper

    Seems like such a long journey! Those caves are really amazing but not sure if it would be worth it! I’ve never even heard of this place before!

  18. Lydia@LifeUntraveled

    I admit I don’t think I would do this long journey to see these caves but I would really like to see some of the people from the Jawara tribe. I’m fascinated by tribes and ethnic minorities but from what you wrote, the members of this tribe seems quite elusive (and dangerous?).

    • Ami

      The tribe is still quite ancient in its ways and they are best avoided as there have been incidents of them attacking. They have also, been commercially exploited and hence, meeting them is discouraged. So, not sure if you can catch up with them 🙂

  19. Brown Gal Trekker

    So many places to discover – this one wasn’t on my list – but wish I can add it. Looks like a unique kind of nature adventure but the getting there is work! All worth it though it seems.

    • Ami

      I personally, liked it but then each traveler is different. Some do feel that the journey was too much for reaching this place.

  20. TalesOfABackpacker (@clairesturz)

    That certainly sounds like an adventure, Indiana Jones would be proud! Its a shame you got stuck in that queue, and had to wait so long for the boat; its hard to know how to avoid that without setting off the previous day! It sounds exciting but nervewracking about the natives, it does sound like Indy!!

  21. quirkywanderer

    Fabulous!! You know how eagerly I am reading all your Andaman posts. Thanks so much Ami, for the detailed description and all the tips:) The caves look gorgeous but the mangroves stole my heart!!

  22. Sandy N Vyjay

    The puzzling roots of the mangroves is making me trip with amazement at how beautiful our nature is. The limestone caves look hauntingly alluring. The virgin Baratang island is what I am looking forward to visiting now!

  23. Neha Verma

    I have heard so much about Baratang Island. I will definitely like to visit here when I go to Andaman. Thanks for the tips Ami, particularly around keeping the IDs handy. I think now I am better equipped to visit here

    • Ami

      Yep, the IDs are required all the while as it is a restricted area. Most hotels remind you but best be aware of it.

  24. Soumya Nambiar

    Army convoy and all sounds super filmy. Any particularreason why Baratang Island is a restricted area? I will never be able to convince my friends to go here since like you said, it would be too much effort to go and visit a place only for 45 minutes. But I would have loved to go.