Havelock Island: A place that locks hearts in Andamans

posted in: Asia, Andamans, Beaches, India | 81

My nostalgia over my first dive at Havelock Island has been quite disturbing. It set off a craving – one that was inflicted upon me since my visit to Havelock Island in Andamans. Even after I returned from there, for weeks together I felt as if I were missing something. You get this same feeling when you pack in a frenzy or are overwhelmed. Except, in this case, I had lost something. I had left behind a piece of my heart in Havelock Island.

eHavelock Islands

An emerald paradise amidst clear blue waters, Havelock does this to everyone who visits it. It enraptures them and before they know it, steals a part of their heart. It keeps it locked within and that creates that “lost” feeling. The only cure is that you return back to it. How that happens – is best explained when I share the key things to do in Havelock. As you go through the travel guide to Havelock, you will know why you are in the danger of losing your own heart.;-)

Introduction to Havelock Island

The main entrance to Havelock Islands

Named after a British General Henry Havelock, these islands are one of the main ones belonging to the Indian Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The isle is known for its pristine beaches and mangrove forests. This is one of the populated regions of the Andamans archipelago and has been opened out to tourism, owing to its gorgeous waters. In fact, they say that the main reason for anyone to come to Andamans is Havelock Islands. Here are my reasons on why I agree with them. 🙂

Digital-Free Havelock Island

The first thing that you lose when you step on Havelock Island is your phone signal. Airtel and BSNL worked the best here and while I did get some signals, I just chose to ignore it and leave my mobile away for the rest of the trip. The Internet is hard to come by and you have to just rely on communication in the old traditional way. 🙂 This is half the reason why you end up enjoying Havelock’s simple atmosphere.

The roads of Havelock Islands

It feels like a village set up, except that you still have ATMs, Cafes, and other amenities. The roads are practically empty. You will mostly see two-wheelers. Should you want a taxi, the only way to get one is to ask your hotel to arrange for one. Or as in our case, we set up pre-decided timings with the guy we met when we arrived in Havelock. It is this stress-free environment that gives you time to take in the clean air of the island and enjoy it better.

Beaches of Havelock Island

We hired a two-wheeler for the entire duration of our stay. And one of the main things we did on it – beach hopping!

Bikes for hire at Havelock Island

Havelock beaches are mostly referred to by a number, rather than its name. Exploring these beaches made me realize that they were as beautiful as the ones I saw in Thailand. In fact, I felt some were better for they were still not crowded and had that virgin beauty associated with them. What made me even more proud was that they were right here, in my own backyard.

Floating on Vijaynagar beach, Havelock Island

Each beach on Havelock had its specialty and I enjoyed them all.  Among the ones that I visited, here are the five that I loved the memories I created.

Vijaynagar Beach or Beach No.5

Vijaynagar Beach at Havelock Island

This was my favorite beach in Havelock Island. A vision of ice with placid blue or light green surface with a lone driftwood far into the sea, this place for me was a picture of paradise. I would not have believed that it was the sea if it weren’t for the gentle waves that lapped the shore. With resorts occupying the beach, this was almost like a private one where I spend the two mornings jogging along the shores. I only wish I could have stayed longer to get a go on that floating bed that lay on the waters.

Vijaynagar Beach on Havelock Island

Radhanagar Beach (Beach 7 on Havelock Island)

Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island

Declared by a leading journal as one of best beaches in Asia, the Radhanagar beach appealed to me as a fun beach, Kids running around, adults playfully splashing each other, some flying a kite and some just chilling. Lining the beach were Mangrove trees where I am sure, that at the right time, I would have found many birds. Among all the beaches of Havelock Islands, this one is the most developed in terms of beach shacks, changing rooms and a lifeguard patrol.

Fun for kids and adults at Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island

Govindnagar Beach

Scuba Diving from Govindnagar Beach at Havelock Island

The beach where my first scuba instructions happened will always be special. Govindnagar beach is the first beach that you see when you enter Havelock Island. It gets its name from the village there. This is the main hub of Havelock Island with most of the ATMs and key offices here. Coral laden in some bits and smooth on the others, this is where Ocean Tribe Dive School is located. I spend a lot of time here owing to my dives and ultimately fell in love with the deep waters where you could well see the colorful life beneath.

Kalapathar Beach

Kalapathar Beach at Havelock Island

Black stone beach – the literal translation of Kalapathar Beach. One look at the beach will tell you how apt the name is. The contrast of black rocks, blue sea and brown sands is what I enjoyed the most. It is one of those shorelines that is perfect for you to perch and stare mindlessly at the waves.

Kalapathar Beach, Havelock Islands, Andamans

Elephant Beach

The Elephant Beach on Havelock Island is one beach that was hit by the Tsunami. While the rest of the island was fairly secure, this beach got washed with the giant waves and today, you will see the evidence of its devastation with the broken pieces of driftwood that lie on the beach. To me, the beauty of the beach was exactly those pieces of wood that stood in the middle of nowhere like nature’s work of art. Apparently, these pieces are home to the Krait snakes and we were warned not to go too close to them.

Elephant Beach at Havelock Island

The one thing I would have loved to do is trek my way to the beach along a green hill. They say it is quite a lovely trail. However, with the rains over the week, we were advised to abandon that thought and take the usual ferry from Govindnagar beach to here. There is no other way to reach the beach except for the trek or the boat.

Local culture of Havelock Island

The majority of the people who have settled here are Bengalis. However, over generations, their culture has changed and evolved into something unique of their own. Simple and cheerful people, the locals here are just amiable. The one quality that I admired in all of them was their honesty. Talking to them made me realize that the concept of locking rooms was a little alien for they say that even if we stole or did something, there was no escape other than this small island.

Pagoda Styled Temples on Havelock Island

The general vibe on the island makes you feel a bit like the Goan countryside, minus the boisterous crowds. And if you look carefully, you will find some colorful nuances of their life. To cite one example, look out for these colorful wooden pagoda styled temples at resorts or restaurants. I chatted with the owners of the place to find out why they were kept the way they were. Interestingly, they said that there was no major religious significance.

Pagoda Styled temples that float from Myanmar to Havelock Island

These structures were a part of the Burmese traditions and were floated in Myanmar. Over time, they hit the shores of Havelock and most families just installed them as a part of their home decor. Some decorated them with lights while others used flowers. Now, they are a part of the Havelock culture 😉

Myanmar temple at Wild Orchid Resort, Havelock Island

Water Sports on Havelock Island

Havelock Island in Andamans is a haven for water sports. You can indulge in the regular ones like water scooters, banana boat rides and water couches at the Elephant Beach. In addition, there is the glass boat ride who want do not want to go too deep to see the coral world. For the slightly more enthusiastic, snorkeling is a better option though for me this was extremely disappointing. You are not allowed to free snorkel here. Instead, you are put into a swimming ring and taken around with the snorkel mask. Takes away the joy of the whole activity.

Banana Boat Rides at Elephant Beach, Havelock Island

The two activities that I highly recommend here are Scuba Diving and Sea Walking. Even if you don’t know swimming, both these are doable with dive schools and water sports specialists. For a first-timer, a discovery dive is highly recommended while for the experienced, you can go for your fun dives and night dives at some of the most amazing sites around the Island. The sea walking is great for those who are not comfortable with diving like older people or kids or even those who have a fear of water. This is a little limited in terms of where you can go and what you can see.

First View of the Corals during a scuba dive at Havelock

For me, my love for diving deepened here and if it were possible, I might have done my PADI certification here itself. No regrets now that I have done it at Netrani Island. I can always go to the more exotic dive sites at Havelock.

Food at Havelock Island

Anju Coco Restaurant, Havelock Island

The Food and the pub scene at Havelock Island actually surprised me. The noons were lazy lunches like how you see in Goa while the nights were colorful and vibrant with music and lights around the shacks. The food scene included a menu catering to all palates with dishes from across the world. I loved the simple home-made food that I found in some of the smaller shacks while at the same time, enjoyed the taste of the amazing continental and Chinese dishes served at Anju Coco Restaurant. The after dive party that we had at “Something different” was another pleasant memory. On the whole, foodie or not, you will love the food scene at Havelock for its ambiance. And remember the way to a person’s heart, is through his stomach 😉

There is plenty more that I can write on Havelock Islands. However, I think these reasons are good enough to tell you why you are in the danger of losing your heart when you visit Havelock Island. So, be warned and be prepared and remember to pin this warning up.

Havelock Island

 

Getting here

  • The only way to get to Havelock is by boat from Port Blair. Port Blair is the nearest and the only airport here.
  • There are limited ferries to Havelock and you need to book them as soon as they open out for bookings. Makruzz is a private carrier and can be booked online through here. For Government ferries to Havelock, you will need to reach Port Blair early and stand in a queue. I have shared details on all this including the Ferry prices in my guide to Andaman Islands. Please do read through the same to understand and book your fare.

Travel Tips

  • Remember there are no or very little mobile connectivity in Havelock. This might have an impact on your ATM transactions and booking processes.
  • It is best to carry cash for Havelock Island. There are ATMs for withdrawal but card transactions at hotels and resorts tend to get impacted owing to low data connectivity.
  • You can find a variety of stays at Havelock in a budget of your choice. However, please note that they are all limited in terms of numbers. Some of the stays are booked at least 2 – 3 months in advance. So, the earlier you book, the better it is.
  • Please note that owing to the low telephone and internet connectivity, your hotel bookings will most likely take time for confirmation. Even if you book through the universal online sites, please make a call to the respective hotels to reconfirm if they have got the vouchers and that your stay is confirmed.
  • Cabs are not available easily. When you reach the island, get out of the main gate of the ramp and you will see a lot of taxi drivers and hotel guys waiting to give you a ride. It is advisable that you take the number of that taxi driver who drops you so that you can use the hotel line to call him again if required.
  • The island is pretty safe to roam around and the people are quite friendly and helpful. However, be mindful that you will tend to be cut off if you venture out too far.
  • Carry a sunscreen and mosquito repellant with you.
  • Cotton beachwear is advised here. The water is irresistible and you cannot help but get in every time.

 

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