It’s got snow-white sands and turquoise waters, lush green rainforests, and even a swimming elephant. Yes, the Andaman islands are for real. In this two-part series, we bring you a slice of heaven.
Tossed away in the middle of nowhere – between mainland India and mysterious Myanmar – these isles are as surreal as it can get. Of the many gems in the archipelago, Havelock island has our vote. A mish-mash of South Indian and East Indian cultures adds to its exotica. Havelock also got lucky with topography. It has powder-soft sands that stretch endlessly, iridescent corals beneath blue waters, and verdant rainforests teeming with endangered flora. Added to this scenery are magical sunsets that paint the sky pink. This has got to be what heaven looks like. Here’s how to take it all in:
Water way to go:
Slather on the sun-block, slip into your beach-wear, and get ready for the adventure of a life-time. Havelock Island has acres of beaches and a variety of water-sports. Try your hand at scuba-diving to discover some of the richest marine life in all of South Asia. Go beneath the waves with the Karen people, a Sino-Tibetan ethic language group who call Andaman home. Many of the reefs have been named after their tribesman who discovered them on their jaunts under. To continue the tradition, some from the tribe work as dive masters.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Marvel at the psychedelic pink, or glowing green corals as little Nemo swims past. How about a stroll on the sea-bed? It’s possible. And it’s one of the most popular water-activities on the island. You’ll don head-gear that makes you look like an astronaut, and keeps you breathing. Next, strap on the weight-belt. With that you’ll be able to sink your feet into the soft sea-bed and come face-to-face with fish and reef. Beware of sting-rays!
Too timid? Stay close to the shore while enjoying life below, with snorkeling. Or opt for a day-cruise with local delicacies. The cuisine is a melting pot of cultures. The many migrants added to the cauldron. You can fill up on prawns in spicy coconut curry, courtesy recipes brought in by the migrants from the South. Or opt for kebabs and biryani which is typical of Awadhi cuisine from Uttar Pradesh. There’s also comfort food like lentil soup with rice, which is found everywhere in India. Work it off with a walk on the beach.
While there are many buzzing beaches and a few hidden coves to choose from, don’t miss the Radhanagar beach. After all, TIME Magazine rated this stretch, ‘The best beach in Asia’ (2004).
Radhanagar Beach, Andaman Islands
Read on as we reveal secrets about Havelock that rarely make it to print.
Did we mention the elephant that swims?
Havelock is home to the World’s last swimming elephant. For centuries, this region with forests rich in timber, was a hub for logging. Elephants were trained to swim and carry the logs between islands. Hundreds of elephants were used in the logging business, until 2002 when the activity was declared illegal. Deforestation laws were strictly enforced and most of the elephants returned to mainland India. But Rajan was bought by the Barefoot Resort on Havelock and continues to live there. Now in his golden years, he doesn’t venture much into the water. But to find out more about his swimming skills, strike up a conversation with any local. Because everybody knows Rajan.
But there’s more to Havelock than just the big blue. There’s also swatches of green.
Don’t fancy water-sports? Take a hike:
Take a walk in the woods next to the beach
The rich biodiversity, coupled with the secluded location, means that Havelock island is home to many endangered species. You could go on nature-walks with local birding experts. You may just come across the endemic Serpent Eagle, the colorful Stork Billed Kingfisher or the opportunist Flowerpecker.
If you’re looking to take things up a notch, go on day-treks or hikes through the thicket. Want to spend a night under the stars? Havelock has many camping sites and accommodation ranges from basic tents to luxurious camping resorts.