While Port Blair is the gateway to Andamans , Havelock Island is the crowning glory. Located about 90 minutes away by high speed ferries, Havelock Island placed Andamans on the global travel map after Radhanagar Beach in the island was recognized as the cleanest beach in Asia. Named after Sir Henry Havelock of East India Co, Havelock Island is a co-existence of a group of villages by the sea spread across 92 sq kms. As I pored over the map to plan my Havelock Island Trip, I smiled at the distinctly mythical names of the beaches and villages ~ Radhanagar, Shyamnagar, Krishnanagar, Govindanagar of a British sounding island. Of the 7 identified beaches in Havelock Island 4 of them (Vijaynagar, RadhaNagar, Elephant, KalaPathar) are most visited and I managed to spend time on all during an over night trip.The island buzzed with life from early 1950’s when the first batch of post partition refugees from Bangladesh and a group of Srilankan Tamils were settled on these islands with grants of farm lands and other livelihood support from the government of India. Hence, the language spoken is largely Bengali, Hindi and Tamil though almost everyone speaks Hindi since the medium of instruction for education and government activities is Hindi.
As I traveled around town driven by a Bengali migrant whose ancestors settled down in the island more than 50 years ago, I began to get an essence of life on one of India’s remote but promising island. Havelock Island was not very amenable to agriculture due to the soil and ground water issues. On the footsteps of tourism, resorts and hotels are sprouting around most islanders are slowly succumbing to giving away their land in exchange of one time money. His family had given away quite a bit of their land parcel and he managed to procure an auto with the same. I shuddered to think if improper planning of the one time fund could push these one time land owning agricultural population to the brink. In between the stories that he narrated I could piece together that the mythological names of the beaches were more of the early migrant’s remembrance of their roots; the lands that they had left behind.
How to Reach
- Havelock can be reached via Government or Private Operated Ferry Service from Phoenix Jetty in Port Blair. The fares in private operated ones are double but they are reliable and fast.
- I traveled by Makruzz which ferries passengers between Havelock and Port Blair in the morning & evening in about 90 minutes each way.
- The tickets can be purchased online and price varies between Rs 1000 to Rs 2000 based on the class of seating.
Where to Stay
Havelock has hotels and resorts to suit different budgets. Most of the mid range ones are located on the Vijay Nagar beach or the beaches leading to it. We stayed at Dolphin Resort on Vijaynagar beach and enjoyed great views and uninhibited access to the emerald waters on the tree lined beach. The luxury resorts like Barefoot are towards Radhanagar Beach where a Taj Group of Hotels property is also coming up.
Traveling around Havelock Island
There were SUV’s and high end vehicles zipping around the road that leads out from the jetty into town. I wondered whether an eco tourism island of about 18 kms length really needed all these vehicles.
- If you are comfortable with a 2 wheeler just go ahead and hire a scooty or a bike for Rs 300-500 per day and enjoy your freedom to stop, see, soak the amazing beauty of the island.
- Auto Fares are pretty standard and expect to pay at flat rates rather than going by meter and distance.Jetty to Govindnagar (market & town centre) and also towards the resorts in Vijaynagar will be about Rs 50-Rs 100 based on the location.
- Trips to Radhanagar Beach (sunset) and Kalapathar Beach (sunrise) will vary between Rs 500 to Rs 1000 based on the vehicle ie auto, non a/c car or a/c SUV
We reached Elephant beach after a 10 minute speed boat ride from the beach near the jetty. The ticket of Rs 750/- included a 10 minute complimentary snorkeling experience and a total time of about 2.5 hours on the beach. We were among the last batch of visitors so had a relaxed time. After a quick bout of snorkeling, I went for the Sea Walk which was an experience of a life time. Glass Bottom Boat Ride, Water Scooter, Scuba Diving etc are the other activities here. The cost of these activities can vary between Rs 300 to Rs 3200 per person with Sea Walk being the most expensive. There are changing rooms, resting huts and rest rooms in the beach and a few stalls selling fruits, coconuts and souvenirs
Afternoon siesta on Vijaynagar Beach
I rocked on the hammock on the private beach adjoining Dolphin Resort and was lulled to sleep by the gentle wind and the soft lashing of waves. The trees whispered sweet nothings to this city dweller and the birds chirped away merrily hopping from branch to branch. The afternoon simply slipped away and life was at its blissful best.
Radhanagar Beach is nearly synonymous to Havelock after it was awarded the Times Cleanest Beach Award a few years ago. It was catapulted to the global travel map and the fortunes of Havelock changed for ever. The late afternoon sun was bordering on hot but it was hardly a deterrent for the beach lover. I walked gingerly on the white sand, watching my footstep leaving an imprint on the pristine sand only to be washed away by a gentle wave.
The sunset was magical, as the orange hues spread across the western sky leaving a crimson after glow behind. The shacks located near the beach dole out some great fish and crab cutlets apart from the regular Indian snacks.
This beach is on the other end of town in an isolated stretch and owes its name to the large black rocks around the water. Though it was cloudy we were fortunate to watch the sunrise on the blue seas. Can be avoided if you are not a morning person and crazy about watching sunrises painting nature with a giant brush in yellow, orange streaks.
Best Time to Visit
The best time is from late autumn to spring between the months of October to March with clear skies, great weather and calm seas.
Havelock IslandTravel Itinerary
I often come across queries on how much time to spend in Havelock Island. I went through the same dilemma and these are some suggested plans after my visit to the island
- Day Trip
- All the beaches appear the same during the day. You can head out ro Radhanagar beach from the jetty by bus/auto/car. There are government buses plying between jetty and Radhanagar beach co-ordinated with ferry timings at Rs 50/-. Enjoy the day under the trees munching on sea food snacks & sipping on coconut water watching the waves lash by. Peek into Sagarika next door for some quick shopping
- 1 Night ; 1 day Trip
- Port Blair to Havelock by Ferry in the morning not later than 8am. Carry packed breakfast or have something on board the pantry in the private ferry
- Arrive in Havelock and Check in to hotel by 10.30am
- Leave for Elephant beach not later than 11am since activities wind up by 2pm
- Lunch and Afternoon siesta on Vijaynagar Beach if you are staying close by
- Leave for Radhanagar beach not later than 3.30pm and spend time until 5.30pm watching sunset, playing with waves. Enjoy sea food snacks in the shacks
- Spend the evening in Govind Nagar Town Centre, looking into shops
- Next Morning; leave for Kalapathar Beach Sunrise no later than 4.30am
- Take the ferry out to Port Blair/Neil at 10am. If you have a late afternoon ferry then you can spend the morning on one of the beaches
- Cost Rs 12000 – Rs 14000 for 2 excluding activities
- 2 nights Trip
- You can split the visit to Elephant beach on a different day to make the most of it
- Trek to Elephant beach from Shyam Nagar which is a village on the way to Radhanagar. This is done with a guide since the 45 minute trail is through forests and marshy land.
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