Havelock Island – A Gem in The Ritchie’s Archipelago
Whenever someone plans a trip to Andaman & Nicobar Islands in India, their primary objective is to visit the popular Cellular Jail in Port Blair and some nearby beaches. But majority of the travelers are unaware of the fact that there’s much more to Andaman & Nicobar Islands beyond Port Blair. No doubt that the beaches on the Great Andaman (the main island group of the Andaman Islands) are clean and beautiful. But if you really want to see those untouched beaches with turquoise colored water, you must add Havelock Island to your itinerary.
ABOUT HAVELOCK ISLAND (SWARAJ DWEEP)
Havelock Island is the largest island in the Ritchie’s Archipelago, located some 41 km north-east of Port Blair. Ritchie’s Archipelago is a small cluster of smaller islands which lies 20 kms east of Great Andaman. Spread over an area of 92 sq.km., the island recently acquired a new name in December 2018 – “Swaraj Dweep”. The population of the island is mere 6,000, majority of it being the Bengali settlers.
PLACES TO VISIT IN HAVELOCK ISLAND
- Radhanagar Beach
- Elephant/ Elephanta Beach
- Kala Pathar Beach
- Havelock Light House
- Scuba Diving at Barefoot Resort
DAY 1: ELEPHANT BEACH AND RADHANAGAR BEACH
It was 26th November 2018 when we (my three friends and myself) left from Port Blair (PB) to Havelock Island (HL). The only transport option available to reach HL from PB is ferry – either government or by private operators. The most preferred private ferry operators in Andaman Islands are Makruzz and Green Ocean. We had booked our tickets with Green Ocean for a Royal class which basically is an economy class. Typically the ferries ply between PB and HL about 3-4 times a day. Our ferry was supposed to leave at 6:00 am and it actually left PB on time.
The journey takes about 2 hours and trust me it’s a pretty smooth ride. The moment you land at Havelock Jetty, you realize the difference between the water color at Port Blair beaches and that at Havelock. The island welcomes you with turquoise colored waters, mangroves and a feeling of entering an unspoiled territory.
After checking into Neha Lodge (a kilometer away from the Havelock Jetty), we immediately left for Elephant (or Elephanta) Beach. There are speed boats that ply between Havelock Jetty and Elephant Beach and take about 15-20 minutes to reach. The booking for the same is only available on the spot. Typically, there are 5 and 7 seater boats, each having a unique name.
The boat operators generally allow the tourists to spend 3 hours at Elephant Beach and bring them back to Havelock Jetty in the same boat. The Elephant beach is popular among Indian family tourists due to water activities and it was evident when we reached the beach. The beach was crowded by people enjoying snorkeling, banana boat rides, glass boat rides, etc.
The boat ticket includes a complimentary snorkeling session wherein the guides take you to 5-6 feet deep waters to show the corals and fishes. But if you opt for the Rs. 800 package, you get to go further deep in water to snorkel. This package includes 20-30 photos and a minute long video.
But note that if you refuse to snorkel once you enter the water and wearing the gear, you will have to shell out Rs. 200 as equipment charges. We opted for a Rs. 800 snorkeling session (ofcourse per person) which generally lasts for about half an hour. If you do not have any plans to try Scuba Diving at Havelock Island, you can atleast try Snorkeling to experience the marine life. There are changing rooms (which are basically tents and are free to use), washrooms (Rs. 40 for bath and Rs. 20 for urinating) and lockers (Rs. 40 per locker) available at the shore.
After having our lunch at Dakshin by Barefoot, we got back to our hotel at 2 pm. Since the sun sets by 5 pm in the Andaman Islands, we had a very little time to freshen up and leave for Radhanagar Beach. Located 10 km from Havelock Jetty, it is located right across the other end of the island. Ranked as Asia’s Best and World’s 7th Best Beach by Time magazine in 2004, the Radhanagar Beach is true to its reputation. The beach is so clean that you wonder how pristine it would be in 2004 to earn that title.
Although the area around the main entry to the beach in flocked by Indian tourists, it is better to walk a mile on the left if you are seeking the calm ambience. Dive into the clear waters or sit on the white sand and witness the sunset but be assured that this beach wouldn’t let you feel like leaving.
The beach is also called as Beach No. 7 locally and is safe for swimming. We preferred to have our dinner at Squids Restaurant in the main market, which is a very basic restaurant with decent food.
DAY 2: SCUBA DIVING WITH BAREFOOT SCUBA
The second day in Havelock started with with an excitement of finally getting to do Scuba Diving. I had made the bookings with Barefoot Scuba well in advance to avoid the #FOMO moment. I have written about my Scuba Diving experience at Andaman Islands separately. You may also want to read about the Scuba Diving Terminology and Scuba Diving Basics before going for your first dive. We were done with our dive by 1 o’clock and decided to relax for the later part of the day. We came across a quaint beach restaurant named Something Different which turned out to be a very good restaurant. And they provide a free pick up and drop service too.
DAY 3: KALAPATHAR BEACH
Since we had missed out on tickets for early morning ferry to Neil Island from Havelock, we had to extend our itinerary to afternoon. Hence we got to allocate enough time to every place at Havelock. From its name, we expected that Kalapathar beach would be just-another rocky beach. But when we reached the place, we were totally awestruck by its beauty. Located 6 km away from the jetty and next to Vijay Nagar beach, the Kalapathar beach is the reason why one should never exclude Havelock from the Andaman itinerary.
Just like with any other beach in Andaman, take a stroll in either direction from the main entry of this beach if you are seeking solitude and want to avoid the crowd. With every step you take on the white sand and every inch of the blue colored sea you capture with your eyes, Kalapathar etches a lost-lasting mark in your heart.
Kalapathar was probably the best beach we got to visit during our entire trip. But all good things ultimately come to an end and we had to bid adieu to this magnificent beach to leave for Neil Island/ Shaheed Dweep.
BEST TIME TO VISIT HAVELOCK ISLAND/ SWARAJ DWEEP
Ideally October to mid-April but there’s a possibility of retreating monsoon or winter monsoon till mid-November.
HOW TO REACH HAVELOCK ISLAND/ SWARAJ DWEEP
There are only two ways to reach Andaman Islands.
Air: Veer Savarkar International Airport/ Port Blair Airport has air connectivity with all four metro cities. Flights are also available from Bengaluru, Vishakhapatnam and Hyderabad.
Sea: There are 3-4 sailings from Kolkata and Chennai and a single sailing from Vishakhapatnam every month. The voyage takes about 60-70 hours to reach Port Blair.
From Port Blair one can reach Havelock Islands only by a ferry (either Government or Private).
ACCOMMODATION IN HAVELOCK ISLAND/ SWARAJ DWEEP
- Barefoot Resort
- Symphony Palms Beach Resort
- Dolphin Resort
- El Dorado Beach Resort
- Wild Orchid
- Cross Bill Beach Resort
- Eco Villa Palm Beach Resort
- Emerald Gecko
- Neha Lodge
RESTAURANTS IN HAVELOCK ISLAND/ SWARAJ DWEEP
- Dakshin by Barefoot
- Something Different – A Beachside Cafe
- Red Snapper
- Full Moon Cafe
- Squids Restaurant
- Anju Coco
- Barefoot Bayside Brasserie (B3)
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Indian nationals need no permit (nor a passport) to visit any part of Andaman Islands. However, visiting to tribal reserved areas in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is prohibited.
- Foreign nationals are required to obtain a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which is available on arrival. Read more.
- The ideal itinerary is Port Blair – Havelock Islands (2 days) – Neil Island (1 day). Drop me a mail to get a quote for a customizable trip to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Book your ferry tickets in advance. Government ferry booking is ONLY at its office and not online. Tickets are available 3 days prior to ferry departure. Private cruise bookings are available online.
- Generally the Snorkeling session at Elephant beach is complimentary when you book the speed boat ticket. But that session is only for 5 minutes and in shallow waters.
- If you are dreaming about snorkeling with the famous elephant Rajan at Havelock Islands, you need to read this.
- Make sure you remember the name of your boat while going to Elephant beach. Also take your boat operator’s contact number.
- With respect to Elephant beach, all boat members are supposed to get back to Havelock in same boat. So make sure you coordinate with the fellow members to finish off the water activities on time.
- The sun sets by 5 pm on Andaman Islands. Make sure you reach Radhanagar Beach by 4 pm to spend enough time and to witness a beautiful sunset.
- Make sure you inform your Scuba Diving operator after landing in Havelock and inquire about reporting time and things to carry.
- You can read about Scuba Diving Essentials here to get familiar with the basics of this activity.
- There are two-wheelers and bicycles available in Havelock Islands on rent. You can inquire about the same once you get out of the Havelock Jetty.
- Enough number of ATMs are available at Port Blair and very limited on Havelock Islands. So make sure you carry enough cash with you.
- Mobile network coverage is very poor on entire Andaman Islands unless you have a BSNL or Airtel Postpaid card. Only 2G network is available.
Drop your queries and suggestions in the comments section below and I would be more than happy to address them. Or you can join the forum and ask your queries/ share your travel experiences with fellow Travelizers.
Till then…Happy Travelizing!!!