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Havelock Island

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===Splurge===
 
===Splurge===
  
* '''Wild Orchid Resort''', [http://www.wildorchidandaman.com]. Along with the Silver Sand, offers the nicest accommodation on the island (real beds, nice bathrooms, some with a/c), good bit of #5 beach and also has the best restaurant. Rs 3000-4000 high season, Rs 1500-2000 low season.
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* '''Wild Orchid Resort''', [http://www.wildorchidandaman.com]. Offers the nicest accommodation on the island (real beds, nice bathrooms, some with a/c), good bit of #5 beach and also has the best restaurant. Rs 3000-4000 high season, Rs 1500-2000 low season.
  
 
* '''Silver Sand''', [http://www.silversandhavelock.com/]. Probably the most expensive place on the island. Accommodation ranges from large rooms with en suite, TV and a/c, to whole two storey cottages suitable for families. Rooms are clean, in good condition, and very tastefully decorated (think IKEA style) and service is surprisingly responsive considering Havelock standards. Does not come cheap however; rates from Rs 5,400 upwards are a bit overpriced. Also the rooms are not very well soundproofed considering the price - hope for quiet neighbours unless you are booking an entire detached cottage for yourself - and the section of #5 beach is not the best, although it's only a short walk to nicer parts.
 
* '''Silver Sand''', [http://www.silversandhavelock.com/]. Probably the most expensive place on the island. Accommodation ranges from large rooms with en suite, TV and a/c, to whole two storey cottages suitable for families. Rooms are clean, in good condition, and very tastefully decorated (think IKEA style) and service is surprisingly responsive considering Havelock standards. Does not come cheap however; rates from Rs 5,400 upwards are a bit overpriced. Also the rooms are not very well soundproofed considering the price - hope for quiet neighbours unless you are booking an entire detached cottage for yourself - and the section of #5 beach is not the best, although it's only a short walk to nicer parts.

Revision as of 15:42, 27 March 2008

Boats near the jetty at Beach #1

Havelock Island (Hindi: हेवलाक) [1] is the most visited of the Andaman Islands. It's becoming popular for its beaches, laid back vibe and great scuba diving.

Understand

Map of Havelock

The Indian government has been advocating eco-friendly tourism development on Havelock for a while now, and while it's the most visited of the islands it sees only a fraction of the visitors that crowd other island destinations such as Thailand. The pace of life is slow, the locals are friendly and still not too affected by tourism, and the facilities are moderately basic for the most part. While many of the lodges have 'resort' in their names, none come even close, thankfully.

The beaches have been given a rather boring numbering system instead of names, although some names like Radhanagar are in popular use. The arrival port is at Beach #1, the junction at the center is Beach #3 and so on. The town is small and has only a handful of shops and local dhabas. Most accommodation is grouped along the road from Beach #3 to Beach #5. From the 'junction' near Beach #3 a road veers off to Beach #7 (Radhanagar Beach), the most beautiful spot on the island.

Mid-January until mid-May sees the best weather, and often the best diving conditions. The days are mostly sunny at this time of year, and the sea sometimes flat enough to reflect the clouds. The monsoon usually hits around late May, lasting until the end of July, and is probably the worst time to visit the island – strong winds, frequent rain and low visibility underwater. August thru November see some occasional showers and slightly rougher seas, but diving can still be great at this time of year. The weather often takes a turn for the worse for the month of December through early January.

Havelock island does not have an ATM and none of the hotels are able to perform card transactions. Make sure you take plenty of cash with you from Port Blair.

Get in

Ferries are the only way on or off the island. 2-3 arrive daily from Port Blair, one of which comes via Neil Island. The first ferry leaves for Havelock at 6:30AM followed by one at 10:30AM and and a "tourist special" at 2PM. The tourist special is smaller and takes 2 1/2 hours from Port Blair. The larger boats take 3-4 hours, more if the sea is rough.

Ferries operated by government operators are basic. There are two types of tickets for non-locals — Rs 150 for standard seating or Rs 200 for luxury which will get you old recliners in the bottom part of the boat without the benefit of a porthole.

There are no food or drink available on the tourist ferry, but there is a basic canteen selling snacks and tea on the other one. You may want to avoid eating a lot before you set off, as it will only come back the way it went if the sea is rough.

Heading back to Port Blair the first ferry leaves around 10AM and the last one at 4:30PM. If you wish to get to Port Blair directly without the hassle and the expense of stopping at Neil Island en route, the first available ferry is at 2:30 PM.

It is best to get return tickets in Port Blair if your return trip is scheduled on a firm date as return tickets tend to be pre-reserved and can sometimes be hard to procure on the way back. Most resorts on the island will take care of the hassle of getting tickets to Port Blair and drop you off at the jetty for a small fee. The only alternative is getting to the port early and elbowing your way to the front of the queue as the Indians do.

Get around

One of the two rickety buses on the island
  • Walking is the most common form of transport.
  • Local buses ply the 2 main roads between the port (on Beach #1), Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7), and Beach #5 where the bulk of the accommodation is located. There is a local bus for Radhanagar waiting at beach #1 at around the time the ferry (10-10:30AM) arrives. The cost of a ticket from Beach #1 to Radhanagar is around Rs 6. Try to get off the ferry quickly and walk out of the parking area (where all the taxis and autorickshaws are parked) to catch the bus. The journey from Beach #1 to Radhanagar is around 30-45 minutes.
  • Auto-rickshaws are also available. From Beach #1 (the port) to Beach #5 costs Rs 50.
  • Bicycles, scooters and motorcycles are available for hire near the center of 'town' (Beach #3), or inquire at your guesthouse.

See

Beach #7 / Radhanagar
Sunset at Radhanagar Beach
  • Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7) is the most beautiful on the island and was rated as the best in Asia by Time in 2004. Nice white sand backed by a forest that provides welcome shade looks out over turquoise water, some stretches with a sandy bottom good for swimming and some with excellent coral reefs that are great for snorkeling – a great combination indeed. Sunset is a particularly beautiful time to be here. A man with an elephant walks through the forest occasionally, offering rides for a fee. Buses run here throughout the day until sunset, as do auto-rickshaws and shared 4 wheel-drive trucks.
An elephant near Beach #7
  • Elephant Beach is further north from Radhanagar and is popular with Indian tourists. The shoreline here was largely swept away by the 2004 tsunami and the beach is a fraction of what it used to be. Reachable on foot from Beach #7 or by fishing boat from the other side of the island. A path to the beach starts from the road to Radhanagar: Look for a dip in the road on a curve where there will usually be a few motorbikes parked. Several paths head off from this point - ask locally for the correct one. The walk to Elephant beach is about 30 minutes at an easy pace with dry weather. Since the tsunami, the path ends in an expanse of un-inviting looking swampy water. Do not attempt to go around this. Instead, wade through the water: The beach is only about 100 metres straight on, the water is rarely above knee-height and the ground is solid. Do wear sandles in order to avoid treading on sharp shells.

Do

Scuba diving

Scuba diving is probably the biggest activity on the island other than lying around and eating great seafood. Both operators on Havelock are PADI certified dive centers, and each have 2 converted 'dungi' dive boats, provide good equipment and offer training up to instructor. They share pretty much all of the same discovered dive sites. The diving possibilities around the Andamans are vast and it feels that what has been discovered is only the beginning... and even that is pretty great. Look for more sites to open up soon. As of now Havelock is the main center for diving in the island chain. DIVE India has talked about opening up a shop in Diglipur, ask about this. If you're an experienced diver, also enquire about dive expeditions, where they will take you out hunting for new and undiscovered sites. There's much to find – a manta cleaning station would be nice.

  • DIVE India [2] are located at Island Vinnie's Tropical Beach Cabanas Resort on Beach #3.
  • Barefoot Scuba [3] are located at Cafe Del Mar on Beach #3.

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is also popular, with several options.

  • Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7) has a couple of food shacks at the end of the road that rent out fins and masks for Rs 50/each. There are great reefs for snorkeling in both directions from the end of the road.
  • Elephant Beach also has some good snorkeling sites.
  • Both of the dive shops can also take along snorkelers to some of the off-shore sites.
  • Local fishermen offer daytrips and half day trips to different locations. South Button Island is particularly good as the reef is shallow, colorful and beautiful. It makes sense to get a group of 5-10 people together to share the cost of the boat.

Eat

Some food is grown on the island (like tasty bananas), but most vegetables and fruits are imported.

Budget

  • Dhabas near the junction at Beach #3 serve seafood and basic local Indian food, and are the cheapest way to eat on the island. There are also snack stands near here selling samosas, sweets and the like. More dhabas can be found near Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7), serving fresh sea food at reasonable prices; you may have to wait up to an hour for the food out here.
  • Catch of the Day is for sale near the port on Beach #1 in the afternoons, and you can have your guesthouse cook it up for a fee.
  • Pristine Beach Resort, Orient Legend Resort and the others in the same vein all have restaurants serving the catch of the day, local Indian food and some traveler's favorites like french fries and chow mein.

Splurge

  • Red Snapper at the Wild Orchid Resort is the best and most expensive restaurant on the island, serving freshly caught and very well prepared seafood and a selection of Indian and continental dishes. It's best to go from the specials board or ask your waiter for his recommendation. Delicious! Lunch or dinner will run about Rs 300-400 per person.
  • Emerald Gecko is run by the same couple who run the Wild Orchid. The food is similarly tasty, the menu is much, much smaller, and it's a bit cheaper – dinner will probably run more around Rs 200.


  • Italian Food - There is an Italian restaurant Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7), which offers great lunch and dinner options. The salads and pastas are particularly good and the deserts are a must try. It would run upto 300-400 per person.

Drink

  • Beer is available at some of the resorts and at the "English Beer & Wine Shop" near the port... it's open to all, not just Brits.
  • Fresh coconuts are available around the island - after you drink the juice they'll be happy to whack it open so you can eat the flesh too.

Sleep

The majority of accommodation on offer are cheap palm-thatched beach huts.

Budget

The recent boom in tourism means that there is not always enough accommodation to meet demand — the majority of the places between Beaches #3 and #5 have huts for around Rs 200/night, so it makes sense to start at one end and work your way down looking for an available hut. In busier times you may end up pitching a tent if you have one, or sleeping in a hammock for a night or two until something frees up.

  • Pristine Beach Resort is one of the more popular. The restaurant serves good food and they're licensed to sell beer. Sea facing Huts and stilted cottages ranging Rs 200-1500. Unfortunately some of the huts are rather old and mattresses may not have been cleaned for a number of years. Check a few huts before choosing one.
  • Emerald Gecko, at the end of Beach #5, [4]. Quieter than some of the others and a little more expensive with slightly nicer huts. Also very popular, and has a great restaurant and friendly owner who can also arrange fishing trips. Huts Rs 300, bamboo lodges Rs 1500.
  • Cafe del Mar, Beach #3. Has a range of options from basic A-frame huts with sheets for doors (the cheapest option on the island) to deluxe sea-facing huts. Rs 100-1500.
  • Orient Legend Resort, Beach #5. Another popular cheapie with huts for Rs 200 and a basic restaurant. Has hammocks if everything else is full, Rs 50.
  • Sunrise Beach Resort, Beach #5. Similar to Orient.
  • Island Camping, operated by the Andaman Tourist Office, offers pre-setup tents on Beach #7 where the road meets the beach. Tents range from Rs 150-500. The more expensive ones come with private bath and toilet, though no hot water is available. Bookings must be made in advance at the Tourism Office in Port Blair.
  • El Dorado, Beach #3. Quite new, huts with communal showers and toilets Rs 200. Huts with en suite toilet and shower Rs 500. Due to the place being quite new most huts are reasonably clean and well maintained. Reasonable restaraunt, serves beer.
  • Gold India, Beach #3. Another new-ish resort. Huts with en suite toilet and shower Rs 500, well maintained and clean. Average restaraunt, serves alcohol.

Mid-range

  • Island Vinnie's Tropical Beach Cabanas and Dive Centre, Beach #3, [5]. The newest place on the beach and the new home of DIVEIndia. Accommodation is in plush safari-style tents – neat, comfortable and great value for money. Rs 450-2000.
  • Dolphin Beach Resort is a government run resort. It's sterile, ugly, and popular with Indian families. On the plus side if you can't live without a/c, then you can find it here in large huts for around Rs 1000, cheaper than you'll get elsewhere. There's a restaurant on site, and pre-booking in Port Blair is advised. Rs 500-2000.

Splurge

  • Wild Orchid Resort, [6]. Offers the nicest accommodation on the island (real beds, nice bathrooms, some with a/c), good bit of #5 beach and also has the best restaurant. Rs 3000-4000 high season, Rs 1500-2000 low season.
  • Silver Sand, [7]. Probably the most expensive place on the island. Accommodation ranges from large rooms with en suite, TV and a/c, to whole two storey cottages suitable for families. Rooms are clean, in good condition, and very tastefully decorated (think IKEA style) and service is surprisingly responsive considering Havelock standards. Does not come cheap however; rates from Rs 5,400 upwards are a bit overpriced. Also the rooms are not very well soundproofed considering the price - hope for quiet neighbours unless you are booking an entire detached cottage for yourself - and the section of #5 beach is not the best, although it's only a short walk to nicer parts.
  • Barefoot Resort, tel. +91-3192-236008, [8]. Located at the far end of Beach #7 (Radhanagar Beach), it offers fan-cooled, air-conditioned and duplex fan-cooled cottages. Doubles vary from Rs 3100-7200 depending on type and season.

Contact

The island's interior

Phones

Landlines are scarce, and with the exception of a couple of the nicer accommodation options, most places don't have a phone.

  • PCO/ISD's (phone booths) are located on Beach #5, near the junction at Beach #3 and near the port at Beach #1.
  • Mobile phones can be used in many parts of island. Service is provided by BSNL and Airtel.

Internet

  • Pristine Beach Resort has a couple of computers which every once in a while are connected to the internet via a near-dead dial-up connection.
  • Anu's Internet Cafe has two computers set up in a shop just off the main road near Dolphin Resort in village no.3. It is not fast but still usable.
  • Island Vinnie's can burn photos onto cd's or dvd's for a fee, and claim to have non broad-band internet access.

Stay safe

Wild dogs can be a problem, especially along the beach at night – people are regularly bitten. You'd be well-advised to carry a stick to scare them off... or a handful of stones.

If you plan to be out until sunset or beyond it's a good idea to carry a flashlight (torch). It can get pretty dark, especially if there's no moon out, and the beaches are often backed by dense forest.

Beware of strong currents at Radhanagar Beach. There have been a number of accidents as people, even skilled swimmers, have been caught by sudden and extremely powerful waves. Supposedly the authorities have taken action to employ trained lifeguards and put up watchtowers.

Get out

  • Neil Island – a smaller and quieter island, with only 2 accommodation options. Some say it's best to stop here before Havelock.



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