Andaman Travelogue, Part 2: Havelock & Neil Islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands consist of more than seven hundred islands of various sizes, out of which only few dozen are inhabited. Of these, the most well-known tourist destinations are Havelock and Neil Islands. We had kept three days in our itinerary for visiting these two places, based on the feedback from our travel agent. We started off on this tour from Port Blair on the third day of our stay in Andamans. ( Also Read; Port Blair)

For travelling to Havelock you need to take a two-hour cruise from Port Blair jetty. Our tickets were booked in Makruzz Gold, a catamaran which ferries travellers to Havelock, Neil and back to Port Blair. Tickets are in heavy demand, especially during the season, and are best booked in advance. We had to report at the jetty an hour before the scheduled departure at 9 am. One has to go through security and baggage scanning just like you do at an airport. The completely air-conditioned ship is extremely comfortable, with snacks and coffee available at a counter. By 11 am we had reached the jetty of Havelock Island.

Makruzz Gold
Makruzz Gold

A representative of our travel agent picked us up from the jetty. Our hotel Radhakrishna Resort was an eco-friendly place close to the jetty and Govindnagar beach. While the facilities and the cottage rooms were decent, the non-availability of Wi-Fi in this hotel was a letdown.

Radhakrishna Beach Resort
Radhakrishna Beach Resort

Havelock Island has lots of greenery all around, with coconut, palm and betel nut trees. It resembles the interiors of Goa a lot. There are two main beaches to be visited – Kala Patthar and Radhanagar. Water sports enthusiasts need to visit a third, Elephant Beach where you need to either trek or travel in a boat.

After a quick lunch, we left for our first destination Kala Patthar beach.  A drive of about twenty minutes through a village road soon landed us to this small and pristine beach, with a large black rock (Kala Patthar) delimiting it on one side. The colour of the clean sea was light blue, perhaps because of the white sand here.  Small shops line up across the beach, selling local coconut water, tea and Bengali snacks like peyaji (onion fritters) and alur chop (spicy fritters of mashed potatoes). Most of the shopkeepers were descendants of refugees from East Bengal (Bangladesh now) who were settled here after the partition of India. Some of my friends visited the village nearby too and had a chat with the inhabitants there.

Kala Patthar Beach

We returned to our hotel after sunset. We had been told that sunrise is a must-watch at Kala Patthar, and we planned to be back there at dawn.

Kala Patthar Beach at Dawn

Cloud cover thwarted our quest to see the sunrise the next day. However, we did not regret the experience at all. A myriad of colours on the sky and the reflections on the water gave us one of best sights of our trip.

Govindnagar Beach

Havelock has three main points – the jetty, Kala Patthar, and Radhanagar beaches. State buses and auto rickshaws ply between these points. Most of the hotels are located on the road connecting the jetty to Kalapathar, which passes through the main market junction at Govindnagar. A short walk from our hotel took us to Govind Nagar beach, a small quiet beach where some water sports enthusiasts were being trained for different water activities.

It is at Govind Nagar where we had the best meal of our entire Andaman trip. There are about four restaurants around the vegetable market here, and one of these, Squid Seafood Restaurant seemed to draw most of the diners. Soon, a large contingent from our team landed up there for lunch. On display were prawns, black crabs, lobsters and different varieties of fish including kukery and pomfret. We had a sumptuous meal here tasting many of the dishes. The Squid Fry and Crab Masala were the highlights of the dishes served. The squid was prepared the Chindian (Indian Chinese) way whereas the soft crabs were cooked in a delicious and thick gravy.

Radhanagar Beach

After a fulfilling meal, we set out for Radhanagar beach, rated as one of Asia’s most beautiful beaches by Times magazine.  It was a wide beach with white sand and blue water. While some of us preferred to take a long walk along the beach, others went swimming into the sea. This is the busiest beach in Havelock with a large number of beachside shops, selling local memorabilia and ornaments made of seashells. There is no water sport in this beach, which made it devoid of touts. We had a nice couple of hours here before returning to our hotel.

Our stay at Havelock came to an end as next morning we took the Makruzz to Neil Island.

Laxmanpur Beach and Howrah Bridge

Neil Island is even smaller than Havelock. It is again mainly inhabited by the refugees from Bangladesh. From the jetty, we were bundled into cars and taken to Laxmanpur 2 beach. It houses a natural bridge on the beach which has been named by local Bengalis as Howrah bridge.  A ten-minute walk where we had to carefully step on small rocks took us to the beach. We had hired a guide, who had one of his arms in a plaster. It seems he fell down while walking on the same beach. This story made us extra careful, but the journey was worthwhile. It was ebb time, and the water had receded to the sea. We sighted different corals right on the beach, some shaped like a beehive, brain and so on. This beach is rough and rustic, but it provided some of the best sights. Our guide, a middle-aged Bengali named Nirmal Das was a repository of knowledge, and we really enjoyed our time with him.

Brain shaped and Beehive Corals

We came back from here in the afternoon and checked into our hotel.  Tango Beach Resort has a private beach, where we spent a lot of time at night and watched the sunrise in the early morning.

After a lunch of crab and fish curry and rice in the hotel, we set out for Bharatpur, the beach next to the jetty which is known for its water sports. We went deep into the sea in a glass-bottomed boat looking at corals and different coloured fish species through the glass. At a designated point, we went snorkeling and had an even more spectacular view of these. The lessons learned from our guide earlier in the morning came handy in identifying the corals.

Laxmanpur 1 Beach

We were told by travellers we met earlier that Bharatpur is the best place for water sports in the Andamans. Water scooter, scuba diving, sea walk and snorkeling are the various activities one can take part. However, a tip to be remembered here is that late mornings and early afternoons are better times to go for coral watching, as due to the fact that the sunlight illuminates the sea, your underwater vision improves considerably.

Sunrise at Laxmanpur Beach

From Bharatpur, we went to Laxmanpur 1 beach to watch the sunset. The weather God was not very accommodating and the cloud cover ensured a disappointment. However, we had a good time at the seaside shacks, enjoying a cups of tea with muri mixtures and pakodas. As we found out the next morning during sunrise, our hotel was a ten-minute walk from this beach.

Government Ferry (Top) and Shadows on the Waves

Our stay in Neil Island was only for a day. This place definitely merits an additional day. We missed out on the Sitapur beach and did not have time for long walks through the villages. Next morning, we returned to Port Blair in a government ferry. A last tip. Please avoid using these and use the Makkruz if possible. The government ferry is dirty and stuffy inside, the air conditioning hardly works. However, it was a boon in disguise as we spent the entire journey standing on the upper deck and watching the waves go past, and had a great view of many small islands as we approached Port Blair.

Part 1: Port Blair and Around

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