Tips on best beaches, diving and responsible travel
Situated in the Bay of Bengal in the Andaman Sea, the Andaman Islands are an Indian archipelago of more than 300 islands. Famous for their white sand beaches, coral reefs and unspoiled wild nature, the Andamans are becoming the destination of choice for travellers in search of laid back tropical island life.
A two hour flight from Chennai or Kolkata in India will take you straight to Port Blair in the Andamans . Once there you will need to catch the local ferry to make your way to the more popular islands. A ferry ride to Havelock island takes 90 min and leaves Port Blair every day at 8.15am and 2pm. It’s best to book your tickets in advance ( go to http://www.makruzz.com ) to save time and avoid hassle on the day.
Best time to visit
The best period to visit the Andamans is considered to be between November and May with April being the warmest month. The monsoon season lasts from June to September but the temperature is relatively stable throughout the year, 22 to 32C. Days start early here, it’s barely 4.s0am and the sun is already out. It took a little getting used to but we soon stopped looking at the time and let the daylight decide when we go to bed and wake up.
Diving and snorkelling are popular here and there is a diverse underwater life to experience. There are plenty of sites suitable for both beginners and advanced divers. I strongly recommend going with Barefoot diving, they are considered the best on the island 5 star Padi diving school. They also offer a range of different accommodation options from budget bamboo huts to luxury villas.
For more details visit their site on http://diveandamans.com
Barefoot Scuba Dive Resort
Beach #3 – Govind Nagar,
South Andamans, India
If exploring inland is more your thing, you can go trekking through the jungle or rent a motorbike / scooter and see a few of the beaches on the same day. There are lovely little fishing villages spread across the island and I loved passing through them and catching glimpses of the locals everyday life.
The market place in the central part of Havelock comes alive in the afternoon and evening. All the local traders are there selling fresh papaya, coconuts, watermelon and the sweetest bananas I have ever tasted! In the evenings the smell of freshly cooked fish is irresistible and before long the tables outside the small restaurants are filled with hungry guests.
Power cuts are part of life here and in many places along the beach at night you will be guided by the light of candles and house lanterns. This is when you will hear the island with all it’s sounds mixed together. A dog barking in the distance, people’s voices being carried through the night by the wind, bird songs and loud crickets , a constant buzz from the jungle, the sound of the ocean waves crashing on shore.
Beaches on Havelock, Andaman Islands
There are plenty of gorgeous beaches here, some right next to the hotels and sea cottages, others take more of a journey to reach but once there, you’ll feel like you have the whole island to yourself. As well as names they also have numbers which makes it really easy to locate them on the map.
Beach no 7 or Radhanagar is the most popular one, located on the west side on Havelock. Make sure to come here in the afternoon and stay until sunset. It was voted Asia’s best and World’s 7th best beach by Time magazine.
Elephant beach -it can be reached by boat or a trek trough the jungle. It can get busy with visitors as boats bring groups to the beach for the day.
Kalapathar Beach – On the eastern side, less visited beach due to its location but just as beautiful and great place for those seeking a tranquil day by the sea.
Beach no 3/ no 5 This is a long beach on the East coast, there are plenty of places to eat, sunbath , relax on a hammock surrounded by palm trees, basically anything you may need for the day while relaxing. The beaches are also within easy reach/ walking distance to Village no4 with its food market, shops and restaurants.
Andaman tribal natives and the Jarawa campaign
There are 4 groups of tribal groups on the Andamans, the Jarawa, the Sentinolese, the Onge and the Great Andamanese. According to genetic studies, the Jarawa people and the other Andaman tribes are the first people in India, migrating from Africa to the islands 65000 years ago. There are also theories that they are closely related to the aboriginal people of Australia.
Parts of the Andaman islands are closed off to tourists in an attempt to protect the tribes from outside visitors and the potential deseases that could be brought into their lives. Although the Jarawa people are the original inhabitants on the Andamans, today they are greatly outnumbered by Indians who have settled on the islands in the last century.
Worryingly, in recent years there have been various reports of “human safari” type organised tours through the jungle in Port Blair, where visitors are brought and promised to see and photograph members of the Jarawa tribe. There have also been human rights reports of sexual exploitation of the Jarawa girls by other islanders who enter their protected territory, as well as being introduced to drugs and alcohol.
Unfortunately local authorities don’t seem to take the accusations seriously and human rights activists and anthropologists are worried about the effects all this will have on the Jarawa people.
For more information on this issue and to show your support to the tribes living on the Andamans, visit one of my favourite charities that campaigns for the rights of indigenous people, Survival International.
Please remember to report companies that offer to take you on such tours, the more foreign tourists speak out against it, the better the chance of a change in the tour companies approach.