Beaches and scuba diving
Its 4:30 am and I rub my eyes to ward off sleep and get ready to witness yet another sunrise about to happen soon! I walk from my house towards the beach when the first shreds of light starts setting in the skies preparing for the onset of a spectacular sunrise. Finally the sun rises with its golden glow and spreads lovely colors in the entire landscape.
With the sunrise, all tourist activity starts in this tourist centre of Andamans called Havelock Island. Interestingly, most of the islands in Andamans are named after some British General reminding everyone of the stronghold once the Britishers had over these islands. So originates the name Havelock too!
I got a chance to be Havelocked for 10 months and spent my time handling reservations for an eco-resort. Being away from mainland had its own challenges as Andamans overall is quite backward in terms of basic infrastructure and connectivity. We had a very slow satellite internet connection and poor mobile reception.
While working at the reservations I found out that tourists had many questions as there is limited information online. In this post, I am going to compile information which will help tourists to know the place and do some planning before visiting the place based on my experience. Some aspects like ferry timings are subject to change from time to time.
Things to do
The star attraction of Havelock Island is its beaches! Radhanagar beach also known as Beach No. 7 is famed for being Asia’s best beaches with its vast crescent coastline, fine white sand and tropical rainforest overlooking the beach which give it a surreal feeling. Spend time till sunset and see some mesmerizing landscapes. The huge rolling waves in the beach are ideal for body surfing.
When you are done enjoying the playful waves then get ready to explore the quieter side of Radhanagar beach called Neil’s cove which is approximately 30 minute trek through the forest parallel to the beach. This is a lovely lagoon at the far end of Radhanagar beach which has crystal clear water and when the water is still it is like a mirror for the sky above. You can choose to swim or bring your snorkel and explore the fish life below.
Warning: Although Neil’s cove is my favorite spot in the entire Havelock island, it has a black dot on its name due to a crocodile attack on a girl who was snorkeling along with her boyfriend in the year 2010 which is considered rare and still a mystery as crocodiles are not common in Havelock island. No one believed the fellow swimmer until their camera was discovered by the diver on the sea bed.
No incidents have happened after that but still keep your safety and adventure in balance and heed to warnings issued by forest department. Avoid swimming during dusk and dawn. I have personally visited this spot numerous times and suggested to others as well along with the warning and luckily we all came back alive and live to tell the story J
The next in line is the Elephant beach famous for its trek through the forest, water sports and snorkeling. I have no idea why it is called Elephant beach but don’t expect elephants here J. To reach this place you can either do a short and easy trek of approx 40 min or take a shared boat ride from Havelock jetty counter. The beach is closed after 3pm so start early keeping at least 3-4 hours to spend at the beach. The beach is closed in case of heavy rainfall or bad weather signs.
A quieter beach called Kalapathar is famous for its sunrise on the eastern side of this Island. The beach is rocky but a picture perfect spot with huge fallen down trees on the beach lying at 90 degrees to the coastline. Take a walk to the right side parallel to the beach and see the picturesque landscape and do remember to click your celebrity type pictures to make everyone jealous back home ;).
Vast expanse of sea with good fish life, coral reefs and decent visibility gives Havelock Island a unique identity in the diving map of the world. Divers from across the continent arrive here to explore the wonder of the undersea life. The coral reefs at shallow depths have suffered due to global warming and tsunami but the deep sea corals are still intact.
The island is full of dive shops so read reviews on forums like TripAdvisor before choosing the one for you. Don’t go for cheap prices and do a decent research before reaching Havelock and head directly to the dive shop of your choice and completely avoid agents in this case. A short discussion with dive instructor will help you judge the quality of the dive staff.
Earlier the Island’s main business was professional diving certification courses in two major international dive accreditation of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools Internationale). Recently the market has seen a steep climb in the beginners and non-swimmers dive called Discover Scuba Dive (DSD) by PADI and Try Scuba Dive (TSD) by SSI.
The common place for DSD/TSD is at Beach No.2 also known as Bay View. It also has the nickname of Nemo Reef due to the abundance of cute little Clown fish hiding in their homes called Sea Anemone. The dive is a shallow water dive which can go up to a maximum depth of 12 meters. Other dive sites where DSD can be done are lighthouse, elephant beach, fish reef, wall and south button island. These trips can happen only if there are sufficient guest divers as a boat ride is arranged to the dive site.
If you are a swimmer and intend do little more serious diving then go for PADI or SSI certification courses called Open Water Diver (OWD) followed by Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) certifications offered by various dive schools across Havelock. You need min 4 days for OWD and another 2 days for AOWD. Professional dive school will put you through a swim test of 200 meters before letting you take the course.
For already Certified Divers the whole underwater world awaits you with its numerous coral reefs, sharks, manta rays, turtles, barracudas and a lot of fish life. The most famous dive sites for Fun Dives are Johnny’s (famous for its reef sharks), Jackson’s and Dixon’s (with its 3 pinnacles). Experienced divers can also make an exclusive trip to Barren Island’s dive site which has the best corals and fish life if you are in Havelock at the right time. Barren Island is the only active volcano in India.
After beaches and diving you got more time then engage into other activities like jungle trekking, mangrove kayaking, snorkeling and island hopping and get to see the bounty of nature on and below the surface!