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Published: April 23rd 2016
Where to start with paradise?! I don't think I’ve ever been happier than when I was living on Havelock! The perfect beach, the perfect beach hut...
It's an absolutely amazing place and I urge everyone to go...or don't go actually, keep the tourists down.
When we arrived we didn't know what to expect, we assumed we'd be sitting around in hammocks reading all the time, having early nights and spending the days on the beach. We thought we'd spend a few days on Havelock, the most developed island, and then head to some of the other islands. We had no interest in diving because it was too expensive!
We stayed on Havelock for about 30 days, and we could've stayed way longer if we had the chance. Down to bad luck and poor organisation on behalf of the Indian government we missed the opportunity to extend our visas by 15 days, which had been done by loads of our friends and we were told when we got our permits by immigration.
I'll briefly start with Port Blair, not that it deserves a mention. The guide book said it was horrible, and it was. The main city in the Andamans, and the only place with a large port and an airport. If you come to the Andamans, unfortunately, you have
to go to Port Blair.
We stayed in the cheapest place listed in the guide book, Hotel Lalaji Bay View. This is the place the majority of people we met stayed too. 900rs per night for the three of us. There's a restaurant/bar on the roof with the most miserable staff you could imagine, although I think I'd be that miserable if I lived in Port Blair!
Oh! and they lock you into the building at 10.30pm! Good luck if there's a fire...
On the first day we intended to get up early and get a ticket to Havelock for the same day or the next...but we slept in (I tried to wake Cam and Dave and they were having none of it) and the ticket booth was closed in the afternoon.
The tuk-tuk driver suggested getting the private ferry, so we went along to check out the price of the “Makruzz”. 975Rs! At first I thought this was expensive! I came to learn that it's excellent value. We got a ticket for the afternoon of the day after, we probably would've waited for the government one, but Cam was at the end of his trip and running out of time. Along with A/C, space, snacks and it's quicker, the main reason the Makruzz is worth an extra 600rs or so is because you don't have to queue for the government boat, which can sometimes be standing in a line for two hours and getting nothing (like me). On Havelock at one point you literally couldn't leave the island because all the boats were booked for four days!
That afternoon we went to check out Ross Island just 10 minutes sail from Port Blair. The guide book described it as an Ankgor Wat type place with colonial buildings instead of an ancient temple.
100rs ticket for the boat across, that's a return. Definitely worth it if you're stuck in Port Blair! Really cool little island, I think we paid 30rs each to get in and you can just roam around as you please. There's a huge church that's still mostly intact with trees grown all around it. In some cases you can see where a tree has grown around a building and knocked it over, the trunks of the trees still in the shape of the former building.
We get the Makruzz to Havelock the day after, they think they're an airline. They market their selves as so, something like “flying on water” (I can't remember). The seats are comfy, and it's got A/C. There's a shop on board too selling snacks!
We arrive on Havelock and get a tuk-tuk to “Coconut Grove/Goove” (depending on what sign you read). If you wait until everyone off the boat has gone you can get a tuk-tuk cheaper.
We pay 800rs per night for a double room, yes three in a bed, because there's no triples available. I don't know why we decided to stay there, there's plenty of other places available, but we're stupid I guess.
The closest beach to Coconut Grove/Groove is #5, barely a one minute walk away. WOW! Before I got to Havelock, for me, there was no way a beach could be as beautiful as the mountains. #5 changed that pretty quickly. I cannot describe it! The water was as clear as...tap water? And as warm as a bath in the afternoon. Coconut trees lining all along the beach, along with some normal looking trees that hung out over the beach and met the water. When the tide came in it reached the trunks of the trees. I WILL PUT SOME PICTURES ON FACEBOOK EVENTUALLY.
Two of Cam's mates were staying on the island somewhere and luckily we bumped into one of them on the second day, and headed to where they stayed. “Sunrise Resort” Instantly I knew I had to be there! Little beach huts in a line, looking out towards the beach, coconut trees filled the “garden” (I don't know what you'd call it) leading up to the beach. It's a little further up the beach than Coconut Grove/Groove but still #5, and I couldn't believe it, but this beach just got even MORE beautiful!
Words cannot describe the beauty, all I can say is it was perfect. Imagine paradise island, that beach you have in your head was our beach for a month!
We moved into Sunrise a few days later, little beach huts 500rs per night. A double between three again, oh well. Hut No.6, a view you could never get tired of waking up to and the perfect place to hang a hammock!
We even had our own pat rat living under the hut, a fine establishment.
Two of the best friends I made on Havelock were Leggy and Maximus, two of the dogs living at sunrise.
Leggy was so named because he'd been hit by a tuk-tuk earlier in the year and his back legs didn't work properly, one worse than the other. He clearly used to be the alpha dog! Despite the fact he dragged his arse along the floor everywhere to get around, he never backed down from a fight with another dog however late he might arrive. He had a dislike for some Indians and watching him chase them up and down the beach all day was hilarious. When me and Dave returned to Havelock the look on his face as he came running/sliding towards us...I never thought I'd say I love street dog in India, never mind two. He loved it, if you stopped stroking him he'd hold his paw out to you when you stopped stroking him!
Maximus was the new alpha, but clearly had great respect for Leggy as the former leader. Whenever someone kicked off with Leggy, Maximus was on hand to F them up!
We fed and watered the dogs everyday and I hope someone's still looking after them. I hope next time I go to Havelock they're still on #5, barking at people walking down the beach.
So it turns out that Havelock isn't just about chilling out and relaxing, it's also about “partying”! I use quotation marks because compared to parties that aren't on an island they aren't parties....maybe in the peak season, but it was coming to the end when we arrived.
There's Cicada on three days a week, I can't remember what days because I had no and still have no clue what day it is most of the time. This was the best “party”, people DJ'd two nights of the week and on one (Friday! Yes!) there was a jam session were travellers and hippies would play whatever they knew. You could get a litre of manky vodka from the bottle shop for 250rs, so getting steamed isn't a problem! Anything you could need for a party can be acquired.
Along with beach #5, there's also beach #7, #2, #4 and Elephant beach. The island is pretty small, you can drive across in half an hour, it's well worth renting a scooter. We paid 250rs per day, the cheapest price, most people were paying 300rs+.
Beach #5 is where all the foreigners hang out, it's where most of the cheaper places to stay and eat are located. You have an amazing view of Sunrise, truly stunning! Another thing that cannot be described it was so beautiful. Due to the fact they use the same time as India but technically being in another time zone the sun rises really early and sets really early.
On some nights you can see a moon rise! Incredible!
When the moon is down and it's dark enough, if you go for a swim bio-luminesence can be seen sometimes. I was really pissed when I saw it and can't really remember it, but Cam and Dave both and an ecstatic time.
Beach #7 is a very close second or joint first beach! Stunning views, it's the best place to watch sunset. It takes around half an hours nice drive there from #5.
It's where most of the Indian tourists hang out, fully clothed as usual and focused on one area of the beach. Which makes it easy to get away from the mayhem to a peaceful spot to chill.
The forest just behind the beach is class, the trees are incredible. If you go right, off the road through the forest you'll come to an area of beach known as “the lagoon”. I have no idea why because it's nothing like a lagoon...
There's a sign on the way into the lagoon warning not to swim because of crocodiles, it's where an American girl got killed a few years ago. Although it had never happened before then or since.
The water isn't quite so clear on this side of the island and the currents are strong, which is why beach #5 takes the biscuit.
Beach #2 is also a dive site called “Nemo reef”, which you can snorkel around. There's not much to the beach because it's mostly covered in mangroves, but it does look cool. Throughout the day the area is filled with divers, dive boats and snorkellers. So there isn't anywhere to chill.
Beach #4 is the most southern beach on the island that's accessible. The drive down there is really nice, but there isn't really anywhere to escape the sun. Again though, it was incredible beautiful.
Elephant beach is the only beach on the island with lasting damage of the 2004 Tsunami which ripped through the island. Great trees, and I mean great! As thick and as tall as you can imagine lying, uprooted on the beach! I can't comprehend the enormous power of a wave that strong!
The beach itself isn't really that great, especially when compared with the other options, and I personally didn't think it was worth the half an hour trek through the jungle!
You drive halfway to #7 and then pull up and have to walk the rest of the way in the blistering heat! Then when you get to the bottom of the hill, if you're unlucky you'll have to wade through a knee deep swamp, if you're “lucky” like us you just walk over swampy mud.
The first part of the beach has little huts that sell snacks and drinks until 3pm, there's a walkway into the water and there's jet skis etc
If you go right to the left when you walk onto the beach and go to the end then you'll find peace during the day. After 3pm most of the Indian tourists leave and it's rather pleasant to watch the sunset...or It would be if the sand flies weren't savage there! They're the size of horse flies and their bite is like a sharp nip!
The snorkelling at Elephant beach is really good though, I only saw a small section but the corals go right along the beach and they're not too far out.
Before we got to Andamans we'd seen in the guide book how popular diving was on Havelock but we didn't realise how popular, There's dive shops everywhere!. Being on a tight budget we knew it was too expensive though. To be honest the thought to go diving had never even crossed my mind for some reason, I thought it was something unreachable I suppose.
So when we eventually move into Sunrise all our friends, basically everyone is urging us to do the open water course, telling us how amazing it is etc.
The open water course, to quote the dive instructors, is like a “license to another world”. If you want to go diving but haven't done this course you can only go to shallow depths, the instructor has
to be with you at all times and
the dive site for it in Havelock was where you could snorkel quite easily.
Koh Pan-gnan, Thailand is renowned for being the cheapest place in the world to go do your diving courses. However, from what we gathered on the island, It's not that much more expensive on Havelock and it's way better. Since I’ve gotten back from Andamans I’ve spoken to someone who did their open water there recently, he paid around £170 in Thailand. We paid £190 in Andamans, through Blue Corals. The main difference is there's far less people in Andamans so you've basically got the dive sites to yourself, and you get more instructor time. I heard in Thailand there's that many courses going on at once that it's easy to lose your group under the water, and there's like 5/6 people doing the course with you, sometimes even more.
Even with my very little experience diving I can tell you that diving with more people takes away from the experience slightly.
The open water consisted of a “school day”, two hours of one of the most boring videos I’ve seen since science back in the day. On the second day we got into the water, we spent the first half of the day in neck deep water learning some basic skills, buoyancy, clearing the mask underwater, taking the mask off and replacing It etc.
In that afternoon we did our first dive, just around the area in Nemo reef for snorkelling to practise the skills. Although the corals are pretty poor, there's not too many fish and the viability wasn't great, it was still a mind blowing experience! To be honest I was concentrating more on not dying than looking at fish at first anyway.
We came to the surface and had a chat about what could've been better and had some biscuits etc. Turns out me and Dave were really easy students! (I've just thought how annoying it would be too if you were diving with people you didn't know and one was really bad and kept holding you up, nah).
We did a second dive that afternoon which was even better than the first!
The day after we did another two dives, both of which we went out on the boat to get to instead of doing a land entry from #2 and diving at Nemo.
I can't remember the name of these dives sites, one was lighthouse. When we dropped anchor you could see to the bottom and it was around 10M deep! That's how clear the water on Andamans is!
We dived here and Viggie (our instructor) was pointing out cool fish, none of which I can remember the names of. There were more fish and colours than the last time, but it still wasn't what I was expecting from diving. I wasn't satisfied with the number of fish or colours!
Same after the fourth dive, and
that was a “wreck” dive. Nothing to get excited about, it's literally a scooter and a bicycle that someone has placed under the water!
We saw a stingray on that dive at least! Only a small one, but still incredible!
We finished the course and became qualified divers, but I still wasn't satisfied! I'd had a taste of diving and I was desperate to dive at a proper site.
At Havelock there's three main dive sites Jonny's, Jackson's and Dixon's. Named after the people who discovered the sites, who still work in one of the dive shops “Ocean Tribe”. I asked around the diving instructors and other travellers who'd been diving to find out which was the best for seeing schools of fish and loads of different coloured coral. Dixon's was the answer and I had my heart set on it from that moment.
So after talking Dave into the initial £190 outlay for the course, I set about convincing him to part with more money for what would surely be worth it! Naturally, I prevailed. Laila, our German friend, also came on the dive with us.
Jackson's, Jonny's and Dixon's are all 30M dive sites, and the open water only clears you to dive to 18M. There's a few ways to get around this, do the advanced course for another £280 or something, do a deep speciality to clear you to dive to 40M, and there's a deep adventure dive which is the one we ended up doing. With the deep adventure you pay the price of a fun dive (5000rs) plus an extra 1000rs because the instructor has to go through some “skills” with you. When I say skills I believe there's meant to be like two skills done underwater to pass...we looked at a colour chart and saw how the colours change the deeper you get! Easy!
The boat was leaving at 6.30AM! So it was the first time I’d seen the island at that time completely sober.
Coming along for the dive were three Indians from Mumbai. Two girls around my age and one of their dads. I have no idea what this guy did, but their hotel was £150-£200 PER NIGHT!
We'd paid 6000rs for two dives, Dave and Laila paid an extra 2000rs for an extra dive and saw a huge manta-ray, so I’m now slightly regretting being a cheap skate!
Both of the dives I did were at Dixon's. I couldn't have asked for something more perfect! It was exactly what I wanted. Words cannot describe the feeling of that dive! It's THE BEST thing I’ve ever done, the best feeling I've ever had! It beats everything I’ve ever done or had by miles.
There was so many school of fish around us, there must've been 1000s at one point! All different colours, swimming in different directions, really close to us, surrounded by fish just a few feet away from my face. We saw a sea snake (the deadliest snake in the world, but it's teeth are at the back of it's mouth so it can't really bite humans), Moray Eels, a school of Barracuda, Lion fish....these are the only ones I can remember the names of. It was like swimming around in my Grandad's old fish tank!
Each dive was around 45 minutes, but they feel like they're about five!
Unfortunately I'm not sure when I'll get to dive again because of funds, but the great barrier reef could be the one!
I would recommend everyone try it!
Unfortunately you only get a 30 day permit when you enter Andamans, we were told it could be extended by an extra 15 days when we arrived, and had heard of people doing it. You can understand our disappointment when we get back to Port Blair to get the extension and our ticket back to the mainland, the extensions have been stopped and the ship is fully booked!
We went to the police station who told us to go to the immigration office, who said they can't do anything about it. After lots of pleading and a couple of white lies we had ourselves a five day extension and a flight. The flight cost 12500rs, so a little more than the 2380rs we were expecting to spend!
We returned to Havelock to live out the final five days in paradise, and got the same beach hut. We were gone from the island for 29 hours, it would've been less had we been prepared for buying a flight etc. I reckon if we'd gone to immigration with a flight booked in 15 days time they would've given us the full extension, but oh well.
We're back on the mainland having spent like three months budget in just one (a small price to pay for paradise), with severe Havelock blues. Still though, at least we have the rest of our trip to look forward to, some people have gone directly home from Andamans! F*ck that!
We arrived back in Channai! Eugh. We planned to split up for a few weeks while I visit some friends and Dave checks out some places I’ve already been to.
For me Mysore, Gorkarna, Pune.
This blog's been a long time coming, but I had to let the Havelock blues subside slightly before I could bring myself to write this. I've had such a good time there, I'm 100%!I(MISSING)'ll return at some point in the not too distant future.
I'm looking forward to finding the next place to fall in love with.
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