For us, the Andaman Islands, India, were a new paradise on Earth. We had visited Thailand and Malaysia’s finest beach resorts and, in our opinion, the Andaman Islands came out on top. We later learned that Havelock Island‘s No. 7 Beach has been rated the top beach in Asia by Time in 2004. Havelock is probably the Andaman’s most beautiful island. Open this link and check out hundreds of amazing photos.
To bring you up to date, we spent the night at a hotel close to Kochi airport. That day, we had maximized on our stay at our beautiful lake resort, checking out at 5.00 PM. We then had a two hour drive to Kochi.
The Andaman Islands are very difficult to access and even though they are part of India, they are very close to Myanmar (Burma) and Sumatra, Indonesia. However, there is very strict security and a permit to enter the Islands has to be obtained at the airport in Port Blair.
Our flight from Kochi to Port Blair was not direct. The first leg to Chennai was just over an hour and after a two-hour layover, we had a two-hour plus flight to Port Blair. At Port Blair airport, we had to complete a questionnaire to enable us to qualify for our entry pass. They really love form filling in India. Our forms were then examined by the first security officer, then sent to the second clerk for checking. Thirdly, they were given back to somebody whose job it was to apply the rubber stamp. The fourth person checks what the others have already checked and “hey presto we had done it!” We were collected at the airport and transferred to the ferry terminal for our crossing to Havelock Island. It takes about one hour and fifty minutes,with stunning scenery en route. Clear blue waters and many islands pass by, standing proudly in the sea, displaying their abundance of trees and colorful foliage.
We arrived at Havelock to yet more pass checking and more questions asked. By the way, none of this bureaucracy was done electronically. Again, we had to wait in the strong sun as our details were checked by the senior clerk. Incidentally, the clerk was a large woman, in a khaki uniform which was challenged by her bulk. We were at the back of the queue of about twenty westerners, who had to wait in the afternoon sun, whilst this woman took a ruler and added lines to her notebook! Customer service and client satisfaction have not reached this part of paradise.
We finally arrived at our resort, beside an idyllic beach, with wooden chalets, all mod cons, very comfortable, clean and apparently the best accommodation in the Andamans – everything is totally natural, including the forest setting. The first thing that we did on arrival was to walk down to the fabulous beach and see the stretch of silver sand sparkling in the near sunset – then we saw the spectacular sunset.
Next, we had a drink at the bar, prior to dinner and then an early night, as we were exhausted after a very long day travelling with plenty of frustration thrown in for good measure.
We were up bright and early next morning, so that we could walk a long stretch of the beach before the heat kicked in and we watched the sunrise and the changing colors in the sky and sea – a truly spectacular sight. On our way back to our hotel, we saw a sight that surely cannot be repeated – we saw an elephant walking out of the sea onto the beach! We had to check with each other that we were agreed it was in fact an elephant. Well, he had actually been for a swim with a photo team from National Geographic who were filming elephants swimming underwater. This wonderful animal was rewarded with about one hundred bananas. He was eating them in bunches of about five at a time with no problem – we stood in fascination, watching this lovely event. There really can’t be too many places in the world that an experience such as this would unfold – all way before breakfast!
After breakfast, we had arranged to go on a hike and snorkeling trip to a beach named Elephant Beach. It’s name derived from the 1920s, when deforestation here was important and elephants were the transport for timber removal. We walked to the beach after reaching a drop off point. The hour-long walk through the jungle forest was pleasant and then we arrived at Elephant Beach. We were informed that all of the many devastated trees were damaged severely in the big tsunami. The beach was, however, still very lovely and we were pleased to get into the sea and cool down. The snorkeling was not particularly good but we all had a nice swim. After a packed lunch, supplied by the hotel, we started our walk back to our transport and returned the same way as we arrived – it took slightly longer, as it was uphill and every thing considered, we all had a very nice morning. There were six of us and that included four, bright, trendy, young things from Mumbai, and ourselves, plus the guide.
That afternoon, we visited the local market, where we managed to make a couple of purchases, plus buy some essentials. We then had a hair-raising ride back to our hotel on a Tuk Tuk – the journey took twenty scary minutes and we were pleased to arrive with everything still in place! To relax, Alf had a double scotch and Marilyn had a large glass of white wine…
The following day, we went on a wonderful snorkeling trip to South Button & Tamarind Camp – again it was organised by our hotel. The first boat trip in a powerboat took about an hour. We then snorkeled for an hour around South Button in the open sea. Marilyn chose to wear a life-vest, as it was in very deep water, but Alf declined the life-vest. There was a group of nine – four including Alf went off together and five including Marilyn, swam with the guide. We saw shoals of beautifully colored fish of all sizes. They light up the sea against wonderful underwater rocks – it was truly amazing. We then returned to the boat and were taken to another location – this time to the beach, where were we could walk on the soft white sand, swim in the clear blue sea and snorkel if we wished. Marilyn chose not to snorkel again and just chilled out in the shade. Alf, however had another snorkel. Then we all had lunch on the beach, prepared by the boat staff, some time for a rest and then back onto the boat and a fast return to our hotel. We arrived back at about 5 PM and were very pleasantly exhausted!
The following day we were transferred to Port Blair, by sea plane. We spent our last two days in the Andamans there, just relaxing, with wonderful views of the bay and nice walks around it. In total we stayed on the AnNdaman Islands for five glorious days.
The next morning, we caught our flight to Calcutta and sadly said goodbye to the Andaman Islands, but it was a wonderful experience. The Andamans are definitely on our special list of “Places for a Return Visit” . But Calcutta, the subject of our next blog was a wonderful surprise….