Havelock Island – the Ultimate Backpacker Destination
Ever heard of Havelock Island? This Island has everything it takes to be the ultimate backpacker’s destination Island and is a part of the Andamans and Nicobar Islands. The best part? Well, it has some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia which are right out of a tropical paradise movie or a travel magazine cover. These group of Islands are one of the most remote spots on the planet.
Out of the 600ish islands in the group if Andaman and Nicobar Islands, only NINE are open for international travelers after they obtain a permit. Out of that 9, Havelock Island is the most visited one. But don’t get me wrong, this island is STILL NOT AS TOURISTY as other island destinations of the nearby country Thailand and sees only a fraction of the visitors. The reasons –
1) It’s not easy reaching this Island as compared to the ones in Thailand.
2) Not many people have visited this here, hence there are very few blogs or reviews about them online.Most of the “best beaches in the world” lists miss out on mentioning this island.
I have visited two of “the best 10 beaches in the world” list which was published by TripAdvisor in 2013, but I still think THIS beach above is the best ever in the world. In fact, all the beaches on this island have snow white sand and clear blue water.
The Indian government has been advocating eco-friendly tourism development on Havelock Island for a while now, so if you visit this paradise, please do not leave your trash anywhere on the island. Wondering Where the Heck is this Island?
Where is Havelock Island
Remember my blog about Neil Island; well this is next to it – in the middle of the ocean between India and Thailand.
How to Reach Havelock Island
The best way to reach is to take a flight to Port Blair and catch a government run Ferry to Havelock Island from there. Alternatively, you can also take a 3-4 day long ferry from Chennai to reach Port Blair if you want to save money. If you’re fully loaded with cash, you can avail chopper services. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see more details about different options to reach.
Havelock Island – Getting Around
Getting around on Havelock Island is not difficult. Like the rest of the Asia, this island has many tuk-tuks that can be hired and are very convenient. There are local buses that run on the main road and a ticket can be as cheap as INR 6 Rupees (around 15 cents of a Euro). There are shared jeeps as well which are usually run by Scuba Dive Shops and private taxies that are obviously expensive. The best way to travel is by renting a scooter, which usually costs INR 300 Rupees per day. Ask any chai shop to point you to a scooty rental place.
Havelock Island – places to stay
Simple rule about Havelock Island:
Families / Resorts / Honeymoon: Beach #1, Beach #5, Beach #7
Backpackers: Beach #3, Beach #4 and Beach #5 (huts from INR 600 to INR 1500)
I stayed in a place called Emerald Gecko on Beach #5
(Yes, the beaches here have a strange “Number” name and an alternate Hindi name.)
Things to do in Havelock Island / Beaches of Havelock Island
When you arrive, the ferry will leave you at Beach number 1. Although beautiful, this beach not good for swimming because of the presence of mangrove. This beach is usually popular for families because of a resort called Pearl Park. The area around this is good for watching sunsets. The only two ATMs of Havelock Island are in this area. This beach is connected to beach number 2 through some rocks.
Beach number 3, 4 and 5 form what is called the “backpacker strip” of Havelock Island. These beaches have extremely shallow water and bleached coral.
Beach #3 can be entered from the path that leads from Blue Sea restaurant. Beach #3 has some good dhabas (cheap restaurants).
Beach #4 gets a little crowded and beach #5 is my favorite with low trees that form a natural shade, so no need for beach umbrellas. These trees are curved and are perfect for putting up your hammocks. See the picture.
Beach #5 is extremely shallow and to my surprise, looks very different in low tide where the water runs back more than one kilometer. It’s fun to walk on the sand when the tide is low and look at interesting things. See these sea cucumbers?
I recommend you stay on beach #5 if you’re traveling solo. You will meet a few backpackers and like-minded people. The best part of this beach is the area next to The Wild Orchid resort. Wild Orchid also organizes a few parties in their bar.
If you keep going straight ahead of beach 5 into the dense forest, you will reach a beach which is not famous by its numbered name but an actual name. This beach is called Kalapathar beach.
Kala Pathar means Black Stone and as the name suggests, it has some back rocks on the sand. This beach was always empty when I visited. It is in the middle of the forest with a wider sandy area compared to beach #5 and appeared to be the perfect spot to pitch a tent. Do it at your own risk 😉 . Do carry a mat and food to spend a few evenings on this beach. BUT please don’t leave your trash here or anywhere else on the island.
Now let me introduce the MAIN attraction here – the legendary beach #7 or Radhanagar beach. Many people visit Havelock Island just for this beach. Do not forget to carry your snorkel gear if you visit this beach because the water here is perfect for it.
Obviously, this beach gets crowded but don’t worry, it’s huge. You will definitely find big empty spaces if you keep going ahead. Beach number 7 or Radhanagar Beach is on the west side of the island and you will need to reach this by a 30-minute scooty ride. The best thing to do here is to take the scooty behind the shaded forest part of this beach and keep going straight till you reach the only resort on this beach – Barefoot.
Barefoot Resort is a paradise in itself and is expensive as hell if you want to stay. However, we recommend you stop by here and visit the bar to drink a few cold beers to kill the heat.
When you get out of Barefoot, walk to the other end of the beach (the right side) and you will reach a spot called “Neil’s Cove” – hippie backpacker paradise and perfect for watching the sunset.
Neil’s cove is a hidden spot where only the people that have heard of it venture – and that’s not too many. I must tell you back in 2010 an American girl was killed by a saltwater crocodile in Neil’s cove while snorkeling here with her boyfriend. Since such an attack was unheard of here, no one believed him till his camera was found on the seabed with the recording of the attack. Please don’t let me scare you – this was an isolated incident. If it makes you feel better, I visited Neil’s Cove multiple times in March 2013 and I’m still alive. 😉
Oddly enough, there’s no beach #6 but there’s another beach around this area called Elephant Beach (or Elephanta Beach). There’s no road to this beach so it can only reached by a boat or by walking from Beach #7. This beach is usually visited by Indian families. There are a lot of water activities such as snorkel trips, banana boat rides, glass boat rides, etc., because of which this beach is usually crowded.
What to eat on Havelock Island and Where to find cheap food
Eating on Havelock Island is more expensive than Neil Island unless you find the famous Welcome Dhaba and the other dhabas near the beach number 3 road intersection. The restaurants on this Island look very good but nothing beats the flavorful seafood curries which you will get in these dhabas. We learned the hard way!
We stayed at a place called Emerald Gecko on beach #5. This place has bamboo cottages starting from INR 1500 rupees onwards. The place is unbelievably beautiful and the staff is helpful.
They also have a water refilling station near the reception. There’s a restaurant in this property called “Blackbeard’s Bistro” which is very good to look at but the food is below average and overpriced.
Also, when we visited, there was a girl called Debbie, who joined our table and subtly tried to sell us many things – starting from scuba at their dive shop to boat trips to expensive lobster. We realized later that she was working for Emerald Gecko.
Scuba Diving on Havelock Island
The main activity on this island is Scuba Diving. There are 5 popular dive shops – Barefoot Scuba, Andaman Bubbles, Andaman Dive Club Dive India and Doongi Doves. The diving spots are pretty much the same for all. I had picked Andaman Bubbles and did not have a good experience. I will make a separate post about picking the right dive shop and will discuss what went wrong in my dive experience with Andaman Bubbles. The cost of dive varies between INR 4500 – 6000 rupees. You can also do a few treks and explore the jungle area.
How to reach Havelock Island:
Reach Port Blair by flight or by a 2-4 day ferry from Chennai. Port Blair is the entry point to the Andaman and Nicobar Isles. Flights to Port Blair run only from Chennai, Bhubaneswar, and Kolkota, India. From here, a number of ferries depart every day for a few islands.
The best way to reach Havelock Island is to take a government ferry from Port Blair which normally takes around 2-3 hours, depending on the weather conditions. A government ferry will cost you between INR 500-800. There are different kinds of tickets for this ferry with a limited number of tickets with seats and a higher number without seats. I would recommend the latter option if you want to sit on the deck to enjoy the view in the open. I found the sitting section to be stuffy. For your trip back to Port Blair or Neil, you can book a ferry directly from Havelock Island. The ferry queue on Havelock Island and Port Blair can be a nightmare. Government Boat Schedule: http://db.and.nic.in/integrated_appln/uploadfiles_dss/sailingsch.php
Alternatively, you can book a high-speed catamaran – Makruzz for between INR 950-1400 depending on the class, which takes around 1-2 hours. Makruzz Schedule: http://www.makruzz.com/site/schedule.php
Apart from ferries, there is a chopper service (http://www.and.nic.in/transport/helisch.php) and a seaplane (http://www.and.nic.in/transport/seaplane.php) but we did not look at those options because we’re tightfisted backpackers. Any guesses which option we picked?
Too much information in this post? No worries, I have made a list of the “best of” for everything in Havelock.