The idea of travelling to Andaman Islands was thrilling, in the true sense of it. Unlike a typical non-swimmer, hydrophobic person, I decided to travel across the ocean to complete a scuba diving certification. Sometimes, I still question my intent!
After 10-days when I returned to mainland, I was a certified Open Water Scuba Diver and I’d had my first brush with kayaking. I felt satisfied. Unlike my other travels, Havelock did not change my life. I did return with clarity on a few things such as, kayaking was soon to become a lifelong addiction, that I am a mountain goat after all and that the Andaman beaches are probably the best I have seen till now.
And since diving took up most of my time here, I did not get a chance to visit any of the other islands. Here is what I did to keep myself busy in the waking hours on the island.
What I did
I was diving with DIVEIndia, the most reputed on the island and their instructors are pro at what they do. I would highly recommended them for a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD), fun dive or even a certification course. They have been in the business for more than a decade, prioritise safety, practice responsible travel, are affordable and harbour Full Moon Café in their property!
Diving would take up about eight hours of my day. And other times, I would spend exploring the island as much as I could. Kala Pathar Beach is a secluded one, barely 10 minutes away from DIVEIndia.
I have been guilty of taking my gear-less scooter out every day and ride aimlessly along the length of the island. Visiting Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7), a popular tourist place, during sunset was magical. The roads and the forests of Havelock are a treat for the eyes. And if you have an eye for spotting birds, be ready to stop en route many times to admire these feathered creatures.
In Havelock, I got introduced to kayaking by the young Tanaz Noble. We were three double kayaks (six adults) and paddling two hours through the thick mangroves at dusk. This was also the first time I witnessed phosphorescence in my life. Next time when I do visit the island, I will be kayaking a lot more.
Also read: 10 things to do in Havelock, Andaman Islands
Where I ate
Full Moon Café is probably the best restaurant/café on the island. I still remember their masala chai and their fish steak with lemon rice. The café attracts very many guests because of the delicious bakes from Niamh’s kitchen. She runs the café and bakes a new dessert each day. I ate here for about seven days, almost all three meals and my total food bill here was Rs. 2730. I think that was phenomenally affordable for such delicious food!
Anju Coco near Beach #3 is a good alternative for a meal. Though a lunch there was enough for me. My lunch was a portion of vegetarian fried rice+chilli fish with a glass of fresh lime water which was Rs. 210. I only went back to pack up pre-ordered kilograms of cookies (choco-chip and assorted) which I carried back to mainland with me.
Silver Sands, a high-end resort with a sprawling property, was my beer destination. I visited their outdoor restaurant twice, to sip some beer and stop by for a very early dinner. The first time I paid an expensive Rs. 733 for a beer and Thai green curry. The second time though they offered me a complimentary portion of chilli chicken and a beer for Rs. 218.
Where I stayed
Since I was diving with DIVEIndia, I opted to stay at Island Vinnie’s. They have huts and tented cabanas. I stayed at an upgraded hut which is a very basic hut with attached bathroom. It is clean but, I repeat, very basic. The tented cabanas, obviously, seemed more attractive, but I didn’t see a point spending thrice as much for my accommodation when I was only going to sleep there. I paid Rs. 30,000 for my stay and my certification course.
Other stay options are The Wild Orchid and Silver Sands. These are mid to high range resorts. Of course, everyone knows of the very famous Barefoot, the first choice of every couple on their honeymoon. Beach #3 and #5 have all stay options.
Good to know:
Getting there: The nearest airport is Port Blair and Havelock is only connected by ferry. Government ferry costs about Rs. 200 and the catamaran (Makruzz) costs Rs. 815. They leave at scheduled hours and pre-booking is a good idea, especially during season. Port Blair to Havelock takes about 2 hours sailing.
-You can rent a gear-less scooter (Rs. 400 per day) and refuel it yourself. Bicycles are available at Rs. 70 per day. Green Imperial, opposite DIVEIndia, is an option for bike rentals.
-There are licensed wine shops on the island. However, they all remained closed on February 28, 2014 when I was there. Someone told me that the liquor shops are closed on the last day of the month. I don’t know if I should believe that!
-Havelock has very limited phone and Internet connectivity. There are a few cyber cafes which charge an exorbitant Rs. 200-300 per hour for Internet.
-During Monsoons, the waters are rough and the island remains largely closed.