The Travelling Teacher: Andaman Islands – Pearls in a sea of blue
What’s it all about?
Last week’s blog entry covered my time in New Delhi and, during my lay-over, my brief stop in Kolkata. It was the build up to this place, Havelock.
This week’s blog will be all about getting to Havelock, starting with arriving at Port Blair and then getting a ferry to Havelock. All this effort was definitely worth it!
These islands are known as the Andaman Islands and they are renowned for their great diving and beautiful beaches. Join my adventure as I find some of the best beaches in Asia and get stuck into exploring…literally! I have some amazing treks to find some beaches so read on to find out more!
As I mentioned last week, I had a good feeling as soon as this place came into sight! With nature all around and only a few buildings to be seen, I knew I was going to be in my element. But, before I could enjoy it all, we had to complete our permits. This took a while! As we were nearing the end of our Indian Visa our permits were only valid until the day before our Indian Visas ended. After spending a long time completing our visas we were thankful we’d booked accommodation that was very close to the airport. On an island with an area of around 92km2 , it’s not surprising our accommodation was so close.
When we booked our accommodation, there was little in the way of options here and our accommodation was very basic. On the plus side, it had many rooms. Though often we were in darkness as with only a few windows and the power regularly cutting out, there wasn’t much light. This also meant timing was everything, especially when showering. When the power would come on I had to quickly get in the shower and let the warm water go into the bucket and then pour it over myself – this was the quickest and most efficient method. I was getting pretty good at using the ‘bucket’ method when showering now!
We knew we were only going to be here a few days and then we would be off exploring somewhere else so we decided to do what we could and book to get the ferry to Havelock Island. We were lucky enough to be able to book our Ferry without a delay. When booking the ferry there were a variety of options for seating, with different price ranges. You had the option of deluxe seating, normal seating or standing. We decided to book seating as we could rest up and we went for the air-conditioned option. Once we’d packed our things we were in a tuk-tuk heading to the port. We literally squeezed ourselves and our bags (I still don’t know how we managed to fit in) into a tuk-tuk to get to the Port.
Ferry to Havelock
We waited at the Port and took in the view of the sea. It was a nice calm wait watching the fish swim beneath our feet as dangled them over the edge. Lots of people were rushing around but once you had checked in you had your seats and it didn’t matter who got on the boat first as we all had reserved seats….well, unless you’d ordered standing tickets.
Our ferry only took a few hours and there was a great sense of spirit. In the standing area there was music and people kept themselves entertained by dancing. The ferry was such a chilled-out experience and it was nice to sit and watch the ocean and be cool and comfortable. There were even snacks to keep us from avoiding any h-anger. The arrival to Havelock was quite the opposite though.
They unloaded the bags passing them along a line of men and people all crowded around them to fetch their luggage. Once the crowd had cleared it was then time to try and find accommodation again! When we arrived at Havelock we didn’t realise how hard it would be to find accommodation! We had attempted to make a booking whilst in Port Blair but due to the poor connection we were unable to access any accommodation sites.
A guy we had spoken to on the ferry had suggested some hotels that may have rooms and we got our tuk-tuk driver to try these….but to no avail. Our driver then ending up taking us around the island in search of somewhere to stay. We were passing others who were in the same situation and it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time to be lucky enough to get one of the rooms that were left. We came across one room that had no air con and no WIFI. We were tempted to book it but decided we might be lucky and we continued our hunt. We finally found somewhere that was super expensive but that had air conditioning and it also had WIFI, though you had to pay for this! After the stress of trying to find somewhere to stay, we headed straight to the beach. Our accommodation was right on the beach front so we strolled out and took in the evening sun. The sea was so clear and the sand white. Along the beach were some trees that were growing in the sand and that had its roots sprouting out everywhere. So cool!
Booking a ferry? Take cash and take your passport and a copy of your visa information. Oh and in regards to accommodation, book ahead of time to avoid disappoint!
We got early from our accommodation and headed to another hotel we had seen availability in online. On our way there we had to find an ATM as they wanted cash up front, which was similar in most places we had been to here.
Havelock: Let the exploration begin….
Now we were set up in our new accommodation we hired a ped and let the real exploration begin. Our first stop was the beach near our previous accommodation. We found a different way to get to the beach, through a very classy and upmarket hotel resort that had the prettiest opening to the beach with trees that overhung the beach line perfectly.
The tree we had seen the previous night, with all its roots sticking out in the sand, was now almost completely submerged in the water. I didn’t even think trees could survive in the sand, let alone in the sea! Sea trees – they’re a real thing, look them up! We soon noticed that right beneath our feet were hundreds of hermit crabs, all fighting to find their new shell. I love watching these little guys! I have a camera roll full of them!
As Havelock is renowned for its diving and its beaches we decided we hadn’t had our beach fix and wanted to find more. So, we headed to Beach 7. Beach 7, known as Radhanager Beach, is on the western coast and is one of the most popular beaches. In 2004 it was named as the ‘Best beach in Asia’. This beach is beautiful, it is lined with trees and other islands can be seen in the distance but with this popular title comes lots of people, and it was very busy.
There are toilets and changing rooms at the Radahanager Beach but you have to pay to use them. Remember, there are also many, many trees so if you feel ‘at one’ with nature, and it definitely won’t do any harm.
When it comes to evening there is little in the way of entertainment around Havelock but there are plenty of beaches to take a stroll along and often people will be playing frisbee along the them. There’s also a small night market in the centre of town that we visited but the fruit we purchased was very expensive!
Elephant Beach…attempt 1 and attempt 2
Another famous beach in Havelock is Elephant Beach. So we headed there on the ped. On the day we chose to go the weather was particularly bad. When we arrived there, there was a man sitting at a table that told us the beach closes at 3.30pm and it is a 40-minute walk to the beach …and it was too muddy. Basically, we were being told to come back another day. As we were deciding what to do a man came out from the mass of trees in front of us and slipped down the slippery muddy slope. He informed us his wife had returned to Havelock on a ship because of how muddy the trek was to the beach. This man was covered almost head to toe in thick mud! We decided that this was most definitely a sign and headed to yet another beach.
Though there is no gate to close it off it’s best for your safety if you stick to the designated opening times. Also, give yourself plenty of time to get to Elephant Beach.
With a failed first attempt we were waiting for a better day to go to Elephant Beach but we were pretty unlucky with the weather. One day we waited a few hours for the clouds and rain to clear a little and then decided to head out. We took the ped back to the Elephant Beach entry point, signed in and then began our trek through the forest. Now on this occasion when I say trek, I truly mean trek! What should have been a 40-minute walk was a couple of hours attempting to stay upright and pull my feet out of deep, sticky, muddy puddles. Some of the puddles were so deep the water went up to my knees and beyond! This was by no means for the faint hearted and it wasn’t just a flat route either, there were some elevated areas and some that were on a decline. I seriously developed my climbing and balance skills here. This trek was unbelievably slippery, so I ended up going bare foot and trying to avoid the prickly roots and sharp edges hidden in the mud. It wasn’t long into the trek that I felt a white top probably wasn’t the best choice for today’s adventure.
On this route we think we saw an elephant footprint and what we think was elephant dung! However, it was raining so much I avoided getting my camera out for 2 reasons – firstly, the rain and secondly the chance it could literally get consumed by the mud monster beneath my feet. We saw so many amazing animals and insects on route, from lizards to what looked like giant flying beetles!
We came to an open area that had a few trees and loads of puddles, with almost fully-formed newts’ swimming around. This was the final part of the trek before reaching the beach. Then we climbed through the bushes to reach the beach. We’d made it! The water wasn’t as clear as other beaches but that was as a result of the weather. As we headed to the water, we managed to spot a snake curled around a fallen tree trunk, dipping in and out of the water.
We had two options, head to the left of the beach to the busier area or head right and have the area to ourselves. We went for option 2. I was a little reluctant to go in the water at first, with the snake fresh in my mind and it also felt pretty cold. Eventually we swam out and the water visibility did improve massively! We swam across the reef and saw loads of fish! A shawl of big fish, Blue tang (Dory fish to fellow Nemo fans) and Angel fish.
After our swim we knew we still had to get back home. We could have just got a ferry back (yes, there is a ferry here and back that saves the trek) but where’s the fun in that? We were back trekking along the slippery mud hills. The way back was easier, I knew what to expect and had found following the tree roots was the best way to find a path and have something for my feet to cling to! I did end up with some good holes in my feet from unknown spiky objects and had mud under my toe nails. Though we were soaked through to the bone and had clay type mud smothered over our legs and feet, it was so therapeutic walking through the mud especially the feel of it squishing between my toes. Once back at the accommodation a hot shower never felt so good!
After our failed attempt 1 at Elephant beach we headed to Kalapathar Beach. The ride from Elephant Beach entrance to Kalapathar Beach was wonderful. Trees were everywhere and some of them were amazing. Trees that you would only see in a film or you could imagine in a fairy-tale. They towered over you and their thick trunks twisted in the most magnificent style. I wish I had taken more pictures of these but the roads here were SO bumpy, so for safety, I just took mental images. The ride really felt like trekking through the countryside, surrounded by an ever-changing landscape of trees, fields, goats, chickens, cockerels and chicks.
On arrival at the beach, it was clear that this was another beach littered with hermit crabs! It made me so conscious of where I was stepping! This beach was lush! We decided to stroll along the right side of the beach and came across and giant tree that had fallen. We had to walk in the water just to get around it and witnessed a beautiful bright animal, similar to a jellyfish. Unfortunately it was dead, but the colours on it were so vibrant! This marine organism is called ‘Porpita, porpita’ or, ‘Blue button’. You have to look these up! As we strolled along this beach I couldn’t help but find myself singing the Little Mermaid song ‘A whole new world’….I was in such awe!
What’s it like to work here?
As I mentioned, our accommodation in Port Blair was very basic and with the power frequently going down, this didn’t leave much hope for the WIFI connection. We struggled to even use a well-known accommodation booking app to find accommodation for our next stop.
Once in Havelock there wasn’t much of an improvement. At our first accommodation we had to pay for WIFI and this was pretty costly. It was also slow! In our second accommodation we were able to connect to the internet but only during certain times as they switched it on between particular hours. This meant that everyone was waiting to get on and you’d find people flocking to the lobby so they could try and pick up better signal.
I would say this place is better for exploring and taking a break than a working holiday!
What’s up next?
In my next blog, my time in the Andaman Islands continues as my time in India draws closer to the end. Next week I’ll be heading to Neil Island and then back to Port Blair.
I hope you’ll be reading along next week!
Have some questions? Want to know how I managed to teach and travel? Or, want to share your stories? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org .