This is a picturesque island with beautiful sandy beaches and green tropical forest. These islands have been rated as the 7th most beautiful Islands in the world! The islands are breathtakingly beautiful. Tropical rainforest abound in rare and endemic species of flora and fauna. Cut off from the continent for thousands of years, many species have evolved a little differently from their mainland cousins. Hundreds of bird species make the islands a birders dream destination. Four out of five species of sea turtles, including the giant leatherback are found in the Andamans. Wild 'salties' (saltwater crocodiles) inhabit vast mangrove eco-systems keeping nature in balance. Butterflies and bugs - many still being mapped - add color to the forest.

The island is roughly oval-shaped, with the main jetty (where the ferry arrives) at the northern end. This is village number 1 (all locations in Havelock are numbered). Running down the north-eastern side of the island are Beaches 2, 3 and 5. On the south-western side of the island is beach 7, with village 6 being somewhere in the middle of the island. The rest, making up a majority of the island's area, consists of thick forest cover.

TO HAVELOCK

HelicopterFerry � Government run ferry serviceHigh speed Luxury Catamaran M.V. MAKRUZZ

AROUND HAVELOCK

Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7) is the most beautiful on the island and was rated as the best in Asia by Time in 2004. Gorgeous, silky white sand backed by a forest that provides welcome shade looks out over turquoise water, some stretches with a sandy bottom good for swimming and some with excellent coral reefs that are great for snorkeling � a great combination indeed. Sunsets here are often spectacular and it's a popular time to be at the beach, but be careful not to miss the last trucks back if you're not staying here. A man with an elephant walks through the forest occasionally, offering rides for a fee. Buses run throughout the day until sunset, as do auto-rickshaws and shared 4 wheel-drive trucks. There are a few food shacks where the road hits the beach, all of which rent snorkels and fins.

Elephant Beach is further north from Radhanagar and is popular with Indian tourists. The shoreline here was largely swept away by the 2004 tsunami and the beach is a fraction of what it used to be; however, the coral here is probably the best on the island, making this an excellent spot for snorkeling. It's reachable on foot from Beach #7 or by fishing boat from the east side of the island; many resorts arrange snorkeling and diving trips here. A path to the beach starts from the road to Radhanagar � look for a dip in the road on a curve where there will usually be a few motorbikes parked. Several paths head off from this point, ask around for the correct one. The walk is about 30 minutes at an easy pace with dry weather. Since the tsunami, the path ends in an expanse of un-inviting looking swampy water. Rather than attempting to go around, wade straight through it � the beach is only 100 meters straight ahead, the water is rarely above knee-height and the ground is solid. Wear sandals when crossing to avoid sharp shells. While snorkeling, keep an eye out for the glass-bottom boats!

TO DO

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, fishing, spending time on the beach, spending time with your soul mate, walk around the Island, bike around the Island, relaxing, drinking beer, reading books or spending a lazy day are the activities available in Havelock Island.

SCUBA DIVING

Scuba diving is probably the biggest activity on the island other than lying around and eating great seafood. Both operators on Havelock, Barefoot Scuba and Dive India are PADI certified dive centers, provide good equipment and offer training up to instructor. They share pretty much all of the same discovered dive sites, and prices are more or less standardized at Rs.3000 for two dives, with a 10-15% discount for your own equipment.

The diving possibilities around the Andamans are vast and it feels that what has been discovered is only the beginning... and even that is pretty great. Look for more sites to open up soon. As of now Havelock is the main center for diving in the island chain. If you're an experienced diver, also enquire about dive expeditions, where they will take you out hunting for new and undiscovered sites. There's much to find � a manta cleaning station would be nice.

All that said, diving here is still a bit of a seat-of-the-pants operation. Diving is done off converted dungi fishing boats, with a rack for tanks and a tarp for shade. Powered by ear-splittingly loud and temperamental yet inefficient piston engines, journeys to dive sites regularly take up to two hours each way, more if the sea is choppy or the engine breaks down. In the event of an accident, the nearest recompression chamber is at the naval base in Port Blair, so it's wise to keep your diving profiles on the conservative side.

SNORKELING

Snorkeling is also popular, with several options.

Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7) has a couple of food shacks at the end of the road that rent out fins and masks for Rs 50/each. There are great reefs for snorkeling in both directions from the end of the road.

Elephant Beach also has some good snorkeling sites. The dive shops can also take along snorkelers to some of the off-shore sites.

Local fishermen offer daytrips and half day trips to different locations. South Button Island is particularly good as the reef is shallow, colorful and beautiful. It makes sense to get a group of 5-10 people together to share the cost of the boat.

GAME FISHING

Fishing in the untouched reefs of the Havelock Islands, for long inaccessible and untouched this Island group is the last frontier for true big game sport fishing. These tropical islands of rainforest, mangroves and deep drop offs, makes an ideal location for any form of saltwater angling. The Ritchies Archiplago is a 45nm long expanse of islands with diverse landscapes including beaches, tropical rainforest, mangrove and reef, the continental shelf is in some places no more than 6 nm off the islands.

TREKKING

If you've had enough of the beach, try a little hot and sweaty jungle trekking. If you're into confluence hunting, you can find 12�N 93�E just 800 meters away from the end of beach #5. Guides can be arranged through resorts.
� 2012 MAKRUZZ. All rights reserved.