Beach bumming, deep sea diving, snorkelling, kayaking, seafood and lots of sunshine might be just some of the things on your bucket list when you’re holidaying in the amazing archipelago of Andaman & Nicobar.
By Namita Gupta
I said goodbye to the city life and woke up to a shimmering horizon overlooking the palm trees peppered with the stunning sun rays on the ocean. It was time to get some respite from the bustling city life and soak in the azure blue waters of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. After a two and half hour direct flight from Bengaluru to Port Blair, I was welcomed by the beautiful sun-kissed islands nestled in nature’s bounty. My meet and greet was organised by The Serai Resorts. Without wasting a single second, I headed straight to watch the sun set at Carbyns Cove Beach in Port Blair. Watching the sunrise and the sunset on the beach in absolute solitude is one fantasy I will never outgrow. It’s always early bed time in Andamans and I decided to follow suit. After a dinner of prawn curry, chicken and rice at Ocean Blue Café, I headed to my room at The Nest, a cozy Serai Resort property.
The next morning I was dressed up early to catch the Green Ocean Ferry to Havelock, the beautiful laid-back tropical island to the northeast of Port Blair. The three hour long ferry was air-conditioned and comfortable. Havelock is one of the most seductive and relaxing islands I’ve been to. I checked into DIVE India for the early part of the week in Havelock. It was started by Vandit Kalia who left his well-paying job as a management consultant in the US to start DIVE India, a diving centre in the Andaman Islands and is located bang on the beach amidst swaying palm fronds. The turquoise blue and green waters shimmering like emeralds in the Bay of Bengal are right outside my humble cottage. The hammocks here are welcoming and I give in with my feet up, a book in one hand and a mocktail in the other. The Full Moon Café with an al fresco dining area inside Dive India is so twinkly, so charming that you’ll want to quit everything in the world and just sit for hours together feasting on the many dishes that the chefs whip up with simple perfection. I loved their pastas and fish curry rice. No wonder then that it has been awarded the Trip Advisor “Traveller’s Choice” award from 2013 to 2015. There’s also Wi-Fi here which is a rarity on this entire island, but if you’re the kinds who like to connect in real time, this is a great place to chat up with other divers.
The night draws to a close early on this island as the divers are up and about early morning for their dives. And that’s exactly what I did. My dives were booked for 8 am and after a breakfast of bread and omlettes, I slipped into my dive suit. A quick briefing and we were headed to Nemo Reef where we were diving. Since I’m PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified, I did not have to go through the knowledge manual, dive videos, theory, pool test and underwater ocean tasks yet again. My dive instructor handed over the mask, fins and the oxygen cylinder and we took the plunge on the left side of the reef. In no time I was surrounded by clown fish, Hambug damsel, Napoleon moray wrasse, snapper, parrot fish, hawk fish, moorish idol, threadfin butterfly and more. And as I begin to ogle at sea urchins, large incandescent blue, green, black, orange and yellow fish, smaller schools of fish in multiple hues and sun mushroom and other coral brighten up my surroundings and I’m embedded in a peaceful vista with the blue sky above and the serene and calm sound of the ocean encompassing me. Before I realise I’ve completed 60 minutes of diving underwater and it’s time to return to the real world. I ascend on the surface and inflate my BCD (buoyancy control device) and swim towards the boat waiting for me. We sip on some hot and extra sweet tea and nibble on samosas. After a half hour break it was time for the next dive on the right side of Nemo Reef.
Seeing the breathtaking marine life and coral while swimming underwater with large schools of fish is an exhilarating experience. There’s nothing better than this to take a peek into a life that’s seldom explored. After my first two dives of the day of about an hour each, I returned with satisfied smiles and a hearty appetite to my tented cottage. After a quick shower to get off the salt in my hair and the sand between my toes, I was back at the café for lunch alongside logging in my dive book on the marine life we came across with my dive instructor.
After a few dives I shifted to the Barefoot Scuba, The Serai Resort, which is at walking distance from Dive India. Barefoot Scuba and Dive India are the two best PADI resorts in Havelock. These resorts also offer recreational diving in small groups for all levels of divers, with opportunities to learn how to dive through a complete range of courses from introductory level to professional divemaster and instructor levels. Certified divers usually take you to explore a depth of 12 metres or 40 feet and up to 18 metres. My air-conditioned cottage split into two floors at Barefoot Scuba was sea-facing and spacious with the living room and rest room on the ground floor and a bedroom with a sea-facing balcony on the first floor. Café del Mar housed inside Barefoot Scuba serves wholesome and complimentary breakfast every morning. After tucking in some chocolate crepes and sipping on coffee, I hired a bike and decided to explore the island on my own. My first stop was the Kalapathar Beach that was filled with scenic surroundings. I highly recommend a meal at Something Different. Their pizzas are divine and their desserts are to die for. The restaurant overlooks the ocean and true to its name is “something different”.
If you’re seeking deserted sands and calming waters, then head to the Radhanagar Beach. Although it is about half an hour ride from Barefoot Scuba, I rode up gingerly to the Barefoot at Havelock – Inspired Beach Side Jungle Serai Resort at Radhanagar. I was right in time to catch the sunset – sublime in all its glory. A serendipitous moment I will always remember. Surrounded by fireflies, I decided to return to Barefoot Scuba where I was staying before twilight.
Save a day for water sports activities at the Elephant Beach. Besides an amazing coral reef and white sand beaches, you can try snorkeling and other activities like sea walk, Jet Ski, banana boat, parasailing, bird watching and kayaking. If you’re the adventurous kinds, try the night kayaking with Tanaz Noble as she takes you through Havelock’s Mangroves over a two and half hour kayaking cruise. She’s the first Indian Kayaker to complete 70 Nautical Miles Kayaking in High Sea. Her tour begins just before sunset from the jetty and kayak in the open sea for 15 minutes before reaching the dense mangroves. Paddle along with Tanaz and enjoy the serenity of the moment and be enthralled with the bioluminescence that light up the glow-in-the-dark waters with every stroke of your paddle. Kayaking with the planktons shining bright in the dark night is an ethereal experience. Back to the confines of my cottage, I slept like a log after packing up to head back to Port Blair the next morning. The ferry ride wasn’t tiring and on my last day on the island I visited Ross Island and Chatham Saw Mill. Ross Island was the headquarters of the British colony and today it houses its ruins of the buildings that were built during the British time. I also spotted deer, ducks, peacocks and rabbits here. You can reach Ross Island by a ferry that takes only ten minutes. Chatham Saw Mill is Asia’s oldest and largest saw mill and has a huge history to it as it is connected to the Second World War. Take a guide there to learn about its significance. If you have time, you can also stop by at the Anthropological Museum that sheds light on the profound and informative portrait of island’s local community of tribes before heading to the Veer Savarkar airport to take your flight back home.