02.05.2010 - 14.05.2010 33 °C
The Andaman islands are without a doubt some of the most stunning islands I have ever seen - miles of white sandy beaches, turquoise blue sea, they are quite simply breathtaking.
Our destination was Havelock island - a two hour boat ride from the main entry point of Port Blair, it has no pools or five star hotels, just simple bamboo huts of varying luxury and a few diving centres from which to explore the amazing world beneath the sea. This truly is a diver's paradise and a snorkeller's dream.
Havelock Island crocodile attack
Sadly, our trip to the Andamans was tainted with some tragic and frightening news. Within hours of arriving at Havelock island, word reached us of a crocodile attack several days before. A young American woman had been killed in a freak attack whilst snorkelling on Elephant Beach with her boyfriend. The whole island is in a state of shock and my heart goes out to the poor girl's family.
Media reports have since filtered through with details of the attack, with reports claiming that two dozen crocodiles have attacked humans in the Andaman islands in the last 25yrs. However, until now, the crocodiles have only been spotted on hte uninhabited Little Andaman Island with Havelock being deemed a crocodile free zone.
According to locals this is the first such attack on Havelock island in twenty years as the island is not their natural habitat, especially not the waters in which snorkellers swim. Crocodiles dwell in shallow murky waters, in creeks, between mangroves and on shallow rocks. It seems that the freakishly high water temperatures this month (up to 35 degrees) have affected the delicate aquatic balance, prompting the crocodile to venture out of its natural habitat and hunt further afield.
Whatever the reasons, this was a tragic accident and one can only hope that lightening will not strike twice. The Andamans and Havelock are a tuly special destination but they are in the tropics - as well as crocodiles, you'll find snakes, scorpions, poisenious millepedes, wild dogs and a dozen other natural hazards. Just as in urban areas, where you'll find cars, knifes, terrorist attacks and a multitude of manmade dangers. It just seems that we are hardwired to be much more afraid of the natural ones, especially when the outcome is this horrific.
It's early days but hopefully lightening won't strike twice. The authorities are on the case, and if the crocodile hasn't already been caught, it will no doubt be soon, upon which it will be either relocated, taken to a zoo, or in the very worst case scenario, put down.
The Andamans truly are a special destination and well worth a visit before the inevitability of development changes their character forever, especially with rumours of an international airport on the horizon rife.
Snorkelling and diving:
Whilst snorkelling around Havelock island was quite sensibly banned while we were there, we were lucky enough to go on a snorkelling trip to a safe location two hours by boat from Havelock. We found Nemo and his friends swimming around this little rock island in the middle of the sea, amongst dazzlingly beautiful coral. Absolutely spectacular!
Where we stayed:
The hub of the budget to midrange accommodation is on beach no. 5, with beachhuts galore, however all the numbered beaches have accommodation and the breathtaking beach 7 is home to Barefoot 7, the most luxurious accommodation on the island and a favourite amongst honeymooners.
After checking out a few options, we chose Emerald Gecko. (low season - April-June 450-1000 rs/night, high season 1000-2000 rs/night) We payed 450rs/night to stay in a gorgeous bamboo bungalow with fan & bathroom (towels and linen provided). The beach is small but beautiful, the restaurant serves fresh seafood and the atmosphere is relaxed.
Where to eat:
There are plenty of options but our favourite haunt by far was the Wild Orchid, with excellent Tandoori chicken and fresh Tuna and Red Snapper and the best Biryani in town.
For a budget eat, try one of the local haunts in village no 3. The Welcome restaurant does a great mango lassi and samosas.
What to do:
Hire bicycles or mopeds and explore the island. Be prepared to be dripping with sweat and develop buns of steel if you attempt the cycle from beach 5 to beach 7 - it's hot, humid, hilly and the bikes are like the ones your granny used to ride.
Dive, Dive and Dive some more - The Andamans are an ideal spot for divers or snorkellers with Padi open water and more advanced courses widely available (from about 14,000rs). For those who prefer to snorkel, you can do a day trip with lunch included for around 1,000 (through Andaman Bubbles)
Watch the sunrise at beach 3 or 5, and the sunset on Beach 7. Nb. They are still on India mainland time here, even though the Andaman's are closer to Thailand so it gets light at 4.30am and is pitch black by 5.45pm!
Find a hammock and relax!
When to go:
High season is October-April. We came in May. It's seriously hot and humid and don't expect the room fan to cool you down but it's great if you want the beach all to yourself!