Picture white sand being washed ashore by calm, clear water; Silhouettes of coconut palms against the azure sea that turns to turquoise and then to dark blue at a distance; a dense thicket opening out to the light of a quiet, secluded cove with the only sounds being the waves and sea birds in the background. Ingredients of the perfect tropical island paradise, isn’t it?
Now imagine being there in real life!
If you’re crossing the picturesque and wondrous Andaman Islands off your bucket list this summer, then Elephant beach in Havelock is definitely the perfect place to be to experience all the wonders this archipelago has to offer within a short stay. Semi-lunar in shape with white sand and clear blue waters, this beach offers a broad range of things to do, shop, eat, enjoy and remember.
Past and present:
The Elephant beach is located at Havelock Island, the largest of the chain of islands towards the east of Great Andaman. The island is named after a British general, Sir Henry Havelock who served in India. With a resident population of 6500 people, Havelock boasts of having one of Asia’s most beautiful beaches and a very high tourism value. The peak season in this place is from October to February where it attracts thousands of tourists and travellers coming here to witness the wonders of this islands.
How to reach:
There are two possible options to reach Havelock Island from Port Blair.
The first choice would be to pre-book seats in a government ferry or a cruise ship though a travel agency and take the comfortable and affordable 2-3 hour journey to Havelock in an air-conditioned ferry /ship. Private sector catamaran ferries, however, take only 90 minutes to reach. The ticket price may range between 500 – 1000₹ per person.
The second option is through sea planes. This breathtakingly exciting choice of a journey is relatively new and unique to Havelock Island. The small nine seater aeroplanes run by Pawan Hans that soar across the sea present you with stunning aerial views of different islets and land on water near Havelock jetty. Priced at 5000₹ per person, the tickets are completely worth it because of the thrilling experience and visual treat that comes with it.
All boats, be it ferries or high-speed boats from Port Blair, Neil island and Rangat arrive at the Havelock island’s main jetty. From the main jetty, most people prefer to take the 20 minute long ferry ride to reach elephant beach. This ride is charged at around 500₹ for a round trip if it is purchased from the government ferry office. However, tickets from private agencies tend to cost more. The government ferries give you a good 3 hours to spend at the beach and indulge yourself. (8.30 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.)
A more economical, yet adventurous way to reach Elephant beach from Havelock boat jetty is by taking an auto or hired scooter or any public bus going to Radhanagar beach, de-boarding at the beginning of the trail leading to Elephant beach and then trekking for about 30 minutes through 2 Km of the untouched, lush tropical jungle to reach the beach. This challenging trek is entirely worth the effort as it would expose you to vast tracts of Andaman’s alluring and unadulterated greenery.
What to know:
The important thing one should know before travelling to Elephant beach at Havelock Island is that it’s a daytime beach that has restrictions to access after 3 p.m. Hence it is best to visit this place early in the morning to experience it all.
Upon reaching the beach in the ferry, it must be noted that one is required to get the ferry and wade through hip level sea water to arrive at a proper shore. Assistance would be provided for children, women and senior citizens to get the ferry. It is therefore advisable to bring a change of clothes in a waterproof bag. The beach has excellent facilities such as changing rooms, shower rooms and such.
Most private ferry trips provide a complimentary snorkelling experience as a part of the day trip. Elephant beach is by far the best beach on the whole island for observing corals because of its crystal clear waters. Hence, be sure to make use of this opportunity to see the aquatic flora and fauna.
If you choose to take the trekking trail to reach Elephant beach, it is important to always be cautious. Be sure to never trek this trail alone if you’re inexperienced, as this forest is home to several venomous reptiles. It is also not advisable to travel this path during the monsoon as the water makes the trail very muddy and slippery. In worst cases, you may have to wade through hip-level of marshy soil to reach the beach. Hence, try to avoid taking the trail if it had rained heavily the day before.
Things to do:
Elephant beach is mainly known for the dose of adventure it offers to its visitors. The beach has a broad spectrum of adventurous water sports and fun activities suitable for all ages. The activities are offered on a first come- first serve basis by local agents on the island
Out of all the places in the Andaman, snorkelling is best experienced at Elephant beach. Once registered, you’d be taken on a boat through shallow waters near the beach where some experienced professionals would fit you with the equipment and guide you through the process. If you’re an experienced snorkeler, then you could plunge right in and it would undoubtedly be an experience of a lifetime.
Once inside the water, one would be able to witness orange and yellow sea anemones with their tentacles slowly swaying with the water currents, colourful groups of fish that shy away into the corals, sea spiders, sea cucumbers and scores of vibrant multicolour coral reefs glowing under the sunlight. A stunning sight to see, particularly when the sky is overcast are greenish blue corals that emit light of their own!
You would be charged somewhere between 400 – 800₹ for snorkelling alone (excluding the boat charges to take you to the beach).
Blessed with crystal clear waters, elephant beach is ideal to do a sea walk to witness its abundantly rich aquatic life and colourful coral reefs. A helmet with a transparent visor that has a unique apparatus that allows you to breathe under water is placed on your head. Experts will assist you to walk on the shallow sea bed through the coral reefs amidst colourful fish. Witnessing the wondrous aquatic biodiversity of the island is a great memory to take back. Sea walk can be experienced by people of all ages and non-swimmers as well.
Sea walks costs roughly around 3500₹ with 500₹ extra for photography.
Elephant beach is also known for its deep sea aquatic life. Whether you’re an experienced diver or a newbie, there are several diving agencies in Havelock you could register with for scuba diving. For scuba diving, you would need to undergo a training session for 30 minutes until you get accustomed to water pressure. After which the diving session lasts about 40- 45 minutes. The accompanying experts take pictures and record videos of you during the dive.
Although a little was more difficult compared to sea walk and snorkelling, scuba diving allows you to witness a far greater number of sea creatures. If you’re lucky, aside from sting rays and lobsters, you could even spot larger sea creatures like snappers and barracudas. Scuba diving costs about 3500₹, but the price mostly depends on your negotiation skills and luck in approaching the right people on the island.
As mentioned before, this beach has something to offer for everyone, even for those who aren’t as adventurous and would prefer to not get into the water. These boats made with magnifying glass bottoms (that are perfectly safe) allow you to witness the coral reef and aquatic life of the island as you glide over the shallow waters of the beach for 15 minutes to half an hour. This is a comfortable and pleasurable experience. You also end up learning a lot about aquatic life as the boatmen occasionally dive into the water to pick up corals, explain their properties and release them.
For those of you who wish to experience something magical known as bioluminescence (sea organisms emitting light), night kayaking is an absolutely mind blowing experience. One should approach kayaking instructors to arrange for training sessions with kayaks and ideally go boating during moonless nights to witness this enthralling phenomenon. Havelock is the only place in the whole of the Indian subcontinent where glow-in-the-dark algae bring the seas to life at night.
Elephant beach also offers a broad spectrum of adventure games. Swoosh through the frothing sea water at high speeds on a jet-ski or a speed boat; take a fun filled ride on the inflated swooping banana boat with your family or friends; go parasailing and rise high above the blue waters and white sand and experience how it feels like to fly. Go sport fishing or angling from a yacht and later cook the fish you catch for dinner.
This beach is quite close to Elephant Beach. Although most tourists prefer Elephant beach for water adventures and diving, Radha Nagar beach is equally beautiful and is open for longer hours. Ideally, visitors come to Radhanagar beach and then take the forest trail to Elephant Beach. The trail comprises of 300 metres of dense marsh followed by mangroves. It would approximately take around 30-45 minutes of trekking to reach.
Hindi for ‘Black Rock’, this is a scenic and peaceful beach 20 minutes away from the Havelock island jetty. It is secluded and is an ideal photoshoot location with large rocks and dried tree branches scattered about making up an exquisite, pristine backdrop.
Other nearby places include the Japanese hill near Radhanagar beach which has over 300 rare bird species and is a bird watchers’ paradise.
Vijayanagar and Govind Nagar beach on the east bank is well shaded and ideal for picnics. Small street markets close to Govind Nagar beach sell trinkets, shell accessories and souvenirs.
Where to eat:
Although there are several roadside eateries in and around Elephant beach and Radha Nagar beach, if you wish to dine in class and experience Havelock’s finest seafood, then head to the stretch of road along Govind Nagar beach and Vijaynagar beach.
Anju coco located between the two beaches boasts of tasty Indian thalis and scrumptious seafood. A little way down the road, Something Different – A Beachside Café actually lives up to its name and offers great food in a unique ambience with the fantastic view of the sea. Full moon café is a must visit for weary travellers and scuba divers who want a big meal at an affordable price. Barefoot Bar and brasserie, located right near the jetty is the best place for solo travellers to have a good lunch in peace surrounded by lush green woods.
If you want an ultra-luxurious stay with incredible hospitality at Havelock, head to a Silver sand beach resort. Comprising of 39 lagoon facing villas with mesmerising views, this is a charming retreat that offers utmost privacy and top notch facilities.
The barefoot resort is yet another classy stay rated as No.1 by TripAdvisor. Located within a dense jungle, this place also offers camping facilities.
Blue bird resort is known for being one of the most eco-friendly resorts in the island. It’s luxurious cottages begin at the rate of 6000₹ per night.
Snuggled close to Vidyanagar beach, El Dorado beach resort and Dolphin beach resort are viral properties that have excellent facilities at a quite a reasonable rate.
If you’re at Havelock on a budget, head to Emerald Gekho or Eco villa palm beach that have bamboo and thatch eco cottages starting at 1500₹.