We arrived by the Makruzz catamaran at Havelock jetty, Village No. 1 at 10:30 am and were met by a rep from Barefoot Holidays who took us to a vehicle for the 30 minute ride to the resort at Beach No. 7. The road wound through the green countryside which was a mixture of some fields under cultivation and untouched jungle. The inhabitants seemed to be immigrants from the mainland, later we read that most were Bengalis.
The Barefoot resort at Beach No. 7 (or Radhanagar Beach) is set in between some plantations on either side, with a wooded stretch just before the beach. There is no hotel or building permitted within 500m of the beach as per CRZ rules. The resort has an eco-friendly theme and you go barefoot in all the buildings. The service and the food were good and I highly recommend it as a place to stay at Havelock.
After lunch, we relaxed for a bit and then headed to the beach in the evening around 4:30. The sand was so clean, white and fine, it was almost like walking in flour. The water was unbelievably clear and clean. When you’re in the water and gentle waves roll towards you, its like glass moving towards you. We watched the sunset and then returned to the resort.
Next day, we had signed up for a snorkelling trip to Inglis Island. This was a small uninhabited island about an hour North-East of Havelock by speedboat. The trip was organised by Barefoot Scuba and we had to go to another beach (No. 3) to the Scuba resort to join the trip. After an unnecessary wait there, we got under way at 8 am along with 4 other couples – one Indian, one German and 2 what we initially suspected to be Brazilian as we had seen them at dinner time at our hotel wearing clothes with some Brazilian names on them. Later they turned out to be Italian.
The speedboat ride was smooth and we reached Inglis Island about 9 am and began snorkelling around 100m off the beach where there was a large coral reef. The Germans and Italians went off by themselves as they were experienced swimmers and had brought their own snorkelling gear. Our guide took us out first, giving us small life jackets so we would float, and after some fiddling with the masks for a bit, we were all set. The guide pulled us along and since we were almost on the surface, he could point out different fish as we passed them. We spotted so many different fish – Parrot, Unicorn, Peacock grouper, Surgeon, Damsels, Red spotted snapper, Hexagon grouper, Wrasses which clean some other fish, Butterfly fish – and lobsters and sea cucumbers.
After snorkelling for a long time, we were all tired and went onto the next stage of the trip – a trek into the jungle to another side of the island. The boat dropped us off near the shore and we waded in, bringing water and food from the boat. Leaving the bulk of our belongings near the beach, we headed off into the jungle, following our guide. The foliage was quite thick and the path was almost imperceptible, but we managed to stay on track. After walking for about 30 minutes, we reached another beach on the Northern side of the island. The water here was also quite clear, but there were a few rocks and there was a medium current going across the beach so we didn’t venture too far in. The Italians had even brought along a hammock which they strung on a tree poking over the water!
We spent an hour or so at this beach and then trekked back to the original spot, in time to have a lunch of spaghetti in tomato sauce. It was too hot to go into the water again, so we lazed on the beach where there were zillions of small hermit crabs. Imagine the scene of hundreds of shells moving on the sand. It was like there was some international conference of all the hermit crabs
We left Inglis Island around 2:30 and were back at our hotel by 4 pm after an enjoyable day. The food at Barefoot was options of Indian, Thai and Italian, all quite good, though the Italian veg food was oddly high priced.
The next day we had planned to go for a beginner’s dive and we headed to the Barefoot Scuba resort again at 7 am. After an initial briefing on scuba diving, we chose our wetsuits and gear and got into a boat to head to Elephant Beach, Havelock. There were 3 other Indian couples and one foreign lady who was doing some diving course. All were planning to dive except one of the Indian ladies. We got to the beach around 9 am and got into chest deep water.
Each of us was assigned an instructor and after getting the gear on, the basic lesson began. After learning the hand signals, we had to learn some basic safety tasks like putting the mouthpiece back if it fell, finding the mouthpiece if it drifted behind and clearing water from our face masks. My wife was initially terrified of water, though after the snorkelling trip she was more confident.
She took a bit of time with the mouthpiece finding task and drank around 50% of the water of Elephant Beach. This was not a good idea since Elephant Beach was a rather commercial spot with zillions of tourists congregating for all sorts of water sports. Anyway, we then began the dive, with an instructor taking each person, and started at the coral reef about 50m off the beach and went out in an arc towards the end of the reef, about 700m away.
Breathing was not tough and we soon got used to it. The experience was amazing and everything looked so clear and close to us. We saw a similar number of fish and other sea creatures as we saw at Inglis Island, except that we could not talk so our instructors couldn’t tell us the names of the fish unlike during the snorkelling trip. I saw some bright blue star fish, which looked spectacular. Most of the coral was bleached, which meant most was dead, but there were a few live clumps that had regenerated. My instructor later told me that he had learned diving in Thailand, where the coral was not even as good as this.
Our dive took about 25 minutes, and my instructor told me later that I had been a “good student” and he was able to take us farthest out over the reef. After the dive, we waded into the beach and relaxed for some time, playing in the water at one secluded section while some other groups who had signed up at the beach itself, had their similar dives. It began to rain at one point, though the shower was short and it was soon sunny again. There were dark clouds in one part of the sky, and as we headed back to Beach No. 3 the sea was slightly choppy. When we got back at 1:30 pm, it was low tide and we had to walk a good distance from the boat to the shore.
We heard that the Full Moon Cafe on this beach was a good lunch destination, and as this was a rare opportunity to have a meal outside Barefoot, we decided to try it out. The place had a nice ambience and selection of food and we had a good meal of a veg thali and a prawn curry & rice. We took our ride back to our resort and after a short rest, headed to Neil’s Cove next to Radhanagar beach to enjoy the rest of the evening.
The next day was our last full day at Havelock and we had decided to just laze on the beach. We went to the beach at 8:30 am hoping to catch the high tide before breakfast. But it was already really hot and after 20 minutes, we had to head back. Before leaving, we chose a nice spot and deposited our straw mats and beach towels provided by the hotel. After breakfast, we lazed on the beach, reading books till it was time for lunch. Deciding it was too hot to return immediately after lunch, we went back to our air conditioned room for some relief and after a rest there, went back to the beach by early evening, enjoying one last dip in the water and then a nice walk while the sun was setting.
The Makruzz return run to Port Blair was at 4 pm, so we had a lot of time to kill on the last day. We checked out around noon and took our ride to the jetty at Village No. 1. Barefoot Holidays very efficiently arranged for our check in to the ferry and we had a lot of free time on our hands. We decided to have lunch at B3 – Barefoot Bar and Brasserie, which was right next to the jetty. They had a nice partially open section on the first floor and we got a table there.
The food was good and we sat there till it was time to board the Makruzz for our ride back to Port Blair. The sea was rougher than on our incoming trip and we also were on the lower deck. After a while, it looked like half the crowd was feeling sea sick. But it did not get worse and soon people got used to it, with the vessel reaching the harbour in Port Blair around sunset.