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Forget Maldives, Visit India's Finest Beach

Last updated on: January 11, 2024 16:25 IST
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Havelock should be your destination for 2024. It is love at every sight!

IMAGE: Havelock Island in the Andamans is easily India's best beach destination. All Photographs: Archana Masih/

It was an old style ferry terminal with rows of chairs, whirring ceiling fans and no air conditioning. Those waiting inside -- mostly tourists and honeymooning couples armed with selfie sticks -- were to board the ferry from the Port Blair jetty to Havelock Island in the Andaman Islands.

Tell anyone you are headed to Andaman and Nicobar and you are sure to be greeted with excited 'wows, lucky you' kind of responses.

Each one of those responses are right and justified -- because the beautiful islands surrounded by glistening blue waters are an Indian treasure, one that will overshadow the Maldives, the go-to destination for well-heeled Indians, especially film folk.

The distance from the Indian mainland -- more so, if you happen to travel from the north of India -- adds to the wonder surrounding the collection of 572 islands floating serenely in the Bay of Bengal.

Only 38 islands are inhabited.


Once, one finally arrives after changing two flights, every moment is worth the distance and planning that goes into it.

Yes, this is a trip that needs some advance planning, especially if travelling with family and elders. Getting a local travel agent to organise site seeing, plan the day-wise itinerary, buy online tickets for the two privately-run ferries from Port Blair to Havelock Island and booking snorkeling/scuba diving activities, etc, really do help. We used the travel agency Vacations Andamans (Contact: Joji Varghese. Mobile: 8800518946 and 9434274276. E-mail:

IMAGE: The Haddo jetty in Port Blair is functional and efficient.

Havelock is easily one of the world's best beach destinations. Its name has been changed to Swaraj Dweep, but the old name holds on.

As Nautika, the plush catamaran, painted a cheery yellow, made its way to Havelock, its large windows gave an expansive view of the blue-green waters.

"Look, flying fish!" exclaimed my 86-year-old father, his eyes fixed on the water as slender fish flew out making an elegant arc before diving in again.

IMAGE: The jetty at Havelock Island welcomes you after an hour-long smooth journey from Port Blair.

Sea gulls skimmed the shimmering water as the green islands stretched out in the distance. Most of the islands, [stretching from the southern tip of Myanmar to the northern tip of Indonesia] are covered in dense forest.

As we sailed into this exquisite beauty, the television screen on the boat showed travel information about Havelock, hotels, restaurants and then moved on to loud Bollywood hit songs -- the last thing one needed when true beauty and wonder lay outside the windows.

IMAGE: Shacks on the way to an early morning forest walk.

After a smooth hour-long ride, the catamaran sailed into the small Havelock jetty, utterly charming in its simplicity.

With no other boat, the jetty was quiet; only a small group boarded while another disembarked. Since the pier has no building, it is just the sea below and sky above.

A drive down the single inland road goes past restaurants and resorts with boards of travel companies promoting water sports.

The landscape is green with a very Goa vibe, devoid of the crowds, of course.

Since almost everything comes from the mainland, milk and dairy products are available in tetra packs. Fruit and vegetable are available in the local village market. The hotel we stayed at had a vegetable garden and mangoes grown on the premises was served along with other fruit for breakfast.

IMAGE: Watching the sun set is one of the many highpoints of visiting Havelock.

The Tilar Siro resort on Beach Number 5 welcomed us with a garland of bamboo leaves with a fish pendant made by Dolly, their talented local staffer.

The slender beach is quiet and beautiful -- the white sand bordered by trees on one side and the sea on the other. During the three day stay, we did not encounter a soul on the beach, just us and the sea.

Clean, blue waters lapped at the feet. You can hop on to a swing suspended from the branch of a tree at the edge of the water and gaze at the seemingly endless sea. It is an experience you will not forget!

Complimentary morning and evening tea is served at the beach which is a befitting start to the day. The swimming pool could be used to practice snorkeling before venturing out into the sea.

IMAGE: An evening cuppa by the sea!

Havelock's most famous beach is Radhanagar. It closes at evening, shortly after sunset which draws a lot of tourists.

The beach has a thicket of trees and makes a great walking stretch, while tourists gaily frolic in the clear water.

It was nice to see that they all paid heed to the life guards' announcements and came out of the water at closing time.

IMAGE: An inhabited island in the distance. Most of the islands in Andaman and Nicobar don't have humans living on it.

As people make their way out of the beach, small shack shops sell souvenirs and snacks, as large bumble bees buzzed around, parking themselves on exposed hands and legs. Once out of the water, loose cargoes or pants are advisable.

IMAGE: The local bus run by the Union Territory administration.

Local mini buses are operated by the Union Territory administration, apart from private taxis and two-wheelers. One day after finishing an early morning forest walk, we boarded the government bus to the hotel. En route, locals hopped in, some with small suitcases making their way to the jetty.

IMAGE: Havelock is covered by thick greenery. A forest walk is a MUST!

One of the most memorable activities at Havelock was an hour-long tidal walk on the seabed at low tide. Akhil Viswanath, the gifted naturalist at Tilar Siro, guided us into the sea (appropriate shoes can be borrowed for Rs 50).

The walk over huge corals in ankle-to-knee deep water was a magical tour of fish and marine life with Akhil patiently pointing out the various fish and telling us their names and characteristics.

It was a wondrous afternoon like no other.

Somewhere on opposite sides of the sea were Myanmar and Indonesia. Andaman and Nicobar is closer to Bangkok [480 km] and Yangon [600 km] than to Chennai or Kolkata.

During the forest walk, we came across a mound of plastic thrown back by the sea which included water bottles and plastic wrappers with labels from neighbouring countries.

IMAGE: Havelock has some world class beaches like Vijaynagar, Radhanagar, Kalapatthar and Elephant beaches.

We were told that pirates from Myanmar poached sea cucumbers from the Andaman waters which fetched a lucrative price in the international market.

The only restaurant that we ate outside Tilar Siro was Anju Cocoa which was just across the street. The service was quick and food was good. The wall had pictures of then Vice President Hamid Ansari and the Sikh owner informs us that the restaurant had catered meals for the VP's visit to Havelock in 2015.

At the end of the three-day stay as we prepared to leave to catch the ferry back to Port Blair, the entire staff of the resort graciously bade us goodbye.

The week-long stay in Port Blair and Havelock was a moveable feast of experiences that remains in the heart and mind.

It should be on your travel destination for 2024. You will love it!

IMAGE: Swings at the edge of Beach No 5 (Vijaynagar). At high tide the plank of the swing is submerged.

What you can do in Port Blair

Sound and light show at Cellular Jail at night, and visit the jail during the day. Keep at least half a day for it. Carry a cap and water.

Visit Samudrika, the Naval museum. It has very good information on the tribes and tribal life of the islands, including a hut where you can climb in and take a picture. It also has good information about marine life.

The Subhas Chandra Bose flag point where Netaji hoisted the Tricolour for the first time in 1943. It has a majestic flag by the waterfront and is a fine place to spend an evening by the sea.

The government-run Sagarika emporium has interesting souvenirs. Bear in mind that it closes during lunch.

There are several restaurants to choose from across budget options. When buying bottled water, remember that they have only two litre bottles available which are heavy to carry around.


Calling for your Best Beach Pictures!

Dear Reader, do you have a photograph that perfectly captures the beauty of one of India's finest beaches? Share it with the world.

Simply send in your photograph (original photos only) to with the subject 'My beach pic', along with your name, the name of the place and a short description of the photograph, when you visited and what you liked most about its beach and we'll feature the best pics.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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