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Castaway On the beautiful Andaman Islands

In 1978, 3 student friends travelled in the Bunk class on a Rs. 50 ticket from Kolkata to Port Blair. Their aim was to trek, study the local tribes, do some deep-sea fishing and climb Barren Island Volcano.

Their permit for Barren Island was never granted by the Government of India. In 2002, Mandip led an International Ecotourism & Volcano expedition, visiting 13 islands and presented a report to the Government on low impact tourism strategy as a sustainable option in these islands. A permit to Barren Island was granted and his team of anthropologists, National Geographic photographers and explorers, all ascended it.The following year, the volcano had an eruption. 

The team visited Car Nicobar and came to the conclusion that it was not ready to receive Tourism.

Given the fragility of these islands, Ibex Expeditions has curated a journey with the idea of travelling with conscious travellers. India’s most remote state, the Andaman Islands is situated more than 1000km off the east coast in the middle of the Bay of Bengal. Thickly covered by deep green tropical forest, the archipelago supports a profusion of wildlife, including some extremely rare and endemic species of birds. The beaches and the pristine reefs that ring most of the islands are unique.Filled with colorful fish and kaleidoscopic corals, the crystal-clear waters of the Andaman Sea feature some of the world’s richest and least spoilt marine reserves.Situated on the ancient trade route between India and Myanmar, the Andaman’s were visited by the Navy of the English East India Company in 1789 and in 1872.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit Ross Island and see the earthquake ruins during World War II.
  • Visit Corbyn’s Cove Beach.
  • Visit the Cellular Jail & witness the Son et Lumiere in the jail.
  • An interaction with The Andaman Nicobar Environment Team.
  • Snorkeling at Radhanagar beach.
  • Kayaking through Mangrove creeks.
  • Visiting a Karen village, a tribe originally from Burma.
  • Trek to Saddle Peak and visit the sandbar of Smith Island.
  • Night walk with Naturalist guide through the Mahua forest. 
  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
  • Cruise through Ritchie’s Archipelago & a Game Fishing experience.
  • Snorkeling at Turtle Beach Reef.
  • Trek to Elephant Beach. 
  • Bird watching.
  • Rock pooling to see octopus, clams, starfish, mudskippers, sea cucumbers at Neil’s Cove.
  • Photography leader Himraj Soin.
  • A journey led by Explorer, Mandip Singh Soin FRGS.

ITINERARY

1-11 February 2022
07 Nights/ 08 Days

1 FEB – PORT BLAIR

Activity: Visit Ross Island, Cellular Jail and Corbyn’s Cove Beach

Arrive at Port Blair by flight and transfer to hotel, then visit Ross Island. The erstwhile capital of Port Blair during the British regime, Ross Island holds atmospheric ruins of old buildings damaged by earthquakes at the time of Japanese occupation during World War II. The historical ruins include the Chief Commissioner House, Church, and Bakery all in a dilapidated condition with fig trees growing around and through them. [There is a direct flight from Delhi with a return via Chennai or Vishakhapatnam. There are also flights going via Kolkata and Chennai].

Then proceed to visit Corbyn’s Cove Beach (the only beach in Port Blair).

Later, visit the Cellular Jail to attend the Son-et-Lumiere, Kala Pani’s famous Sound and Light show that depicts the horrors of incarceration at the Cellular Jail while it was administered as a penal colony under British Rule.

Optional activity: Jet Ski /Parasailing at Corbyn’s Cove

2 FEB – WANDOOR

Activity: Island Ecology Sessions with ANET

Visit ANET Field Research Station & Transfer to Havelock

Depart early morning for Wandoor (45 minutes’ drive) for an interactive session with the field staff. ANET is a Research & Education field station and hosts researchers from MCBT, NCBS, NCF, IISC and Dakshin all through the year. The Andaman Nicobar Environment Team is a multi-disciplinary research hub, environmental conservation and education centre in the Andaman Islands. You will be exposed to live at an active research station and will participate in a walk through the forest & mangroves surrounding the base, which will expose you to and give you an understanding of island ecology. After brunch at ANET, return to Haddo jetty to board your ferry to Havelock. 

 

Barefoot at Havelock Drawn from the Earth

Barefoot at Havelock is an environment conscious resort; a space that we hope is truly one of a kind. In keeping with our ethos – drawn from the earth – we believe in giving back to our environment and community as well. We strive to create and share the true Andaman experience with in our resort and on our excursions. The Andaman of your imagination, of white sand beach and lush green rain forest is the reality of our location and we have worked hard to ensure our landscape matches your dreamscape.

The Trees

The land we are built on was once a banana plantation flanked on either side by thick tropical rain forest s. We began our journey by planting many hundreds of endemic saplings that have now grown in to a canopy of tall fairy-tale trees, seamlessly merging in to the forest around us.

The Cottages

Drawing from vernacular architecture, the cottages and villas are built using natural, renewable material – cane, thatch and wood. The wood is sourced from plantations that have a certified replanting program. As they are built raised on stilts, the cottages and villas do not interfere with the runoff after rains.

The Birds

The ornithologists have spotted over 50 species and subspecies of birds within the resort, including most of the 22 species endemic to the Andaman Islands. We have chosen not to add pathway lighting so as to not disturb our resident endemic owls. Instead, we give you flashlights, to enjoy your experience in the midst of the jungle.

The Island Life

Very few staff is from mainland India and most are Andaman settlers, including the Andaman Karen.

Waste Management

Kitchen waste water flows through grease traps and sewage is directed in to septic tanks before being taken through our Sewage Treatment Plants.  A natural purification process then takes over, ensuring the ground water is not polluted and the water table is undisturbed. We have limited our use of non-bio-degradable waste and are moving towards complete elimination, while also choosing responsible means of disposal.

Barefoot at Havelock is the first eco-retreat on Radhanagar Beach set in the lush green forests of this island. Their social responsibilities and initiatives are in place.  Once at Havelock, enjoy the evening at the Radhanagar Beach (Rated by TIME Magazine as the Best Beach in Asia), and soak in the atmosphere of the resort, which is set behind the beach nestled in the regenerated rainforest, and bordered on three sides by primary rainforest.  

3 FEB – HAVELOCK ISLAND

Activity: Snorkel at a near-shore reef and Kayak in the Mangroves

Snorkeling:The guides will take you through calm blue shallow waters to a good spot for beginner snorkelers. It’s easy to slip on your gear, get your head down in the water, be mesmerized at first sight by the underwater life and then just continue snorkeling. 

KayakingHavelock has an extensive network of mangrove creeks, and experienced paddlers (including a National Games Champion who has represented India in the Asian Games) will teach you the basics and take you on a guided excursion through the mangroves.  Return in the evening to your resort. 

HOTEL: Barefoot at Havelock

4 FEB – HAVELOCK to WEBI & DIGLIPUR

Activity: Visit a Karen Village

The vehicles will be with you early morning to take you to Havelock jetty. Your ferry will depart Havelock in the morning (time varies depending upon the Government ferry schedule prevalent at the time) for your transfer to Rangat by Government ferry. The journey to Rangat, on a direct sailing, will take 2 ¼ hours; and if via Strait Island and Long Island, it will take 4hrs.At Rangat jetty, you will be met by our vehicle, which will transfer you to Webi village (2 hours, 80kms), at Koh Hee homestay, for a traditional home-cooked Karen lunch.Webi, in the Burmese-Karen language, means “Hidden Village” and this is the first and oldest settlement in all of Middle and North Andaman. Your host, Saw John, has served more than 20 years at ANET, retiring as the base leader, and is a font of local knowledge.Visit the Andaman Karen Center where your hosts will give you an introduction to the Karen tribe and demonstrate the making of basic handicrafts.

Proceed thereafter to Kalipur (Diglipur) ~2 hrs.  

HOTEL: Turtle Resort Guest House, Kalipur (Diglipur)

5 FEB – SADDLE PEAK TREK & SMITH ISLAND SANDBAR

Activity: Trek to Saddle Peak / Visit the sandbar off Smith Island

Depart at 5 am from Turtle Resort and drive to the entrance of the Saddle Peak National Park to climb Saddle Peak, 732m, the highest point in Andaman. The trail goes through the Saddle Peak National Park and is 8kms in each direction, a comfortable 5-7hr trek in total. The trail starts along the coast and then begins its uphill ascent through the tropical rainforest. The views show the jungle and sea, and the outlying islands of the archipelago.On your return, take a speedboat from Aerial Bay to visit the sandbar off Smith Island, where you can swim and snorkel.

HOTEL: Turtle Resort Guest House

6 FEB – HAVELOCK ISLAND

Activity: Night Walk at Radhanagar 

After breakfast, take a packed lunch and depart from Turtle Nest, to catch your return ferry from Rangat (timings depend upon the Government ferry schedule in force on the day).The journey to Havelock, on direct sailing, will take 2 ¼ hours; but if via Strait Island and Long Island, it will take 4hrs (Sailings only on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday).Once at Havelock, return to Radhanagar Beach to relax and unwind.

In the evening, join the resort naturalist for a walk in the vicinity of the resort at Radhanagar, heading through the Mahua forest and also along the seashore, looking at nocturnal creatures going about their nightly routines.Stargazing is often rewarding as, on a cloudless night, the views of the night sky are simply ethereal. Return to the resort for dinner and turn in to bed early to get rid of the fatigue from your hectic travel and trek over the past few days

HOTEL: Barefoot at Havelock

7 FEB – HAVELOCK ISLAND

Activity: Paddle boarding & Archipelago Cruise/Game Fishing

After breakfast, proceed to Govindanagar Beach at Barefoot Scuba to commence your next activity. 

Stand Up Paddling (Paddle boarding)The waters here are calm and shallow, making it perfect to learn Stand Up Paddling (SUP), or Paddle boarding. It is harder than it looks, but the instructors will endeavor to have you standing on your board by the end of the session, making self-propelled progress on the surface of the water even as you are able to spot fish/coral through the crystal clear waters, from your vantage point on the board.

Cruise through Ritchie’s Archipelago and further afield for Game FishingThe fishing gear will be loaded along with snacks and you will head out in the afternoon for a cruise through the islands of Ritchie’s Archipelago. 

The uninhabited islands north of Havelock, namely Wilson, Nicholson, Peel, John Lawrence, Henry Lawrence, Outram and Inglis together create a labyrinth of green forest amidst the cerulean sea. Up to 2 people can fish from each boat at a time, but for those just along for the ride, the journey is the destination itself.

HOTEL: Barefoot at Havelock

8 FEB – HAVELOCK ISLAND

Activity: Snorkeling at Aquarium and Turtle Beach Reef

After breakfast at Barefoot at Havelock, return to Barefoot Scuba to commence your next activity, snorkeling.

SnorkelingFrom Barefoot Scuba, board the boats that will take you to some of the best offshore snorkeling sites in the vicinity of Havelock Island. The reef off Turtle Beach is in good condition and a good alternative to the commercialized Elephant beach reef also in the vicinity. The waters here are usually calm and with little wave action, so beginner snorkelers, who have already had one experience at a near-shore reef should be comfortable hopping off the boat and into the ocean for their first offshore snorkeling experience.

You will then take the boat to the Aquarium which is renowned for larger aquatic life with a more constant and steady wave action. As the Aquarium is off a promontory on the Southwest corner of the Island, this is a little ‘push’ towards the shore as the tide ebbs and flows stronger here. The snorkeling here is a little more challenging but remains safe and is extremely rewarding.

Return to the resort in the afternoon to spend the remainder of your day at Radhanagar   

HOTEL: Barefoot at Havelock

9 FEB – HAVELOCK ISLAND

Activity: Rock pooling + cycling / Bird watching

Trek to Elephant Beach & Bird watching: 

Spend the day cycling and then walking between the forests/ mangroves/ coast/farms around the southeastern side of Havelock, past Kalapathar beach. The excursion departs from Barefoot Scuba Resort at Govindanagar Beach and entails cycling 8km to Kalapathar Beach with your guide. Kalapathar is a scenic beach, access to which is through a wonderful coastal road. Common sightings include flocks of green imperial pigeons, Asian glossy starlings, black-naped orioles and various parakeets. Other sightings include the white-headed starling, Asian fairy bluebird, Andaman Drongo, Andaman Woodpecker.  Spend time at Kalapathar beach before cycling back to your departure point.

Rock pooling: The naturalist will take you for a walk in the intertidal zone during low tide, and point out creatures living in rock pools in the day e.g. octopus, clams, starfish, mudskippers, sea cucumbers and many other denizens of the shallows. The rock pools are within easy walking distance of the resort, between Radhanagar Beach and Neil’s Cove.

HOTEL: Barefoot at Havelock

10 FEB – HAVELOCK ISLAND – PORT BLAIR

Activity: Trek to Elephant Beach and Bird watching + Scuba Dive at Nemo Reef (Optional)

Trek to Elephant Beach & Bird watching: 

The trek to Elephant Beach (1 hr. each way) commences from a drop off point 3 km from the resort, and winds through fields, forest and mangroves before reaching a beach. The bird watching trail is rewarding for forest and littoral species. Elephant Beach has a local operators association conducting watersports such as Jet Ski, glass-bottom boat rides, snorkeling and you may choose to stay and partake in these. 

Scuba: At Barefoot Scuba, kit out for your first ever dive experience at Nemo Reef). Your instructors will guide you through the theory and familiarize you with all equipment and then take you to Nemo Reef for your first ever scuba dive. Please ensure that the medical form is completed and shared with us prior to arrival to ensure that there are no contraindications in your medical history that would exclude you from diving. 

In the afternoon, take the ferry back to Port Blair, and check in to the hotel.

Optional Activity: Jet Ski /Snorkeling/Watersports at Elephant Beach & Scuba

HOTEL: Fortune Resort Bay Island

11 FEB – DEPARTURE

Transfer for your onward flight after breakfast.