Getting to Havelock Island in Andaman & Nicobar is hard work. But perhaps there is something to say for the length of the journey. With every stage of the travel, you move a step away from the rapidity of life and a step closer to the mildness of life in the islands.
Which is not to say that there is no adventure to be had, or that the life on the islands is idyllic. Far from it. Havelock is the centre of all scuba diving activities and adventure sports.
Havelock is a small island with a triumvirate of roads that meet at a tiny little roundabout at the Market. One runs down from the jetty; another takes you to Radhanagar beach, the island’s most popular seaside spot; and the third comes from Kalapathar and is lined with resorts both cheap and expensive, offering log huts with varying degrees of comfort.
The ferry to Port Blair is the lifeline of the island and its only link with the other islands littered around it in the Andaman Sea. There is a helicopter service, but its schedule is unpredictable.
As you travel along the island’s coast, the colours change with alacrity, turning into a deep blue as you get close to Radhanagar. The water there is edged in white, with a surf of strong waves that will pick you up and toss you closer to shore. A swim there is like an ayurvedic massage, pillow fight and kickboxing session rolled into one.
Meandering about town
The jetty and the Vijaynagar crossroad where the triumvirate roads of Havelock meet are the two centres of activity in Havelock. The beaches and villages on the island are numbered. Along the beaches, all the land has been sold to resort companies, some of the more recent sales made at preposterous prices.
But if you rent a motorcycle and go around riding the smaller offshoots of the main roads, you’ll find that away from the tourism and the beaches, farming still continues in the interior of the island.
Aimless riding and exploring is one of the main activities on the island. With two litres of petrol in the tank, you have enough fuel to travel the length and the breadth of the island several times over. Just rent a set of snorkels as well. The water around the Andamans is rich and full of life. From nearly every beach and swimming spot, you can access a bit of reef where you can easily spot clownfishes.
If you’re looking for something a bit more energetic, sign up for a scuba diving course. For the first day-and-a-half of the course, you will feel like you’re back in school, learning the theory of the equipment that helps you survive underwater, and then performing exercises with it that help you deal with possible emergencies.
The hard work done, you’ll spend the other two days with your eyes wide open for the most time, as you navigate a completely different world, with its own set of rules and full of so many hundreds of beautiful things.
At no point during these four days will you have time for anything other than scuba diving, big meals, and very sound sleep.
Havelock is a small place that even during peak season may seem rather empty and bare to you. But often, during this time, the resorts take turns organising little parties every night, to which all are welcome.
Tourists and their presence has brought good things to the island, but also wrought changes that no one fully understands. There is more money, but no land, few jobs, and exposure to a way of life that is unfamiliar. But the people and the place still retain the original charm and innocence.