HAVELOCK ISLAND A getaway closer home that offers an out-of-the-world experience
When you look at the images of Havelock Island online, you can't help but drift into a dream…. of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, spidery mangroves and young boys with tousled hair, wearing sunny yellow shorts. All right, it isn't Hawaii, but a happy alternative, closer home.
After two weeks of singing imaginary duets by the seashore, I arrive at Havelock, part of the Andaman Islands, in the midst of showers. “There is a storm brewing near Australia which is why it's cloudy here,” says a fellow traveller. I shake my fist at the clouds and head towards the island, welcomed by hazy green silhouettes of trees swathed in mist, and coconut palms that lean forward to kiss the waters.
The first thing we notice in Havelock is the near-absence of vehicular traffic on the road. Except for tiny farms cropping up out of nowhere amid the thick jungles the place is not crowded with people — ideal for honeymooners who enjoy those private moments. The call of kingfishers and sunbirds and the humming of hordes of mosquitoes are perhaps the only sounds one hears.
Havelock's beaches are numbered and named. And so, our address for the day is Havelock Beach No. 5. Most of the resorts have bamboo shacks, furnished with bamboo beds and tables. Apparently bamboo is abundant in these parts (we didn't spot even a single cluster for miles, though). We relax for a while, listening to the constant cry of the emerald gecko (aka Andaman Islands Day Gecko) emanating from the surrounding palms, before heading to the beach.
The rain seems to be keen on dampening our spirits and pours on in sadistic delight, but we're not ones to give up. Wearing a cap on our heads and a shawl on our shoulders, we wade through the wet sands till we arrive at a clearing. Suddenly, we're looking at a vast expanse of water. The sea looks almost surreal beneath an overcast sky.
Like children who are let loose in a chocolate factory, we ‘ooh' and ‘ah' and run about clicking a hundred pictures. “This is like a less-expensive version of the South Pacific islands,” jokes a fellow traveller, gaping at the large corals that are just a few feet away, while another adds, “it's so eerie, not at all like we're on this Earth!”
The beach reminds us of one of those exotic, deserted islands featured on Discovery or National Geographic in High Definition. The trees are a rich green with wide canopies, their low-slung branches almost touching the water. The contrast of dark green and bright blue is astounding. The water is shallow, and even 100 metres in, it only comes up to your knees. We spend the afternoon (the rain finally lets up) chasing hermit crabs and picking up snails. We also manage to collect quite a few shells as souvenirs.
We hear that Radhanagar Beach provides the best glimpses of sunset and we decide to head there. The island is 15-km long and sparsely populated. While there are a few buses, the easiest way to get around is to rent a rickshaw or a scooter (provided you know where you're going). On the way to Radhanagar Beach (about 12 km from our resort), we pass by dense jungles and an occasional house. Finally, we're sitting on the sands of Radhanagar Beach, sipping large tender coconuts, waiting for the orange sunset.
At Havelock, day ends at 5.30 p.m., and dusk quickly dissolves into an inky darkness. We watch the sky switch shades in seconds. The sunset, like the rain, plays with our hopes.
A long night later, we wake up at 5 a.m. and rush to Beach No. 5, hoping to catch the dawn. Daylight has already broken and we return to our rooms, disappointed. Just then, the clouds part. A saffron ray blinds us, turning the sea into a sparkling sheet of diamonds. The trees begin to sway gently; we're blanketed in silence; time ceases to matter.
There is nothing but us and the shimmering waves that beckon and we walk again towards the water.