Sunday, August 5, 2012

Havelock – adventure at Elephant Beach

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Havelock – adventure at Elephant Beach)

Day 2 (Day 9 since arrival in Port Blair)

The Elephant beach

           The next day we started early at around 9.00 A.M, as we had planned to trek through the forest area to reach the Elephant beach.  It normally takes about 45 minutes to traverse the distance through the forest area by foot and the journey commences half way en-route to Radhanagar Beach, where from a path marked as forest inspection path starts.  I was avoiding the dingy speed boat that starts from Havelock jetty number 1, as they are lightweight and hence unstable and as none of us knew how to swim, I did not want to take the unnecessary risk of riding a full 20-25 minutes across deep sea in this kind of ferry.  These small boats with outboard motors cost Rs.2000/- upwards (for you to negotiate) for a round trip, but the bigger stable boats cost upwards of Rs.4000/- for a round trip, looked a bit prohibitive. At the start of the journey itself, the auto driver cum guide, Mr. Shubho Biswas insisted that we wear rubber sandals, but did not tell me the exact reason for the same.  As we commenced with our trek, I found that at the initial stages the path was negotiable; however, as we started trekking deeper into the forest area, I found that the hills were entirely made up of fine clay, which when wet in rains, was not only very slippery but also tended to stick to the soles of the sandals.  The progress through this jungle path became intensely difficult and slow, we were trudging with great difficulty, with the help of the bamboo sticks that the guide had cut for us from the forest.  There were dead trees lying and shrubs’ growing along the pathway and the guide was cutting them with his machete to make way for us.  I was caught in a strange predicament, we could neither return back by this path now nor could we negotiate our way through this forest again on our return leg.  I accosted the guide and berated him for not coming out with the full facts before embarking on this treacherous road, but I think the lure of earning Rs.1000/- for this trip was too much for him & he preferred to kill his conscience rather come out with the factual position.  With great difficulty we negotiated this treacherous & dangerous path, but as soon we came out into the clearing, it seemed that I had stepped ‘out of the frying pan into fire’.  Right in front of our eyes was a vast expanse of mangrove forest with waist deep water, with treacherous sand pits and rotting logs lying below.  I was dumbfounded and could not conjure any ideas for circumventing this menace that lay before us.  Luckily for me a group of young boys and girls started wading through this water and crossed it, this provided us with some solace and we too started wading through the backwater.  But my thought was constantly focused on any chance encounter with sea serpent or the salt water crocodiles, which has attacked humans in the area in the past.  With great difficulty and under tremendous mental stress we crossed this patch of back waters.  However, our agony did not end here, as the water that inundates this backwater during high tides, drains out again and the water gushes out into the sea through a narrow water way.  We had reached the spot when the high tide waters were waning and the water was pouring out to the sea, the guide asked us to make a final dash for the Elephant Beach by crossing the stream through which the sea water was draining out to the sea.  I now put my foot down and berated him for having put all of us in trouble, it was very treacherous to cross the stream, as the fast flowing water could have carried any one of us into the open sea, in case of a slip in these fast currents and none of us knew how to swim.  I accordingly asked him to wade through the water himself and get a boat for us to ferry us to the Elephant Beach.  He understood the tone & tenor of my wordings and without arguing further walked to the beach and got a boat for us.  This boat was manned by a young aged boy in his late teens or early twenties and seemed to be a stunt artist, the manner in which he maneuvered the speed boat while ferrying us, all of us had lumps in our throats.  Was it intentional or instigated???

The trudge through the jungle

Cashew plantations on the way

Water gushing back into sea after high tide

The speed boat that came to fetch us

Elephant Beach should be accessed by boat from jetty no.1 in Havelock and it would be preferable if one can gets to share a seat in the bigger boats, instead of the smaller outboard engine fitted dinghies/speed boats, in my opinion.   The beach though small is very picturesque and there is ample opportunity for snorkeling also.  We got into a big glass bottom boat to watch the corals again and the boat being bigger and with an overhead canopy provided better opportunity to photograph the corals, as the overhead sun did not reflect from the glass bottom surface, as was the case in Red Skin Island.  The Elephant Island being a bit out of way destination does not attract too many tourists and therefore, the quality of corals and diversity of fauna was stunning.  Having spent a few hours in this enchanting beach, we headed back to Havelock and were lucky to find a bigger boat, which agreed to drop us at the jetty and charged us @Rs.300/- per person for the return one way trip, which we shared with an Assamese family.  On our return leg of journey we saw fishermen with diving equipment, fishing for the lobsters along the coast line.  Further ahead we were suddenly stopped by the Police boat, as a Sea Plane was about to make a landing.  Later on after reaching the jetty, as it had started to drizzle again and it was almost 2.30 P.M, we had lunch at a small joint run by a Bengali woman in the jetty market (behind the big restaurant in the lane), the food was good with a thali/plate comprising of rice & dal (unlimited) accompanied with papad, two vegetables & chutney, priced at Rs.60/- per plate, I found the food to be freshly prepared and reasonably good.  Thereafter, we were dropped back at the hotel for spending rest of the evening.

Brain Coral - as viewed from glass bottom boat at Elephant beach

The Assamese gentlemen with whom we shared the boat ride back to Havelock

Sea Plane landing at Havelock


1 comment:

  1. Hello!
    The pictures are beautiful.. you are a very good photographer!
    It is quite an adventurous trip you had there... Hope you enjoyed. I also offer rafting in rishikesh.. DO check us out.. You may need it when you plan a trip up north.. :D
    Take Care!