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Racing against time and a sky on fire, Ravi brought his motorbike to a screeching halt at Butler Bay when I made a frantic run towards the beach. I was hoping to catch the day's last light from the shores of Little Andaman, the southernmost tip of Andaman archipelago. At the behest of an acquaintance, Ravi, a native school teacher graciously agreed to play host to a fraught solo traveller who was hell bent on exploring this island with nonexistent tourist infrastructure but wasn't brave enough to venture that far without knowing a single person. He took the pain to drive me across the vast island and brought me to what was decidedly the best I had seen in Andaman yet. For starters, measuring over 22kms, it is the longest beach of the whole archipelago!
Think Andaman and the first thing that pops into mind is probably Havelock. So as any offbeat traveller worth her salt, I did what I had to do – skip Havelock entirely to find more about the emerald isle's little known charms. Not only was I able to evade disappointment about my decision to skip the well known, I was also generously rewarded with long stretches of pristine beaches all to myself. Now that I've seen a teensy bit of all that Andaman keeps hidden, I'm surprised when most visitors dedicate a little less than a week to explore these islands. And I'm also told they get bored by the end of those paltry few days. Well I wouldn't blame them for getting bored if all they ever did was stay in Havelock the whole time (and not dive!).
But if your purview can go beyond Havelock, here are few beaches you could happily spend your precious time at. And the best part about these places is that, as with anything that's worth something, it isn't going to be offered to you on a silver platter. You've got to work for it; in Andaman's case that means putting up with long journeys and getting used to the island pace of life first! ;)
If you do, this is the spectacle that awaits you!
A sliver of white sand coast neatly curving along turquoise blue waters is the gift Long Island grants worthy hikers who do not mind getting their feet dirty either in the muck of the jungle or in the grave of corals. Far away from Port Blair and the crowds of Havelock, Long Island is a little speck of a land in the central region of Andaman. On one end of the island is the civilization, all of 2000 people and zero vehicles. On the other end, separated by an impenetrable tract of forest exuding a primeval quality, is a secluded beach called Lallaji Bay. Fringed by coconut groves and mangroves, this beach feels as far away from reality as it is from civilization. If escaping people was your intention, you’ve reached your corner!
How to reach: From the jetty/village, follow the red arrow marks to hike through the jungle or hike along the coast for 2 hours to reach Lalaji Bay. The coastal walk is along a narrow strip of sandbar that gets submerged as the tide rises and the other side is a mud wall created by eroded forestland.
Despite being overshadowed by Havelock’s towering presence, Neil Island gracefully manages to hold its own with its smattering of wilderness and abundance of pastoral lands. Flat and devoid of dense forest, Neil feels much less claustrophobic which in turns is conducive to exploring the island without the fear of getting lost or risky encounters. Situated near the northernmost tip of the island, Laxmanpur beach is quite the spot for gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. At walking distance from two of the resorts at the best thing about Laxmanpur beach is that you can see both sunrise and sunset from here, it being the tip of the island with clear views on both sides, towards east and west.
How to reach: The beach is at a walking distance from Laxmanpur Beach if you’re coming from the beach side. But you’ll have to keep the tidal cycle in mind. Or you can ride on a scooter till Pearl Beach Resort near the tip of the island and proceed further on the small pathway through the jungle that leads all the way till the beach.
For when you get tired of watching the same old gorgeous white sand beaches, Lamiya Bay’s stunning volcanic sand beach situated in the northern reaches of Andaman offers a great alternative. Named after a small colony of villagers inside the forest with the same name near Diglipur, the coast here is awash with dark colored sand that sets quite a contrast to the blue waters of the ocean. Situated at the base of Andaman and Nicobar’s highest point, Saddle Peak, the beach is also a known turtle-nesting site.
How to reach: From Kalipur beach, where the Pristine Beach Resort and Turtle Bay Resort are located, Lamiya Bay is a 30 minute walk along the shore. There’s also an approach via the road.
Saving the best for the last, let me tell you that Little Andaman’s beaches are the stuff of legends. For decades, this island that lies well off the beaten path has gained cult status among surfers for it’s great surf. But it’s not just the surf that’s attractive, with the longest beach in the archipelago and blues that only seem unreal, the coast here is secluded, deserted and all for you to enjoy if you manage to make it that far. While the entire coast is stunning, Kalapathar beach gets a special mention because of the volcanic rock formations that form a curved barrier into the sea forming a great lagoon that fills up and drains as per the tide. A small opening in the jagged rocks opens into a view of the ocean and if you want to forget rest of the world exists; this is the place to be!
Located at the 13km mark (from the jetty at Hutbay. In Little Andaman, places are named after their distance from the jetty), just before the famous Butler Bay, Kalapathar beach is accessed by a road though the rehabilitated housing colony after the 2004 Tsunami.
Situated between the 8-kilometer mark and the 14-kilometer mark, Netaji Nagar beach extends into Butler Bay beach that is one of the prime surf spots. Unlike the other island beaches, the coast here faces open waters of Andaman Sea and naturally the waves here are quite rough and strong currents run underneath. Unless you are an expert at swimming in open waters, wouldn’t recommend getting into waters here but these beaches are excellent places to sit by the shore and wonder if the blue is indeed real! Of course, please take ample protection against sandflies that will bite you to death and the occasional crocodile that unfortunately kills locals often.
Follow the single road that runs across the length of the island and you’ll find exits to these beaches towards the coast. You can hire bikes at the island and drive to these. Otherwise, share autos ply on this route frequently and you get around for few bucks.