Andamans Diary – A dash to Havelock Island

Jennifer Nandi makes a quick dash to Havelock Island to peer into a world of colourful fish named after parrots and butterflies

Introduced in November 2009, the Makruzz is a hovercraft. It leaves at 7.30 in the morning for Havelock Island and, well ahead of time, we are at the ferry ready to board. Meanwhile our guide graphically describes the day the earthquake hit, the scars of which are still visible. He remembers running home to coax his parents to take to the hills. Little did they know that the worst was yet to come and their decision to move to higher ground probably saved their lives. 

We stare at the unbelievable calmness of the water. The once-seismic sea hides its tale of woe – the endless movement of its rocked waters that uncaringly threw to alien places with total indifference to animal, human or thing. 

Our First Class fares offer us a cabin to ourselves. There isn’t a soul on board our section. We are greeted by a welcoming party, the head of which is a friend of mine and we stare at each other in total disbelief. It’s a wonderful surprise to be ushered in and commended into the trusted hands of the ‘Incharge’. 

It’s just over an hour to Havelock. Gulls and terns skim, dive and flit by the water. At the jetty we are duly searched and then we begin negotiations to rent a car. We cruise along the road running parallel to the pearly-white beach. We stop to photograph Collared Kingfishers, to look up at the endemic Olive-backed Sunbird, and to generally step aside into thick jungle until lunchtime is upon us.

Havelock is even less developed than Port Blair; the pace of life is slower. ‘Resorts’ are mud-shacks — extremely cheap. Over a meal of fish and prawns we arrange for a glass-bottomed boat to take us to the reef. We are then ushered into a boat which chugs for an awful length of time. After an hour, we stop and tow another boat which happens to be our glass-bottomed boat. 

The scenery is beautiful all along; the water is crystal clear. When we finally arrive at the island — which is nothing but a bit of sand with waiting passengers to board our boat — we step into the towed glass-bottomed boat. Immediately we are in another world of parrotfish and butterfly-fish and all the exotics of the reef. It is beautiful but we cannot dally, for time is racing against us. 

The Makruzz is scheduled to depart at 4 pm and we have barely an hour to get back. The crew assures us that the speedboat will come, but I know that is a huge lie. It will never come. We must chug back in this glass-bottomed vessel and make it to the jetty in time. It is too horrific to think of the consequences if we miss the ferry. We have a flight to catch to Kolkata the next day. The day after that we leave for Orissa. Our trip has only just begun and I’m already running a huge risk. I am exposing my client to unwarranted delays and dangers too horrible to contemplate. With my stomach churning and bidding the boat crew to go faster and faster, we reach the jetty in a scramble. There is no time to wear our shoes. Security at the gate stops us to check passports — how unnecessary! We run to the boat, board the gangway, and then pay the lying boatmen and cab driver their money. We are soaking wet, out of breath and very relieved. The air-conditioning in our First Class cabin chills me to the bone and I close my eyes thinking this is no way to get well!

Previously in Jennifer Nandi’s Andamans Diary:

Text and photos by Jennifer Nandi


  • Jennifer Nandi

    Jennifer Nandi thrives as a guide, turning her passion for travel and natural history into a career filled with excitement and the embrace of uncertainty. She enriches her tours with knowledge and the courage to explore, transforming each journey into an adventure of beauty and mystery. She is the author of No Half Measures, a travelogue set in Northeast India.

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