Havelock Island, Andaman Islands

Photo: Barefoot Group
Photo: Barefoot Group

This winter has been brutal. People have been stranded on highways overnight, the New York City subway shut down, and Boston will probably be covered in snow until June. You need to escape. It doesn’t matter where or when, you just need to shed multiple layers, see sunshine, and warm up. If you could just spin the globe . . . and land in the Andaman Islands.

The Andaman Islands are some of the most remote and pristine islands in the world. The Indian territory, located where the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea meet, are largely protected from development. Ritchie’s Archipelago, a cluster of islands east of Great Andaman and the capital, Port Blair, has quietly become an eco-tourism destination. Besides having some of the best beaches in the world, the islands are also home to intact reefs and swimming elephants.

You arrive on Havelock Island after a ferry ride from Port Blair. At 55 square miles, it’s the largest island in the archipelago. The center is filled with small hills, dense rainforests, and tall mahua trees. Estuaries, lagoons, and numbered beaches line the coastline. The smell of flowers—white lilies and yellow hibiscus—fill the air. While a little resort, Barefoot at Havelock, is tucked in between paddy fields, banana plantations, and Beach No. 7 on the remote west coast.

Photo: Vikramjit Kakati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Vikramjit Kakati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Barefoot at Havelock began as a single house in 1995. Since then, bungalows have been added and the resort has expanded, but the low-key vibe remains the same. There are no televisions or WiFi here; this is a place to truly disconnect. Instead, you see thatched-roof cottages, an open-air restaurant, butterflies everywhere, and one of the most gorgeous beaches you’ve ever seen. Plus, Rajan the elephant is wandering out of the jungle to greet you. Or maybe he just needs a drink.

At first, you don’t venture far beyond the resort. Listen to blue-eared kingfishers and golden orioles from your jungle shower in the morning. Go on a nature walk, keeping an eye out for green snakes and rare Andaman hawk-owls. Follow crabs down the beach, also known as Radhanagar Beach, which many consider to be the best beach in Asia. Snorkel among giant leatherback sea turtles and stingrays just steps from the edge of the water. Wash Rajan in the waves. The massive elephant is surprisingly gentle. Then eat fish curry, tandoori lobster, and prawn noodles as the sun sets.

When you start to feel more adventurous, kayak among the tangled roots and the winding creeks in the mangroves. Go line fishing in a traditional dunghi boat. Scuba dive with Napoleon wrasse and barracudas at the Wall, leopard sharks at the Pilot Reef, and tube coral and giant barrel sponges at Dixon’s Pinnacle. Check out the rest of the beaches: Vijaynagar Beach, Kalapathar Beach, and Elephant Beach. The whole time, you dream up excuses to stay on this perfect island—at least until the winter is over.

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