Andaman Islands -Havelock & Neil guide for dive & snorkel lovers
The Andaman islands are one of the least explored gems for divers and snorkel lovers – Havelock and Neil. This is the complete guide to the Andaman Islands.
Located at a very remote set and very hard to get to, the Andaman Islands archipelago, part of Indian territory, is a snorkel and scuba diving paradise.
So, where are the Andaman Islands archipelago located exactly? – you might ask.
The Andaman Islands guide
Totally uncrowded, virgin and pristine, both Havelock and Neil islands offer some of the most breathtaking marine scenery in the world, with a variety of gigantic and small colorful fish, turtles and even wild manatees. There’s nothing missing in the paradise on earth.
On a fantastic effort to reduce pollution and destruction of nature and the Eco-system, tourists and travelers are not allowed to stay longer than a month. You will need to apply for a special visa to visit the Islands and on your entrance, you’ll have your passport checked to make sure you’re not overstaying.
DIVING AND SNORKELING IN THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS
My travel buddy was a dive master and told me several times he had never seen such an amazing scenery, docile fish and so much color before snorkeling in the Andaman Islands archipelago .
Because most snorkeling sites are actually near the shore, you can just grab your mask and fins (we had no fins so we wouldn’t damage the coral!) and explore at your own pace, for free. The Andaman waters are very warm, calm and without currents, offering the perfect conditions for the independent folks who don’t want to sign up with a diving school.
When diving or snorkeling in the Andaman Islands try to AVOID entering the water during low tide as it’s basically impossible not to step on coral. Even a strong flipper kick can damage coral and the delicate organisms.
We’ve done both. We went on daily snorkel adventures on our own – and I have to say those were the best ones – and took a snorkeling safari trip by boat with a diving school.
SNORKELING AND SCUBA DIVING AT HAVELOCK ISLAND
Havelock is the most popular island, where most tourists go to relax, dive, snorkel and have fun. To reach most of the spots you see on the map, you’ll need a motorbike, which you can rent anywhere in the Island. When snorkeling in the Andaman Islands archipelago you have to explore:
Snorkeling at the Elephant Beach -Havelock
As the name says, the Elephant beach is where the elephants of Havelock live. You’ll see them chained by the beach, which is actually a very sad and depressing sight. Please, do not ride or give any money to anything related to elephants in the Andaman Islands! Elephants are abused and mistreated by their “owners”.
This is a very shallow spot, near the shore. The reef starts about 1 meter of depth. You will find a very diverse wildlife in no time! This is a perfect start for the beginners or people who can’t swim well.
Reefs are made of hard coral and some of the fish you’ll encounter are: Sweetlips, Snappers, Angelfish, Damselfish, Butterflyfish, Moorish Idols, Fusiliers, Starfish, Clams, Oysters, Anemone Fish, Wrasse, Parrotfish, and Lion fish.
Snorkeling at the Mysterious Beach
How can I put this? I have no idea what’s the name of this beach, because it’s extremely remote, there’s no road there and we had to walk about 40 minutes through the jungle and a dead mangrove to reach it. It’s absolutely desert and you’ll find yourself totally alone here.
During the time I visited this amazing secret spot, the beach was still filled with the wrecks from the Tsunami. Gigantic broken trees that had fallen on the sand, creating a spectacular scenery. The colors of the water are spectacular in shades of blue and turquoise with a visibility of about 30 meters when you swim far from the shore.
This is my very favorite spot to snorkel, maybe because here is where I spotted a huge sea turtle for the first time and swimming alongside her was truly amazing. Some of the fish here were as big as me and most of the small colorful fish were not affraid of our presence.
Ask a local how to find a beach which has no road access and they’ll help you.
Snorkeling and scuba diving at South Button and Tamarind camp
This is a paid snorkeling or scuba diving safari. It costs Rs. 3.500 and the snorkel trip lasts all morning and includes all gear, refreshments and vegetarian snacks or lunch.
South Button is about one hour and forty minutes from the shore by boat, and it’s said to be the best snorkeling and diving spot around Havelock. with some of the most impressive marine life. The eastern side of South Button offers an impressive colorful coral garden where fish and other small creature gather.
This is a deeper coral, so it’s one of the few spots we don’t reach from the shore and you need to know how to swim and be comfortable in the water. The reefs start about a meter and most dive enthusiasts actually prefer to stay shallow to enjoy the cliffs, caves-like cracks.
I enjoyed my time at South Button, but this was not the most impressive site for me, although It was a wonderful morning.
Located off the beach of Henry Lawrence, this is wall of reefs is considered the top spot for snorkelers. The huge diversity of colorful fish like; cardinal fish, lion fish, pipe fish, ghost pipe fish, seawasp and octopuses will take your breath away.
SNORKELING AND SCUBA DIVING AT NEIL ISLAND
Neil Island is smaller, uncrowded and less visited than it’s Havelock sister . This is definitely not a party island, but since I’m not into wild parties, I have to admit Neil is just perfect! It’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of on a tropical island, except this one doesn’t come with an expensive price tag, like other tropical islands.
There’s very little information or even maps of Neil Island. We had the best snorkeling of our lives in here. The beach was always desert and we could snorkel all day without getting bored.
Neil offers an extremely dramatic scenery underwater, we were both impressed by the deep underwater Canyons, caves and tunnels, not far from the shore. We never used fins and had no trouble reaching some of the most beautiful and breathtaking spots.
Some of the beaches have no names or numbers, but we found one that offer the entrance to the best spots under water. It’s a beach where we we had to walk over dead coral (you have to be aware not to cut your feet during that walk!) before we reached the sea and could swim.
For the Canyon and cliff spot, you need to know how to swim and be very comfortable in deep waters.
WHEN DIVING OR SNORKELING IN THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS ARCHIPELAGO, BE ECO-CONSCIOUS AND RESPECTFUL FOR THE WILD LIFE: PLEASE, REMEMBER YOU’RE ENTERING THE HOME OF ALL THESE AMAZING WILD ANIMALS WHEN YOU SNORKEL OR DIVE. BE RESPECTFUL AND SENSITIVE. DON’T TOUCH THEM UNLESS THEY APPROACH YOU WANTING TO BE TOUCHED. DON’T TOUCH THE CORALS AND MOST OF ALL, DON’T TRY TO TAKE THEM HOME.
Honestly, this is my favorite place in the whole world and sometimes I think I could live here forever. Snorkeling in the Andaman Islands was probably one of the most rewarding activities I’ve done throughout my years of traveling.
SNORKELING AND SCUBA DIVING SCHOOLS IN HAVELOCK
Offers snorkeling and scuba diving trips in Havelock, Andaman. This is the dive center I used for my snorkeling trip. Prices for snorkeling are around Rs. 3.500. This is also a Scuba diving school where you can get PADI certified. Check out their website for prices.
Another great option. Dive India offers snorkeling trips and scuba diving in Havelock and Neil. They offer certified courses with PADI, SsI and NAUI. Visit their website for detailed info.
VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN FOOD AT THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS
If you thought that finding vegan and vegetarian food would probably be hard in these islands…. Well, good news: IT’S NOT!
You can find the best of the best Indian cuisine here, simple vegan and vegetarian dishes, at excellent prices. You’ll notice the levels of hygiene here are far superior than mainland, leaving us travelers with nothing to fear.
WHERE TO EAT IN HAVELOCK
Every place is a good place to eat in Havelock, seriously! I ate ate several different family ran restaurants, all of them excellent. As in every part of the world, eating at small family restaurants will be cheaper than at resorts and tourist oriented restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT IN NEIL ISLAND
Neil Island is very small and everybody gathered at the same local restaurant for lunch and dinner in the island center. There are 2 popular, local owned places worth trying! This is also a great way to socialize and meet new people.
All guest houses provide simple meals, if you’re too lazy to walk to the center, they’re a bit more expensive though.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN HAVELOCK ISLAND
Havelock has a bit of everything, for the super tight budget traveler, to the budget conscious and the luxurious traveler! Cheap bungalows along the beach don’t have websites, so forget about booking anything ahead. Just walk around and ask everywhere, you should be able to find something, but bear in mind high season might be trickier.
For the budget mid-rage hotels, guest houses and resorts, your best bet is to book in Advance to avoid disappointment, although there are usually rooms available in another guest house, in case yours is full.
On a very tight budget
PELICAN GUEST HOUSE
My travel mate and I stayed at a stunning bungalow resort by the beach, called Pelican resort. We had a basic, clean bungalow without AC or fan and we liked it that way. It was extremely cheap and very well located. We’ve paid Rs.100 during low season a couple of years ago. It was the cheapest place we’ve found.
There were bungallows with Fans and AC available for a higher rate. They have no website, so you’ll have to go there directly.
BUDGET GUEST HOUSES
Cross Bill Beach Resort-Havelock
Havelock No.5,South Andaman, Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
A comfortable, clean and calm beach resort, with room service and restaurant. Both English and Hindi spoken. A great deal!
Book it with Agoda: Here
The Wild Orchid Resort
5, Vijay Nagar, 744211 Havelock Island, India
This is my favorite choice. We went there for dinner and were really impressed!
Nestled in the greenery of Havelock, The Wild Orchid Resort offers a private beach area and 4 dining options. All rooms come with a private balcony and a fan. ll air-conditioned rooms come with wooden flooring, a seating area and a writing desk. A cable TV and an electric kettle are also included. Free toiletries and shower facilities can be found in the en suite bathroom.Water Sports Facilities are available for guests’ convenience.
Book your stay here with BOOKING.COM
HIGH END RESORTS
Silver Sand Beach Resort – Havelock Island
VijayNagar Beach, Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
For the Luxurious traveler searching for comfort and relaxation, by the beautiful turquoise waters of the Andaman. Book it HERE
WHERE TO SLEEP IN NEIL ISLAND
Neils was so small back in 2009, that there were not many options. We decided to stay at A-N-D Resort, near the Jetty. It offered simple, clean and safe bungalows at excellent prices.
This place has no website, so you’ll have to go there first and see if they have vacancies. It’s located right near the Jetty, just ask around.
ON A BUDGET
Sea Shell Neil
Laxmanpur Beach, No. 01, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Neil Island
A great clean, comfortable and calm budget option for Neil Island. Most accommodations in this Island don’t provide the possibility to book online, so take advantage of this gem and Book it HERE
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT HAVELOCK AND NEIL
HOW TO GET TO ANDAMAN ISLANDS
Well, this will depend on your budget and your level of ignorance regarding the passenger ships.
Let me explain: I traveled on a very tight budget back then and the idea of doing a 3 day “cruise” along the Andaman for so little money was extremely tempting. And that’s what I did! Nothing had prepared me, though, for those 3 days of horror, with gigantic cockroaches flying everywhere…. and I mean EVERYWHERE! They crawl inside you bed, inside your clothes, walk all over your body, you face… In the canteen you see them flying all over the place as it they were shooting stars. It’s so overwhelming we decided to sleep outside on the deck, on the hard wood benches.
So there you go; if you like adventure, bugs and want to have a great story to tell, go with the cheap 3 day ship. If you have some self love, take the airplane.
Yes, flying is much more expensive, but it takes you a few hours instead of 3 days and you’ll avoid the horrible trip by ship. If you plan far in advance, you’ll be able to find some real treats. Try to visit during low season for better prices and be flexible!
THINGS YOU MUST HAVE
- For detailed information about the Andaman Islands, I used the Lonely Planet India.
- Take some mosquito repellents with you, use a natural citronella one – better for you, better for the environment!
- Bring some anti-diarrhea pills. This is probably the most Hygienic place in India, but just in case…
- Sunscreen. You’ll be spending countless hours on the beach!
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