Note: This blog is contributed by our reader Meenakshi Bose who visited Andaman’s best kept secret, Baratang Island. Go on a virtual voyage with Meenakshi and witness the most beautiful side of Andamans.
Baratang Island is a hidden gem of Andaman, floating between the South and the Middle Andaman. The island is blessed with dense mangrove forests, diversified fauna and local tribes. A paradise for nature and photography enthusiasts, it is one of the best places to visit in Andaman. If you wish to add some adventure to your relaxing trip to Andamans, then Baratang Island is just the right choice for you! Here are some of the best travel tips when you are planning a trip to Baratang Island.
Travelling to Baratang Island is not an easy task as you pass by a tribal zone that is protected by the government. Here are few dos and don’ts to follow while visiting Baratang islands:
For one day sightseeing tour, you need to start your journey early in the morning. It is best to cross the check post at the earliest so that you get enough time to explore the island. The Andaman Grand Trunk road, which connects Port Blair to South, Middle and North Andaman, takes you to the convoy at the beginning of Jirkatang village, a small village said to be the home of the Jarwas (local tribe of Andaman). There are toilets where you can freshen up and several tea stalls where you can have your breakfast. The stalls serve south Indian cuisine and are delectable.
The first convoy begins at 6:30 a.m., which leaves you with sufficient time to freshen up and explore the local stalls. If you want a complete view of the convoy, walk up to the temple at the hilltop that is just 5 minutes away from the Restroom. Charge yourself with some lip-smacking Vada (South-Indian savoury fried snack) and Tea before the long journey.
As the convoy begins, security personnel for the safety of both travellers and tribes escort each vehicle. As you pass through the Jarawa Tribe reserve area, you will see several tribal people standing in groups along with a forest officer staring at the vehicles passing by. The tribes are usually unpredictable and so you are not allowed to click photos or offer food to them as they might attack you. It is a punishable offence to do so and you will be charged with a heavy fine.
However, it is a once in a lifetime experience to see how beautifully the tribes and the civilised (forest police) are coexisting in harmony.
P.S.: You have to be alert to see them, as it will be hard to notice them sitting behind the bushes.
After an adventurous ride through the tribal reserve, you reach the Nilamber Jetty. From here, you board your ferry that will take you to the Baratang Island. The 20-minute ferry ride is not much pleasant. The ferry is rather crowded and the smell of the fuel will burn your lungs until black. On the other hand, you will enjoy the impeccable view of the creek and the dense mangrove forests.
As you set your foot on the island, you see a fresh and tropical side of the Andaman Islands. Baratang Island is the home of India’s only active Mud Volcano. The sight might not be appealing at first, however, to see a natural process in occurrence is a new thing to experience altogether.
It takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the volcano and another 15 minutes to see the place. The site is approachable by road from Nilambur Jetty. You reach the Jarawa Creek and then walk for 300 meters to reach the Mud volcano. The walk to the Volcano is pleasantly refreshing. The stairway that leads to the Volcano passes through a jungle where you might encounter several wildflowers and mushrooms that might hold your interest.
Natural gases emitted by decaying organic matter underground creates the mud volcano. You can see the mud being pushed upwards by the gas and bubbles forming around it. There is also a large gas chamber that collects all the natural gas for experimentation and other use.
If you are not lucky enough to get the boat on time to the Limestone cave then worry not! Just take a walk around the town, which by the way is also one of the top things to do on your holiday in Andaman. This will give you a brief idea of the lifestyle of the locals living there. The island is occupied majorly by Keralite and so the local food served is mainly South-Indian. You can also visit the beautiful old church next to the jetty.
The journey to the Limestone caves is completed in two phases. A bumpy ride on Dongi (boat) from the Baratang Jetty takes you through dense mangroves forest to reach the starting point of the trek and then you walk for approx. 3 km to reach the caves. The walk is pleasant as you pass through the walkways made by cutting through dense forest and large stones.
Before entering the cave, you can refuel yourself with some freshly prepared lemonade served by a local that will refresh your soul. The lemons are grown there by the locals and are so sweet that you don’t require any artificial sugar to sweeten the drink and hence is a must-try.
The surrounding of the cave is pleasant and the temperature within the cave is cooler than the outside temperature. The best part is to observe the walls of the Limestone cave taking up beautiful shape naturally like of a shell or of the Indian God, Ganesha.
If you are lucky enough then you might also get a glimpse of the mighty crocodile near the swamps.
Start your journey back to Port Blair, as the convoy gates remain open only until 2:30 p.m.
If you plan to spend some more time at Baratang Island, it is best to reach the island by night as this will save you from the early morning hassle and you will be able to visit the Parrot Island as well. The island is indeed a paradise on earth and home to many beautiful beaches, green parrots and parakeets.
P.S.: Don’t forget to take your cameras along as you never know what you spot.
Is Baratang Island somewhere you’ve recently been for your adventure break? Share your experiences below in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.