Don't Always Believe the Guidebooks

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  , Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
Saturday, January 28, 2012

Elenka and I almost always have miserable luck when booking a place to stay in advance. Lonely Planet had given The Emerald Gecko a glowing appraisal. Maybe they just drove by and took some photos; it does look nice.

Emerald Gecko's rather large two storey cabinas as it turned out were without toilet, expensive, an overall grand waste of space. The beach was rocky and the staff unfriendly.

The following morning we rented a motorbike and went off in search of Utopia. Beach #7, 12 kilometres away, on the other side of the island was rated the best beach in Asia in 2004. It is an idyllic spot. But the only two possibilities there were a resort that's far too expensive and a dark broom closet-like place that sent shivers through Elenka.

Off on the bike again we stopped at Village #4 for tea - I've always favoured numbers over names then began our search on beach # 3. We stopped at 8, maybe 10 resorts – the term resort is used very loosely in the Andamans - before we found the Sea View Beach Resort. To get to it you have to drive down a scary path. Once past the stagnant pond though, we found our little paradise; ten adequately sized cabinas, surrounded by breezy palms. And as far as I can make out its also one of the few places with a rock-less beach. As a bonus we had our own dog, a toilet and a shower. And there's an on-site dive shop.

After reading the above I feel like I work for Lonely Planet. No matter where the location, guidebooks generally give favourable appraisals of almost every destination. They write like proud parents of undisciplined children. All I've written above, good and bad, is true, but Elenka and I will never return to the Andaman Islands. Here's why:

1)      Accommodation is far over-priced and so is the air fare.

2)      Havelock Island serves mostly Western tourists, which means that it is very difficult to get real Indian food. Couple that with the fact that they have no real sense of how to cook Western food so what you get is what you get.

3)      While Beach #7 is great, there's little chance of being able to stay there. The resorts are pretty much all on the other, rocky side of Havelock.

4)      Scuba diving is at best, okay. But it's quite expensive. Most of the good sites are better than an hour away by boat and they're all fairly deep at close to 30 metres. That means your down-time is considerably less than it would be on shallower reefs.

5)      And last but not least, while getting here on the two-and-a-half hour ferry is a breeze, getting back is another story altogether. Oftentimes passengers must wait as long as four hours to buy their return tickets. If they happen to be right up by the wicket at 4:00 p.m. the window slams shut and they're told to come back in the morning.      

One thing Havelock Island has going for it is its climate. Walking down the road in the heat of the day - 39C maybe 40C -  you could melt, bake or broil, depending on your body water content. Yet in that same heat of the day you can sit under a palm tree by the water and the temperature drops by probably 15 degrees. At night you don't even need your overhead fan or mosquito net. 

Bottom line: Forget about the adventurous, possibly romantic idea of visiting the Andamans. Stay on mainland India or go to Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia.  
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Vickie on

Well, the cabana sounds you still have Rover....

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