Hello, today I want to share with you my experience at elephant beach Havelock Island. The Andaman Islands were beautiful and Elephant beach was one of the highlights for me.
While we were there on Havelock, we visited elephant beach twice in both the government tours and a private tour with Andaman bubbles. I wanted to compare them and make sure you get the best experience and value for money.
Government tour Elephant Beach, Havelock Island
To get to the tours, return to the ferry port on the island – my arrival guide from Port Blair to Havelock is here. Then you will probably be asked by a lot of people if you want to go to elephant beach.
It is only accessible by boat or a hike. The government option to elephant beach Havelock is the speed boat alternative. We got taken to this little lean-to surrounded by guys who seemed to be on commission for bringing people there.
They wrote our receipts and we had to wait for our boat to be full before we were taken to it. Everyone was dressed in life jackets, had to take off their shoes and waded to the boat. We had a guide and a boat driver, and then we were off on the journey. Our fare included a short snorkelling session and elephant beach is famous for its shallow coral reefs.
Everyone was written on with a permanent marker with our boat number and time.
We got a lovely view around the edge of the island and then soon after we arrived at the shore. Along with 25 other boats – needless to say, it was busy. The group was taken through the small market area and to the place for snorkelling. Nobody spoke enough English to explain the safety for the snorkels – we own our own snorkels but apparently, that wasn’t enough.
Eventually, they found someone who spoke Tamil so my boyfriend could at least understand. Most people opted for the full mask for snorkelling, but my boyfriend asked for the traditional style. Everyone was placed in a rubber ring, despite when I argued that I could swim and snorkel.
These were used to drag us back, just when you were starting to see the colourful fish and coral. The snorkelling only lasted 10 minutes and then they wanted you to pay more for longer.
We didn’t opt for that as we had already booked our snorkelling with Andaman Bubbles. But we did regret not bringing our goggles as the coral were so close.
Instead, we swam around and found several small and empty beaches. This was lovely to be away from the crowds. We were told we had 2 hours but as our watches were in a locker, we headed back to find them.
By this point, we had 35 minutes so we headed left from the disembarking point, as suggested by our hotel staff. Here the beach was gleaming white, empty and beautiful. There was even a shoal of fish towards the shore which fascinated my boyfriend.
Then on time, we arrived back to our boat, to find nobody there. We waited a while, found the boat driver and then an hour later everyone was finally assembled. It took the driver to pretend to drive away before the final family boarded. (Indian timekeeping is very different from British timekeeping!)
Then at 2pm, we were dropped back, sandy and tired (I was very sunburnt) but content.
This whole experience cost 950 Rs each (around £10 in November 2018).
Elephant beach with a private tour
We woke up fairly early and got a tuk-tuk to the dive centre. Then we got into a van and drove around the island picking up staff and dropping off the other diver with us. We collected our equipment and then drive to the area where the hike to elephant beach starts.
Unfortunately, a forest guard didn’t believe we had permission and spent a good 30 minutes arguing with our guides. Eventually, we were allowed to pass and start the hike. The walking was beautiful, but very very muddy at the time. It had rained the week previously and the pathway involved a lot of tree roots and mud.
My sandals decided to give up on the mud after 2 years of wearing them all day every day! Despite the humidity, it was stunning but I was relieved to see elephant beach Havelock Island again. Although a little disappointed we were going to the same place.
However, I was wrong we said hello to some people there and carried on along a pathway behind the beach. From here we walked for 15 minutes, picked up a stray dog who followed us and ended up at a private beach. We were entirely on our own and a long way out of sight from the elephant beach.
From here we put on our flippers, snorkels and persuaded the guides that we didn’t need a life jacket. We swam around the reefs and it was beautiful, rainbow coloured fish, corals and it was an experience I will never forget.
My boyfriend even said it was the closest thing he had experienced to his time diving on the Great barrier reef.
Although halfway around I started to think about the lack of oxygen or something was causing pins and needles. I then realised it was tiny jellyfish stinging me all over. It felt like nettle stings all over my body but the reef was worth it.
After an hour we all left and compared the jellyfish stings – we were all covered and I managed to drive my flipper into the sand and pull a muscle in my calf. Well done Amber!
They had packed us each a club Sandwich and we ate that staring at the hundred of hermit crabs along the beach.
Then we got the snorkels back out and swam around the edges of the reefs. The jellyfish were still there and I realised that without the flippers the current was very strong.
Then once we were tired and done with the beach we walked back along the muddy tracks. The humidity was stronger now and the guides explained why there seemed to be a tree graveyard. Each of the trees has been knocked down during the Boxing day tsunami.
We then got our transport back to the shop and they called our tuk-tuk driver for us. The snorkelling and hiking took the whole day and cost 3200 each.
Around £34 each for the experience but it was well worth the money.
Government versus private tour
Obviously, these aren’t easy to compare as we went to the private beach on our private tour. I’m glad we did both, but the snorkelling was so much better with our private tour.
The experience of the government tour was good as you saw the island from a boat, had a taste of the coral and enjoyed a couple of hours at the beach for a bargain price. However, the private tour was hands down the best snorkel experience I have ever had.
(We debated scuba but decided that most corals were fairly shallow and we wouldn’t get very long underwater for the money)
I would recommend visiting elephant beach Havelock Island and picking either of these tours depending on your budget and priorities.
Sadly I wish my camera wasn’t at the bottom of the ocean so we could have had some cool pictures. Instead, you get the beach pictures!
Hope this helps if you’re in Havelock Island,
The Great Ambini
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