This rainforest-covered island landscape has many surprises for visitors who make time to discover what is available (in both activities and sights to see) when travelling through on the Great Trunk Road. From the ferry crossing at Homfray’s Strait in the south, to the Chengappa Bridge over the Austen Strait in the north, the meandering route taken by hired car or local bus showcases the farmlands, clearings and small settlements carved out of the jungle by hardy settlers near the massive stretches of the Jarawa tribal reserve, as well as breathtaking mangrove forests, waterfalls, turtle nesting beaches, and amazing off-shore scuba and snorkeling experiences. Middle Andaman Island is also accessible from Port Blair to Rangat and Mayabunder if you want to explore the more remote corners of the Andamans by boat. You can arrange day trips by boat to nearby small islands, or just relax on a quiet beach and enjoy the sounds of the sea against the sand – Middle Andaman Island offers visitors a collection of truly unique tropical rainforest eco-experiences.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are a major attraction for tourists in this remote middle island of Great Andaman, and there are many local guides available in Rangat and Mayabunder to rent equipment and boats for day trips to the nearby coral reefs and sandy beaches of Avis Island. The tangled mangrove ecosystem can be explored from Rangat on the extensive Dhanih Nallah Walkway that leads to the edge of the sea, the scenic watchtower over Yerrata Mangrove Park, and further south on Baratang Island. Private hiking, birdwatching and trekking tours in the rainforest can also be arranged with guides, on both Middle Andaman Island and uninhabited places like Interview Island, where you can day hike to reach hidden natural springs and see the wild elephants near an old logging camp. Explore the rugged Panchavati Hills near Rangat and cool off in the waterfalls and streams that tumble off the higher peaks to the west, and visit the lively local markets and bazaars in the villages of Kadamtala and Betapur.
Immigrants brought regional cuisines with them when they arrived as settlers from southern India and Burma, and their descendants are happy to share their favorite foods with visitors. Most of the smaller homes, hostels, and guest houses that rent rooms also provide meals to their guests, and locally grown fruits, vegetables and rice are featured at every table. Seafood is a major part of meals since many of the islanders do their own net casting in the ocean for the day’s meal and fresh fish is usually on the menu. There are no snack stalls at many of the beaches, so arranging for a picnic-to-go is something you can do with the local shops in Rangat and Mayabunder. While passing through the smaller settlements like Kadamtala and Betapur, you’ll be able to find packaged snacks, drinks and fresh foods at the outposts and local bazaar markets. There is a wine shop in Rangat, as well as a bar or two, and also several bars in Mayabunder.
Visiting the beaches of Middle Andaman Island are #1 on most visitor’s list of things to do, and the remote location of the beaches means that they are always uncrowded and pristine. Most of the beaches have eco-huts and shelters, and some have wooden chairs or picnic areas for visitors. Visit the German Jetty in Mayabunder, a covered observation deck at the foot of a large hillside with an expansive east-facing view of the rocky coastline and neighboring islands.
Near Rangat, the beautiful Cuthbert Bay, Amkunj, and Moricedera beaches offer wide open beach strands with nearby coral reefs, as do the evergreen-edged Karmatang, Baludera and Rampur beaches near Mayabunder. Most of these beaches are prime turtle nesting sites – which allow for up-close observation of turtle nests maintained by locals – and if you are lucky, the seasonal hatchings between December and February, and the subsequent rush for the surf by the little baby hatchlings. The western coast of Middle Andaman in the tribal reserve is off-limits to visitors, and swimming along the coastline of the wildlife sanctuary at Interview Island is discouraged.
Rangat and Mayabunder have several comfortable hotels that offer amenities such as air conditioning, flat screen TVs, and restaurants with bars. Basic accommodations (without air conditioning) are available along the Great Trunk Road and are called villas, guest houses or lodges. Local hosts in communities along the Great Trunk Road also offer comfortable rest houses and homestay accommodations that usually include meals with a room rental, and this lodging style offers a real opportunity to live like a local. The Indian tourism department runs Hawksbill Nest, a small hotel along the coast north of Rangat with basic accommodations and meals, and the island’s forestry department also offers a list of recommended rest houses.
Along the western edge of the Great Trunk Road lies the Jarawa tribal reserve, so it is always a possibility that members of the tribe will be along the roadside – remember that interaction with tourists is strictly prohibited by law for health and safety reasons. A stopover in Rangat offers plenty of day trips, like boat access to neighboring Long and Guitar islands and the mangrove tower at Yerrata Mangrove Park, as well as the beautiful beaches of Cuthbert Bay, Moricedera and Amkunj, near the Dhanih Nallah mangrove walkway. Plan to spend time near Rangat in the Panchavati Hills to visit the waterfalls and the secluded Raman Bagicha beach at the foot of the cliffs. In Mayabunder, where the Road leads further north, the beaches of Rampur and Karmatang offer more turtle watching, and guides can arrange day trips to see the wild elephants on Interview Island or to snorkel on isolated Avis Island.
A hired boat or vehicle with guide is the best way to journey around Middle Andaman Island, and bicycles and scooters can usually be found for rent near the markets in Rangat and Mayabunder. Most sightseeing favorites like the beaches, natural springs and waterfalls are free to visit, and using a guide assures you get the proper permits if necessary, and you don’t miss the other local sights off the beaten path (as well as avoid danger – saltwater crocodiles and snakes are prevalent here).