This jewel of an island is hard to forget once you have been here – the least visited by tourists because of the distance from Port Blair – and the most remote part of the Great Andaman island chain. North Andaman’s forests, beaches and coral reefs – and nearby Ross and Smith Island’s disappearing sand bar – beckons the adventurous traveler to come and explore the beautiful landscape. With the only freshwater river and hydroelectric dam, the highest mountain peak, the largest amount of endangered sea turtles, and the most limestone caves and mud volcanoes in the Andamans, the island is blessed with stunning beaches and coral reefs, national parks and unbelievable beauty. This far-flung romantic island is well worth the long journey from Port Blair, Mayabunder or Rangat by ferry, car, bus or helicopter.
A day hike to Saddle Peak starts at dawn and ends at dusk, with breathtaking views on the climb through the clouds to reach the summit. Other day treks through the forest are available to explore the mud volcanoes of Shyam Nagar (and maybe feel the ground shaking underfoot) and the Alfred Caves near Pathi Level, where fruit bats and endangered swiftlets live – much of this extensive cave system has never been fully explored. Because so much of North Andaman is rugged and without a road system, there are many locals who will guide you by boat to the many activities available during your stay and also arrange the permits. Scuba diving and snorkeling are excellent on the beaches of North Andaman, with eco-huts for relaxing and boats for hire to carry you to nearby scenic Ross and Smith Island for more diving and swimming. At night, explore the beach strand with the locals by the light of the moon and watch for nesting sea turtles coming ashore – the beaches here are home to several endangered species who return every year in large numbers to lay their eggs.
Orange groves, rice paddies, and banana plantations can be seen around the island, and there is plenty of freshly caught seafood available. Fresh fruits, vegetables and coconut drinks are available at many of the small market stalls in Diglipur and the smaller villages along the Great Trunk Road, as well as some packaged snacks. The hotel resorts near Diglipur with on-site restaurants offer mainly Indian and some Continental cuisine, as well as fresh seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables. One resort near Kalipur Beach grows and uses only organic foods in their menu items, and can arrange breakfast or lunch ‘to go’ for guests headed out on day trips. There are a few other smaller restaurants in Diglipur close to the jetty that offer freshly prepared Indian and Chinese foods. When out exploring the island, carry plenty of bottled water and snacks with you if you are going to be away from the markets and stores in the villages.
Kalipur and Lamiya Bay beaches lie at the base of Saddle Peak, and are prime turtle nesting sites on North Andaman Island. There are some eco-huts and a watch tower at the pebble beach of Lamiya Bay with a freshwater stream nearby during monsoon season, and at Kalipur Beach near the resort hotels there are watersports, boat rentals, scuba and snorkeling available. Hire a car to take you south to the small village of Kalighat and explore secluded Ramnagar Beach for the day, another beautiful eastern-facing beach with a nature trail and eco-huts lining the shore. You should be able to find a local guide to take you through the jungle or by boat to explore the reefs and sandy beach at isolated Elizabeth Bay on the western coastline of the island where few tourists ever visit. One day trip that every visitor must take is the boat ride over to the sandbar at low tide that connects Ross and Smith Islands, and enjoy visiting some of the best coral reefs in the Andamans.
The options for overnight stays on North Andaman Island are a few comfortable hotels called ‘resorts’ that offer guest amenities such as pick up/drop off service from Diglipur or the port at Durgapur, on-site restaurant and bar, and air conditioning – there are no swimming pools or spa services available. There is a popular government-owned hotel on a breezy hillside overlooking the nearby rainforest with views of the nearby sea. Another resort hotel offers wi-fi, secluded luxury cottages and easy access to the beach at Kalipur with views of Saddle Peak, as well as a private dinner by candlelight on an offshore island. The other resort hotel is also near Kalipur Beach, offering guided tours of nearby local sights and stunning views of the national park from the property.
The offshore coral reefs and underwater rock formations make for superior snorkeling and scuba diving, both on the beaches of North Andaman and other nearby islands like scenic Ross and Smith, which are connected to each other by a sand bar that appears only during the daily low tides. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to see mother turtles come ashore on the quiet beaches and lay their eggs under the light of a full moon, or watch the hatchlings emerge up through the sand in their nests and make their way to the waters’ edge during sunrise. Another unique sightseeing adventure is the view from the summit of Saddle Peak, the highest mountain on the islands, which rises over 2400 feet from the coast and offers an amazing view from the summit that extends to the horizon. The mud volcanoes near Hathi Level are quite extensive and hidden in the jungle, as is the limestone cave system south of Diglipur that changes with every rainfall – guided tours are available in town and through the resorts. The government farm at Keralapuram offers a tour of the orchid nursery and apiary, with fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables available for sale, and the hydroelectric dam on the Kalpong River and the many temples and shrines along the Great Trunk Road are local points of interest.