Northern Andaman Islands

6 February 2017    Beach #7, Havelock, Andaman Islands
After a lazy start, we took the dinghy ashore.  There’s a persistent swell coming into the bay, which doesn’t make Alba roll, but causes breaking waves on the beach, so we had to carefully time our approach, darting in between the big waves.  We managed to pull it off with both of us remaining fairly dry.

We strolled along a path in the pleasant shaded area behind the tree line and onto the main road leading from the beach, where there are small restaurants and shops selling souvenirs.  About 400 metres along the road, we found a small place renting motorbikes for 400 rupees per day plus 100 rupees for a litre of petrol.

Elephant Tracks

The road is in very poor condition and it took us 20 minutes to drive the five miles into main town of Laccam, which is spread out along a good condition road.  There’s a vegetable market and small supermarket next to the central roundabout; turning west took us down to the main ferry dock; and turning east took us past scores of small hotels and diving shops.  We called in at Barefoot Divers, who are supposed to have the best boats and equipment - we’ve arranged to go on a two-tank dive trip on the 8th.

We had lunch at Barefoot Bayside Brasserie, which is next to the Ferry port.  They couldn’t provide many of the items on the menu and the curry that we had was bland and uninspiring - one to cross off the list.  There wasn’t much else to do or see in town, so we jumped back on the bike and headed back.  About a mile from Beach #7, we stopped off at the trailhead for Elephant Beach. 

It’s a very nice 2 kilometre walk through rain forest down to the beach, where the snorkelling is supposed to be very good.  There were huge patches of mud despite there being no rain for weeks, so I guess that it would be treacherous after rain.  The tourist blurb warns of leeches and “reptiles” after heavy rain.  I’m guessing that by “reptiles” they mean snakes - we read in the local paper that a man in Port Blair had discovered a King Cobra in his house…

The beach used to be frequented by wild elephants, but alas they are no more.  However, we did see plenty of elephant tracks in the mud, so I guess that someone must bring elephants down the trail.  There were jet skis whizzing about, so we didn’t bother to go to the commercial “Elephant Beach”, we stared at the blue sea for a minute; scurried back to the shade of the forest and walked back to the motorbike.

Back at Beach #7, we couldn’t resist buying a couple of samosas for our evening meal (despite eating huge curry for lunch).   Worryingly, the breaking waves seemed to be a little larger than in the morning, but we managed to launch the dinghy without being flipped over.

Samosas

7 February 2017    Beach #7 to Beach#3, Laccam , Andaman Islands
First thing in the morning, we did a few chores, including running the water-maker to top up our tanks and then motored around to Laccam Harbour.  We asked Havelock Port Control for permission to anchor to the east of the ferry terminal and then looked for a place close to Beach#3, which is where Barefoot Divers are based.  Our initial attempt was close to a reef at 12°02.167N 093°00.053E in 8m, but the anchor dragged, rumbling away over what I assume was coral rubble.  

The water visibility was only about 5 metres, so we couldn’t see the bottom, so we just headed a little further away from the reef and anchored at 12°02.229N 092°59.944E in 11.5 metres.  The anchor seemed to hold well with no ominous rumbling noises.  I snorkelled down to check the anchor and found it was buried deep into nice white sand, so that’s good enough for me.  We’re rather exposed, but should get some protection from the reef to the east of us.  It’s fine in these very settled conditions, but in strong winds it would be bouncy.  The good news is that we’re only about 500 metres away from Barefoot Divers. 

After lunch, we went snorkelling on a reef at 12°02.096N 093°00.392E.  There’s a mooring on the point of the reef and it’s one of the better places that we’ve snorkelled in the Anambas with at least some coral.  Unfortunately, the visibility was poor - we went at low tide, so I’m not sure if that was a contributory factor.  

8 February 2017    Beach#3 to Henry Lawrence Island , Andaman Islands
After a surprisingly peaceful night, we were up at 06:00 and dinghied ashore to go diving with Barefoot Divers.  They took us out on an old wooden boat, which was sea worthy enough, but not very comfortable despite there only being seven paying divers - fortunately the sea conditions were benign.   

The first dive was at Johnny’s Gorge (12°03.833N 093°09.431E), where there’s a strong mooring.  Our party of four descended to 25metres down the mooring line because there was a strong current.  The dive guide then took us on a whirl-wind circumnavigation of the circular reef - too fast in my humble opinion.  However, the visibility was excellent and the fish life is extraordinary with huge grouper and snappers hanging in the current.  There are lots of hard and soft corals, which escaped the bleaching event in 2010.

The second dive was at Broken Ledge (12°06.787N 093°08.716E), where there’s another mooring.  It was a similar dive to the first one, but slightly shallower at 23 metres.  There are some nice gullies to swim through and lots of coral.  The visibility was good, but there was a fair amount of sediment in the water causing me problems with backscatter on my photographs.  We saw some nice Hawksbill Turtles, large Clown Triggerfish and lots of Lionfish.

Reef Fish

We were back on Alba by three o’clock, so we pulled up the anchor and moved six miles to a more protected anchorage at the south tip of Henry Lawrence Island, dropping the anchor in 15 metres at 12°05.05N 093°04.18E.  It’s a nice looking anchorage in front of a fringing reef protecting a white sand beach and it’s well protected from the north.  At dusk, a spotted deer came foraging on the shore.

9 February 2017    Henry Lawrence Island , Andaman Islands
Early in the morning, while the day was still cool, we went for a dinghy ride to explore the mangrove shoreline of the island.  There’s a nice little bay next to the anchorage, but as we headed north-west, a very shallow reef extended out for hundreds of metres keeping us away from the more interesting mangroves.  There’s a river mouth 2½ miles from the anchorage, but we gave up when we were halfway there and returned to Alba. 

In the middle of the morning, we motored 6 miles to anchor off Inglis Island in 6 metres of water at 12°08.05N 093°06.51E.  It’s a very pretty anchorage with beautiful water colours and a sand spit reaching out from the island.  The beach is protected by a fringing reef. 

After lunch, we went out snorkelling, first looking at the south-east side of the island, but it was all rock and not very interesting.  I had a very brief glimpse of the back of a Dungong as it dived down under the water, but we couldn’t find it again.  The south side of the island was all broken reef, but the fringing reef right next to the anchorage was very good - the best snorkelling that we’ve done in the Andamans so far.  Some coral has survived the bleaching event and there are plenty of fish flitting about.

We invited “Sunchaser” over for a few beers - apparently they saw another yacht yesterday.