Guide to North Andaman Island
It is a pity most of the visitors to Andamans just stick to easily reachable Havelock and Neil islands. The real beauty and for me, the best area of the whole Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, is in the north. Still, not many people make their way this far. Bad for them, good for you! When you take this little extra effort, you can enjoy the area with little to no tourist in sight.
North Andaman has since ever been the northernmost point of Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, you could get to. You can reach Shyam Nagar, where a mud volcano is located, but further north, the "road" is closed.
Why visit / Highlights
North Andaman has it all. The highest peak, the turtle nesting, the islands where you can be alone like a Robinson and the famed Ross and Smith island, connected by a sand bridge.
The highest peak and the jungle walk.
Saddle Peak, elevation 732 meters above sea level, is the highest peak of Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago. While not stunningly high for a “highest peak”, the hike to Saddle peak requires quite an effort. Unless you have plenty of experience to run jungle uphill, plan for full day trek with early start and late return and take at least 2 liters of water per person.
Start your day with taking a bus from your accommodation at Kalipur, to the national park gates at Lamya Bay. This will save you energy and time needed for 3,5 km going to and then from the park entrance. Register with Forest department there (Foreigners pay the ugly Rs. 500 fee) and you are free to go.
Jungle walk to Saddle Peak, North Andaman
Jungle walk to Saddle Peak, North Andaman
2 good tips regarding Saddle Peak
Beautiful jungle walk.
Even if you do not feel like climbing the peak, I would still strongly recommend you to go. You do not have to climb the peak. The journey is the goal. The trek to the peak follows the ocean shore and will take you via fantastic rain forest. So you have ocean on your left and rainforest on your right. This is very beautiful and still the easiest and the most convenient jungle walk I have been to. Ocean keeps the temperature reasonable, so you trek in the shade of the jungle with ocean breeze at some 30-32 degrees Celsius and reasonable humidity. Anywhere in rainforests of Africa or Amazonia such journey would be exhausting. Here we did it with 2 year old child. You will cross a few streams and there are small pools with cool fresh water where streams enter the ocean. Just to take a bath in these pools, with jungle on one side and ocean on the other side, is magic.
Lamya Bay beach.
Bus will drop you where the road ends, at the entrance to the Sadlle Peak national park. Behind the Forest Department building there is pretty well kept park and Lamya Bay beach. With plenty of shade and places to relax it is a good idea to spend a few hours here. However if your time is precious, just check it out briefly and continue direction to Saddle Peak. There is another place to rest after some 2-3 km walk, with the stream, pool and ocean to swim.
( Also Cragy, Craegy Island- even Tourist department uses multiple spellings in its official materials)
I love the Craggy Island and I consider it to be one of the highlights of all Andaman adventure, but I have to start with shouting “beware!” loud. If you plan your North Andaman trip, you will see a few sources saying that “Craggy Island is just a swim away from Kalipur beach”. Trust me, it is not “just a swim away”. While yes, you can swim to Craggy , it is A) far, B) The shores of Kalipur beach nearest to Cragy island are made of sharp rocks and 3) there is current between the two.
So please take my advice and do 2 things before you go:
- Explore the beach at low tide, before you decide to swim. You’ll get an idea what it looks like.
- Rent fins to give you more power kicking in the water and take shoes into the water to avoid cutting your feet on sharp stones. Mask and snorkel, I presume you will take anyway, but fins can save your day and shoes will save your feet.
Where is the place to safely enter the water? The sandy part of Kalipur beach, where turtle nesting hut and shades are, is very far from Craggy . A place more or less OK to enter and exit the water is when you walk up north-east along Kalipur beach at low tide, watch where the large rocky seabed, which extends to the sea for a few hundred meters, ends. Explore it at low tide and then swim at high tide along the sea bed.
Much safer than swimming will be hiring a local fisherman for a reasonable fee. Ask around. We heard a few “no, there is no fisherman to take you” until we got positive reply. Ask around the hotel you stay in. For half a day and petrol burned we paid Rs 800, which I find to be a very fair price.
Snorkeling at Craggy is great. It is especially fantastic after you have been to Mahatma Gandhi National park’s Jolly Buoy island, where they forced you to snorkel in life west, holding a guide’s hand. Craggy is freedom! Snorkel as much as you like, wherever you like.
Take 2 liters of water per person and to avoid sunburn, take something to create a shade, e.g. take large blanket or sun umbrella. Jungle is too dense to hide into and there is no natural shade on the beach.
Turtle nesting and hatching
Two of the miracles of life you can experience in one place, the Kalipur Beach. From mid-December to March turtles come to Andaman shores to lay eggs. Some 45+ days later, depending on weather and temperature, small turtles will hatch and you can observe them returning back to the ocean.
These Andaman shore are unique, because you may be lucky to meet here four turtle species: Olive Ridley, Leather Back, Green Turtle and Hawks Bill.
Be realistic in your expectations. There will be nights when 4 turtles come, there will be nights when none. Kalipur is for me the easiest place to observe nesting of turtles, because all 3 accommodation options are just a spit away from the beach. Check when the tide is the highest and come one our before high tide. Turtle will already be there or appear within next 2 hours. If one hour after high tide there is no turtle nesting, go back to sleep and come next day.
A guide to respectful turtle nesting observation:
- be respectful to the nature.
- use NO light! Flashing your mobile light to the sea will most likely scare the turtle away. She will not come to the shore that night and you ruin your own chances. If you need to use light, use low red light.
- do not touch and do not obstruct turtle’s journey back to the sea
- respect the forest department rangers instructions, they are there to protect the nature, not to guide you
- do not walk barefoot, there is a chance to meet a snake
Ross and Smith islands
This island duo is pretty iconic and you will see pictures of Ross and Smith islands if you search for highlights of Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. The magic is that Ross and Smith are connected by a sand bridge, so you can walk from one island to the other. Can it get any more romantic?
Ross and Smith are one of very few islands on this planet, you can literally walk the sea from one island to the other. Sand is white, the sea is blue and your holiday pictures will be perfect.
How to get to Ross and Smith?
Boats depart from Aerial Bay Jetty. Boatmen sit in the shade of a bus stop, where boss will check your passports and fill your details in the log book. (In the past you also needed your RAP, but this should be over by the time you read this and reach the island.) Your boatman will then register you with forest department and with the port authority, where you will pay small fee for using the port. Policeman or police woman will check for luggage for dangerous or forbidden items like snorkel and a mask. Here the fun start. Of course you want to snorkel there, you did not fly 3 days and take 13 hour bus to just hang around the beach. No arguments are listened to, snorkeling is allowed only with a certified guide, there is no guide there and certification is done in Goa, which is probably as far as Japan from here…
Inside Coral Queen
Bharat Seema cabin
Getting to North Andaman by Ships
Board the ocean vessel heading south in the evening and at six in the morning you are there. Connection to Port Blair is 3 to 6 times a week. Whenever possible try to travel by clean and tidy Coral Queen. Do avoid cockroaches infested Bharat Seema.
With Andamans having so much to offer, you will need to make choices. If you have 2 weeks or less, you will have to decide between North Andaman and Little Andaman. Both are an overnight journey from Port Blair. Or you would have to skip the touristy Havelock and Neil island. If you have 3 weeks or more, I would certainly visit both remote ends of this world: Little and North Andaman.
Getting to North Andaman by Bus
There are 4 buses daily, running the length of the Andaman trunk road, from Port Blair, heading north to Mayabunder and Diglipur. These run at 4:15, 7:00, 10:00 and last at 12:45. Departure times are scheduled according to times when the convoy crossing thru the Jarawa Forest Reserve is scheduled. Busses return at 7:00, 10:00 and then there is an overnight bus from Diglipur back to Port Blair. State Transport Service, Anand and Geetanjali compete on this route.
Getting around North Andaman
Your main journey within North Andaman is reaching Kalipur from Diglipur. If you arrive by bus from the south, the bus will drop you in Diglipur city center, market area. Public bus is the cheapest and reasonably convenient way to reach Kalipur from Diglipur. Buses leave every hour from Diglipur central market area. Please note that the last bus leaves at 7pm.
Auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) and taxis are also available from Diglipur city center, they cost 300-600 INR one way, depending on you bargaining skills.
Going back, if you want to catch 7 am bus returning to Port Blair, please do not rely on public bus from Kalipur to Diglipur and ask your accommodation to arrange tuk-tuk for you. The first morning bus is there, it runs after 6 am, however it may or may not make it on time …
If you arrive by ship, you will disembark at Aerial Bay jetty. Same Diglipur - Kalipur bus passes by Aerial Bay and will pick you up with no problem. Tuk-tuks and taxis meet arriving ships. It is only 8 km, e.g. half the distance from Aerial Bay to reach Kalipur.
Bus ride North Andaman
Ross and Smith permit counter, North Andaman
The last bus to Kalipur waiting at Diglipur
Aerial bay jetty passenger hall
North Andaman Hotels, Resorts, Accommodation
Within walking distance to Kalipur beach, there are 3 accommodation options:
Saddle Peak View Resort
Faithfull to our tradition and good advice we got from experienced locals, I have put the government’s tourism department run Turtle Resort to the top. It is the best value for money choice here. We have a separate guidebook page about Turtle Resort, please explore it here: https://eagleflyfree.com/en/andaman-islands/turtle-resort-kalipur/
Pristine, however, gets the most of the tourists, for one simple reason. You can book Pristine online (on Agoda, Goibibo), while Turtle you cannot. I am a bit surprised not to see Saddle Peak Resort on global booking platform yet. Speaking to its kind and helpful owner in February 2018, he intended to list it “soon”.
All Resorts have nice, spacious, green territories around them. If Turtle Resort is full, compare the other two. Surprisingly for such a remote place, the competition of three players here keeps quality high and prices reasonable. And one small advice: even if they tell you in Port Blair’s Tourist office, that Turtle is full, still show up and give it a try. Their booking system is based on a large book and telephone …
A room with double bed, running hot water and European toilet will cost from Rs 1200 here at government resort or similarly priced Saddle Peak, while Pristine is the most expensive. North Andaman is very good value for money and with so many things to do, think of spending at least 4 but better 5 days here.
North Andaman Food
Your resort will cook for you breakfast, lunch and dinner. Turtle resort cooks well and prices are very reasonable, as usual at government owned resorts. Pristine menu is much more expensive than Turtles’. The flip-side of being this far from civilization is, that hotels do not keep large stock of food, thus the food on menu may not be available in reality and you are advised to order a day ahead, so they can buy supplies for your food.