Baratang Island holds natures most unique treasures. It is a long ride but absolutely worth the visit. IT is approximately 80sq km and is on the west from Havelock. The island is geologically significant with its mud volcanoes and limestone caves. Baratang presents wonderful short trekking opportunities through the Ranchi village off the South Creek, taking detours into a number of limestone caves. The Road journey from Port Blair to Baratang is through an evergreen dense rainforest. The natural dense rain forests of Andaman’s can be explored only in tour form. The beauty of dense rain forest, credendo of birds and ancient tribal reserve areas are the things you experience in this 5-hour journey from Port Blair to Baratang by road.
(Mangroves at Baratang Island)
After this ride through the Andaman Trunk Road it takes an hour and a half to visit the famous limestone caves by ferry ride. Indias only active Mud Volcano is located 9 kms from Baratang where hot air bubbles from the mud. Panchayat guesthouses and cheap hotels are available in Baratang for night stay.
(Lime stone Caves at Baratang)
South Button Island – Located on the south west of Havelock Island is a tiny magical island with shallow reefs which are now protected space by the government. The island is a part of Rani Jhansi Marine National Park and can reach there within 2 hours of a motorboat ride. It is a popular diving destination and holds an array of the most incredible sea life around the island.
(Snorkelling at South Button)
The coral reefs at South Button are mostly dead due to global warming but the schools of fish like Snappers, Barracuda, Trevally, Sweetlips, Groupers, Angel fish and Butterfly are still around. Lucky visitors are able to see Turtles, Devil Rays and Manta Rays if they choose to dive here. The dugong and water lizard make their home there but I wasn’t lucky to see anything without gills myself. The experience here was priceless!
(Corals found and safely returned to the ocean)
Activities: Snorkeling, the practice of swimming and floating on water with minimum basic equipment ie a dive mask, swimming fins, and a snorkel (breathing tube) is one of my favourite activities on earth. Snorkelling is a once in a lifetime experience in the Andamans as is diving I’m sure. One can rent out a boat for the day for Rs 6000 between 2 to 6 people to go snorkeling to points like Elephant beach and South Button. Kayaking for 3 hours costs about Rs 1100, and Snorkelling alone around Havelock can be Rs 1600. A one time dive is Rs 4500 while a diving course with Andaman Bubbles and Dive India for Dive Master starts at Rs 40,000 to train. One can be escorted by a school of dolphins or see a giant sea tortoise or a flying fish and is totally worth the experience. Main places for diving are the lighthouse and elephant beach on Havelock. The rich marine life consists of variety of coral reefs which have been reduced to less than half and must be preserved, dazzling fish, shells, turtles, salt-water crocodiles, dolphin and manta ray.
(Forest by the beach on Havelock)