Deep in the Bay of Bengal about 1000km from the east India coast lies the most remote Indian state of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The area is renowned for exquisite beaches, rainforest covered islands and outstanding scuba diving and snorkelling on the pristine reefs filled with wonderful marine life. As a destination the islands are still relatively undiscovered by the masses and therefore certainly worth the effort to get there.
Jalakara, the first boutique hotel in the Andaman Islands, is now open on the island of Havelock. Nestled on a hillside and with a backdrop of virgin rainforest, the strong design aspect of this hotel is very different from anything else in the Andaman Islands.
Just seven rooms and suites are available. Six of them are in a hacienda style cluster around a central courtyard whilst the Honeymoon Villa is separated to ensure a very private retreat for couples. Guests staying here can savour seasonal dishes made using the freshest ingredients in the restaurant. The centrepiece of the hideaway is the spectacular 16 metre panoramic ‘ozone’ infinity pool.
The concept is that you feel very much ‘at home’ as if you were staying with friends. The goal is pure relaxation and escapism. Outside the hotel, the nearest glorious beach is a 10 minute walk away but guests will be also encouraged to explore the island and the plan is to provide local mobile phones so as to call staff when they would like to be collected having ventured out. Water-based activities are plenty here and the hotel works with a local dive centre to allow guests to enjoy diving, snorkelling and salt-water fishing.
Not far from Jalakara is Barefoot at Havelock, an eco-friendly retreat right on a beautiful beach. The style here is rustic and the philosophy one of sustainable and socially responsible tourism. Indigenous materials were used to build the whole, rainwater is recycled and the staff is mostly local. This is a sublime place to detach yourself from the world.
For those wishing to see the islands from a different perspective and perhaps more than just Havelock, there is also the option of taking a live-aboard boat. The luxurious 39 metre and four level Infiniti boat accommodates up to 12 people and comes staffed with a full crew to look after your every need as well as a full complement of diving equipment (including specialist diving experts and the authority to issue PADI qualifications).
Inside the boat is very spacious with plenty of room for relaxation in the cool air-conditioned interiors and the en-suite bedrooms. Days can be spent scuba diving, snorkelling, exploring the islands through rainforest walks and beach visits. The boat is also equipped for those with an interest in underwater photography and upon request a specialist naturalist can be provided to truly understand this unspoilt and remote ecosystem.
The Andaman Islands combine well with mainland India, particularly the North East as well as Bhutan due to current flight schedules.