Approximately 150 km north from Port Blair is the Baratang island. It is a small island with only 3 small districts within – South Creek, Adazig and Nilumbur. Baratang island is a part of the North and Middle Andaman group of islands. If you want to enter a world away from the chaos of the modern world, then Baratang is the place you must visit. The island is so remote that the central region of the island has almost no inhabitants at all therefore mobile networks are pretty scarce and thus the Internet is very rare.
A Brief Peek into the History
During the colonial period, Baratang Island was a place of a rush. This island was a hub for plantations, logging, and agriculture. Imagine huge logs cut down manually and towed through jungle floors by Asian elephants. The logs had to be transported to sawmills nearby, so the colonials found an innovative and cost-effective way to do so. Instead of burning down tons of diesel on the bumpy jungle road, they made rafts out of the same logs and then towed them along with the water current using minimal effort. This still continues on a very small scale and you can still find rafts tied using logs at the jetties of the Baratang.
Ride through the mangroves to see the Limestone Caves. There are ways to reach Baratang island either you can go for a boat ride or you can go for the road journey. The journey takes place on the Andaman trunk road were in a region reserved for Jarawas vehicles have to follow convey system.
Baratang island has now emerged as a famous tourist spot in recent years. The eruption of Mud Volcano, the popular Limestone caves, the untouched Baludera beach, and the almost ethereal Parrot island have made Baratang a tourist hub.
Here’s a list of Top 5 Things To Do in Baratang
1. Visit the Limestone Caves
Limestone caves are situated approx. 3-4 km south of the Nilambur jetty. By a speed boat it takes around 15 minutes, so hold onto your hats and then it takes another 15 minutes of trekking in the jungle so no heels.
The journey on the speedboat is the best part of the journey to the limestone caves. Gliding across the creeks in a speedboat wearing a life jacket surrounded with mangrove forest will fuel up your inner “Indiana Jones” or “Bear Grylls”.
Gliding into the narrow waterway you will reach a small jetty. There will be a 15 minutes trek in the jungle you will have small huts along the path to rest and as the journey ends you will reach the entrance of the cave. There’s only one entrance to the cave so you might have to wait for your turn to get in.During the journey, it is advisable to be with the group you came with.
2. See the Mud Volcano
So starting off with a little history, the mud volcano first erupted in 1988. Basically it went all kaboom in the evening and the next day, an area as big as a football field was covered in mud and rose up to around 6-7 feet. The teak plantations around the area were burnt and only trunks of the trees were left. My father, a then resident of Baratang, told me about it.
This Mud Volcano now lies about 7 kms from the Nilambur Jetty and is located in is locally called Jarawa Creek.
Now about the Volcano itself, when one thinks about a volcano the first thing that comes to the mind is a huge mountain, lava flowing around, hot gases and a magnificent view, but for this volcano, it ain’t true.
The mud volcano is visually not very stunning but it is a very rare geographical phenomenon so you may want to visit this place. The mud volcano basically is a small bubbling pile of mud. There are many smaller mud volcanoes in the Jarawa creek area.
3. Take a Trip to Parrot Island
The island takes nearly 30-40 mins to reach from Nilambur jetty. The island is famous for large gatherings of parrots as the name suggests. If you want to enjoy the parrot island, you will have to go there in dusk. This means you will have to stay in Baratang for a Night. If you are a nature-lover this island will give you memories for a lifetime. Thousands of parrots chirping and flying around the small island is something out of a fantasy world.
This island is not a place everyone visits and the chances that your boat may be one of the only one is high. It’s a very romantic journey; the sunset is gorgeous. Imagine ending the day to the sound /view of parrots, the dipping sun, the sound of water and the mangroves around. You will have to stay for a night and ask the boat association about 3 hours in advance to arrange a boat. It will cost 3500 for up to 5 people on a boat and 700/extra person – charges. Timing is between 4 pm to 6.30 pm.
4. Spend some time at Baludera beach
Baludera beach is located at about 9 kms from the Nilambur jetty. Popular among (not so many) locals, this beach is quite isolated and there are no shops/facilities around here either. So if you are someone who needs to have small bites every few minutes be prepared beforehand. Talking about the beach, it has a long curved stretch; there is a big problem of sandflies if you are going to the beach in the evening so take necessary precautions. You can skip the beach if you are in Baratang just for a day. But if you are staying for a night you can go and see the sunrise.
5. Eat local Thalis
There are several small dhabas around the Nilambur jetty where you can relish the taste of local Andamani food. The Andaman cuisine is actually a blend of cuisines from different parts of the country because of the diversity in settlers from all over India. The dhaba thalis (meals) serve a mixture of dishes from Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. You can also try some local snacks. My personal favorite is “Goli”, a snack prepared by frying a paste of refined flour mixed with sugar. It has a crispy outer crust and a soft inner core and is best had with a cup of tea. Talking about thalis, the Nilambur jetty has a canteen at the jetty itself (Port Canteen) where you can try “macchi suruva” and ”bhaath” I.e. fish curry and rice. After a long day or bumpy ride, under the sun, having this as lunch will make your day.
The journey to Baratang should be on your list if you are visiting the Andaman Islands. Make sure you have enough days at hand because there is so much to see and often people get stuck with the limited time in the Islands. I also suggest you stay a night in Baratang, so you can take a trip to see Parrot island.
Aditya was born in Rangat, Middle Andaman. He has traveled all over the Andaman and Nicobar islands, lived with Nicobaris and been to Baratang over a dozen times. He is a 3rd generation resident of the islands.