India // The Andaman Islands //

North Andaman

Shrouded in dense jungle, North Andaman is the least populated of the region’s large islands, crossed by a single road linking its scattered Bengali settlements. Although parts have been seriously logged, the total absence of driveable roads into northern and western areas has ensured blanket protection for a vast stretch of convoluted coastline, running from Austin Strait in the southwest to the northern tip, Cape Price; it’s reassuring to know at least one extensive wilderness survives in the Andamans.

Despite the completion of the ATR’s final section and the bridge from Middle Andaman, the main settlement of DIGLIPUR continues to exist in relative seclusion. Known in the British era as Port Cornwallis, North Andaman’s largest settlement is another disappointing market town where you’re only likely to pause long enough to pick up a local bus further north to the coast. Unless you are catching a boat (to Smith or Ross islands or back to Port Blair) straightaway from the port of Aerial Bay, 9km northeast, it’s better to continue another 9km to Kalipur, where there’s an excellent deserted beach, backed by lush forest and covered in photogenic driftwood. Swimming is best at high tide because the water recedes across rocky mud pools. Offshore snorkelling is also excellent, especially along the reef that runs towards the islet barely 500m away.

It’s possible to walk from Kalipur to Saddle Peak, the highest mountain in the Andamans at 737m, which rises dramatically to the south, swathed in lush jungle. Permission to make the three- to four-hour climb must be obtained from the Range Officer at the forest checkpost near the start of the ascent, but don’t attempt it without a guide and plenty of drinking water. Another enjoyable day-trip is to the limestone caverns, 12km south near Ramnagar beach, best accessed by dinghy from Kalipur. You can arrange a dinghy, or guide for the Saddle Peak climb, at Pristine Beach Resort.

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