On 15th we went to tour the Baratang Island, famous for the dense Mangrove Forest.It was an adventurous trek to reach the heart of the forest. After crossing the shaky fragile bridge made from tree branches over brackish water where live crocs were looking up to have their lunch, we reached near the mangrove forest. It is one of its kind and world famous. Deep inside the forest there are caves made from limestone deposits,where you will be surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites. Some hell of a view!
I will describe the whole experience in brief. We left at around 2 am in the night from Port Blair. This island comes under the protected area for the adivasi tribe "Jarawas". There are strict rules which have to be followed while going through the forest so as not to temper their habitat. The gate to enter this area opens at fixed timings, no photography, and stopping the car in between is a punishable offence. Cars move in convoy here. We encountered a group of Jarawa children on our way back to Port Blair.After the forest, you have to catch a ferry to reach the island. From the island, we took a speed boat to visit the limestone caves. The caves themselves are not so interesting but on the way, boat goes through the mangroves which was a new experience for us.
If Neil and Havelock were about beaches and water sports, Baratang Island, situated around 120 km from Port Blair is about dense forests, mangroves creeks, limestone caves and a mud volcano. But the highlight of the trip is passing through Jarawa tribal reserve. Jarawas are indigenous people of the Andamans and reportedly only a few hundred are left. Passing through the forest was an adventure. You don’t know but you might just spot a Jarawa member at the next corner.After crossing the Jarawa tribal reserve (cell phones and cameras not allowed in the jungle), you finally come to Baratang Jetty. An 8 km boat ride (it’s scary as it passes through mangrove creeks) you reach a spot from where you need to trek to see the natural formation of lime stone caves and mud volcano. After a half hour trek, you reach a range of caves iced with stalactites and stalagmites. Baratang was completely different from our past experience at Andamans. It was like being on a jungle safari.
Jarawa Tribal Spotting in BaratangIf you are interested to watch out for tribes then go for Baratang day tour. If you are lucky you can spot few tribals. You are not allowed to interact with them.Visit Ancient limestone caves through small boats and experience Mangroves on the way.
A visit to the Baratang Islands is a must do at any cost primarily because of the journey (passing through Jarawa Reserve Forest) and destination (Limestone Caves).The journey is partly by road, and partly by boat. The road passes through a No Overtaking Zone through the Jarawa Reserve forest area and then a ferry ride to Baratang Island.