A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More

Tripoto
5th Dec 2019
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Baratang island is located between South and Middle Andaman. The island is blessed with the natural wonders-  dense mangrove forests, mud volcano and limestone cave. Not only that, to reach this island you have to traverse through the Jarawa Reserve Forest Area - the abode of most primitive tribes of Andaman and if you are lucky, you can spot one or many of them during the journey. If you are in Andaman, you should never miss this trip.

Who did I go with ?

It’s a one day trip from Port Blair to Port Blair conducted in a shared AC coach or private cab. You can book this trip with any island based travel agency or can go on your own. The permit is required for this trip. If you book with travel agency, they will take care of everything. I booked this trip in a shared AC bus with ‘onlineandaman.com.’ conducted by ‘Monica Travels’. The seat number would be provided just a day before the trip.

When & where to be picked up ?

I was supposed to be picked up near Clock Tower, Aberdeen Market by 3. 30 am. Although it was a 5 minutes walk from my hotel, still the thought of walking alone down the empty road of Port Blair at that hour of night made me get little scared. The hotel staffs had assured me that there was nothing to worry as Port Blair is a peaceful place.

I woke up as early as 2 am and got ready. I stepped out on the road around 3.25 am. The hotel staff who had opened the main gate for me, accompanied me a few steps on my request.

Then, I started walking alone along the empty but well -lighted street of Port Blair and soon I reached Aberdeen Market. It was then 3.30 by the Clock Tower. The shops were all closed. There was no soul around. The bustling market is now silent and lonely. Unlike the roads, only the dim street lights lit up the market area. As I was looking around, I saw a bright light came out of an open door. I went there and saw an elevated platform by the door. Sitting on it, I was waiting for the bus while watching the surroundings. After a while, a lone passer-by walked past across the road. One or two bikes passed by at full speed. It was quite thrilling.

The journey began !

After 10 minutes’ wait, the bus came and I borded. After giving a short tour in Port Blair for picking up other tourists waiting at different points, the bus started moving speedily through empty Andaman Trunk Road which connects Port Blair to Middle Andaman. The driver provided all of us the necessary forms that need to be filled – in and handed over to him for getting permit. Road was good and initially, the journey was comfortable.

The journey to Baratang takes place in two phases : Port Blair to Jirkatang and then Jirkatang to Baratang.

Portblair to Jirkatang ( 40 km)

The dawn broke slowly. We got to see a clear view of the route around 5 am. We were going through the tropical forest area of Andaman. Soon we reached at Jirkatang Check- post- the gateway to Jarawa Tribe area.

We were parked at the end of a long queue of traffic of taxis, buses, trucks, minibuses. Soon many more vehicles joined the queue behind us.

Long queue of traffic at Jirkatang Check Post

Photo of Jirkatang Check Post, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India by Vaswati

Jirkatang is a small village on the way to Baratang. There are a few roadside stalls where you can have your breakfast and tea. Public washrooms are also available there.

First convoy starts at 6.30 am. So you get the sufficient time to have refreshment and explore the stalls around or you can take a short hike up to the check-post to have a complete view of the convoy belt.

I was carrying cakes, biscuits and other dry foods with which I finished my breakfast and sat on the bus while our driver went to complete the formalities at the check post.

Journey through the Jarawa Reserve Forest

Jirakatang to Middle Strait jetty ( 49 km )

The convoy started moving by 6.30 am. We gradually set off our journey through Jarawa Reserve Forest Area. It is said that army vehicles escort all the vehicles for this part of the journey but we were in the middle of the long queue and did not see any army vehicle. The narrow winding pitched road is going through the dense tropical rain forest with trees forming the canopy at times. Taking halts, overtaking, photography or interacting with Jarawa people are strictly prohibited along this 49 km stretches. We all were eagerly waiting to have a glimpse of these tribal people through the bus window. Suddenly our driver pointed outside in front of the bus and we saw a Jarawa guy coming on an open hood small truck. Dark in colour with no clothes in the upper part and a beaded necklace around the neck. After a while, we saw two Jarawa kids stood by the road staring the convoy. The bows and long arrows in their hands. A couple of minutes later, a Jarawa child suddenly jumped on the road out of the jangle and began running along the convoy for a few minutes and then disappeared in the jungle again. They all were dark black, some of them wearing half pants with no clothes on the upper part but we saw a few kids wearing shirts also. As photography is strictly prohibited, I was not able to capture the Jarawas. We reached at Middle straight jetty by 9 am.

Distant view of Middle Strait Jetty

Photo of Middle Strait Check Post, Middle Strait Jetty, Great Andaman Trunk Road, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India by Vaswati

Middle Strait jetty to Nilambar jetty at Baratang Island

A narrow creek separates Jirkatang to Baratnag. Ferries are available from Middle Strait Jetty to reach Nilambar Jetty at Baratang Island. The vehicles were parked near the jetty. Dense Mangrove forests are lined up on either side of the strait. The ferry here is big enough to accommodate buses, cars, bikes as well as passengers. It has two parts, inside there are seats for the passengers to sit and the front side is spacious to take the vehicles.

You can go to the upper floor on the ferry to get a beautiful view of the dense mangrove forests and creeks. It took almost 20 odd minutes to cross the strait. From Nilambar jetty you have to take the free permit to visit Baratang Island.

Nilambar Jetty

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Large ferry at Nilambar Jetty, Baratang

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

View of the strait from Ferry

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

The places to see in the Baratang island:

A mud volcano is caused by the eruption of hot mud, slurries, gases and water from the ground forming a dome like mud structure. These are not true-blue volcanoes as they do not erupt lava and are not necessarily driven by magmatic activity. The smallest mud volcanoes may just be a couple of meters wide while the largest could be a few kilometres wide. Baratang island houses India’s only active mud volcano.

After having our packed breakfast, we started for mud volcano. A 4 km journey along the narrow road through the tropical rain forests takes you to the entrance of the spot.

From the entrance, a long stairway leads to the Volcano area. It passes through a jungle although surroundings are beautiful.

The main area has 3 to four mud volcano mouth is cordoned off with a bamboo fence. The eruption was very slow. As soon as we reached there, everyone got busy to make a video of the volcanos.

The entrance of the mud volcano site

Photo of Mud Volcano, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India by Vaswati

Stiarway towards Mud Volcano

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

After spending some time, we all got back to the jetty following the same route.

Limestone cave is formed over millions of years when various deposits of marine life, shells, corals and skeletons undergo a natural compression to form unique shapes within the cave.

Journey to the Limestone cave undertakes in two parts :

Nilambar Jetty to Nayadara Jetty :

A boat ride from the Baratang (Nilambar) jetty through the creek flunked by thick mangrove forests on either side, takes you to the starting point of the trek. Vast expanse of Mangrove forests on either side of the creek is soothing to eyes. But the day was hot, the sun was shining brightly and it was feeling a little beat uncomfortable. Although I was carrying my hat but it was quite difficult to wear it during boat ride due to strong wind.

Boat ride through the creek

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

After almost an hour journey, the boat entered a narrow waterway with a canopy of mangrove trees above.

A couple of minutes journey through this winding way leads you to the bamboo jetty called Nayadara Jetty. We all embarked on the jetty that is leading the walking trail.

Narrow winding waterway

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Nayadara Jetty

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Nayadara Jetty to Limestone Cave :

Then a pleasant walk of 3 km through soiled trail along the dense forests and cultivated land take you to the cave. The mud trail is filled with the root of the large trees around, so you have to be careful while walking. The boat operator would act as a guide all the way to the cave.

The trek route to Cave

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

While walking on the trail, I struck a conversation with a fellow traveler who happened to be a Bengali and  was travelling along with her son. In the course of conversation, I got to know that her husband had come to Port Blair on transfer, a couple of months back. She had done this trip earlier during the rainy season. Her son studies in Chennai and he had come to home and wanted to do this trip. To give him a company, she was doing this trip again. She was telling that the trail becomes muddy and extremely slippery during rainy season making it almost inaccessible to the tourist. 

On the way, we found some small stalls given by the local people. They were selling fruits mainly cucumbers, nice cool lemonade, guavas etc. We all  sat there to take rest and had some fruits and drink.

Suddenly, one of us spots an Indian Monitor Lizard crawling on the ground in the roadside jungle area. All was getting busy taking its photographs. I was busy eating so I missed it. Soon we reached the entrance of the cave. It was dark and quite thrilling.

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Near the entrane of the cave

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

The inside of the cave is also dark, you need to use a torch to see the limestone formation. It is also cooler than outside. The guide will narrate the history and show you all the details inside the cave. The walls of the limestone takes various shapes of Ganesh idol, Conch, elephant head etc.

The Conch shape

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

The elephant shape

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

The guide took us to the deeper part of the cave through a narrow path to show the stalactite and stalagmite formations. After spending a quality time inside the cave we start our return trek to the Bamboo jetty and then by boat that takes you to the Baratang jetty.

Sitting place on the bamboo jetty

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati
Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Food options are limited there, you can have your lunch at Port Canteen on the first floor of the building just opposite to the jetty. The both quality and quantity of the food was good. After filling your stomach, you can go for a giant coconut drink found in plenty near the jetty. It seemed ferry service is not very frequent. We had to wait an hour sitting in the small shades near the jetty.

Distant view of Port Canteen

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

The Permit office at Baratang island

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Shades near the jetty

Photo of A Day Trip to Baratang Island Ended up Seeing Jarawa tribes and Many More by Vaswati

Journey back to PB :

The ferry came by 3 pm. As soon as the ferry came, the place would be an inferno of humans and traffic as well. People went inside the ferry to seat, the buses, bikes, trucks went on to it. We went to the upper floor of the ferry to enjoy the ride. We had to wait again at the Nilambar jetty  for the bus to start. The convoy started at 3.30 pm. As the bus started moving, we saw a small group of Jarawa children sitting by the road, smiling and staring at us. Rest of the journey was uneventful. We reached Port Blair by 7 pm.

Best time to go :

You can go throughout the year but the best time to go in winter otherwise 30 min. boat ride to visit limestone cave won’t be enjoyable and the trail becomes muddy during the rainy season. Carrying sun cap is must. This island is closed on Monday.

Getting there:

Nearest airport is Port Blair which is connected with all major cities of India.