We were sticky with sweat and exhausted from steadying ourselves on the jungle mud that had turned into clay slip under the rains of that morning. But now the thick Indian jungle opened up, and the pathway slid into a shallow but vast mangrove up ahead. We have never been in mangroves before, and we gaped at the brown water slowly turning grey-blue to bright turquoise as it gently extended out in between the trees and towards the azure Andaman Sea beyond. Our guide raised his palm to his thigh, indicating how high the water will reach during high tide in these mangroves, and I proceeded to take off my trainers that were by then covered in thick dark brown jungle sludge. We waded through the big old trees and their young shoots, equal parts amazed by this completely unfamiliar landscape, and relieved to have left behind the slippery and wholly unstable jungle earth behind us (along with the pressing heat and humidity trapped beneath the canopy). Very soon we were on the eastern end of Elephant Beach, where crystal clear waters swallow the finest white sand in small gentle waves, framed at every turn by Mangrove trees teetering between the edge of the jungle and the ocean. And – after our jungle trek – we never felt like we deserved dipping into those bluest blue water more.
ELEPHANT BEACH: WHAT TO EXPECT
Do not expect elephants! If you’ve ever looked up Havelock island, you may have read about Rajah, the 60-year-old elephant who loved to swim – you could even go out and swim with him! Unfortunately, this BFG died just a few years ago.
Elephant beach is one of the two most popular beaches on Havelock, so even though it’s the least accessible, it’s actually surprisingly busy. There were lots of people who came in on boats, quite a few market stalls selling fruits and snacks, a couple of jet skis being driven around, and some locker stands that’ll cost you about 50 – 100inr for a couple of hours.
Elephant beach is not really for sunbathing. The sand is soft and the water stunning, but the beach is mostly covered in the shade of the jungle and the mangroves. It’s an incredible place to snorkel, though, and definitely has the best snorkeling on the island! There’s a pretty contained reef right in the bay, with wildly diverse sea life flitting about the coral.
This reef makes Elephant Beach the most popular beach for snorkeling (the other snorkel beach would be Beach #2), and there are a ton of guys renting masks, snorkels, and floating devices, and offering their services as snorkeling guides.
HOW TO GET THERE
Elephant beach is only accessible via a 2.3 km jungle trek or via boat from the main jetty. We opted for the hike, as we wanted to experience a jungle trek anyways. We’ve heard some bad things about how muddy the path can be after the monsoon season, but we asked the local guys at our resort and everyone seemed to think it would be okay, so we set off for the trek.
THE START OF THE TRAIL
First of all, if you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know what a fan I am of maps.me – so download the app before you go to Havelock for sure. The start of the trail is clearly marked on there.
There are two main roads on the island – the 4 and the 5. The 5 runs north to south, and the 4 connect at the circle in Govind Nagar village and runs perpendicular to the 5. The trail to Elephant Beach starts at the bus stop about two thirds of the way down this road from the central village.
So head down the 4, continue left when you reach the main petrol station, and the bus stop is just a couple of bends and curves away.
A group of local men will offer to guide you through the trail. The rate we were given (and they would not budge) was 1000inr for the trek guide only, and 2000inr for a trek and snorkeling guide.
DO NOT TAKE THE GUIDE – if you’re visiting in the dry season and it hasn’t been raining for a while. The path, in this case, is pretty straight forward.
TAKE THE GUIDE – if you’re super afraid of snakes. Because you do see snakes on Havelock; we saw a bright green snake cross the path right in front of us.
TAKE THE GUIDE! – if it has been raining.
I would not recommend doing this trek if you’re visiting in the monsoon season. The earth in these jungles become like soft, extremely slippery clay. Even though we were doing it in the transition month between the wet and dry season, Joel sunk into the mud up to his mid calves, and I took a fall right on my butt – I don’t want to know what this trail is like when it has been dumping rain.
The guide does not point out plants and insects and stuff. His repertoire consists of leading the way and warning us with ‘slippery, sir/ma’am’ or ‘not slippery.’ Still, it is a huge help to be able to just follow in the footsteps of someone who knows exactly where to step and what to hold on to.
Once you’re onto the trail, it’s very straight forward and highly unlikely that you’ll get lost. There are two little wooden huts on the way, and one or two signs giving the distance to the beach. Just follow the well trodden path until it dips into the mangroves.
If it’s high tide, take off your shoes, and wade into the mangroves – just be careful of some roots jutting out beneath the waters. The water won’t really go higher than you’re thighs, so just remove your phone from your pocket! Head slightly to the left towards the sea once you enter the mangroves for easiest access.
You’ve arrived at Elephant Beach once you hit the sand banks! Keep heading left under the trees and over the mangrove stumps until you’ve reached the little market area. Keep going until you see a group of guys with snorkeling masks hanging off a tree. The reef is just across from them in that gorgeous cyan water – grab your mask and cool off in the bluest blue; you’ve certainly deserved it!
The hike is hot and can be a bit frustrating if the mud is slippery, but all of this is far outweighed by how stunning the scenery is! If you’re visiting in dry season, definitely for sure 100% you have to walk this walk; if you’re there in the transition season (November – December) and it has been showering off and on, still you have to have to definitely go. You’ll appreciate the beauty of Elephant Beach even more. Just set your expectations, be ready to get your hands dirty, and be prepared by following these few before-you-go rules below:
BEFORE YOU GO
- WEAR PROPER SHOES! Especially if it has been raining. The walk is much more comfortable that way. But be prepared for it to get dirty – my shoes were caked with mud after the walk.
- Grab a walking stick at the start of the trail (if it’s a bit muddy) – it’ll give you just that extra bit of stability.
- Do not walk with your phone in your hand for taking quick pictures. Put it away in your back pack, in case you you slide and automatically use your hands to catch yourself in the mud.
- Bring water to keep hydrated, and some mosquito spray if you want to be extra careful