After driving through Jarawa tribal land on the Andaman Trunk Road which runs the length of three of the main Andaman Islands, we boarded boats to the famous Limestone Caves in the Homfrey Strait.
After a ride of about 25 minutes we came to a timber jetty at the end of a boardwalk. Rather than stop there we headed into a narrow opening between the mangroves and bumped our way along the narrow channel, jostling with other boats in a chaotic but cooperative manner – rather like Delhi traffic.
Inching forwards we stopped to let other boats out and took our turn at a small pier while we disembarked.
The walk to the limestone caves was one of the highlights of the day. A board walk through the mangroves gave way to a rocky path through a wood and out in the open to farm land with a village in the distance.
After walking through more copses of trees, the path started to become rougher with more rocks to pass through – allowing single file only which proved to be tricky when meeting people coming the other way.
The caves were a good example of the effects of water on limestone and there were some interesting stalactites and stalagmites but they were absolutely heaving with people and it was very hot.
In some places there was room to allow only one person to go through at a time. A nightmare for a anyone who hates crowds and is a little claustrophobic.
Picking up our boat after the cave visit was a typically Indian affair. We were sent along a further piece of boardwalk which took as to the entrance to the mangroves.
Everyone crowded onto the small and rather fragile jetty and as the boats jostled to come in to pick them up, the crowd surged forwards and tried to get down the jetty steps.
The boatmen would unexpectedly push in front of each other so that the people on the steps would have to let the ten other people whose boat had arrived through the crowd to load the boat. Goodness knows how, but everyone managed to board their own vessel without falling in or the jetty collapsing – despite the boats banging into it at full tilt like dodgem cars at a funfair!
Back at the ferry stop we waited to board in the shade of some trees. Goats and cows foraging for food pushed passed us, one giving a none too friendly but quite gentle butt as he passed the Yantaras.
We were among the last to board the ferry figuring last on would be first off.
On the other side there were some thatched open sided huts where we unpacked our picnic on the bench.
After a delicious lunch organised by the famous Ravi – former taxi driver, and a “go to” person in Port Blair we prepared to get back in the car for the trip back.
Just as we were getting in our driver pointed out to elephants walking through the shallows, taking a break from the logging work going on to one side of the ferry terminal.On the drive back we passed one group of young male Jarawas but apart from a policeman on patrol standing guard in the middle of the forest saw no one else.
Once through the checkpoint it was interesting to see the large areas of wetlands covered with many ducks and other water birds that had been created as a result of the 2004 Tsunami.
The inundation of seawater into what were once rice paddies and other farmland areas, resulted in the brackish water wetlands that now attract a variety of different species of water birds.
Before going back home to our boats we stopped in at the new Kalapani museum which sets out to describe the history of The Andaman and Nicobar Islands using dioramas, photographs, original documents and a few artefacts.
It was very interesting but desperately needed some proper organisation with summaries at each point where the subject matter changed. There were many old documents which gave the visitor a little insight into life during for example,the Japanese occupation or at the time of India gaining her independence but there were very few artefacts that could inform and bring exhibits to life.
For more information on travelling through Jarawa tribal land go to
Or for another blog update about cruising the beautiful Andaman Islands go to: