Our second day began with a trip to the Limestone Caves in Baratang Island. It’s approximately 100 kms from Port Blair.
We woke up early around 2 AM even before the alarm goes off. We managed ourselves to get ready in just half an hour as our car driver Rakesh will arrive at 2:30 AM.
With our breakfast pack in one hand and our DSLR camera bag in other, we started off from the resort around 2:45 AM, from Port Blair heading for Jirkatang check post, with Rakesh at the wheel. We’re on the long, bumpy and the dusty roads which left Lazz to sleep at ease in the car.
We reached the Jirkatang check post around 4:30 AM. As he stopped the car, I woke him up and Rakesh told us that we’ll have to wait until 6 AM for the check post to be opened and asked us to finish up our breakfast. He took our ID cards for registration. As we got down the car, we saw about another 60 vehicles lined up in front of us and a lot more at the back. We walked for a while for a little refreshment and ensured to be back before they open it.
Beyond the check post, all vehicles should leave only in convoy which will be led by armed forest guards at both the ends. There are totally four convoys available at 6 AM, 9 AM, 12 PM and 3 PM time slots. Without convoy, one can’t pass through the jarwa reserve forest and no two wheelers are allowed.
He-who-must-not-be pictured – Jarwa Tribe
Fascinatingly, there’s more to this place than just limestone caves!
The journey from Jirkatang to Baratang drives through Jarwa reserve forest to Middle Strait jetty. Jarwas are one of the nomadic tribe of Andaman and they have continued to thrive in the dense forest. They hunt wild pigs and sea foods, fruits are their sole diet. However, they are hostile to outsiders and this road poses a threat to their tribe.
Andaman Trunk road which passes through the dense Jarwa reserve forest of 49 Kms begins from the check post with a lot of instructions to be followed during the journey. Strictly, no photography is allowed until we cross the reserved forest. No interactions with the Jarwa tribe or stopping the car. Violation of any of the rule will end up in imprisonment. And moreover, none of the vehicles will overtake and will not exceed speed limit of 40 Km/hr.
As soon as the check post opened up at 6 AM, Rakesh asked us to keep all our mobiles and camera inside the bag. While interacting with the people around, one of the drivers told us that we’ll be remanded for six months for any violations. So, I kept all our mobiles and cameras safely inside the bag. All the vehicles passed through the Jarawa reserve forest at a steady speed. Well-organized!
As we passed through the forest, we were eagerly watching out whether it’s true that tribal people still exists here or just hyped. Almost for 45 minutes, we couldn’t see any of them in the forest. Out of curiosity, I asked Rakesh if he had seen any of them in the forest and he said, “Yes, many a time”. I started to admire the stunning view of the forest. It’s so dense that even its hard for sunrays to breach in as the trees looks like closely- knit together to form a canopy.
Around 7 AM, we saw a Jarwa man in a red colored wrap, sitting by the road. He looked like African descent with curly hair and some sort of white powder applied on his face. Rakesh told us that its mud paste. He reminds me of Djimon in King Arthur: The legend of the sword. Even though it’s exciting when you meet someone lasting in a stone-aged life, I felt low and miserable as this resembled human safari. The driver told us that this road will soon be closed as an alternative ferry route is under development as per trials in Supreme Court to preserve the Jarwa tribes in Andaman.
We reached the other end of the Jarwa reserve forest, the Middle Strait jetty around 7:30 AM. We parked our car and took a ferry to reach the other end Nilambur jetty. The ticket costs Rs. 10. It’s a beautiful 10 – 15 minutes picturesque ride amidst lush green mangroves.
From there, it’s another 20 – 30 minutes shared boat ride with a tour guide to Nayadera jetty to see Limestone Caves in Baratang Island. The ticket costs around Rs. 700 – 800.
As you travel through the backwaters, you’ll get to see the beautiful mangrove creeks which resembles tunnel made by Mother Nature. And, the boat ride through the Mangrove creeks itself is interesting as it gives the feeling of channeling through jungle.
At Nayadera jetty, our boat ride ends and we took a walk through the wooden bridge built amidst the mangrove forest. And, a small trek begins which is approximately 2 Kms through the tropical forest. As you reach the entrance, you will see tiny outlets selling lemon water, cucumber etc.
As you walk through, it gets narrower and dark. We have to keep up with our tour guide (By default, Helmsman will be everyone’s tour guide here) as he had LED lights to lead us through the cave and to explain us about the formation of limestone caves.
Can you remember anything from your geology classes? Water containing carbonic acid percolates in rock clefts, thus forming limestone caves. Stalagmite and Stalactite mineral formations in the caves have the beautiful structure. Stalagmites look like rounded deposits that are found on the floor of the cave and Stalactites is an icicle shape formation which hangs down from the ceiling of the cave.
The dark closed spaces made me feel suffocated and had to leave quickly. Next time, I wouldn’t to choose any trekking spots in any of the tour. We returned with our tour guide and reached the Nayadara jetty where people were sent in batch wise as per their boat name.
We reached the Nilambur jetty and had our lunch at a small south Indian hotel. Later, we boarded the ferry so that we don’t miss the 12 PM convoy and reached Port Blair around 4 PM.
On our way back through Jarawa reserve forest, we saw a lot of tribal women and children knocking each vehicles passing through them. I was little frightened as everyone have some sort of sickle in their hand.
It’s a long arduous journey of 12 hours and it took a complete day of our schedule. But, it’s certainly worth a visit!
- Simple attire with shoes or sandals flip-flop is sufficient for the trek. Make sure to wear full sleeved tops and carry a hat or cap to protect yourselves from scorching sun.
- Do not carry any heavy bags. This will lessen your burden during trekking. Carry a small sling bag with a bottle of water.
- When you are riding in boat, do not put your hands in water as you might become a meal to any reptiles. Do not board without a life jacket! Do not try to stand or make any wacky action that would tilt the boat. Be mindful of others in the boat and follow the guidelines for a fun-filled ride!
Senior citizens, people with medical illness and kids can stay off as the trek would be difficult for them. This place is a heaven for trekkers and geology lovers!
Take a look at our first day trip in Andaman to Cellular Jail and Corbyn’s cove beach. We loved visiting Ross Island, Radhanagar beach, Kalapathar Beach, Elephant Beach, Chidiya Tapu in Andaman Islands.
Here is our travel guide to plan your dream trip to Andaman: The Ultimate Andaman and Nicobar Islands – Travel guide.
Here are 14 best Andaman travel tips that’ll help you on your first trip.