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Visit Diglipur - North Andaman Island, India - The Andaman Odyssey
Diglipur is the largest town situated in North Andaman Island. It is the northernmost point in the chain of Andaman Islands that has facilities for travellers. Diglipur houses some of the most unique sights that you will not get to see anywhere in India; like Ross & Smith Islands (twin islands that unite through a sand bar during low tide), Saddle peak (highest peak in Andaman), mud volcanoes (the small bubbling puddles that spurt out mud), Lamiya Bay beach (popular for ‘arribadas’), and Kalpong River (only flowing river on Andaman Island). Already sold? Well, read on to know more about Diglipur, how to reach there, and detailed information on places to stay and visit in Diglipur.
👉Where is Diglipur?
Diglipur (North Andaman) is located about 300 kilometres away by road from the capital city of Port Blair (South Andaman). By sea, it is 180 kilometres or 160 nautical miles away from Port Blair. The Andaman Trunk Road that runs from Port Blair ends in Diglipur, connecting major towns like Baratang, Rangat, and Mayabunder in between.
👉How to reach Diglipur?
There are three ways to reach Diglipur: via road, sea, and air. However, only the road and sea routes are reliable.
It takes around 12 hours to reach Diglipur from Port Blair via road. Either book a bus (government or private) or hire a private car.
As discussed in our previous blogs on North and Middle Andaman, you will have to take to the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) to reach Diglipur via roadways. The route is as follows:
Port Blair – Jirkatang – Jarawa Tribal Reserve – Baratang – Kadamtala – Rangat – Nimbudera – Mayabunder – Diglipur
You may or may not halt for a night in one of the towns in between based on your preference. Night journeys are not allowed on this route. It is possible to reach Diglipur in a single day from Port Blair; however, be ready for a tiring journey. This is because of bad road conditions and lots of waiting time in between when you will have to cross creeks on the way by getting on a government ferry along with your vehicle. To complete the journey in a single day, start as early as 4 or 5 AM from Port Blair.
The government buses run from the Central bus station at Aberdeen Bazaar in Port Blair. The private buses have several pick-up points from the Port Blair town, so enquire beforehand from the bus service operator you book with and select the one nearest to your hotel. Advance bookings are highly recommended in both cases.
It takes around 10 hours to reach Diglipur from Port Blair via a ferry.
Only government ferries operate from Port Blair to Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur (and back). The ferry runs 3-4 times a week and takes a pitstop at Rangat before reaching Diglipur. The bookings open only 1 or 2 days before the departure, and tickets are issued from the STAR ticket counters in Port Blair. The return tickets need to be booked from Diglipur itself. The good thing about travelling to Diglipur via government ferry is that they are convenient, and overnight sails are available that don’t eat up your entire day. However the drawback is that you cannot cover every attraction along the way.
Seaplanes do not fly from Port Blair to Diglipur yet. Wherever you find this information, it is wrong! Helicopters only fly to Diglipur in case of some medical emergencies. There is no scheduled helicopter departure. If vacant seats are available in one such helicopter, tourists can book them on the spot. Hence, you cannot rely on air journeys to reach Diglipur.
The good news is a new airport is being constructed in Diglipur and is in its completion stages. Once operational, Diglipur will be connected to Port Blair via Andaman Airways, and the travel time will reduce to 45 minutes or 1 hour.
Given the above options, we would recommend the following -
If you are a budgeted traveller, take ferry for onward journey to Diglipur and bus while returning or vice-versa. This way you can experience best of both journeys. You can also stop midway while on bus and take another bus the next day hence covering various attractions in Middle Andaman
If budget is not an issue, hire a private cab from Port Blair for your entire journey. They may charge INR 3000-4500 per day based on size of car and how well you can negotiate
👉What is the best time to visit Diglipur?
The best time to visit Diglipur is from October to March. The weather is charming during these months and is ideal for sightseeing. It starts becoming hot in Diglipur from March and April. May to June is the peak summer season, whereas the monsoon begins by the end of June. Visiting Diglipur is not recommended in the peak monsoon months from July to September because of incessant rainfall and strong weather winds.
The Andaman Trunk Road to Diglipur, which passes through the Jarawa Tribal Reserve, closes down intermittently in monsoon due to tree falls. Even the government ferries connecting Port Blair to Diglipur and the two creeks in between stop operating due to flooding, high tidal waves, and rough sea conditions.
👉How many nights should one stay in Diglipur?
All the sightseeing places or the places to visit in Diglipur can be covered at ease if you stay for 3 nights in the town. You require 3 full days to visit everything, out of which one entire day goes in trekking to the Saddle Peak, one day in exploring Ross & Smith Islands, and one additional day for the rest of the places.
👉What are the places to visit in Diglipur?
1. Saddle Peak
At 2420 feet, Saddle Peak is the highest peak in the Andamans. Its base is located in the Saddle Peak National Park, about 11 kilometres away from the Aerial Bay Jetty in Diglipur. Here, you will have to procure permission to enter the National Park (fill a form) and pay a certain permit fee. No prior permission is required in advance, and you can do this while starting your trek to Saddle Peak. The permit counter is open from 6 AM to 2 PM.
The trek to Saddle Peak is easy to moderate in difficulty level. However, the trek is long (about 13 kilometres one way), so if you wish to trek the entire way to the peak, you should be physically fit and, most importantly, start as early as possible. The National Park starts losing natural light as early as 4 PM due to the dense forest cover.
We started our trek to Saddle Peak a bit late (around 8 AM). The initial 7 kilometres of the trail is an easy walk through the dense tropical forest alongside the sea. The trail is well marked with signposts (no guides required) and if you are confused, follow the beach. The forest houses tall and huge trees that opened up at some places to give access to the sea. We also came across a few water streams that were completely dried up, but big logs were placed to cross them easily. Whenever we needed a break, we looked for a clearing and took a rest on the shore.
After an easy walk for 7 kilometres, we took a right to enter the dense jungle and started ascending towards Saddle Peak. We climbed the natural steps formed by the roots of big old trees and followed the trail. The tree canopy kept the trail quite cool and saved us from the scorching afternoon heat. Anyhow, we were lucky it was a bit cloudy that day. We reached the peak after 6 hours, and to our dismay, the distant view was completely foggy. It was unclear where the sea ended, and the sky began. As we were already running out of time, we took a few pictures and started descending.
The descent was relatively easy, but as the distance was long, it still took us 4 hours to get back to the base. We walked the last stretch of the descent in complete darkness with the help of our mobile torch lights. We knew that the forest did not house wild animals, but it still was scary. We reached back by around 6 PM and hence highly advise everyone to start early to get back in daylight.
Was the trek to Saddle Peak worth it? We do not think so. The trek is too time-consuming and strenuous with what you get in return. For us, it was disappointing. But we really loved walking alongside the beach in the forest. If you are not interested in summitting the peak, you definitely should at least enter the National Park (the entrance fee isn’t expensive), walk for a few kilometres following the trail, admire the sandy shores and dense tree cover, and return back without actually ascending the peak. The beaches would be completely deserted and feel private. This way, you will also get access to the Lamiya Bay beach and the turtle hatchery that borders the Saddle Peak National Park.
Entrance fee and permit to the Saddle Peak National Park – INR 50 per person
Camera fee – INR 500
Tip – Carry sufficient food and water, and wear comfortable shoes and clothes
Interesting fact - Saddle peak and as such entire Andaman Islands are part of Himalayan ranges! Himalayas extend to North-East of India, Myanmar, submerge under the ocean and rise up as Andamans.
2. Lamiya Bay beach
The Lamiya Bay Beach is located at the foot of the Saddle Peak trekking trail. It lies about 12 kilometres away from the Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur. As stated above, entry charges have to be paid to enter the beach premises as it is located in the Saddle Peak National Park. The forest officials have installed eco-friendly infrastructure for the tourists on the beach, including bamboo huts, wooden tables, sit-outs, and log-sofas.
Lamiya Bay beach is a lesser-known turtle nesting site in Andamans where even mass turtle nesting events (arribadas) have been observed. There is a covered hatchery taken care of by the forest officials who even perform night vigils during the nesting season. The beach is seldom visited by any tourist, and it’s highly likely that you find the entire stretch to yourself. Visit the beach for a peaceful time amidst nature.
3. Ross and Smith Islands
The moment we saw the first pictures of Ross & Smith Islands while researching the trip, we were sold. Ross & Smith Islands are twin islands that get connected via a strip of 50 metre sand bar during low tide and again separated as individual islands during high tide. You can actually walk on the sand bar and go from one island to the other during your visit.
The boat for Ross & Smith Islands alights from the Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur. From the jetty, you need to obtain a permit (as the islands fall under a protected marine sanctuary), pay the necessary permit fee, and buy the return boat tickets. The boat accommodates 5-10 people and if you are not in a group, wait for some time for other tourists to share the cost. After a 25-minute boat ride, you get down at the Smith Island and get 3 hours to explore the islands.
We were able to see the beautiful twin islands from the boat itself. The islands are surrounded by turquoise blue crystal-clear water. Once on Smith Island, we decided to walk the sand bar and explore Ross Island first. The natural sand bar is formed by fine, white, grainy sand and is surrounded by a picturesque sea on both sides. As your boat approaches the islands, Ross Island is the small one on the right. It is mostly covered with dense foliage, and there are just a few eco-huts where you can rest and spend some time admiring the beauty of nature. We were not allowed to swim anywhere near Ross Island or surrounding the sand bar.
Smith Island is the one on left, is bigger, has a lot of facilities like seating benches, changing rooms, bamboo huts, and toilets. There’s a dedicated marked area surrounding Smith Island where we were allowed to enter the water and swim. There weren’t any water sports facilities to our relief (water sports facilities usually result in more crowds and unclear water which we tend to avoid). We carried our own snorkelling gear, but the officials did not allow us to use the mask and the tube (bummer). However, we swam in the not-so-deep marked area that has transparent water and even managed to see some pretty fish underwater (with the help of swimming goggles).
We then spent some time on the beach. The beauty of the place can’t be described in words. It was a pure visual treat. 3 hours went by in a jiffy, and it was time to return. Trust us, you just can’t get enough of Ross & Smith Islands. This one place makes it worth visiting Diglipur.
Permit fee for Ross & Smith Islands – INR 80 per person
Return ferry tickets to Ross & Smith Islands – INR 8000/big boat (accommodates 10 people) or INR 5000/small boat (accommodates 5 people)
Tip – Carry extra clothes (you won’t be able to stop yourself from entering the water). Also, carry some light snacks, water, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Smith Island does have couple of vendors who sell basic eatieries
Note – Ross & Smith Islands are closed on Tuesdays
4. Kalipur beach
Kalipur beach is the most popular beach in Diglipur and is located about 8 kilometres away from the Aerial Bay jetty. It is amongst the very few beaches in the world which is a nesting ground for four species of sea turtles (Olive ridley, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and green turtle). There’s a government hatchery maintained and taken care of by the forest officials. If you visit the beach between November to April, you might be able to witness turtle nesting or hatching.
If you stay near Kalipur beach, visit the beach late in the night to see mother turtles lay their eggs or early in the morning to see baby turtles being released into the sea. We would wake up at 4 AM each day to visit the beach in the hope of seeing a mother turtle laying eggs. While we could not see the mother turtle, we were lucky enough to find trail of mother turtle that had dug a hole, laid eggs, filled the hole and returned to the sea. The forest officials then dug up the hole, retrieved all the eggs and took it to a safe hatchery area on the beach and buried the eggs at the same depth. We were also lucky to see the baby hatchlings released into the sea by forest officials one morning.
If you love turtles and would like to witness what we just described, read our blog on Velas, a small village in Maharashtra where we witnessed similar practice.
The sand at Kalipur beach is dark grey in colour (possibly due to volcanic eruption centuries ago), and maybe that’s why it is called so (Kali means black in the English language). The beach is wide, and during low tide, you’ll be able to see dead rocky corals on the shore. A part of the beach is safe for swimming and snorkelling; however, we did not venture out in the sea. The mountain you see from Kalipur beach is the Saddle Peak.
5. Craggy Island
Craggy Island is a tiny island (about half a kilometre in length) off Kalipur beach. We stayed near Kalipur beach, and as per our host, one can swim/ snorkel to Craggy Island in 20 minutes. He told us that in the past, experienced swimmers have trodden the water to visit Craggy Island and that one can spot colourful corals and fishes while snorkelling on the way. Nevertheless, we did not dare perform this stunt, and we advise our readers to seek information before venturing out this way into the sea. If you do, keep someone informed, carry proper underwater gears, and wait for low tides.
6. Mud volcanoes at Shyamnagar
About 35 kilometres away from the Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur, you can spot mud volcanoes similar to those of Baratang. These lie a few kilometres away from the Shyamnagar village, north of Diglipur town. The locals describe the mud volcanoes of Diglipur as being better than those of Baratang, but if you have already witnessed the ones in Baratang, you better give it a skip. The return journey to these mud volcanoes may take you half a day which may not seem worth it.
Mud volcanoes are basically a rare natural wonder where gases and liquid mixed with mud are excreted by the earth’s interior. You can see the mud bubbling and the liquid clay being spewed out.
7. Ramnagar Beach and Alfred Caves
Ramnagar Beach is located about 40 kilometres from the Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur. It is an eco-tourism site developed quite well by the government with changing room facilities, toilets, sit-out areas, and tree-top viewpoints. The beach is calm, ideal for swimming, sunbathing, or just relaxing on the shore. It is also a turtle nesting ground, and there is a big hatchery built on the coast. The beach is seldom visited by tourists as it is pretty far and the roads are pretty bad in condition.
Alfred caves are limestone caves located very close to the Ramnagar beach. These are a cluster of 40 natural caves with a narrow opening that keeps on getting wider as you go deeper inside.
👉Where to stay in Diglipur?
You will find several basic tourist lodges spread across Diglipur town. Most of the sightseeing places in Diglipur are located around Kalipur village. Hence, booking accommodation near that area would make more sense. We stayed in a private property named Pristine Beach Resort. It is located near Kalipur beach, has different categories of rooms, and all the required amenities. However, do not expect luxury anywhere in the North or Middle Andaman Islands.
Another good option in Kalipur is the Turtle Resort, run by Andaman and Nicobar Tourism Department. There’s also one APWD Guesthouse run by the tourism board in the town that you might want to check. These can be booked online through the Andaman Tourism board’s website. If you are visiting Diglipur in the peak season (i.e., From October to February), ensure that you pre-book your stay.
As far as the food is concerned, all the hotels have their in-house restaurants serving delicious food. You will also find some basic eating joints and small dhabas in Diglipur town. These have a limited menu but nevertheless serve freshly cooked and home-like food.
Hope this extensive guide on Diglipur helps you plan your trip. If you have any doubts or questions, drop them in the comment section below.