Once the gates of the forest opened we started our 47 km journey through the forest. There were many jarwas along the road and photography was banned. However I had neither the inclination nor the wish to photograph them. I felt that they are our superiors living all alone in this world without the trappings of our world we have grown used to. The end of the reserved forest led to Bridge Ghat. From there the car and us took a steamer to the other side of the strait to Baratang. The Middle strait as is popularly known is wide and full of mangroove trees on both sides. On reaching Baratang we took our forest permits to visit the limestone caves. From there we chartered a boat to the caves. We enjoyed the journey through the Middle Strait as the our fiber speedboat raced passed the other boats. It was even more enjoyable once the boat slowed down and entered the mangroove creek. The journey through the creek was awesome and we only wished that it continued for another half an hour.
After docking at a makeshift dock we proceeded for 1.2 km walk to the caves. You have to follow the designated route and you cant take the shorter route meant for locals. The cave though was small compared to the Bora caves but the journey was worthwhile. We returned by ten back to Baratang and proceeded to Rungat. We had to cross another small strait in Gandhi Ghat on a steamer. THen there was another tribal forest at Kadamtala. We arrived at Rungat at 12:30 and had lunch there.
Leaving Rungat you are greeted with the Yerrata Mangrove Park first, Amrakunj Beach next, Morice Dera and finally the Dhanianallah Mangrove walkway. The view of the sea from Morice Dera is a unique one you wont find anywhere else in Andamans. The colors on the rocks will no doubt mesmerize you. Dhaninallah is a 750 m long walk through mangrove forests. It is the longest of its kind in India. You’ll find another solitary beach at the end of the walkway of the c-shaped Dhaninallah beach. The marine drive from Runghat is one of the longest there is. From there no more adventures and we proceeded to Turtle Resort at Diglipur. Thankfully the north Andaman and Middle Andaman is connected via bridge and we reached hotel at 6pm.
The view from Morice Dera
Next day early morning we left for Aerial Bay jetty. It was around 8 km from our hotel. From there we chartered boats for Rs 3000/- to go to Ross & Smith Island. Permission was obtained from the local Forest Department Office. Ross & Smith are two different islands that you can see from Aerial Bay Jetty. Permission to go to Smith Wildllife Park is given from the Forest Department in Aerial Bay Jetty. It is free of cost. The unique feature of the two islands is that both the islands are connected via a sand bar that is visible during the low tide and disappears during the high tide. Permission to go to Ross is given from Smith Island against payment of Rs 50/- per head. Once we reached Smith we found that the sand bar is partially submerged. We waded through the waters to Ross Island. There was nobody from the forest department to collect the fees and so we proceeded for free. Both the island have small beaches with crystal clear water. However the journey to Ross from Smith is quite exciting as waves wash you from both sides of the sand bar. Once in Ross we took a jungle trek to a lighthouse in the island. However after trekking for around twenty minutes I discovered that the light house is closed and I missed the view from it. later on I learnt that the light house is always closed. We returned to Smith Island and took a bath in the sea. Snorkeling was not being allowed due to a recent death in North Bay Island. After around 3 hours we returned to Diglipur.
We had lunch at the hotel. After lunch we left for Shyamnagar around 30 km from Diglipur city. From there is a steep walk to the mud volcano. The mud volcano is a unique natural feature wherein due to the natural gases beanath the surface of the earth mud is constantly oozing out. The first mud volcano was a bit of disappointment as it was small and mud eruptions were infrequent. The second one a little further away was bigger and you could see the mud oozing out of the mouth of the small mound. The third one was the most spectacular as there were several mounds and you could see the momentum building up and mud coming out at regular interval. It was a unique natural feature at that.
Next day we left for Port Blair. Without any stops except for breakfast in North Andaman, lunch in Baratang we reached Port Blair by 3.