We arrived at the Emerald Gecko after spending our last couple of weeks in quite nice hotels and were quite taken back when we were shown to our room. The Bamboo Lodge was, at first sight, one step above camping. As our stay progressed the place grew on us and in the end we were very happy with the accommodations.
With a little maintenance and TLC the Emerald Gecko could be a very large step above its budget resort competitors but, alas, as most things in India, maintenance is not a high priority. The grounds and buildings are still in acceptable condition, I only hope the owners do not let it get too run down, it would be a great loss.
Beach 5 is a very good location. It is not too far to walk to the market in Village 3 (about 1/2 hr), and it is easy to catch an auto-rickshaw if you so desire, and it is towards the end of the tourist zone so you do not get the hub-bub of the places closer to town. The hotel site is somewhat distanced from the road and this also helps with the idyllic peace and quiet.
The on site restaurant is the best one we tried on the island. Blackbeard’s Bistro (see review below) served outstanding food for a very reasonable price and the beach house construction and decor was perfect for the setting.
The staff was very friendly and helpful, but they were not in our face. If we asked for assistance they were more than willing to help. We were diving every day, unable to get to the ferry ticket office at the only times one could prebook ferry tickets (9am to noon) and we wanted to be on the 9am ferry the day we left, so the desk manager arranged (for a slight fee of 150Rs per ticket) to have our advanced tickets purchased for us. A service well worth the $3. Also I do not know if it is standard practice to make up the rooms on a daily basis, but all we had to do was ask and we had clean sheets and towels and the room was given the once over.
As we traveled around Havelock and took note of the other “resorts”, we began to think that even though the Gecko is a bit rough it is among the best places to stay on the island. The thing that stands out is that most of the units are exposed to the beach. Our lodge was 50M from the beach and there was nothing but a few palm trees between us and the sand. Most of the resorts, fancy ones included, were close to the road and the ocean was not visible from the rooms. Weird for a tropical paradise. Our beach access also allowed the ocean breeze to pass through our 2nd floor living area making for a pleasant place to sit on the balcony and let the time pass slowly. We often walked along the road to the market and the breeze was non-existent. I therefore think that the resorts adjacent to the road were missing out on this feature of natural air conditioning.
The layout of the lodge was very good. The entrance and washroom were on the lower floor and the living/sleeping space was on the 2nd level. The washroom being on the ground level, down one very steep set of stairs from the sleeping area, was a bit dangerous when nature called mid sleep, but we both survived the week. The small work desk allowed us to do the daily things that needed doing like setting up the dive camera each evening and filling out our trip journal, and as I mention the balcony was a great place to pass the time as well as a place to dry out our beach wear. The bed, as simple as it was, was very comfortable and we slept deeply until the sunrise woke us gently at about 5:30.
Although we are old (in our 50’s) and can afford the up grade to one of the fancier resorts on the island, I would definitely put the Emerald Gecko high on our list of places to stay if we were to return Havelock Island. We had a relaxing and wonderful stay.
We had contacted Andaman Bubbles in advance and liked the communications we had. The day we arrived on the island we headed straight to the dive shop to set up diving for the next day. We met with Jonathon. He was a happy, enthusiastic guy and without any hesitation we booked 5 days of diving over the next week.
There was an Australian couple that were booked to dive the same days we were and since Andaman Bubbles keeps their groups small and assigns only 4 divers per dive master, the 4 of us were designated as a group.
The overall experience was very good, but there was a couple of things that could use some improvement. First is more an Havelock Island dive industry deficiency rather than an Andaman Bubbles deficiency. The boats that are used to access the dive sites are traditional local boats called ‘dunghis’. I did not see all of the boats from all of the dive shops but the 1/2 dozen I did see were all in need of repair. The ‘Rock n Rolla’, our boat for 5 days was no different. There were several floor boards that were not secure and part of the gunnel that we rolled into the water from was non existent. The boat needed a general overhaul, but it did get us out to the dive sites and back for 5 days. The other thing about those boats that needs to be considered is the motor. They are outfitted with ancient diesel tractor motors that do not have a muffler system. These are extremely noisy and smelly. I’m quite sure a better solution could be had. Second, is proper customer service; one of the days we headed out in our dunghis for a day’s diving, one of the Andaman Bubbles owners left in the fancy speed boat for a day long joyride. From my perspective customer service dictates that the customer should benefit from the best the company has to offer and the worker, and especially the owner should make do with what is remaining. If the speed boat was going out that day, the customer should have been on it, not the owner. (The reason I know it was a joyride is because I was chatting with the young lady that he was taking out to see the sites and she said the ride had no special purpose.)
With those two items out of the way. The rest of our diving experience was great. The dives sites chosen were very good and we enjoyed every dive. The diving in the Andamans is not for the faint of heart. From my view it was quite difficult and technical. After our first dive the dive master felt that the four of us were capable of tackling the more advanced dive sites and he did say that less experienced divers can be accommodated in different areas but the places we went had 1 1/2 meter swells and very strong currents. The terrain and fish were worth every second of the difficulties getting into and out of the water.
The staff at the dive shop was excellent. Right from the day we contacted them by email until the last day when we settled up the bill. The office staff was always helpful and they made themselves available early in the morning till late evening. Each day unraveled as they had outlined and the agenda was easy to follow. Each day when we arrived at the dive shop on the beach the gear we rented was at the staging area ready to be checked and loaded on the boat. All of the day’s tanks were rigged with the regs and BCDs and on the boat. The dive master was ready to go and all we had to do was climb in and we were off. The dive master was quite good and kept us on a long leash, letting us do our own diving while making sure none of us disappeared. He and the two fellows on the boat were also a great help with equipment when it came time to exit the water in challenging conditions.
As this was not a dive specific trip, we took a minimal amount of dive gear with us, only computers and a prescription mask. We had to rent all of the other gear. The gear at Andaman Bubbles is good gear and is in good shape. It all functioned quite well during our whole trip. They have safety sausages and whistles in every BCD, I think a wise addition considering the currents we experienced.
We think that Andaman Bubbles is one very short step away from being a world class operation and that would be the boats, but don’t let the dunghis stop you from booking your trip to the Andamans or from booking with Andaman Bubbles. We had a great time and we’re quite sure the folks there treated us no different than any of their other customers. You will have a spectacular time diving with them.
The Clownfish is attached to the Andaman Bubbles dive shop on Beach 5. It opens early so divers can get breakfast before heading out on morning dives. We ate there 5 out of 6 mornings, once for lunch and once for dinner. The layout is good, it offers benches for those that prefer an off the ground orientation and low tables and cushions if that be your thing. The menu is western type food and is the same for lunch and dinner; the breakfast menu is varied with fruit, pancakes and eggs any style.
The staff is very friendly and remains in the background unless needed. The food is excellent, especially the home made bread. The prices are reasonable.
We really liked the place. The only reason we did not eat there more was because there were so many other restaurants to try. Go there at least once.
Café del Mar
The Café del Mar is the on site restaurant at the Barefoot Scuba Resort. It is totally nondescript – wooden table and benches on a concrete slab with a metal roof. It is a very busy place, the folks staying at the resort must utilize the restaurant as a meeting/social area.
Food is ordered at the front desk and is brought to your table. When you go to pay, you do so at the desk. The staff is quite “flat”. They are not rude but are certainly not enthusiastic and in fact are droll about taking the order, delivering your food and accepting the cash.
The prices are good and in line with other restaurants on the island. The menu is vast and they offer a large variety of dishes. The food is quite ordinary but is more than edible and arrives at the table hot.
Anju Coco Resto
This place is easily accessible on the east side of the main road between Beaches 3 and 5. It is a nondescript little restaurant. The staff is very friendly. Even though it was busy the owner had everything under control and had time to chat about his home state of Kashmir.
We placed our order and Murray was able to make a slight change to one of the standard meals for no extra charge. They were also very accommodating and made some changes to deal with Debbie’s food issues. The food came quickly and hot. The prices were in line with other restaurants on the island.
We stayed at the Emerald Gecko and Blackbeard’s is the resort’s restaurant. It was by far our favorite place to eat on Havelock Island. The food was exceptional and the prices were good.
The bistro does not serve alcohol but that affected us little as we do not drink. It was a bit disappointing to our dive mates when they came to our hotel for dinner as they wished to have bottle of beer to cap the day, but they survived to dive another day.
Blackbeard’s is in sight of the beach and the décor is appropriate to that end. It has a sand floor and rough wooden tables and seating. The openings are such that the ocean breeze provides natural air conditioning.
The menu changes daily and is written on a blackboard when it has been firmed up. The theme is seafood with a couple of other items for those that do not relish fish. The waiter meets you at the board and will take your order there. The items, as written, include the main dish and the side dishes but we found there is some room to move on the side dishes. They substituted naan bread for the potatoes shown and they were a great help in dealing with Debbie’s food issues.
The staff was very friendly and efficient. They remained in the background until you needed help and then they were there.
The food was exceptional. It was prepared rather quickly and came to the table as ordered and hot. The prices were very reasonable.