Xenia Taliotis checks into a boutique rainforest hotel on a Bay of Bengal island.
A boutique hotel, surrounded by rainforest, on Havelock Island.
Where: Havelock is part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. To save you Googling, they're in the Bay of Bengal, actually closer to Burma than to India, but under Indian governance.
Easy to get to? Ah, now . . . You'll need to get to Veer Savarkar, the only commercial airport serving the islands. It's in Port Blair, on South Island, which you can only reach direct from Chennai, New Delhi, or Kolkata. From Port Blair, it's another three hours by the cheaper, government-run ferry, or 90 minutes on a privately run catamaran. Time your arrival in Port Blair to tie in with the twice-daily ferry departures or you won't be able to leave until the following day. But Jalakara can arrange this for you, and pick you up at the port.
Check-in experience: The manager was waiting for us with a tray of chilled coconut water and our bags were taken to our rooms while we had our drinks.
Bedrooms: Seven individually decorated rooms, ranging from the small-is-splendid Sky Room to the bigger-is-best Jalakara Villa. I tried both as I was upgraded to Jalakara for the last three days of my stay. I renamed it Xenia's Princess Palace, because it's as close to a palace as I'm ever going to get — a huge bathroom, into which the whole of my London home could fit, plus a vast sitting area, into which the whole of my London home could fit and an enormous bedroom, into which . . . And I had my own plunge pool. The Garden Suite is also lavish, with a garden, plunge pool, lily pond and an additional al fresco double bed to loll about on if you tire either of your partner or the antique four-poster inside.
Bathrooms: Beautifully decorated with gorgeous Indian objet d'art. No freebie toiletries to snaffle because there's no recycling on Havelock so toiletries come in large aluminium canisters that are replenished daily.
Noise: Just the sounds of nature — birds, cicadas and skinks, which are long-tailed lizards or, if you ask me, snakes with lizard legs.
Food and drink: At the time of writing, Jalakara's alcohol licence was still pending, so it was BYO. There's a lovely al fresco restaurant with just about enough choice to get you through your holiday. My standout favourites were the momos, the barracuda my nephew caught on his fishing trip, which the chef prepared for us, and the breakfast mango shot — a mango, banana, turmeric and coconut flake smoothie.
R&R: Jalakara has a massage room and daily yoga and can arrange anything from fishing trips to guided rainforest walks. We had a day of joy snorkelling for hours in a secluded bay just beyond Elephant Beach. There was no one else there but us. I never thought I'd quote 80s poplet Belinda Carlisle in a feature, but here goes — heaven really is a place on Earth!
What's in the neighbourhood: Er, rainforest. Best seen from the swimming pool at sunrise. Fifteen minutes away by car or scooter, or 30 minutes on foot, you'll find the town and Govind Nagar (beach no. 3), with beach no5 a little further on from there. To get to Havelock's super beaches, you'll need wheels. Radhanagar (beach no. 7) is among the most beautiful in the world — a huge sweep of soft sand that leads you into the deep blue.
Wi-Fi: No Wi-Fi, no phone, no television.
Perfect for: Playing board games, lounging about, reading and talking with your companions.
Would I return? Yes, but I'd do a two-centre stay, coupling Jalakara with a beach-based hotel.
Jalakara is located in Village Number 4 on the island of Havelock — part of India's Andaman and Nicobar island chain. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.