The Complete Guide to Saddle Peak Trek
Saddle Peak Trek is a must trek if you plan a trip to Andaman. Make sure you reserve a day for this trek to the highest peak in Andaman. Evergreen forests, massive trees, colorful chirping birds; the trek is so fascinating that it takes you back in time. Once at the peak, you can see the vast blue sea – Kalipur beach, Craggy Island, Lamia Bay – on one side and dense forests on another. You even have the luxury of choosing from two trails, one on the beach and another through the forest.
Trekkers of all ages get to explore land amidst the blue waters of this Island and the adventure that it has in store for them. It's a perfect family getaway as well as the perfect trek for youngsters.
The trail takes you to the highest point in the Andaman Islands and the scenery from here is simply breathtaking. The trail itself is a beautiful divine experience, you can follow the beach while enjoying the rising sun and then cut through the jungle and climb up to the top. These jungles haven’t been disturbed for a very long time. The sun’s rays do not reach the ground due to mammoth trees with huge trunks.
- Trek to the highest point in Andaman
- An easy trek and can be done by beginners as well
- Enjoy trekking beside beaches
The hike starts on a broad trail with huge trees on either side. After a few metres, you come across a red and green board with information about the forest trees. A few steps further, there is a diversion marked by a blue arrow. The path on the left takes you through the beach. The path that goes straight goes parallel to the beach through the forests. You can take either of the routes.
A Well Marked Trail
When you take the beach trail, you can see Saddle Peak straight ahead of you. If you’re trekking early in the morning, you can catch a mesmerizing sunrise, as the sky paints itself with brilliant colors! Down, in the sand, crabs scurry hurriedly from the shore into the water.
After hiking for around 10-15 minutes, you come across a stream coming from the right and joining the sea. Notice some huts on the right side, which are being developed by the forest department as a day picnic area. Continue walking on the beach towards the peak.
A water stream on the trail
Looking back, one can see Kalipur beach and Craggy Island. The shoreline along the trail is truly marvelous, with little patches of white sand and coastal rocks. Continue hiking for around 30 minutes, till you come across an opening in the right with a green and red board saying ‘Nature Trail.’ There are also bright red and yellow arrows marked on the tree.
You can enter the forest from here or continue on the beach till you come across another freshwater stream coming from the forest and merging with the sea. It takes around 30-40 minutes to reach this point. After crossing the stream, you can take the trail that enters the forest. You will come across a signboard that shows the distance to Saddle Peak (6 km) and Lamia Bay (2 km).
A rest hut
Continue on the trail that passes through the forest. Open and closed canopies created by gigantic trees of the tropical forest welcome you to this unspoilt magnificence. Proceed on the trail. After another 10 – 15 minutes you come across a small village within the national park. Keeping the village to the right, move towards your left.
The entire trek is well-outlined with red and yellow arrow marks on the trees. After walking for another few minutes you come across another signboard that indicates you’re 5 km from Saddle Peak and 3 km from Lamia Bay. Trek until Saddle Peak is some 8 km away from the park entrance. The initial stretch till here is an easy hike.
A couple of steps further you come across a stream with crystal clear water. This is the only source of drinking water; you can fill in your water bottles here. There is also a trekkers’ hut for those who intend to rest. You cannot stay here overnight as it is not permitted by the forest authorities. It takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach this point.
The trail from here starts gaining elevation. Continue on the trail that ascends gradually through the thick evergreen forests. After 20 – 25 minutes of climb, you come across a wooden bench with some shade. The forest department has built huts and benches for trekkers to relax.
Proceed on the trail. You will see that wooden railings have been provided where the trail gets a little steep. You come across another hut after 10 minutes of the hike. You can take a quick break or continue further as the top is still a long way ahead.
Entry fee details
Around 2.5 hours into the trek, you come across the first view point towards your left. A sign board here reads ‘East coast view point.’ The view of the seashore from here is simply breathtaking. Before you can digest that view, you come across another view point, which showcases the west coast. One can see the mountain ranges covered with dense evergreen forests from here.
Soon you come across a watch tower. From here, Saddle Peak seams a long way, but it’s visible. Craggy Island looks marvellous from here.
Climbing for another 15 – 20 minutes, you come across a second watch tower. It takes around 3 hours to reach this point. Covered in thick fog, it might look as if it could rain at the top.
After 20 minutes, you reach the top. It takes around 3.5 hours to reach this point. A sign board indicates that you’re at the top of Saddle peak, at 732 m. Sometimes, the peak is surrounded by dense fog because of its tropical nature and it becomes difficult to catch a good view from here. On a clear day, however, you can see the flawless blue ocean on one side and dense forests on the other. It’s like paradise indeed!
A local village on way to Saddle Peak
It could also rain during the second half of the day, so begin your descent if you think it might rain. From here, retracing your steps, it takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach a beautiful waterfall, from where Lamia Bay is 3 km. If it’s sunny, you can choose to take the forest trail instead of the beach trail.
It takes around seven hours to complete the whole trek. From the base, you can take a bus back to the market.
How to Plan Your Travel
Take the 5.15 am bus from Kalipur. It comes from the Diglipur market and stops just outside the resort. It takes hardly 10 minutes to Lamia Bay, which is the base of the Saddle Peak.
You’ll reach Lamia Bay at around 5.25 am. The forest check-post is just a few meters from where the bus stops. The office opens at 6 am. This is where you have to pay the forest fee of Rs.25 per person.
It is essential to start early in the morning and carry enough snacks and water with you as there is nothing available in and around the Saddle Peak National Park. You can ask for a guide at the check-post or make prior arrangements, by asking the hotel owner where you are staying.
What to Take on Your Trek
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
What should I pack?
On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule - keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. "Replace a sweater with two t-shirts," adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.
How to pack
The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack
BottomSleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack.
MiddleHeavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like rations or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
TopWater: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.
How to Get Fit for Your Trek
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging every day. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace every day. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your workout.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises - stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can't go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here's a video you can use to work out indoors.
Trek penned down by Vinita Chhatwani and Sushobhan Roy