Andaman - Pearls in a sea of blue
Around 1,200 kms away from the mainland, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an idyllic tourist destination. Port Blair, its provincial capital, offers the instant solace one has been seeking from their bustling city life. Enriched with history, it offers splendid sights and treats for history lovers. The islands have a tropical climate which will be best enjoyed between the months of October and May.
Port Blair is also an Island town offering popular water-based activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, sea-cruises and glimpses of the history and culture of the region. The Aberdeen Bazaar forms the centre of the town. As soon as you touchdown in Port Blair, the celestial beauty of the environment around instantly absorbs you.
It is a feeling of slipping in to sheer divinity. Port Blair tourism has many beautiful tourist attractions to offer like the Marina Park Complex, sound and light show, Ross Island, Carbyns Cove Beach, Samudrika Museum and the Cellular Jail, which allure tourists from all over the world.
Havelock is one of the places you must visit during your trip to the Andamans. It is a picturesque natural paradise with stunning beaches, rich coral reefs and lush green forest. Some of the most popular beaches here include: Radhanagar Beach, Vijaynagar Beach, Elephant Beach and Kalapathar Beach.
The beautiful beach shores are lined with silver and white sands with crystal clear waters and plenty of coral to watch, making it a must visit beach destination for every traveller. The islands are named after Major General Sir Henry Havelock, a prominent British Army official. Majority of the island is populated by friendly people who hail from mainland India.
Bengalis form the bulk of the settlers. Though Havelock is the most visited island, it has been insulated from the ill-effects of mass tourism. The island still retains its pristine charm. The island serves as a haven for adventure activities and water sports. Scuba diving is the most popular activity on Havelock Island. Snorkeling and trekking also attract a lot of tourists.
Located in the capital, the Cellular Jail or more popularly known as Kala Paani, epitomises the struggle and torture endured by the freedom fighters, who were eventually incarcerated in this jail. The jail, completed in the year 1906, acquired the name ‘Cellular’ because it is entirely made up of individual cells for the solitary confinement.
It originally was a seven prolonged, puce-coloured building with central-tower acting as its fulcrum and a massive structure comprising honeycomb like corridors. The building was subsequently damaged and presently three out of the seven prongs are intact. The jail, now a place of pilgrimage for all freedom-loving people, has been declared a national memorial.
The jail museum immediately takes us back recounting the horrors that the cellmates endured here and the freedom struggle our country went through. Presently the entrance block of the memorial houses, freedom fighter’s photos and an exhibition gallery in the ground floor. The first floor of the building has an art gallery, a ‘Netaji’ gallery and a library on freedom movement. Galleries on the first war of independence and old photographs have also been set up.
Nestled amidst nature and far away from the other islands, Neil Island is a place to relax and forget the world outside for some time. Located in Ritchie’s Archipelago, the island is apparently named after James George Smith Neill, a British soldier. The settlers of Neil Island, living in the five villages, named the beaches after mythical characters of the epic Ramayana (Bharatpur, Lakshmanpur, Sitapur, Ram Nagar and Neil Kendra). The island, with its very relaxed vibes and long, deserted beaches is a place to chill out after the “bustle” of Havelock. The widest part of the island is about five km in length.
One can easily walk the entire island in a few hours. One can peacefully be in a surrounding, lined by natural delights all around waiting to envelop you. The beaches at the island have a unique character and are perfectly distanced, in order to be explored on a bicycle. This island is an ideal place to have a lovely unhurried pace of life. The main bazaar has a mellow vibe and is a popular gathering spot throughout the evenings. When in Neil Island, you’re about 40 km away from Port Blair and a short ferry ride from Havelock.
This island between South and Middle Andaman has beautiful beaches, mangrove creeks, mud-volcanoes and limestone caves. Andaman Trunk Road to Rangat and Mayabunder goes through this island. Limestone cave can be explored with the permission of Forest Department at Baratang and proper local guidance.
Baratang is famous for its natural wonders; from impressive limestone caves and dense mangrove cowered creeks. There are tidal swamp forests and small but fascinating mud volcanoes. It is the first gateway up north from the capital city, located between Middle and South Andaman. Due to its distance from Port Blair (approximately 100 km), it is a popular one-day trip destination, especially for those who come with limited time on hand.
Chidiya Tapu, also known as the ‘Sunset Point’ and the ‘Bird Island’ is one of the best places to experience a sunset, in Port Blair, the main hub of the Andaman Islands. The beach is located on the furthest Southern tip of South Andaman Island which is 25 km south of Port Blair and takes about 45 minutes to get there by car.
Other than seeing the spectacular sunset, there is a biological park nearby and a beach called the Munda Pahad. Chidiya Tapu is about 30 km away from the main city and is famous for birdwatching. Also known widely for its rich collection of birds, white spotted deer and orchids, this place draws thousands of visitors and is a perfect place for nature lovers.
A look at the sky above the Tapu, one can see that the sky is filled with around 46 different species of birds namely drongos, hanging parrots, scarlet minivets, emerald doves, long-tailed, red-breasted parakeets, white-bellied sea eagles, grey-fronted and imperial green pigeons to name a few.
Ross & Smith
Ross and Smith Islands are known as the twin islands of Andaman and Nicobar islands. The two majestic islands, Ross and Smith, joined together to make a single group of islands, connected to each other by a thin dazzling strip of sandbar. The pair stands as a silent reminder of “beauty in connectedness”.
It is literally a magnificently breathtaking view to see these two beautiful islands remain apart yet together. There is a Marine Sanctuary on the island which makes it an ideal place for spotting beautiful coral reefs and marine life under the water. The beach is surrounded by tropical forests and is a preferred place for trekking and trail hiking by many tourists.
Furthermore, Ross and Smith islands are home to the Olive Ridley turtles. The twin islands can be reached from Diglipur. The best part is that the beach is seldom crowded and most of the time you can cherish the whole sight by yourself. The inner islands are a preferred place for nature trail hiking.
Controlled by the Indian Navy, Ross Island encapsulates the rich, historical and cultural heritage of the region. During the British era in India, this island was cultivated as a perfect township. The island presently houses the ruins of old buildings like the ballroom, Chief Commissioner’s house, Government House, church, hospital, bakery, press, swimming pool and troop barracks, all in dilapidated conditions, reminiscent of the old British regime.
This island makes you nostalgic and takes you back in time when it was just an administrative settlement for the British. The island was set up as the residential headquarters for the British administration of the Indian Penal Settlement in Andaman. The island is named after surveyor Sir Daniel Ross, and was inhabited initially in 1788-1789 after Archibald Blair’s survey of the islands.