“An Investment in Travel is an Investment in Yourself”
Being a Navy Wife visiting the Andamans was a stirct No-No.Go on a holiday to Andamans ? Are You Crazy?.I have been there on naval exercises and had to hang around for months.Rantings of a naval Officer who spent his life romancing the sea. 🙂 But if a wife sets her mind on something I am sure she can get her way .Lots of cajoling and whoa he was ready !!!.Children and myself were ecstatatic and started our preparations .We booked a 4 days 5 nights trip with “Tropical Andamans’.We also booked the flight.You can take a Kolkata-Port Blair Flight or Chennai-Port Blair.We opted for the latter.We landed in Chennai around 9 am and had breakfast at Chennai Airport.After breakfast we proceeded to the departure terminal to board our connecting flight.The flight duration is 2 hours and we landed at 12.30 pm.While landing at Port Blair one gets a spectacular view of the islands.
As promised by “Tropical Andamans” we were met by the driver at the Airport.The car provided was as promised a TataIndigo which was comfortable for the four of us.
About Port Blair: Port Blair is the capital of the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands which is a conglomeration of 570 islands.It is located on the east coast of the South Andaman Island. These islands were the house to the British Colonists during India’s pre-independence period.
Port Blair is the gateway to the pristine islands.The local people can give you a lot of information about the place and as we drove to our hotel, a little chat with the driver revealed that the city has a population of roughly one lakh and can boast of a zero crime rate.We also observed that it was a very neat and clean city with very disciplined citizens. All two- wheeler drivers wore helmets including the pillion and the car drivers wore seat belts.There were no traffic jams!!! The city did have narrow roads in some places which made the movement a bit slow as one has to be careful.Another heartening observation was people didn’t spit like they do in Mumbai and other Indian cities.We didn’t find garbage overflowing which was such a welcome sight and people were proud of the cleanliness of their city.Although tourism is the major source of income, it is lamented by the locals that it is making the city dirty.The city has many attractions like The Cellular Jail,Samudrika Marine Museum, Anthropological Museum,Chatham Saw Mill.
The drive to the hotel was not too long as Hotel Shompen is close to the Airport and is ideally located in the heart of the city.The hotel has helpful courteous staff,the rooms and the washrooms were clean.After having a relaxed lunch at their rooftop restaurant.We headed for the Cellular Jail where thankfully we did not have to stand at the long queue for the entry tickets to the jail as the tickets were earlier purchased by the driver.The show timings are 6-7 in Hindi & 7-8 in English.
A Little About Cellular Jail: The government of Bengal established a penal colony named Port Blair on Chatham island.New settlement in the New Andaman happened with the construction of Cellular jail by the British to imprison the Indian freedom fighters .This prison became the centre of cruelty towards political prisoners.The Cellular jail which is also known as KaalaPaani was constructed between 1896-1906 is one of the murkiest chapters in the history of British rule in India.One gets a beautiful view of the sea from the terrace of the jail.
As we traversed through the corridors we found that there were a total of 698 cells(After talking to the prison staff)Each cell is 15×8 ft in size with a ventilator located at a height of 3 metres.The“cellular” name derived from solitary cells where the inmates were unable to communicate with each other.they were all in solitary confinement.We visited the famous cell of Veer Savarkar.
Each corridor has a list of the inmates.As we walked around we could feel the pain and torture inflicted by the Britishers on the freedom fighters. The horrors meted out by the British was brought alive by the Light and Sound show with the impressive booming voice of the talented actor late Om Puri took us back to the era of British brutalities.The show left us speechless and in a sombre mood.
After the show as advised by the driver, we had dinner at New Light House restaurant.They have dining area on the ground floor as well as on the terrace.We opted for the terrace where there was a cool breeze and we enjoyed some very good seafood.One can select his/her choice from the live display at the counter.This was a new experience for me.We chose lobsters and crabs and they were at our table deliciously cooked.We liked the place so much that we ate all our meals in this restaurant.The only down thing is they do not have AC which we missed when we had lunch.Evenings are pleasant and the terrace has a cool breeze.
The next morning we were ready to move into Havelock Islands.A cruise was booked with M.V. Makruzz.The car dropped us at the Phoneix Bay Jetty
Waiting at the Jetty
There we had to wait in a queue as our baggage was screened and checked before boarding .It is an Airconditioned Catamaran with an onboard restaurant.As we had to leave early morning, the Hotel gave us packed breakfast which we munched after settling down in the catamaran. The boarding was chaotic and we had to stand in the hot sun for about an hour.
The route was via Neil Island where some passengers disembarked.It took us about 90 minutes to reach Havelock where we were booked at Symphony Palm Beach Resort.we were met by their representative at the jetty on arrival. The cottages in the resort were cosy with all amenities.
While in Havelock, you must try Scuba diving under supervision of a trained and certified Diving instructor – a SSI(Scuba Schools International) or PADI(Professional Association of Diving Instructors)certified.We booked our slot with Dive India.
It is Rs.3500 for 30 mins dive per person.After filling the consent form giving details about our medical history, we were given instructions about the emergency procedures and signals to be used once we are under water.We changed into our dress/gear and the instructors first made us practise and when we were confident, we were taken down.
Scuba Diving In Havelock Island
The depth is slowly increased and one can go upto 50m.Andamans has rich marine life and you can see live corals and clown fish and other schools of fish from a depth of 10 m.The 30 mins finished quickly and we were slowly brought up. I guess we went down upto 30 m.Some good videos and photographs were taken by another instructor who was filming us.
After scuba diving we went to Radhanagar Beach the best Beach in Asia and ranked 8th in the world.The turquoise blue water and the white sands makes it an exquisite combination.The green canopy of trees gives the tourists to unwind and relax.We had lunch at one of the beach side restaurant.The food was reasonably priced and tasty.
We stuck to seafood in Andamans and relished every bite.As we were soaking in the smells of the sea, we were spell bound by the magical sunset.After enjoying nature‘s bounty we headed back to the resort.Here surprisingly we met up with the daughter of a friend who is a Scuba Diving Instructor.Had we known earlier, we would have done the diving with her.On her recommendation we dined at FullMoon Cafe a multicuisine restaurant.The food was delicious.
Another surprise was that there is no alcohol available in any restaurant in Havelock.The crime rate here is nil.It is a quiet and peaceful place with no nightlife.This is mainly to keep the essence and culture of the place intact.So if you are looking for some peace and tranquillity and just relax this is the place to be. People leave even their vehicles unlocked.We walked down to our resort and called it a night.
The next day was a trip to North Bay Island.The driver dropped us at the jetty from where the ferry took us to the North Bay Island.Another short ride in a glass bottomed boat took us to the boat where we could do our Underwater Sea Walk.We were told just to carry a bag to keep our change of clothes.The girls(Daughter and myself) boarded the boat for Under Water Sea Walk and the guys (Hubby & Son) opted to stay in the glass bottomed boat and take a ride to watch the corals and other marine life.
We had close encounters with the marine organisms, the ultimate sensation where time stopped, worries faded away and breathing underwater was possible, safe and easy !!! We enjoyed a safe and fascinating underwater walk on the ocean bed and witnessed firsthand the magnificent marine life of Andamans, the beautiful fauna, corals, and a wide variety of fish, all in their natural habitat.The experience cannot be described – it has to be experienced !!I Could not believe that we were indeed walking on the sea bed.My daughter who had earlier done under water sea walk in Pattaya told us that the marine life here is very rich as compared to Pattaya.
After we finished, the boat took us back to North Bay Island where we excitedly shared our experiences with my son and Hubby who had done the walk at Pattaya.On learning from my daughter that the experience here was awesome, they regretted their decision of not joinng us. We thereafter proceeded to have lunch at one of the many restaurants on the beach.We again opted for seafood.The pompfret fry was very delicious.After lunch we returned back to our resort in Havelock.We had the evening free and we walked around the island and enjoyed the beauty of the place.We had dinner at the resort.
The next morning we left Havelock for Port Blair and were dropped at Ross Island enroute.
The Ross Island is controlled by the Indian navy, which requires every visitor to sign in on entering. It was during the British rule that the island was developed to a perfect township. Many reminiscent of old British regime are still alive in this stunning Island.
The Ross Island is about 2 km east of Port Blair and can be reached by a short boat ride from Phoenix Bay Jetty. The island presently houses the ruins of old buildings like Ballroom, Chief Commissioner’s House, Govt. House, Church, Hospital, Bakery, Press, Swimming Pool and Troop Barracks, presently all in dilapidated condition, reminiscent of the old British Raj.
The Remains of an Bygone Era
The island was occupied by the Japanese from 1942-1945.We were given 4 hours to explore the island.There are golf carts to take the visitors around but we preferred to walk.As we entered we saw the Japanese bunkers.
We visited the ruins of all the old buildings.The island has some breathtaking views of the sea The lush green canopy of trees and the deers roaming around freely was a sight to behold ! (they were very friendly. you could even feed them.)What left us spellbound was the beautiful dancing peacocks ,some of them crossing the roads and flying to the nearby trees.
The Fauna of the Island
We ventured into a virgin beach and had a stunning view of the sea with the canopy of coconut trees. If you are a nature lover, it is a place where you would want to go back again and again.
We were so engrossed that we did not hear the horn of the ferry which had her crew searching for us.After apologising we headed to the boat which took us to the cruise liner.
The Beautiful beach and Sea view of Ross Island
We reached Port Blair and after resting for awhile, headed to the Carbyn Cove Beach .We spent the evening at the beach.As it gets dark, the life guards here are very strict and do not allow you to go very deep in the sea.After having our fill of the beach we showered and changed at the beach.
The Family at Carbyn Cove Beach,Port Blair
The changing rooms are clean.After reaching the hotel we decided to try out another restaurant for dinner. I don’t quite remember the place but it was close to Shompen Hotel.We didn’t like the food here and the service was also slow.
The last day at Port Blair was sight seeing of the various museums and the Chatham saw mill.After breakfast we proceeded to see the Chatham saw mill which is Asia’s oldest and largest saw mill.It was established in 1883 and now maintained by the forest department of Port Blair. The complex is quite big. we went inside the mill where we witnessed the procedure of sorting, cutting and storing of the wooden planks in ware houses.There were internal rail tracks to carry out the activities.
Chaitham Saw Mill
The Forest Department has established a modern museum in 2006 which is quite educative.After this we proceeded to have lunch in New Light house restaurant and after lunch went to see Samudrika Marine Museum maintained by the Indian Navy.We first saw a short film on marine life then took a walk around the museum.The museum has a variety of corals and other marine organisms.There is a shop sellng artefacts where I bought a few which have found a proud place in my drawing room.The last stop was the Anthropological Museum.The focus of the museum is totally on the tribes who lived in the Andamans, some of whom are still living in the denser areas of the island.The names of the tribes are the Jarawas,the Sentinelese,the Great Andamanese and the Onges. In the Andaman and Nicobar island, the tourists have access to the Andamangroup of islands only. The Nicobar group of islands are not open to the tourists primarily to preserve the culture of the tribal inhabitants.
Some more photos of Ross Island
After sight seeing, we returned to our Hotel for a change,freshen up and dinner at New Light House restaurant.Our stay at Shompen Hotel and Symphony Resorts Havelock was very pleasant.
The next morning, we left for the airport after breakfast to return home with lots of happy memories.My husband confided to my daughter that he had never enjoyed so much in his earlier sojourns in the Andamans 🙂
“I hav’nt been Everywhere but it is definitely on my List”