Our trip to the Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands Travel & Tourism)
Amidst the dense rain forests to swampy coastline infested with crocodiles, across the mighty architecture of the Cellular Jail whose plan resembles a spokes of a bicycle to the relaxing sea beaches of Havlock island. From the never ending fury of the smoky covered skyline of the Barren Island to the lush coconut beaches of the Corbyns Cove Beach. Our Incredible Indian Tourism has some of its finest port folio to be offered in a package known as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Day 1 (1/9/14)
Our trip contained our family members and my inlaws with three children making the trip extremely delightful. We planned our flight from Silchar to Port Blair via Kolkata which included an overnight stay at Kolkata in order to catch the flight to Port Blair in the early morning. Our flight left Silchar Airport on September 1, 2014 on Air India Flight Airbus A319 AI754 14:45 hrs which landed on Kolkata airport on time within its estimated arrival by 15:50Hrs. It was a nice flight and our only grudge was the lunch which consisted of only a packet of peanuts and a small pack of Frooti. We had no other choice but to settle with whatever we have. Finally after an hour and some five minutes our aircraft landed at the newly improved Kolkata Airport. The aerobridge was connected to the aircraft for easy movement of the passenger to the airport terminal. It was my first introduction to the new airport terminal in Kolkata and I was definitely impressed. The walk to the luggage conveyor was shortened by electric flat belt conveyors and finally descending to the escalator to the desired luggage conveyor system. The luggage conveyors also had a new upgrade from its rubber belt to stainless steel which is an innovative upgrade. At the gateway I was received by my uncle Mr Poddar who lives in Kolkata who took the pain to receive us at the Kolkata airport and arrange our transportation to a nearby hotel right next to the airport gate. The cab drove us to a nearby hotel named Hotel Swagatam Inn at jessore Road right next to gate no 2 at Kolkata Airport for our overnight trip.
We barely slept the night as we had to check in our luggage by 3:45AM. So we immediately left the hotel boarded a taxi which offered two trips for 11 passengers with a total of 9 luggage. The hustle and bustle continued till the taxi did two round trips from the hotel to the airport departure terminal. After we got our luggage screened we settled down with our boarding cards with us and waited for the Air India flight Airbus A319 no AI787 which would depart for Port Blair at 5:50AM. Now being a father of two baby girls I was not only faced questions not only from my kids but also from other fellow passengers with a common enquiry weather they are twins or not?. A simple nod was the only way to answer the incoming query. Finally the boarding call was announced and we were glad to find our seats. Thanks to the courtesy of the flight mode on android mobile phones which allowed taking pictures from on board flights. We were served a good breakfast which included of Purees, Choley, cakes and buns with extra butter and jam at your disposal. Everyone was glad to munch on the scrumptious breakfast and it was good enough to fill the gap of disappointment in the earlier flight. Now another interesting part is I found several passengers hiding the stainless steel spoons in their hand baggage with the Air India Logo in it. Now if you ever see a stainless steel spoon with the Air India Logo in somebody’s house you will figure where it came from. Nevertheless our flight descended at the famous Veer Savarkar Airport at Port Blair which is regarded as the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. We were greeted at the Airport by Mr Dinesh who happened to be the logistic incharge for Andaman Island Travels Ltd. We were on board an AC Chevrolet Tavera which was driven by Mr Ibrahim who was very kind enough to answer our queries regarding every question regarding the majestic islands. As we were travelling towards our designated hotel appointed by our tour operator we were impressed with the citys super clean roads, gentle traffic unlike any metros in India. Everything seemed so unreal. 24Hrs electricity, Thanks to the continuous DG gensets which fulfills the power requirement for 80MW everyday throughout the islands. A mini hydroelectric project has been set in Diglipur to reduce its dependence on diesel. Being surrounded by ocean waters all around there is strong wind across the coastline and thereby raising possibilities to generate electricity from wind. I hope their administration is doing necessary studies on its feasibility. Being an union territory its taxes on diesel and petrol is also less compared to other states in India. Well our cab driver was kind enough to drop us to our hotel which is in Phoenix Bay close to the popular Aberdeen Bazaar. The hotel comes with a restaurent in the ground floor which is good enough to accommodate around 10-15 people for a single batch.
The hotel has only one major drawback. It does not have a lift which makes it tough for elderly people who are often reluctant to climb stairs all the time. Besides it is also not an easy task for to climb up stairs with all heavy luggage to your room when your dealing with jet lag and sleep deprivation. Even though the hotel staff were always there to help us with our luggage whenever the situation demanded. Overall we have a good impression of the hotel. Its neat and tidy and the staff is extremely helpful. This was our adress for the next 5 days.Now based on our itinerary we had to board our cab by 3PM in the evening for our visit to the Science Museam and the famous Corbyn Cove beach which is a good relaxing destination also popular among tourists to sun bathe and enjoy the beach.
The beach is well equipped with life guards and other water sports entertainment like speed boatride, jetski ride. You can also swim in the beach in safe areas and always abide by the lifeguards advice not to swim too far. The beach also comes with changing and shower room for people. I would say it’s a fun place to be with your family and have a good time. We also visited the science center which is a good place to understand several principles of science experiments. The facility comes well equipped with various information kiosks related to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and also comes with a 3D digital theatre room. If anyone wishes he or she can try out for Rs 20/- per head. Well that was the end of our first days tour itinerary. We got back to our hotel on completion of our days tour.
The next day I woke up early morning and I decided to explore the city on my own. I walked across the road and walked up to Aberdeen Bazaar and then reached Mahatma Gandhi Water Sports Complex. I was impressed not only with the thick bitumen on the roads but also good width which made vehicles easy to drive and park across the road. I never saw anyone without a seat belt in the front seat or a motorcyclist without a helmet. Traffic laws are indeed respected in the islands which gained in me a sense of confidence that I am in a safe place. And surprisingly I never saw any rash driving in the city. No one is above the law and Port Blair is a strong example of that. I wished other cities, towns and villages followed even half the discipline of Port Blair traffic police department. The roads are neat and clean always well maintained by Port Blair Municipality Corporation.
Just in the middle of the Aberdeen Bazaar stays tall the Clock Tower which has stood through time. I have given a picture clicked both in the morning and during the evening. It was a rainy morning which made the fun of exploring the city even more.
So we were about to get started with the second days itinerary and it included a city tour, followed by the famous Cellular Jail and visit to the famous Chatam saw Mill, Anthropological Museam, Samudrika Marine Museam, and Sagarika Emporium which is a registered government emporium. Among all of them my personal favorite has been the Cellular Jail which has stood through the passage of time as a mute witness to the inhuman torture given to our freedom fighters who fought for our independence. The strong fortified walls were made of bricks all imported from Burma by the British and the entire plan of the building resembles the spokes of a bicycle. The entrance to all the individual cells shared one common point the central tower. The main objective to build such a jail was to demoralize the Indian struggle for independence. The Cellular jail or the Kaalapani had all possible evil tortures a person could never imagine. For a living mortal it was an ideal example of what hell would actually look like. The prisoners were chained to oil mills and job was entrusted upon them to extract oil from mustard seeds. They were whipped to death if they failed. There are also stories where a british officer punctured a prisoners tongue fearing he could complain a delegation led by higher British officials about the brutal torture which the prisoners had to undergo through. It was never ending saga of endless deaths and violence throughout several decades. Many notable dissidents such as Batukeshwar Dutt and Veer Savarkar, among others, were imprisoned here during the struggle for India’s independence.
This travelogue would actually fill up major parts of the tour if the entire stories of the Cellular Jail are written. Our visit further followed by visiting the Samudrika Naval Marine Museum which is maintained by the Indian Navy. It contains a good collection of several species of Corals and other marine creatures. The Anthropological Museum contains a history of the indigenous tribals of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands like the Jarawa, Onge , Shompen and many more. The Jarawa tribes are protected with great care by Indian Government and several medical facilities are given to them for their protection and care. We also visited the Chatam Saw Mill which is regarded as one of the oldest and largest saw mills in Asia. It was built by the British but now its been run by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration to meet the requirements of the timber industry. An office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests is also situated in the island. The island is connected to Port Blair island by the Chatam Bridge built ages ago by the British.In the evening we all joined in the Cellular jail and enjoyed the light and sound show which is spectacular event organized by the officials every evening.
Day 4 (4/9/14)
Our next day’s itinerary was Havlock Island which is 57kms away by sea and had to be reached by government ferry which would depart from Phoenix Bay Jetty by 6:30AM. So accordingly we reached the Phoenix Bay jetty and boarded our 73 seater passenger ship named MV North Passage. It was my first exposure to the open marine ambience. I climbed the deck and found a nice wooden tool box to sit and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. We reached Havlock in around 2 and half Hours. It was a delightful journey and most importantly my first experience on open waters. If anyone visits Andaman Islands I firmly recommend a cruise to Havlock.
On reaching the Havlock Jetty we were received by our tour operator drivers who drove us to our resort known as Holiday Inn which boasted of a beautiful quiet beach right next door. The kids made themselves at home and we found favorite spot to relax and enjoy the sun and have a good time. We were already tired of the cruise and we decided to call it a day till the tour operator told us we had to cover up the famous Radhanagar Beach which is rated as the second most beautiful beach in Asia. At first I thought it to be overrated till I finally experienced it for real. The beauty of the forest covered mangrove coastline meeting the sea. It’s such scenery which is only to be found in Radhanagar and nowhere else. Also this spot is a famous spot for sunset but sadly the sun was all covered with clouds wasting all efforts to wait till sunset. But it was still a breath taking experience. Radha Nagar beach has its best to offer during its peak season time which followed from October but nevertheless we got to get a glimpse of the beauty of Radhanagar beach at its best.
An interesting chemistry which I found in Havlock island was Havlock being an English name had some amazing beaches like Radhanagar. Govindnagar which were Indian names. The same chemistry can also be seen in Neil Island which being an English name has beaches with Indian names like the Sitapur Beach. But Neil Island wasn’t a part of our itinerary which didn’t allow us to visit that place for now.
I took a long walk across the sea beach and found an isolated place and decided to spend a few moments with Mother Nature. With the super quick sand crabs across the shore digging sand and sea gulls flying merrily and the sound of the waves further adding to the heavenly orchestra. Yes indeed its heaven. I would love to visit this place time and again and yet never feel tired of visiting. Nature has its own way to recharge a person’s soul. Mother nature is always ready to give you a hug no matter how much tired you are and Radhanagar beach is an ideal destination for all weary hearts to recharge themselves. The beach also has a nice place to rest on carved Padauk(A special type of wood found in the Andamans) timber seats. Speaking of lunch we had a delicious homely meal right next to the gate of the Radhanagar beach. I haven’t had a homely Bengali meal for a long time and I was delighted to get a taste of home at Radhanagar Beach. Coconut water is available for Rs20/- and this is some of the best coconut water ever to be found anywhere in India. In the evening we had a glimpse of the gorgeous sunset which was unfortunately
blocked by clouds.
We were further joined in our party by Mr Kiren Rijiju (Honorable Minister of State for Home Affairs) who was honored by other officials of Andaman and Nicobar Administration. Finally we decided to proceed to our resort and rest in our respective nests.
Day 5 ( 5/9/14)
Our 5th Day included a visit to the Kalapathar Beach which is around 7-8Kms away from our Hotel. The beach is mainly a rocky beach and being a no swimming zone,only photography is allowed. We went there and did some photography and finally proceeded towards our main jetty point at Havlock to board our govt ferry to return back to Port Blair.
On reaching Port Blair we were received by our driver who was sent by our tour operator Andaman Island Travels Pvt Ltd and he boarded us back to the hotel. On reaching the hotel we were pretty much wasted from the sea ambience. I had a headache for around 2 days. Probably it was sea sickness. Later in the evening we went to a nearby restaurant which offered typical Bengali delicacies like dal bhat, bhendi bhaja, mach bhaja and so on. The restaurant owner also proposed to try their lobster fry which would be made from lobster (pic attached).I decided to have a look at it, till I offered to drop the idea after looking at its wonderful texture.
Day 6 (6/9/14)
We have spent quite sometime in the islands for now and we are very much used to the sea water and its sickness. Well say hello to more of it. Today we are are do NorthBay and Ross Island which are fairly close to the Port Blair Island. We had to reach Aberdeen Jetty by 10AM and board the ferry to North Bay which is a 20 minute boat ride by sea. We were given life jackets for safety and waited for the diesel engine to fire up. The engine fired and we finally departed for North Bay Island which happens to be bordered by Coral Reefs. Now being a coral reef island a proper jetty cant be built across its shore, so the most practical way to reach the island was on a glass boat which offered a brilliant view of the corals down below the floor of the glass boat which is made of 1 inch thick glass specially tampered for the desired strength. The glass happens to be the only surface which connects with the water and there is always a risk of any sharp rock breaking the glass and giving way allowing the boat to sink. So its quite a risky affair in my opinion. But North Bay being a private island is maintained by its owners allowing the tourists only to climb up to the Light House which is helpful in navigating ships. Also the island happens to be a great place for scuba diving and snorkeling.
After spending around an hour in North Bay Island our final point of call for the day was the iconic Ross Island which was the British Capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands during pre independence era. Ross Island has a history of its own. The ruins of the Commisioners Bungalow, The Presbyterian Church, Junior Commisioned Officers Mess, and even a Water Distillery unit. It was also known as the Paris of the East. But Sadly a part of Ross Island was destroyed during the Second world War by the Japanese. The ruins of the buildings only speak of its glorified past. There are many peacocks, Deers in the island and its maintained with a lot of love by Indian Navy.
During the Tsunamis Ross Island stood as a primary barrier between the tsunami waves and Port Blair Island which took major part of the damage. A visit to Ross Island can only speak of the wonderful times which it was for the British Officers who were commissioned during pre independence era. Quite irony of the tale is Indians who were fighting for their independence were chained and tortured in Cellular Jail in Port Blair and the Mighty British were enjoying in great pomp and glory just in Ross Island which happened to be only 300-400 meters away from Port Blair Island. Time has taken its toll and justice has been served. While returning back to Port Blair we came across a coast guard ship which was guarding the islands with great dedication. The size of the ship developed powerful waves which was strong enough to capsize a small ferry. We were alarmed by a coast guard patrol speed boat to change the direction of our ferry accordingly and take us safely to Port Blair.
Day 7 ( 7/9/14)
After spending around 5 days in the Andamans and getting used to the tropical rainforests, sea breeze we decided to do something different. Formally our tour was over. We kept a day off allowing us to choose anything from whatever the tour operator suggested us. So our closest bet was the Chidiatapu Beach which is 30kms from Port Blair and needed to be reached by car. Chidiatapu is also a forest reserve and dense forest areas can be spotted everywhere. The road from Port Blair to Chidiatapu is an open invitation for nature lovers to try an affair with the open blue sky, dense green forestry and off course the deep blue sea all in a single package. We spent a few moments walking on the sand, sitting on the large trunks of trees which parked themselves on the sandy beaches. Even though its safe for swimming but after having spent almost 5 days in the andamans we decided to sit and relax and talk about our tour and experience on the majestic islands of Andaman.
After sitting for an an hour we decided to get back to our car and get back to our hotel and pack our bags we had to depart to Kolkata from Port Blair next Morning. After this itinerary our trip came to an end and we were almost ready to bid good bye to the beautiful Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Our tour was all over and we reached the airport by 7AM. We had a fairly large amount of luggage which needed some time to check in. Our departure time was at 8AM which departed on time and we reached Kolkata Airport. We spent a day in Assam House at 8,Russel Street Kolkata engaged ourselves in some shopping and finally arrived in Silchar by 10.9.14 which concludes our entire journey.
Since we were a family oriented group so we didn’t opt for other adventure oriented spots like the Barren Island which is the only live volcano in South Asia and it being 139kms away by sea. The Baratang Islands which is almost 100km road/sea trip. It also included the Limestone caves, Mangrove boat rides, mud volcano and not to mention if you are lucky you can even see the Jarawa tribal people. Alsoother places like the Cinque Island,Neil Island,Rangat, Little Andaman, Mount Harriet and several other places are there to experience the beauty of mother nature. In short Andaman is a never ending mystery and it always has lots to offer to a thirsty traveler. Andaman is a place which always tells you to come back again and unfold more mysteries of Mother Nature.
As a citizen of India I feel there are many things which people from other parts of India can always learn from people of Andaman. Like the importance of traffic laws and respect for your fellow car driver. I have never seen a single motorcyclist without a helmet. Car drivers always passed one another with a smile even if they were on the verge of collision. I also noticed a lady from Andaman who was our fellow flight passenger warning a gentleman who was taking pictures of aircrafts and airport areas despite the warning given for a no photography zone. The Port Blair Airport shares its similarity with Silchar Airport being defence cum civilian airport and hence the restrictions on photography.
Andaman also shares a good environment and its pollution levels are much less than other places in India. It is also covered by 24 hrs electricity and most of its electricity comes from diesel gensets. However I think wind energy could have a good potential in the Andaman and I urge the central government to carry on necessary studies on its feasibility.
Hope you all enjoyed reading my travelogue. Thank you very much
A trip to the Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands Travel & Tourism Package)