Historical tryst with Port Blair

I was unaware of the real beauty of this jewel in our own backyard, so to speak. No amount of research and trip planning prepared me for the first glimpse of the green-blue waters and emerald islands when I peeked out of the air plane window. I was amazed at the riot of colors below us and was as excited as the 2 little brats accompanying me.

View of the Emerald Islands from the airplane

View of the Emerald Islands from the airplane

Yes, with that amazing shot still fresh in the camera of our eyes, we landed in the quaint little airport of Port Blair, Veer Savarkar International Airport, raring to go and see more.

A quick transfer to the hotel, followed by lunch and we were ready to take on the heat. Must do things in Port Blair

1) Cellular Jail

Our first stop was the famous Cellular Jail, which was converted into National Memorial monument in 1969. This prison, also known as Kala Paani (black waters) was used by the British to exile political prisoners during the struggle for India’s Independence. You can’t help the rush of patriotism, the sacrifice of many weigh heavy upon your heart as the guide (highly recommended) narrates stories of torture, hardships, bravery and hope.

Swatantray Jyot - a tribute to the brave and selfless

Swatantray Jyot – a tribute to the brave and selfless

What fascinated (and disturbed) me at the same time was the brains behind the architecture of this jail.

The daunting building of the Jail

The daunting building of the Jail

The central building was a watch tower for guards and had a huge bell. From this intersection emerges 7 wings, like spokes of a wheel. Each wing had 3 stories. There were no dormitories and each cell was 14.8 ft × 8.9 ft in size with a ventilator located at a height of 9.8 ft. The face of the cell in a spoke opened to the wall of the other spoke preventing any communication, thus designed for solitary confinement.

The fascinating and disturbing architecture of the Cellular Jail

The fascinating and disturbing architecture of the Cellular Jail

Veer Savarkar’s cell is a must visit.

Veer Savarkar was imprisoned here

Veer Savarkar was imprisoned here

 

Corridor outside Veer Savarkar's cell

Corridor outside Veer Savarkar’s cell

From the top of the jail, one can see the Govind Ballabh Pant Government Hospital which has been set up in the premises of the Cellular Jail in 1963. It is a 500-bed hospital serving the local population. It’s a very efficient hospital with visiting doctors from major cities. Hopefully, you never have to use this tip – in case of any medical emergency this is an excellent option and they do not charge you for the treatment, as one of my traveling friends found out.

In the courtyard is a Banyan tree, which apparently has been witness to the events in the jail. It is also the narrator of the Light and Sound show, which is a must see.

Timings for Cellular Jail

9 am to 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm to 5 pm
Open on all days except Monday and national holidays
Light and Sound show timings: 6 pm (Hindi), 7:15 pm (English)

2) Anthropological Museum

The next day after breakfast, we set out to visit the Anthropological Museum. This is a must visit , if you are keen to know about the life of the original inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar islands – Jarawas, Sentinelese, Great Andamanese, Onges and the two Mongoloid Tribes of Nicobar – Nicobarese and Shompens. The museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the different tribes, the original inhabitants of the Andaman islands. It gives you a glimpse of the lifestyle, culture and daily use items of the tribes, during their early days.

Jarawa dwelling in the forest

Jarawa dwelling in the forest

 

Jarawa woman with her catch / find of the day

Jarawa woman with her catch / find of the day

You will get to see the skills of the tribes in innovatively using available natural resources to create objects of daily use like torch, umbrella, jewelery. Their skill in ship building, for use in transport and fishing, is also at display.

Torch

Torch

Objects of daily use

Objects of daily use

Shell anklets

Shell anklets

Waist Girdle

Waist Girdle

Building boats

Building boats

What was interesting is the fact that there were many refugees and skilled labor, that was brought into the Andamans at some point. They make up the current set of tribal demographics in the archipelago and also explains the other languages spoken here – Bengali, Malayalam.

Imports into the archipelago

Imports into the archipelago

The complete tour of this museum should take about 2 hours, at a leisurely pace.

Timing: 8:30AM – 1.00PM, 1.30PM – 4.30PM

3) Ross Island

Next on the cards was the much awaited trip to Ross Island. This island is controlled by the Indian Navy and was on my must visit places while in Port Blair. All it takes is a 10 minutes ferry ride from the Aberdeen Jetty (near the Water Sports Complex).

From a distance, it really looks like an uninhabited island with thick forest. It is hard to believe that at one point this was the key establishment of British power, housing everything that the British officers needed – Government house (bungalow), barracks, bakery, ballroom, tennis court, swimming pool, water treatment plant, church, hospital etc.

Ross Island with its thick forests

Ross Island with its thick forests

The first thing that catches your eye is the Japanese Bunker. During the Second World War, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were captured by the Japanese from 1942 through 1945. The Japanese army landed in Port Blair on 23rd March, 1942 and occupied the island quite easily. They fortified the island by pulling down existing buildings for raw material and building several bunkers along the water front. The Japanese built 13 bunkers all around the island out of which 4 bunkers can still be seen. These symbolize the apprehension of the Japanese against attack during WW-II.

One of the Japanese Bunkers seen as you touch down on Ross Island

One of the Japanese Bunkers seen as you touch down on Ross Island

The island is replete with many coconut trees, deer and peacocks. The kids had a great time interacting (or seemingly so) with the deer but the peacock remained elusive.

Deep in conversation

Deep in conversation

 

Peacock was not so friendly, after all

Peacock was not so friendly, after all

The beaches along the island were neat and there are benches to sit by and gaze into the ocean and the horizon.

Gazing into the horizon (and some rest)

Gazing into the horizon (and some rest)

Given the dilapidated conditions of most buildings, Ross island is considered one of the haunted abandoned places. (http://www.placesyoullsee.com/35-scary-and-haunted-abandoned-places/)

Timings:  Timing to visit this place is from 8:30 in the morning to 16:30. [Closed on Wednesdays]

4) Corbyn’s Cove Beach

The next stop was to Corbyn’s Cove Beach , a wisp of land, nestled between coconut palms. The drive to the beach was stunning with the view of the Marina Park and the clear blue waters of the ocean visible through the drive.

A Drive to remember

A Drive to remember

 

Evening by the Corbyn’s Cove Beach

Evening by the Corbyn’s Cove Beach

Going by the crowd in the evening, the Sherlock in me decided that this was a popular one. Understandably so, given the distance from Port Blair , a mere 8 kms from the city center.

Quite a few options for entertainment available here.

  1. Water Sports – Zip across the ocean on a motor boat or water scooter
  2. Relax on the benches and enjoy the view of the ocean and the sunset
  3. alternate between getting into the water and frolick on sand (kids favorite anytime !)
  4. Enjoy a refreshing drink of coconut water from the shops lines up at the beach, buy some shell jewelery and watch the kids have a great time (guess who chose this option ;))
Exploring the sea

Exploring the sea

 

Frolicking in the sand

Frolicking in the sand

 

Posing with my shell jewellery purchase

Posing with my shell jewellery purchase

Well my excuse ? I had heard so much about my next destination ! Havelock, here I come 🙂

Some general helpful information

Port Blair is the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It has great connectivity from Kolkatta and Chennai (though I have recently seen hoarding of direct flights from Bangalore).

Weather : The best time to visit is October to May. The average temperature in summer would be around 30 degree C (and not very humid) and in winter would be 26 degree C. Catch the Island Tourism festival if you visit in the month of December and January

Hotel : Sea Shell hotel in Port Blair is a great place to stay. I am particular about cleanliness and I found the rooms and the hotel very neat. The staff was very cordial and the view of the ocean from the restaurant was spectacular.

Transport : I normally prefer visiting a place at my pace and on my terms but with Andaman I booked through MakeMyTrip and I was not disappointed. All travel and transport were taken care of. I noticed that there were enough autos / taxis available to take you around, if you are on your own.

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

admin

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

24 Responses

  1. Ami says:

    Welcome to the world of Blogging 🙂 waiting to get to andamans

  2. Manish says:

    Cool stuff.
    Gives the idea if I plan for a trip.
    Are tourists allowed for car nicobar?

    • admin says:

      Thanks Manish !

      Yes, you can visit Car Nicobar. A permit is required to visit Car Nicobar which can be issued from Port Blair. There is an air base of Indian Air Force there.You can stay at the CPWD guest house, a tourist lodge or can request permission to stay in the Air Force officers mess. My guess is it will be easier to visit if you have friends / family with the Indian air force.

  3. travel says:

    It’s amazing designed for me to have a website, which is valuable in favor of my know-how.
    thanks admin

  4. Nice, nice to vacay

  5. Alicia P says:

    Lovely pics! You would find me sitting on the beach gazing upon the horizon…so beautiful!

  6. jhilmil says:

    Oh yes, Andamans are amazing.. I love their amazing beaches & especially Neils Island & Havelock

  7. Deepa says:

    Wow..the sky looks so pretty. We were planning for Andamans this summer but we went to Munnar due to monsoons. Good info.

  8. Amrita says:

    I would love to visit the Andaman’s .The aerial shot is stunning .Thanks for a beautiful and informative virtual trip to Port Blair

  9. Jill says:

    What a gorgeous place! I love places that are so rich in blue hehe

  10. Wow. I didn’t know pretty much any of this stuff. Great post. The jail I think sounds the most interesting to me. I don’t know why but I am fascinated by “darker” historical landmarks.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Elizabeth. The Cellular jail has the most impact in Port Blair. You can’t help feel the anguish of the then residents of this place.

  11. I really learned a lot from this one, thanks so much for bringing this to the world’s attention.

  12. Saumy says:

    I won’t say that I ‘ve read a lot about the celullar jail and kala pani but it’s indeed something that I remember for all the wrong and not-so proud worthy reasons. Many people died serving for the freedom of our country and that too in most inhumane ways. Such magnificent architecture of jail but with memories of the most terrible stories.I loved the shades of blue in cellular jail and beach pictures. Brilliantly written, Swati!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Saumy. That was a great boost for me. Glad you liked the post. I agree with you on the emotion at Cellular jail. The light and sound show did pull at the heartstrings big time. I could not imagine the atrocities that the freedom fighters went thru to give us this freedom we take for granted. As they say “woh kissi aur mitti ke hi bane the”

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