There is something about Andamans that pulls me closer to the majestic islands each time I hear about them. After all, the place is called ‘Emerald Islands’ for a good reason! I developed an instant like for Andamans long back, when I saw the pictures of the place. At first, those beaches seemed to be situated in the Maldives, but I was surprised to know that our country houses them! And then began my persuasion stories…Each time my family planned a trip, they knew what my choice would be. Each time they planned trips to everywhere except the Maldives of India (at least for me!) Finally, after lots and lots of patience, persuasion and perhaps the hard work, here’s what I get: A trip to Andamans!!
It was the end of the second semester and my maritime college had tortured me enough. Hectic Schedules, Early Morning Physical Training, 100% Attendance Policy and what not! Sadly, the even semesters were longer in duration than the odd ones. Plus, we never got any breaks. It had been over five months since I visited my home place i.e. Lucknow. I desperately needed a holiday. A long one actually! Nothing could have been better than the location that I had dreamt of! I had read, heard and dreamt (Yes! I did that too) a lot about the place. Those white sand beaches, picturesque landscapes and awesome weather, what does one asks for more?
The day arrived soon and in no time we set off for the wonderful journey! Andaman can be reached by flights from Kolkata and Chennai. We chose the latter route. Our flight from Lucknow took off at 6 in the evening and we had a connection to Chennai from Delhi. We were at Chennai by the 11:00 PM. All flights to Port Blair depart early morning and hence we had to wait at the Chennai Airport itself for some time. It was time. The pilot announced “Crew, Ready for takeoff!” The flight from Chennai took off sharp at 0500 hours. It is advisable to opt for a windows seat as on the approach towards the beautiful Islands, one gets a visual treat offered by Andamans. Unfortunately, I was seated on an aisle seat. Occupying the window seat was a gentleman from the South. On my polite request to swap seats, he refused bluntly. As time flew by, I was surprised and angry to look at him as he had happily closed the window shutter and was enjoying his nap. Nothing hurts more! Seriously! Rightly said, somehow I did manage to get a window seat from a lady seated opposite to me! ;) The pride and feeling of achievement was just unmatchable and to celebrate the moment I gave a wicked smile to the gentleman who was rude to me! :P
Those visuals are still fresh and clear in my mind. Small patches of Island, beautiful textures and lovely coconut trees. Mesmerizing it all was! Our plane touched the runway and the message followed “Welcome to Port Blair Airport!” The plane now proceeded to the gate, but wait! Cars, Bikes, Trucks on the runway! What? Yes! You read that right. INS Utkrosh, a defense unit located to the right of runway, can be accessed by crossing the same. Located on the left of the runway is a small gate which opens up only when the runway is clear of aircrafts and allows vehicles to commute towards INS Utkrosh. Where else can you find it? The Airport of Port Blair isn’t like the ultra cool ones. They don’t have those transfer bridges and you’ll be greeted by stairways to de-board the aircraft. Once you enter the terminal, you’ll find roof with fans and a shabby paint on the walls with cobwebs as yet another visual. The terminal is guarded by the defense units and photography is prohibited the very moment you de-board the aircraft. We were greeted by our tour manager Mr. Ravi. Did I mention that our trip was planned and designed by me on consultation of various websites. This time though, Ghumakkar didn’t come that handy due to the lack of travel stories on this very destination. Anyways, Mr. Ravi went through my itinerary and altered it accordingly. Find below the final itinerary that we had to follow.
Day I: (2nd Aug, 2013)
Arrive at Port Blair. Visit Carbyn’s Cove Beach, Science Centre, Fisheries Museum and Cellular Jail.
Day II: (3rd Aug, 2013)
Three Island Tour (North Bay, Ross and Viper Island)
Day III: (4th Aug, 2013)
Visit the Baratang Islands
Day IV: (5th Aug, 2013)
Havelock Island Tour
Day V: (6th Aug, 2013)
Local City Tour (Samudrika, Chatham Saw Mill, Anthropological Museum, Gandhi Park, Jogger’s Park, Chidiya Tapu)
Day VI: (7th Aug, 2013)
Visit Wandoor, Wandoor Beach and Red Skin Islands
We had booked our stay in one of the Port Blair’s local sight-seeing wonders. The Central Agricultural Research Institute or CARI (pronounced karry by the locals) is the research institute under ICAR. Being my mother’s employer, we managed to get a stay at the guest house in CARI. We chose the same because my mother had a few colleagues who worked at the Institute plus the location of CARI is unbeatable. Nested in between a beautiful land patch surrounded by coconut trees and lush green landscapes, CARI offered marvelous views. Perhaps that’s the reason why it is included in the local sight-seeing travel spots.
After some rest and refreshment, it was time to go out and explore the city. Mr. Ravi (Tour Manager, Contact: 09434261219) had arranged a Tavera for us which came sharp at 1300 hours to collect us. The first spot which we had to cover was ‘Carbyn’s Cove Beach’ or Carbyn Beach as called by the locals. The beach lies in the city heart and is accessible easily. Within some time we were at the place and were surprised to see no one at the spot. Carbyn is a small beach with limited options. One gets to find those peppy beach chairs in plenty along with a colorful umbrella nested into the same. The beach also has water sports and boating options. The beach was decent and clean.
We spent about 30 minutes and took a quick walk around the area when suddenly rain god showered his blessings. We rushed towards the car and proceeded towards the next spot. Science Centre it is. Ironically, just after a few minutes, the drizzling stopped and the sky was clear. “Sir! Yahan baarish aise hi hoti hai. Paanch minute me band ho jaati hai aur aasmaan saaf ho jaata hai” (Sir! The rains over here are just like this. It rains for mere five minutes and then the sky is all clear) said our Taxi Driver.
The Port Blair Science Centre is no different than the ones in all other Indian cities. With the same setup and machines, the experience was no different. What was interesting though was the quiz desk where four players get the chance to compete with each other on an Andaman Quiz! Yeah Baby! It was Quizzing time. The Quizzer in me was anxious to come out. Sadly, my dad stood first (Though all his answers were wild guesses!) and luck didn’t favour me as I lost just by 10 points. : ( Also, the caricature of an old plane is one thing which people shouldn’t miss. This plane stands towards the extreme right of the building complex. If you don’t have kids in your trip then it is advisable to skip the Science Centre and proceed ahead.
Next up on the list was Fisheries Museum. Situated a few km. away from the city this museum is dedicated to the marine life of Andaman and Nicobar Island. As you enter the complex you are greeted by a massive skeleton of a Whale. Photography is not permitted inside the museum so cameras should be left in the vehicle itself. The museum houses a good collection of fishes though I was least interested in them. After a quick round we came outside and proceeded towards the taxi. It was now time to visit the most awaited spot in Andamans. Kaali Paani or The Cellular Jail is perhaps among the most visited tourist places in the entire island.
The Cellular Jail, an Indian Bastille stands as a mute witness to the untold sufferings and undaunted spirit of the Indian revolutionaries against the brutality of the British Barbarism. The name Cellular is derived from its unique feature of having 693 cells. The construction of the Jail was taken up in Oct 1893 and was completed in 13 years at the cost of Rs. 5,17,352/-. As a mark of respect to the Indian freedom fighters the Cellular Jail was dedicated to the nation by then prime minister, Shri Morarji Desai in the year 1979 and now it stands as national memorial of great historical importance.
As you enter the gates of the Jail, you’ll proceed to a museum which has the photos of all national heroes. The museum also has the stories of how they were tortured and brutality killed by the Britishers. Most of the brave revolutionaries were deported to this Jail and were killed due to brutal force feeding process. Just a floor above one gets to find an art gallery which is devoted to the revolutionaries and their sufferings. The gallery houses excellent pieces of painted canvas by various well known artists. As you step out of the building you’ll find a lamp which is lit up in the respect of the freedom fighters. On the left stands a memorial which was built in the remembrance of the brave revolutionaries of the first fight for freedom (1857), who lost their lives for the country.
The Cellular Jail was designed in such a fashion that each of the seven wings can be monitored using a central watch tower. As of now, only two wings are preserved and remaining have been broken and converted into a hospital. Each wing has three floors and each floor houses 33 cells. Each cell measures 136” x 76” or 11 feet by 6 feet. I must say that the design is amazing. We were amazed to see the locking system adapted by the Britishers. Even the walls were made quite thick and this made it next to impossible for the prisoners to escape.
We also got a chance to see the room where the prisoners were hanged to death. After spending some time in the jail, it was time for the very famous Light and Sound Show. The show starts at 1630 hours, but we were unfortunate enough as the show’s equipment was broken down and was expected to be fixed now before a week. I was very disappointed as from what all I had heard and read this show is worth a watch! If you come to visit Port Blair, make it a point to witness the sheer amazing Light and Sound show.
The evenings in Port Blair are truly amazing. With moderate winds, clear skies and stunning landscapes the traveller gets the best of what the nature has to offer. We headed to the Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex to enjoy the sea side. It is the same spot from where one gets to board a ferry to the three islands (Ross, Viper and North Bay). The place seemed to be an ideal spot for the locals in the evening. We relaxed ourselves in the side park and enjoyed the view. Andaman was definitely what I wanted it to be. I just couldn’t wait for the next sunrise as the place had a lot on offer!
Leaving you all with a quick fact!
Did you know: Newspapers in Andaman and Nicobar islands arrive by flights from Kolkata and Chennai a day after? Port Blair has its own three page news letter which is printed on a daily basis.