“Log kehte hai ye deeware khamosh rehti hai, Par main kehta hu ye deeware bhi kuch kehti hai.” -Kuldeep Pathak on Cellular Jail .
Highlights of the day
Anthropological Museum -> Located in Port Blair. It contains the highlights of primordial eras of Jarawas, Onges, Sentinelese, Shompens and Nicobarese tribes - the 5 major tribes of the group of islands.
Cellular Jail -> also known as Kālā Pānī, was a colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The first day of our tour was spent on local sightseeing. It started with a visit to the Anthropological Museum, which has a detailed description of all the tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Traditional dresses and tools were also put into the display. The museum gave us a good insight into the livelihood of the inhabitants of the islands.
Next on the list was the famous Cellular Jail, popularly known as ‘Kala Pani’. Cellular Jail was home to the Bravehearts who have been ousted from mainland India. The Jail was a big apartment shaped structure with a large number of prison cells. Apart from the cells, there were huts which were used to hang the ones who were ordered death sentence. There were various installations in the memory of the freedom fighters who suffered for a greater cause.
A walk through the jail cabinets at Cellular Jail, Port Blair.
The First day was all about local sightseeing and we settled into our rooms by the evening after having dinner.
Happiness comes in waves.
Highlights of the day
Chatam Saw Mill -> Chatham Saw Mill is situated in Chatham Island of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. It was set up in 1883.
Havelock islands -> Havelock Island (now Swaraj Island), is one of the largest islands that comprise a chain of islands to the east of Great Andaman in the Andaman Islands. It is famous for its dive sites and beaches.
We got ready in the morning, packed our luggage. We were to leave for Havelock island at 2.00PM after visiting two local sights. The first one was the Aquarium. We were not too impressed here, except for the giant Sperm Whale skeleton. Species were not alive, but preserved in chemicals, as we used to have in our biology labs in school. We finished this sight in like 15 minutes and headed to the Saw Mill.
The Saw Mill is located near the largest harbor of Port Blair. This large area of Saw Mill also had bomb pits created during the bombing on the island by the Japanese in 1942. We went around the Mill noticing the various methods and warehouse put into use. The mill is operational till date. We had an informal discussion with the employees there. The bomb pit was literally a pit, so not much to see.
Stray stacks of wood alongside with an old-styled warehouse behind.
After these two sights, we were taken to the port for our journey to Havelock island. We were let inside at 1.30PM. The ferry was quite big and could take like 150 passengers at a time. Having occupied the seats for less than 15 mins, we all went upstairs on to the observation deck of the ferry. We were merrily graced by the pleasant winds. Took a lot of photographs and finally stood at the corner of the ferry feeling the air breeze past us. The 2.5-hour long ferry trip to Havelock island ended in no time. The clock read 4.00PM while deboarding.
Cool breeze and pleasant sunshine gracing us.
We wanted to see the sunset at a beach, so we rushed to the resort and then walked on to the private beach alongside. The clean waves and mild sunshine welcomed us to Havelock. Sunset was accompanied by a walk along the beach. We settled back to our resort and slept comfortably.
There is nothing better than a day at the beach.
Highlights of the day
Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Islands -> Counted among the most beautiful beaches of Asia, Radhanagar Beach or Beach No. 7 is incredibly astounding beach located on the gorgeous Havelock island.
Neil islands -> It is a very small island with an approximate length of 8km and a breadth of 3km. It is home to beautiful corals and diverse fish species. The population of the island is approximately 5000.
The day started with a visit to Radhanagar Beach. We were flabbergasted by the beauty of the beach. The sunshine, the sand, and the water made a perfect combo. Since we started very early, the beach was almost empty and the sun was bright. In no time, I made up my mind to have fun in the water. All of us spent nearly an hour and a half swimming with the waves. Soon the beach was occupied with tourists and the atmosphere was good all around. Soon, light rains joined us in our celebration. After having a memorable time at the beach, we all got freshened up again leaving behind the salts.
The beautiful Radhanagar beach.
5 minutes on the beach and this is me.
Our one day tour to Havelock ended on a high and we have very enjoyed it heavily. We again had a ferry from Havelock island to Neil island. The duration of this ferry was 1.5 hours. None of us went downstairs at our allotted seats. We remained at the deck and enjoyed the winds. We were supposed to go to Laxmanpur beach to view the sunset at Neil island, hence were a bit disappointed when the ferry reached 15 mins late. Our driver at Neil immediately took us to the Laxmanpur beach. Again, it is a very beautiful beach. The sun was almost dying, hence I had to run to the sunset spot to get a snap of the scene. Luckily, I was able to get a glimpse of the sunset. We return an hour after the sunset after buying some souvenirs. We returned to the resort, had dinner and made ourselves comfortable in the room.
Sun hiding behind the hill and the clouds.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
Highlights of the day
Bharatpur Beach, Neil Island -> Tranquil, picturesque beach popular for swimming & activities like snorkeling & scuba diving.
Natural Bridge, Neil island -> The Natural bridge is a rock structure protruding out from the main wall with a giant hole in it caused by the continuous waves over centuries.
Definitely the most exciting day of the tour, all thanks to Scuba Diving we had. In the morning we all dressed up and processed to the Bharatpur beach, famous for water activities. I and my sisters were already very excited for the Scuba diving we planned to have. We first went to Glass Boat. Glass Boat is simply a motorboat with a magnifying glass bottom. The boat took us to the place where corals and fishes were visible underneath. Hence we could see all of them through the glass bottom. The beautiful corals and the fishes were a delight to the eye. We got more excited thinking we will go there while having the Scuba dive. Just after getting off from the Glass Boat, we went on to the Scuba Diving booking point. There were a lot of people in the queue hence we got some delay here. After a long wait, I was called. My sisters were in a different group. The Scuba at Neil was approximately a one-hour long thing with training for the first 15 minutes and then going to deep sea followed by 20-25 minutes underwater Scuba.
The training was a bit frightening for me. The precautions were a bit difficult to follow at first. The instructor demonstrated how to put back the breathing apparatus if it goes out of the mouth. This was okayish and I could do that easily. Next was to remove any water from eye mask if it entered. This was very challenging as water always went inside my nose when I tried this. I was a bit unsure about this. Then another fellow tourist who was with me backed me up. He had done it once before and was telling me not to worry about precautions as it won’t happen if you don’t do anything funny inside water. After a long wait, the boat arrived, which was supposed to take us to the deep sea. We all boarded the ship and it took 15 minutes to take us far from the shores. I was put on the apparatus and made to jump into the sea. Gosh! This was real dare to jump off and hope everything is correct. But yeah! it went smoothly after that. I was accompanied by an instructor. He was there to control my buoyancy (and hence the depth). I slowly went down and saw the beautiful world of corals and fishes. It was so mesmerizing and eye pleasing. A turtle lay there moving the legs. All of this was so pleasing and definitely worth the money. This was probably the best 25 minutes of the trip.
I was brought up in like half an hour. Then we were taken back. We were too late due to the unexpected delay in the arrival of the boat. Hence I rushed to the changing room, got back in no time, took the photos and videos from the Scuba center and got ready to proceed to the next point.
A picture which says it all.
We immediately reached the Natural Bridge, thanks to the very small area of the Neil island. Natural Bridge is a beautiful creation of nature. Located alongside the sea, the place is surrounded by dead corals. We took photographs all around the natural bridge. This sight did not take too much of the time and soon we proceeded to the ferry terminal for our return journey to Port Blair.
Natural Bridge. Spot me!
The return ferry was around 2 hours long and we again sat at the deck discussing the wonderful activities and sights we did during our visit to the Havelock and Neil. We reached Port Blair when the clock ticked 6.00PM. We had dinner on the way back and then slept early since the next day was to start of 3.00AM.
“It is more about the journey than the destination”
Highlights of the day
Trip to Baratang -> Baratang is located on a small island. The place is famous for its marvelous limestone caves. The journey to the islands and the cave is a bit interesting. The vehicle needs to cross the reserved forest for the Jarawa tribe (Negro breed, Black in color), one of the five tribes of this part of the country. This stretch of road through the reserved area is 48km long. Moreover, any interaction with the tribes is strictly prohibited, the punishment of which is as severe as 3 years jail and 10k fine. People from the Jarawa tribes do not eat what we eat. They have never tasted a pinch of salt. They are not used to wearing clothes like us. No mobile phones or food items are allowed while crossing the area. All of it must be locked into a bag. Also, the gate to the reserve opens only thrice a day, each for fifteen minutes only. No overtaking is allowed and a speed of 40 is to be maintained in the reserved forest.
Light and Sound Show at Cellular Jail -> Provides a detailed description of the role of the jail in the freedom movement and the invasion of Japanese later. The sound is accompanied by some picturesque lights and effects.
The day started at 3.00AM due to the restrictions at the Jiraktang check post. The ‘car’ took us to the reserve gate in an hour. The gate opens at 6.00AM, hence we had 2 hours in hand. We started this early in order to be in the front in the convoy starting at 6.00AM. We were pretty much successful in this effort since our ‘car’ was at around 10th place out of 200 or so vehicles. After having a light breakfast, we made ourselves comfortable in the nearby ‘dhaba’.
The convoy started at 6.00AM sharp. All of us had our eyes glued to the windows in order to catch a glimpse of the tribals. All the vehicles were moving in a line almost at a constant speed. The driver was trying to ease us a bit. I was placed at the back seat of the ‘car’, hence I had an advantage due to wider viewing angle. I spotted a small hut and a tall woman coming out of it with a band on the forehead. I claimed to have seen one of the tribals. After that, all of us became more watchful hoping to see one. To our luck, one of them came on to the road and stopped our vehicle. At first, all of us were frightened but slowly our perception changed. The tribal stopped our car and was looking very weak. He was asking for ‘paan’. The driver refused to give anything, as expected. We were later told by the driver that some of them got the habit of ‘paan’ thanks to the drivers passing their vehicles who offered them ‘paan’. We met a few more of them on the road. All of them were in search of food. We felt pity for them and hoped they soon educate themselves. We passed through the jungle in an hour and a half.
This reserved forest was just at the edge of the island, and hence, we needed to take a ferry soon after that. We got into a big government ferry which took us to Baratang islands. We got our permit from the forest range officers and again boarded a 10-seater private motorboat to proceed to the much awaited Limestone cave. The 15-min journey was followed by the boatsman taking us into the Limestone caving and explaining the formation of various shapes in the cave. The glowing white limestone cave caught our eyes. Formations like the inverted lotus, lord hanuman were not obvious but worth believing once explained.
The three nose impression on the rocks of Limestone Caves
We then headed back to the Baratang island and had our lunch. Once again we took the giant government ferry to reach the brink of the reserved forest. The convoy from this side was supposed to start at 12.30PM sharp. We were able to make back to our vehicle by 12.25PM. The returning convoy again followed the same set of rules - no foods, mobiles etc. On the way back, we saw more tribals. A lady feeding something strange to a man, a lady sitting roadside with her son, who has a feather in his hand.
We reached our room at 3.30PM and spent some time discussing the Jarawa Tribes we encountered on our way.
The evening was spent enjoying the light and sound show at the Cellular Jail at Port Blair. The show highlighted the journey of Indian struggle for freedom and the significance of Cellular Jail and the role of Bravehearts of the freedom fighters jailed in here. The show also portrayed eviction of Britishers from the islands and the invasion of Japanese on the island in 1942. It was an interesting show which was also a good historical account of the Jail. However, the show was not very great in terms of the visual and sound effects used but doing this on empty ground and symmetrical jails is itself a challenging task.
The day ended with a dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Water is the mirror of nature.
Highlights of the day
Ross Islands -> Located just 2 kilometers east of Port Blair is the Ross Island - an island which was once the administrative headquarters of the British, but today, it is only a barren place.
North Bay -> North Bay Island is a fascinating place to visit for the beach lover. Coral reefs can be seen here by water diving, the beach is covered by coral remains, jellyfishes can be seen swimming nearby.
Our vehicle dropped us to a small port which had many small motor boats to take us to the 2 islands - Ross Island and North Bay. We got into our designated boat (named ‘Jatayu’ :P ) at 10.30AM and headed towards Ross Islands. We were supposed to assemble again at the Ross Islands port at 12.30PM for the same motorboat to take us to North Bay.
Ross Island was a very well planned island, occupied in the early 20th century by the Britishers. The island had very good facilities, all built by the then British officers residing on the islands. It had a modern water distillation plant, a beautiful church, a well-constructed secretariat. The island was also inhabited by deer and peacocks. Pleasant winds from the sea lightened our mood and we spent some time sitting on the benches facing the sea. We walked through the whole island in an hour. The island was pretty small, a meagre dot in the map of India. We boarded back our ‘Jatayu’ and headed to the North Bay.
A candid at the Ross island
The North Bay has nothing much to offer, apart from water activities and the famous lighthouse. Since we were done enjoying Scuba Diving at Neil Island, this island did not have much to offer. Upon our request, my parents went in a water ride called as the Dolphin. It was very much similar to the Glass Boat at Neil Islands, hence they did not found it very cool. Meanwhile, we spent time sitting on the grass at the lighthouse.
Our ‘Jatayu’ took us back to Port Blair. We returned to our new hotel at 5.00PM fully exhausted. This was the last outing we had on our trip to the Andamans. We spent some time discussing stuff, majorly comparing our visit to different islands.
We took an early morning 8.30AM flight back to the mainland to continue with our vacation. The weights were more - partly due to souvenirs and majorly memories :)
And the best one