Friday, January 23, 2015

North Bay, Port Blair

26 December 2014

Previous posts:
Trip to Andaman islands
Corbyn’s cove beach in Port Blair
Cellular Jail
Ross island

If you look at twenty rupee note carefully, a photo of a lighthouse can be seen. That lighthouse is situated in North Bay Island. It is trivial but interesting information. We went there not for the lighthouse but for coral reefs.

Lighthouse in North Bay
Our package was Ross Island + North Bay combo. Once we winded up our Ross Island tour, the boat took us to North Bay which took about 30 minutes. Technically North Bay is connected to Port Blair by landmass but I do not think there is a road to reach the place. Many places in Andaman are well connected by boat than road. So to reach North Bay, boat is easiest mode of transport.

Corals in North Bay
As we neared North Bay we were told about the options for viewing marine life. The large boats cannot anchor at North Bay. Building a Jetty requires digging in water thus damaging corals. Hence the big boats that we travel anchor at a distance and the passengers have to travel to the shore on small boats.

There are many options to view corals. One option is to ride on a glass bottom boat and have a look at the corals. Since water is clear in Andaman the corals can be viewed without much difficulty. All other options like Scuba diving, Snorkelling and sea walking require the person to get into water. We decided to try glass bottom boat as we had planned to do other activities in Havelock.

Brain corals
North Bay has good amount of corals which we could see from the glass boat. They are in various forms and shapes. The most distinguishing one was the brain coral. The boatman said that it was only seen in Andaman which I seriously doubted.

North Bay has some eateries that serve bad food. We were hungry and hence we ate whatever that was available. Later, we went to the part of the sea that was less crowded and happily played in water.  One need not worry about getting wet as changing rooms are available.

At 4PM we got the call from boatman to start. Reluctantly we got out of water and prepared for our return journey to Port Blair. The return journey was turbulent due to rough sea.

Note: At Aberdeen Jetty, boats are available for Ross Island and North Bay separately. Combined packages for Ross Island and North Bay are also available. We had taken the combo package. The same boat will be available for the entire journey. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ross island, Port Blair

26 December 2014

Previous posts:
Trip to Andaman islands
Corbyn’s cove beach in Port Blair
Cellular Jail, Port Blair

Our destination after Cellular Jail was Ross Island. We headed to Aberdeen Jetty near water sport complex to collect boat tickets for Ross Island and North Bay. The system works in a well organized manner. The boat name is clearly mentioned in the ticket. Announcements were made in mike when the boat arrives. Passenger names are called out. So there is no need to rush and run towards the entrance of the Jetty. Only sore point being the boats may not be on time always.

Tanushree at Aberdeen Jetty
After a boat accident last year, the authorities have tightened the rules. Overloading of boats than maximum capacity is not allowed, everyone is provided with a life jacket and sailing is cancelled if the weather turns bad or sea becomes rough. These rules were being followed at all places in Andaman.

Ruins of Ross island
It took about 20 minutes to reach Ross Island. The island had seen a golden age when British ruled India. While the prisoners languished in cellular jail, the British authorities established their settlement in Ross Island. The facilities were lavish and Ross Island was named as “Paris of East”. But nothing remains constant forever.  An earthquake in 1941 caused major damages to the island. In the subsequent year Andaman was occupied by Japanese. The bunkers put by Japanese can still be seen in the island.

Tanu posing in front of the ruins
Even though British regained the control of Andaman in 1945, the time had come to abdicate their power in India. Ross Island never regained its lost glory. It was left abandoned.

Today, Indian navy controls this island. Most of the buildings of British era are in ruins and forest has overtaken them.

The water purification plant which is now in a rusted shape.

On the other side of Ross Island is Ferar beach. The beach is rough but the waters were clean and blue. A good place to spend some time.

There is a pond at the center of the island.

Deer is not a local animal in Andaman and they have been “imported” from mainland. Few of them roam in Ross Island also. My daughter was happy to see them in open.

There are no eateries in Ross Island. Kulfi, Coconut water and few lightweight snacks are available. Better to get packed food if you want to eat something.

Ferar beach
We roamed for about two hours in the island. When we came near the Jetty area our ship was ready to leave for the next destination.

A ruined Church

Note: There is also “Sound & Light” show in Ross Island. We did not go for it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cellular Jail, Port Blair

25th December 2014

Previous posts:

After our visit to Corbyn’s cove beach, we came back to Cellular Jail to collect the tickets was “Sound & Light show”. The show starts at 6PM and still we had time. We headed to ‘Jogger’s park’ that provided a bird’s eye view of Port Blair airport. When we came back to Cellular Jail, people had already seated for “sound and light” show. One hour program showcased the history of Andaman and cellular Jail in particular. It was a decent show.

"Light and sound" show venue in Cellular Jail
Being in eastern part of India, sunset was around 5PM and by 5:30PM it would be pitch dark. I feel that Eastern part of India needs a different time zone.

Cellular Jail complex
We were back in cellular jail on the following day. When British constructed the prison, it had seven wings with a central tower much like the spokes of a cycle wheel. Each wing consisted of three stories. There were 693 cells. Currently only three wings are seen, the rest being demolished. Today the prison complex is served as a National monument.

Entering Cellular Jail

At the entrance are two galleries of several Indian Freedom fighters. Then we enter into a wide area where the prison wings can be seen. Look at the corridor on one of the wings.

Cellular Jail corridor
Here is the cell of Veer Savarkar. He stayed in this cell from 1910 to 1921. His brother also stayed in the same jail but for two years they were not even aware of it.

Veer Savarkar's cell
Unlike other jails in mainland, the prisoners in cellular jail were treated very badly. The statue below depicts the tough life of the inmates. They were asked to grind oil from coconut. Punishments were severe for people who could not meet the deadline.

Oil grinding machine
“The oil grinding KOLHU was the most difficult and hardest work which caused the death of some, insanity of few and general strikes of the Political prisoners in the Cellular Jail. The Political Prisoners were yoked to the handle of the mill and they moved round it continuously. If they were unwilling of or enable to move round fast, they were forcibly tied to the handle and dragged round and round the ground.”

Hard life of prisoners
Execution of the people by meaning of hanging was common in Cellular Jail. This was the place where last rituals were performed before execution.

The hanging room which is a very disturbing place.

We spent about an hour in Cellular Jail. It was both happy and sad at the end of the visit. I was happy to visit the National Monument but sad at the stories of the freedom fighters who gave everything to the Motherland.  

Almost all people coming to Andaman do visit this place. This is a place not to be missed by anyone.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Corbyn’s cove beach in Port Blair

25 December 2014

Previous posts:

In spite of our flight delays in Bengaluru, we arrived on time at Port Blair. It was Christmas and streets of Port Blair were deserted. The roads were smooth and the city looked decent. We checked-in in the hotel, had our lunch and headed to Cellular jail only to find it closed because of Christmas. We quickly changed our plans and headed to Corbyn’s cove beach.

Scenery on the way to Corbyn's cove beach

The beach was about 5 km from Port Blair. The road passed next to the sea providing some great views. Being new to Andaman we were excited with its blue waters.

Tanu at the beach
There was a good amount of people already in the beach. Many people like me were content with just walking along the beach. There were people enjoying in the water. A small group was playing games.

For adrenaline seekers, Jet Ski’s were available. There were also speed boats for a ride to snake island that was seen from the beach. We would be going on boat for next few days and hence did not consider playing.

One side of the beach was rocky. The shells were attached to these rocks. That was something new to us. Also present were corals on the beach which we were seeing for the first time.

For us Corbyn’s cove beach was a preview of what we could expect in Andaman in coming days. It would be a good place to spend some time in the evening if staying in Port Blair. I would suggest visiting this beach during start of the trip. Else, after seeing the great beaches of Andaman, Corbyn’s cove may not be appealing!!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Trip to Andaman Islands

December 2014

Trip to Andaman was in my mind for several years. Since my daughter has school holidays only during April-May, October and Christmas I had to plan something during that time. The preference was Christmas time as weather would not be great during April-May and October in Andaman.  I always found that flight tickets to Port Blair were extremely expensive during Christmas prompting to head to other destinations. This time I ensured that I buy ticket well in advance. When I got cheap flights tickets last February I did not hesitate to do booking evening though it was 10 months in advance.

At Ross & Smith island, North Andaman

Ship is another option to reach Andaman but I never liked the prospect of staying put in a ship for 3-4 days. Unlike flight tickets, booking ship is a cumbersome process.

Like my many travels, this trip was also not free from starting trouble. Dense fog at Bengaluru airport delayed our flight by more than two hours. But in my experience the trips are that met with starting trouble are the most memorable ones!!

Runway of Port Blair airport

Everyone I interacted was surprised that I had planned the trip for 11 days. “What is there to see for 11 days?” was their question. Most Andaman trips have “packages” of 5-6 days and that was the source of their question. On the other hand, I was feeling that 11 days were grossly insufficient for what I wanted to experience!!

After coming back from Andaman, I felt that I had very little information about that place before. Lot of my understandings was wrong. Here are some facts about Andaman though few of them can be debatable:

  • Andaman islands are nearer to Thailand coast than Mainland India
  • Northern most part of Andaman is near to Myanmar
  • The southernmost of point of India is Indira point (Not Kanyakumari) in Nicobar Islands. It is very close to Indonesia.
  • The only active volcano in India is in Andaman.
  • Andaman was the only part of India captured by Japanese in World War II
  • Tourists are not allowed to travel to Nicobar Islands. Permits are hard to obtain.
  • Havelock is an overly hyped place.
  • Port Blair is like any other city in India with all modern amenities.
  • Crime rate in Andaman is very low. We often heard that no one steals anything kept outside.
  • Andaman is filled with settlers from various regions and religions who speak different languages. But all of them are jelled together and live peacefully. I hope it continuous to be so.
  • The most isolated tribe in the world “Sentinelese” live in North Sentinel Island. They have no contact with outside world and Indian Government has barred entry into that island.
  • There are only about 100 Onge tribes and are concentrated in Little Andaman.
  • About 84% of the Andaman is covered by forests.
  • The effects of 2004 Tsunami are still seen in many islands.
  • The highest point of Andaman Islands (Saddle peak) is at 2400 feet.
  • Time magazine listed Radhanagar beach in Havelock as the best beach in Asia in 2004.
  • Andaman does not get crowded beyond a point as there are only few flights and ships from Calcutta and Chennai. There is no other way to enter Andaman.
  • Less than 1% of tourists visit North Andaman which is amazingly beautiful.
  • Twenty rupee note has an image of a Lighthouse in Port Blair.