Port Blair is the gateway to these enchanted islands that is on the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean. The capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is relatively small in size and today in the 21st century, is a melting pot of people from all parts of India who have come to adopt these Islands as their home. Port Blair is the seat of Civil Administration and also hosts a Tri-Service Command of the Armed Forces. Apart from tourism, fishing and paddy (rice) cultivation form the chief occupation for the locals. Port Blair is a land of tranquility where settlers from all parts of India live in complete harmony. The serenity of these islands was unfortunately disrupted in 2004 by the tsunami that caused a great deal of damage in the Nicobar Islands. However the populated areas of Port Blair and Havelock were unscathed and all geological indications report that the islands are safe.
PLACES TO SEE IN AND AROUND PORT BLAIR
Aberdeen Bazaar is the busy central hub of the city and is situated approximately 4 kilometers from the airport. A compact and well-connected city, visitors can get to any hotel or tourist spot, within the confines of Port Blair in under twenty minutes by road. Visitors can choose any one of the hotels recommended in our 'Hotels' section. A hotel located in the city will prove advantageous as you can make good time when visiting the local attractions listed below.
Cellular Jail is a national monument that remains an important symbol of Indian nationalism even today. The UNESCO has nominated it a 'World Heritage Site'. Cellular Jail was constructed at the turn of the 20th century, when discontent against British rule was rife amongst the locals and many of them were incarcerated here. The jail is a mammoth construction consisting of seven distinct wings and three levels, radiating from a central watchtower that is patterned on the spokes of a wheel. The structure was designed to eliminate communication between the prisoners. The architecture of Cellular Jail is based on the design of the 'Panopticon' an idea set forth by acclaimed English sociologist Jeremy Bentham wherein, a single guard could preside over the entire prison. The revolutionaries and nationalists imprisoned here lived under the harshest of conditions in solitary confinement. The prison was eventually closed down in 1938 after intervention from Gandhiji and Rabindranath Tagore. A visit to the Cellular Jail is simply mandatory for all tourists.
The Light & Sound Show at Cellular Jail
Do not miss the 'Light & Sound Show' in the evening; tickets sell out fast! Adults are advised to exercise discretion if young children are accompanying them, as the show can get a little explicit about the struggles of our freedom fighters. The saga of the revolutionary struggle for independence by the Indian freedom fighters incarcerated in Kaala Pani is presented in a touching 'Son-et-Lumiere' or the 'Light Show', twice daily. We request you to check with our team on the timings, days of operation and whether the language of the show on a particular day is in English or Hindi.
Much has been researched and written on the indigenous inhabitants of these beautiful isles. The native tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (including the world's only remaining Paleolithic people) were virtually lost to the world until the British stumbled upon these remote islands off the coast of the Indian subcontinent in 1858. Even if anthropology does not pique your interest, this museum is well worth the visit and would not take more than a few hours of your time. The reason why this venue must not be missed is that it offers some unique insight into the origins and lives of these mysterious tribes. From their clothes, cooking utensils and hunting weapons of choice, tourists have an opportunity to get an insight into their ancient way of life. There is also a bookshop at the premises where literature on these tribes is also available. Children, especially those who enjoy social science in school would find this museum very stimulating.
Chatham Island & Saw Mill
The Chatham Saw Mill is one of the largest saw mills in Asia. The mill is situated at Chatham Island, about 4 kilometers from Port Blair Bus Terminus. The sawmill is located on an island and is connected to Port Blair by a 100-meter trestle. Tucked away at one end of the island, this is definitely worth a quick visit. This sawmill functions as a storehouse for timber like Padauk, Gurjan, Marble, Satine wood, etc. A location of historical significance in the Andaman Islands, the mill was established in 1883. A notable spot at the mill premises is the large bomb crater that reminds one of the Japanese air strikes during World War II. There is also a wood workshop, a museum and art gallery where one can view hand-crafted wooden masterpieces, stunning photographs of wartime and witness the whole process of logs being cut into usable planks.
Samudrika Naval Marine Museum
The Samudrika museum is another popular tourist attraction showcasing the geography, history and biology (marine life) of these magical Islands. Children of all ages would love to visit the museum and benefit greatly from the knowledge they can gain. The skeletal remains of a blue whale greet visitors at the entrance – something that most children find fascinating. The museum is divided into five rooms that familiarize visitors with the treasures of the deep blue. From corals to fishes and shells, the marine museum will introduce young and old to the delights of the surrounding seas. There is also a small section in the museum devoted to the indigenous tribal life of the Islands.
An unexpected yet beloved place of worship in the midst of the scenic beauty of the island, the 'Murugan temple' in Port Blair is beautiful and tranquil. Visitors from all over the world must not miss this lovely locale for the colourful glimpse into the Hindu culture. Though devoted to the worship of the Hindu God Murugan (the God of war), the temples also houses beautiful idols of several other Hindu deities. In terms of architecture, this temple is very similar to many temples found in Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India). The peaceful surroundings and the vibrant hues, unique sounds and earthy textures of the temple are lovely to behold.
Andaman Water Sports Complex
This is a government-run sports complex for water sport activities. Very popular amongst tourists and locals alike, it has seasonal facilities like water skiing, water scooters and speedboat rides. Since it is a government venture, the cost of the tickets are subsidized. The Sports Complex is not open during monsoons and we request you to check with our team for operational time.
Head to Chidya Tapu, the acclaimed beach located on the southern-most tip of the South Andaman Island for a mesmerizing sunset. Chidya Tapu is approximately 25 kilometers south of Port Blair and is 45 minutes by road. With its peaceful beach and spectacular view of the sunset, tourists are sure to be enthralled. Chidya Tapu is also known as 'Sunset Point' and 'Bird Island'. The small beach is flanked by lush green mangroves and is an ideal location for tourists from big cities and dusty towns who are looking to escape the humdrum. Chidya Tapu is also famous with nature lovers for its varieties of birds, white spotted deer and seasonal orchids. A forest guesthouse that is situated atop a hillock provides a gorgeous view of some of the remote, uninhabited islands. Boat trips can also be arranged from here to the nearby Cinque Island.
Jolly Buoy Island
The early bird catches the best seat on the bus or boat to one of the Island's prettiest vistas. The 'Jolly Buoy' aptly christened for its spotless white sands and clear blue waters artfully decorated by vibrant corals, is certain to induce great delight. Only one of the two islands open to tourists within the confines of Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Jolly Buoy is also a divers' paradise suitable for both experienced snorkellers and beginners. A tourist center at the entrance to Jolly Buoy provides ample information to enable you to plan your activities. Jolly Buoy is an eco-tourist haven that is unspoiled by pollution; do therefore pay close attention to keeping this national park clean. There are also opportunities for guests to indulge in jet skiing. This is one beach where you can hire a glass-bottomed boat and head out into the ocean for an enchanting glimpse into the underwater paradise. A fun family outing to be had as well, if everyone is fit and up for these fun activities.
Red Skin Island
Red Skin Island also forms an integral part of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park offering a nice beach and spectacular view of corals and marine life. The island is very popular with tourists for excellent swimming, scuba diving and snorkelling sites. This unpolluted island is a great day trip from Port Blair for those looking for a fun day at the beach. Tourists are not permitted to stay on this island after day light hours.
One of the most unique spots on these isles, Ross Island was the headquarters of the British penal settlement during their imperial rule and still bears the remains of colonial empire. Be sure to enjoy the sea breeze as you catch the boat to Ross Island from the Aberdeen Jetty. A perfect place for both amateur and ace photographers, Ross Island offers many stunning shots of nature and its own special variety of domesticated 'wildlife' such as deer, rabbit, birds and more. There is also an unspoiled beach at the far end of the island, not known to many. It is advisable to pack food for this trip.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park Wandoor
Another pristine secret on the Andaman Islands, Wandoor is a popular beach visited by tourists. Coral lovers and those on the lookout for a quiet, peaceful vista of lush mangroves should head here. Located approximately 29 kilometer from the centre of Port Blair, this charming beach has a provision for glass-bottomed boats for exploring the underwater magnificence. This national park makes an idyllic spot for a family picnic and it is advised to carry packed lunch.
Until 1906 when construction of the Cellular Jail was completed, all civil activists and political prisoners were imprisoned at Viper Island during the British rule. This tiny serene part of Port Blair is located within the Port Blair harbor limits. There is a also a Viper Island located in Brazil but this serene place is named after the vessel "Viper" in which Lt. Archibald Blair came to the islands in 1789 to construct a remote prison to incarcerate Indian revolutionaries. The ship, or so the legend dictates, is believed to have met with an accident and its wreckage abandoned near the island. The ruins of the penal settlement can be explored on the island.
Mount Harriet National Park
Mount Harriet National Park is named after Harriet Tytler, the wife of the chief supervisor of the British penal settlement in the Andaman Islands. Robert Tytler, the chief supervisor was also a well-known naturalist and photographer. Mt. Harriet is the third highest peak on the archipelago and offers a breathtaking view of the Islands. Located approximately 50 kilometers from Port Blair by road and 15 kilometers by ferry, it is home to a delightful variety of sea creatures including saltwater crocodiles, robber crabs and turtles. Tourists are advised to steer clear of any wild pigs that maybe sighted. Visiting this national park will give tourists the perfect opportunity to observe wildlife and marine life in their natural habitat – serene and content.
Enter the lush forests of the Madhuban and you are certain to step into a new and enchanting world. Predominantly a trekking and camping location, these green groves are located approximately 75 kilometers from Port Blair and can also be reached by ferry. Madhuban is another stunning location for wildlife lovers and naturalists to observe exotic birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat. One can also view the elephants that are used for lumbering work.
Sippighat is a sprawling government plantation that covers close to 100 acres on the island. Under the supervision of the CARI (Central Agriculture Research Institute), research on the cultivation of rubber and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, beetle-nut and pepper are carried out here. A visit to the farm is best combined with a day planned for the beach – either Jolly Buoy or Chidiya Tapu. However, it may be noted that Sippighat is only open until 1430 hrs.
The enthralling beauty of the beaches on Havelock Island is so legendary and its impact so potent, that many tourists end up spending most of their time on these picture-perfect beaches. Like many of its sister islands peppered across this stunning archipelago, Havelock is named after General Henry Havelock of the British Army. Located in Ritchie's Archipelago, Havelock is approximately 57 kilometers north-east of Port Blair and is well-serviced by three ferry departures ex-Port Blair through the day. A tourist paradise, the island offers a plethora of activities including scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming and camping. It is one of the first locations in India where the government is actively promoting eco-tourism. Havelock Island was virtually unaffected during the 2004 tsunami and no casualties were reported on this sparsely populated paradise inhabited by approximately 5000 people of Bengali and Bangladeshi origin.
PLACES TO SEE IN AND AROUND HAVELOCK ISLAND
Radhanagar Beach (Beach No.7)
Rated as one of the most scenic beaches in Asia by Time Magazine, the sunset at Radhanagar Beach is a sight to behold. Beach No. 7 with its crystal clear waters, pristine white sands, a cornucopia of vivid corals has much to offer. One of the few beaches in India where the waves are perfect for 'dawn patrol' – which means surfing at dawn. The expanse of bountiful greenery from the adjoining forest that abruptly comes to a halt at the pearly sands offers an unforgettable experience. The beach is well maintained and is ideal for sunbathing. The only disadvantage is that this beach being rather popular, tends to get overly crowded at times.
The Elephant Beach on Havelock promises to take visitors to a different world with its enchanting beauty. Azure blue waters filled abundantly with all sorts of marine life, colourful corals and silky white sands all melt into this worldclass beach. A host of water sports and nature activities are on offer at this beach including snorkelling, undersea water walking and jet skiing. For those who aren't natural water babies there is still plenty of opportunity to take in the beauty of the corals with rides in a glass-bottomed boat and on a water scooter. There is also a walking trail nearby for the more adventurous. The beach however is small, so tends to get crowded and there is no food available so it is best to carry your own. Be warned that there are also no facilities for the toilet or changing rooms.
Vijaynagar Beach (Beach No.5)
Vijaynagar beach, also known as Beach No.5 is located north-east corner of Havelock. This beautiful beach with pearly white sands has several palm trees proffering shade to those who want to spend the day there. The waters around the beach are quite shallow and therefore not ideal for swimming or other water sport activities.
Kala Pathar Beach
This is another quaint beach located about 5 kilometers from Vijaynagar beach (Beach No: 5). The waters here are not as shallow as those in Vijaynagar beach (Beach No: 5) and therefore suitable for swimming. A few seafood eateries can also be found close to the beach. The beach gets its name from the large black stone ensconced in the sea.
Neil Cove at Havelock is located northwest of Radhanagar beach. This picturesque blue lagoon is much recommended for those who want to take in the beauty of the islands without having to run into an excessive number of tourists. As it is relatively pristine, the soft sand here is clean and unfettered. Swimming is prohibited at dusk and dawn and it is best to pay attention to any warnings about saltwater crocodiles.
OTHER ISLANDS TO VISIT
Cinque Island is an uninhabited island located 26 kilometers south of Port Blair and is divided into North and South Cinque connected by a sandbar. This island is surrounded by pristine coral reefs, fine sandy beach and inviting blue waters. The islands can only be reached by boat and are approximately 3 hours ride away from Chidiyatapu and Wandoor. These islands have some magnificent underwater diving spots but special permission from the Forest Department is required to visit them. Subject to receiving a formal and timely notice from your end, our team will be happy to arrange necessary permission and charter a boat to facilitate your visit to Cinque.
Neil Island is situated 36 kilometers east of Port Blair and 18 kilometers south of the Havelock. This pretty island is the easternmost inhabited island in the Andaman & Nicobar group of islands. Neil island is connected to Port Blair via daily ferry service.
Neil Island remained uninhabited until the late 1960s when the Government of India decided to use this island to settle the refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan. Like Havelock, the vast majority of settlers at Neil island are Hindu refugees of Bengali origin.
Neil is a much smaller island than Havelock. It is a comparatively flat island, and much of the landmass has been transformed for paddy cultivation. Unfortunately, as a result of this, very little forest cover remains at Neil making this island a notch warmer than Havelock. The forest cover in this island is mainly confined to reserve forest on Neils' northwestern side. The jetty and main village are at the center of the west coast of Neil island.
Located approximately 80 kilometers from Port Blair, Long Island was uninhabited until 1970s when Government of India initiated the program to colonize them. Long Island can be reached from Port Blair through three times a week ferry service of approximately 7 hours duration. This part of Andaman is predominately covered with stunning forest and coconut plantations. The lone village in this area with a population of under 1500 people boasts of a school, police station and basic health Centre. The island lacks necessary infrastructure to support large influx of tourists and is a good walking distance from the jetty. Long island is home to a secluded lovely sandy beach at Lalaji Bay as well as a cove that is 6 kilometers trek from Long island jetty and perfect for sunbathing and snorkelling.
There are a number of excellent diving spots in and around this island and Faraway Tree would be happy to facilitate a trip of our esteemed guests to this destination.
Barren Island (area 10 sq. Kilometers) at a distance of 135 kilometers from Port Blair, is the only active volcano in South Asia. The island, situated at the cross of the seismically active Indian and Burmese plates, is estimated to be 1.8 million years old. Dormant since 1803, with an unconfirmed eruption in 1852, it has been actively intermittent since 1991. The volcano last erupted on 19 Jul 2009 and continues to occasionally spew smoke and ash till date. The island is uninhabited, but a small population of feral goats, birds, bats and a few rodent species are reported to be surviving the harsh conditions of the island.
South Button Island
South Button Island forms a part of Rani Jhansi Marine National Park and is located southwest of Havelock Island; roughly 2 hours by motor boat. The total area of this protected space is about 5 square kilometers and has some very popular diving/ snorkelling spots. Apart from incredible marine life and stunning healthy coral reefs, you are likely to see schools of fish like Snappers, Barracuda, Trevally, Sweetlips, Groupers, Angel fish and Butterfly fish whiz around. On a lucky day, one can even encounter Turtles, Devil Rays and Manta Rays.