submit to reddit GoNOMAD Travel
Tags: Destinations Asia India
The Church in Ruins on Ross Island. Photos by Mridula Dwivedi.
The Church in Ruins, Ross Island

A Magical Trip to the Andaman Islands

If you travel to Port Blair, it feels as if you are going out of India, it is so far away from the mainland. I went to the Andaman Islands on a whim.

In the middle of my teaching semester I realized that I had a week off but by then it was quite late.

Air fares had gone up and in the end package prices offered by Make My Trip for seven days and eight nights sounded pretty attractive.

I was lucky to rope in a friend as well, and suddenly in the middle of the semester I was off to Andaman!

Reaching Port Blair

We were joining other guests at Bangalore and from there flying to Port Blair, the capital of Andaman. I was quite excited about the photography opportunities the trip would present but I had no inkling of the fate that actually awaited me. I had an uneventful flight from Delhi to Bangalore and I was escorted to a hotel by the Make My Trip team on my arrival.

The flight to Port Blair again was peaceful but while landing there were low clouds so I got only a partial view of the islands from air.

The Vir Savarkar International Airport is really small. Make My Trip had a chartered flight with Kingfisher Airline so we were the only passengers at the airport. It took us only a few minutes to get out and I was finally at Port Blair.

Port Blair and The Viper Island

We were soon on our way to the hotel, the Sea Shell Resort. Port Blair is not a big place and does not have, as of now, the bigger hotel chains but I found Sea Shell quite comfortable.

After a good lunch, we headed to the Phoenix Bay Jetty. Our destination was Viper Island. Andaman had been a penal colony during the British rule of India. Getting a prison term at Andaman was known as getting exiled to ‘Kala Pani’ -- the cellular jail.

The Cellular Jail at Port Blair
The Cellular Jail at Port Blair

I learned that Viper Island was an open jail, where prisoners used to be in fetters, as they had nowhere to run to with miles and miles of ocean all around.

Today the main structure is in ruins and the island is all peace and tranquillity to be broken only when ferries laden with tourists come and dock at the jetty.

The Light and Sound Show at the Cellular Jail

The next day after breakfast we were headed to the Coral Island at the North Bay, where snorkelling was on offer and so was the glass bottom boat ride. I went off snorkelling first.

I have to admit I did not like the mask over my nose and that I need to breathe through my mouth, but I adjusted to it. The corals and the fish can easily be spotted and it was fun.

A Red Cheeked Bulbul at Ross Island
A Red Cheeked Bulbul at Ross Island

A word of caution here though, the masks are shared, so you may feel a bit put off by putting in your mouth the piece someone else used a while before.

If you went for snorkeling, chances are the glass bottom boat ride may not sound that exciting. But if you ask for my opinion, scuba diving is the best of all, which I did later at Havelock.

Ross Island used to be the British Capital of Andaman and lies in ruins now. We had a passionate guide Anuradha with us.

The island used to have a church, a tennis court, a bakery, a mint, a graveyard and many other such trappings of civilization.

The island was teeming with Red Cheeked Bulbuls, and there were deer too. By the time we left Ross Island it was beyond lunch! We had a late lunch and then in the evening for the sound and light show at the Cellular Jail.

The trouble with writing about this trip is that some of the destinations like Ross Island, Cellular Jail, Scuba Diving and the Limestone Caves near Baratang could each be a separate article!

A Deer at Ross Island
A Deer at Ross Island

The light and sound show was quite moving, one of the young tour managers from Make My Trip said he cried when he saw the show for the first time.

Port Blair: Cellular Jail, Various Museums and the Wandoor Beach

On day three our first stop was the Cellular Jail. We knew some of the things about the dreaded jail from the light and sound show but it was a different matter to be able to visit the premises.

Later we visited the Naval museum, the aquarium and a museum devoted the life of the tribes of Andaman. You can see from my description that museums are not really my cup of tea!

Wandoor beach is about one and a half hours away from the main city. It is a serene place. We were there around the sunset but in the end the clouds ruled. By this time my SLR had started giving trouble; the wide angle lens would not work with the camera.

The Limestone Caves near Baratang

The next morning we had a really early wakeup call around 4.00 am as we were headed to the limestone caves. The road passes through the Jarawa Tribes Reserve Area and the vehicles can move only in a convoy escorted by the police.

The Big Ferry that can Carry a Bus!
The Big Ferry that can Carry a Bus!

No vehicles can make an unscheduled stop; they have to drive at a prescribed speed, and it is strictly a no-photography zone. The road has been a controversial project.

I am no expert on the topic but I feel the administration has managed to control the traffic on the road. But then even this contact could play out in various ways for the Jarawas [the indigenous people of the Andamans] and, as I said, I am no expert on the topic. The Jarawa people know when the convoy moves and they do come near the road.

We reached Baratang and boarded a really crowded ferry. The ferry also carries buses and cars. The big ferry dropped us near motorboats that finally took us to the limestone caves. The boat passes through a canopy of mangrove trees to reach the jetty.

One has to walk for a few kilometers to reach the caves. It was a pleasant flat walk for me but it for sure was a hot day. The boatman that brings you to the cave also doubles up as the guide. You can hear my guide speaking in Hindi inside the limestone cave.

The MV Makruzz
MV Makruzz

By the time we got back to the boarding point of our bus, the day was scorching hot. We just about managed to make it to the 12:30 pm convoy. If you miss it, the next one is at 3:30 pm!

I do not get fazed by heat easily, but even for me it was a bit too much. I decided that sleep was the best way to tackle it. I woke around 3:00 pm in the evening and it was cooler by then.

All of us were bone tired when we got back and after an early dinner the bed looked pretty inviting. The next day we were heading to Havelock.

Havelock: The Land of Beautiful Beaches and Scuba Diving

We took a cruise to Havelock, the MV Makruzz, which takes 1.5 hours to reach Havelock. If you are looking for a beach destination Havelock is the place to go and not Port Blair.

The Radhanagar Beach, Havelock
The Radhanagar Beach, Havelock

We reached Havelock in the afternoon and our first stop was the Kala Pathar beach. Due to a delay in our start we reached there almost at the sundown. There were hardly any people at the beautiful white sand beach. As usual I went for a long walk.

In the evening the Barefoot Diving people were giving us a presentation on scuba diving and I was quite keen on trying it out even though it did not look easy. The next day, I was saying to my friend that I would not expect a National Geographic scenario out there.

Anne and Rehan were our instructors and Rehan is all 18 years of age! Basic drills over, it was time to head below the sea. For a while I was not too sure what I was doing but after three or four breaths underwater I realized I was fine.

With Anne after Scuba diving at Havelock
With Anne after Scuba diving at Havelock

I have written a detailed account of the scuba dive on my blog. And I was completely wrong about the National Geographic scenario.

It was indeed a riot of incredible colours and a variety of fish and corals. We lasted 52 minutes inside the water and went up to 11 meters in depth. I guess it is not at all bad for a first dive.

In the evening we had a relaxing time at the amazingly beautiful Radhanagar beach. I played on the waves for hours.

But by now even my point-and shoot-camera had given up on me; the display of the camera was gone. All I was left with was a 70-300mm zoom working with the DLSR and a wide beautiful beach in front of me. My cell phone camera was still working though.

The Last Sunrise and a Watery Grave for my Cameras

I decided to wake up and try to capture the sunrise on my last day at Havelock. For a while it felt that clouds will win again but in the end it was a beautiful sunrise.

A while later while walking on the shore barefoot I got poked by a coral. I fell in the water with the DLSR and the brand new 70-300mm lens and my cell phone. Now all my cameras were not working!

The sunrise on our last day at Havelock
The Sunrise on our last day at Havelock

I managed to get the cell phone repaired later and bought a new SLR, as the one that I took the dip with was really old. But I am still without a 70-300mm lens. Thankfully the pictures could be recovered through the cards.

We spent another day at Port Blair because the ferry from Havelock arrives in the evening and flights leave in the morning.

It was a magical trip and I am definitely going back to Andaman, but then my cameras are not going too close to the water, ever.

And before I sign off, I have to say a warm thanks to our tour manager Mustafa Fakhri and his team who did their best to make our stay memorable.

 

Watch the videos:

 

A Boat Ride Through the Mangrove Trees

 

The Limestone Caves

 

 
Mridula Dwivedi at Point Blair, Andaman Islands

 


Mridula Dwivedi is an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management at a college in Gurgaon, India. She loves to trek and travel in India and, when the opportunity comes along, abroad too. Read her award-winning blog, traveltalesfromindia.

 

 

Visit our Mridula Dwivedi Page with links to all her stories.

 

Read more GoNOMAD stories about India.

 

 

India

A boatman in Kashmir. Photo by David Rich. Read More GoNOMAD Stories About India
GoNOMAD Photo Gallery The Spirit of India Photos by Barbara Sansone Varanasi
Members of the Adi Tribe dancing in India. A Tribal Tours Gives you EverythingA North East India
of India: Crushing Poverty and Inspiring Beauty By Sony Stark Nobody warns you that when you visit
The peacock, the national bird of India. Photo by Lakshmi Sharath. Click on photo to return
Bhimtal, India. Photo by Mridula Dwivedi. Click on image to return to Mridula Dwivedi's article about Bhimtal.
EXPLORER GUIDE Ladakh, India: Monasteries and Mountains By Ravi J. Deka One
Easy Riders: Motorcycling India By Ravi J. Deka By now I am used to the routine. First
to return to David Joshua Jennings, story about the Kumbh Mela festival. Read more about India
. photos by Stacey Cunningham. Traveling Through Two Worlds in India The author joins a clothing
on photo to return to David Joshua Jennings, story about the Kumbh Mela festival. Read more about India
about the sacred trees of Maharashtra. Read more about India
Stairs made of slate rocks, Uttarakhand, India. Photo by S. Saiganesh. Click on photo
Zanskar India trekking Photos by Partha De Sarkar. The Zanskar Trek in LadakhA ByA Wing Commander
to Mridula Dwivedi's story about her balloon ride in Jaipur. Read more GoNomad stories about India:

New Travel Articles
Follow GoNOMAD.com Travel's board Destination Guides on Pinterest. csa-03 300x250-04


 
 
 


Subscribe to GoNOMAD's monthly enewsletter for all of our new travel articlesGet our free monthly travel newsletter
and help support sustainable and responsible tourism.
No spam, no selling
your email, we promise!

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...