My recent trip to Andaman happened at an unexpected time. Though these islands were always on my travel list for a long time, never thought I would be able to come here this soon. Everything happened very fast. Equally excited and curious, caught a morning flight from Chennai to the islands, 1200 kilometres away from the subcontinent. There are daily flights from Chennai to the capital Port Blair. Airfares are pretty economical these days. The Nicobar islands are again further to Andaman. Sadly, Nicobar islands have some restrictions for the tourists nowadays.
I had 8 days in Andaman, decided to utilise my time very efficiently. Usually, I don’t prefer travel with prior plans. But this time made some planning in advance. The main mode of transport in this archipelago are through boats and their numbers are very few. So missing a boat is one that should not happen. There are no frequent boats to all places. More than that, I knew that my love for beautiful beaches will not help me in keeping track of time everywhere.
I landed at Veer Savarkar international airport after two hours, the climate was pleasant with a little drizzle. Spread over a hill, Port Blair is a small town of a population around 1 lakh. Few vehicles on the road which wound over the hill, quite a calm city.
The cultural intermixing here gave this islands the name “mini-India”. We can see people speaking all the major Indian languages here. Other than the tribals, people living here settled during the period of British rule in India.
There are six indigenous tribes in Andaman and Nicobar islands; Greater Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge, Sentinelese, Shompen, and Nicobarese. Shompen and Nicobarese live in Nicobar islands. Humans inhabit only 36 islands in the archipelago of 300+ islands.
We can reach Port Blair by either sea or air from the Indian subcontinent. In Port Blair, we can find many places of historical importance.
Anthropology museum, Port Blair:
After checking into my hotel, went to the Anthropology museum nearby. Thanks to my Andaman friend Salaam, who decided that I should understand some history first before starting my journey. There is no better place to have a good insight about the island people and their culture. The life of the indigenous tribes is on display here by photographs and artefacts.
Museum timings: 9 AM to 1 PM and 1.30 PM to 4.30 PM (closed on Mondays and public holidays)
Entry fee: INR 20 (photography prohibited)
From the museum, went straight to the Cellular prison which is also known as Kala Pani (meaning “death water”). This prison housed many freedom fighters during India’s struggle for independence. Here, they faced extreme torture from the British. Many prisoners committed suicide, not able to withstand the cruelty. The news about atrocities never reached India, even only a few had survived their term in prison and reached back to India.
The prison is constructed in such a way that prisoners cannot contact with each other. The small museum at the entrance of the prison demonstrates its complete story. The prison is a national monument now.
Upon entering into the prison complex, you will go back to a period of India’s freedom struggle. Each prison cell is very small, damp and dark. The plastered walls started to peel off, revealing the red bricks.
We can go to the terrace of the prison, which offers a beautiful view of Ross island. Only three out of seven wings of the prison complex exist today. For those who need more insight about this national monument, a light and sound show is conducted daily in Hindi, two shows daily.
The timings for Cellular prison: 9 AM to 12.30 PM and 1.30 PM to 4.45 PM ( On all days except national holidays).
Entry fee: INR 30 ( extra charges for camera)
Light and sound show timings: 6.15 PM and 7 PM , Ticket fare: INR 50
It was evening when I came out of Cellular prison. Sun rises and sets very early in Andaman. It will be dark by 6 PM here.
Corbyn’s Cove is a nearby beach, 8 km from Port Blair, decided to spend my first evening in the islands there. The coastal road to Corbyn’s cove was scenic. The beach is ordinary, nothing special,crowded and highly commercialised. There are many food stalls on the beach side.
Far away from the crowd, found a small strip of land going into the sea. I walked up there and sat on the rocks. Sun was going down, it became dark, lights turned on from the shops. It was beautiful.