Sunday, July 29, 2012

Havelock – visiting Radhanagar Beach

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Havelock – visiting Radhanagar Beach)

Day 1 (Day 8 since arrival in Port Blair)

First view of Havlock - from jetty No.1

             After visiting the Ross Island and Viper Island the previous evening, we had rested ourselves during the evening, barely going out to the Aberdeen market to buy a few trinkets & spices for friends & family.  We got up early next morning and were dropped at the specific boarding point at 7.30 A.M by the driver, wherefrom the buses run by Makruzz Company dropped us at the Phoenix bay jetty.  Here we were issued boarding passes and our luggage was checked in and we boarded the Catamaran for Havelock.  It is a very good means for traveling to Havelock, which is at a distance of 50 nautical miles from Port Blair by sea and offers accommodation in three categories i.e. Premium, Deluxe and Royal.  Whereas, the Premium class seats passengers at the deck level and costs Rs.735/- per ticket, the Deluxe class seats are above the deck level and cost Rs.950/- per ticket and the Royal class is also in the same level, but separated through curtains with more plush chairs and cost Rs.1150/- per ticket for a one way journey.  The boat left the shores at 9.00 A.M. sharp and docked at the Havelock jetty in exactly 1½ hours time.

Map of Havelock Island

Boarding the Catamaran - Makruzz at Port Blair

             Havelock is a picture perfect island with beautiful long beaches and lush green forest cover.  It is a nature’s paradise, resplendent with white sand beaches, coral reefs with a colorful array of aquatic life, palm trees, as well as dense forests in the interiors.   Havelock is a longish piece of land (area 113 lying in the group of islands collectively called the Ritchie’s Archipelago. People mainly from Bengal have settled here, but occupy only on the northern, one-third part of the island in small hamlets & villages.  Each village and the adjoining beach are referred to both by a number and a name. The jetty is in the north at Village No.1 and is the conceptual centre of the island. Radhanagar Beach (No.7) is 12 Km. towards South West, Vijaynagar (No.5) is 4 Km. towards South-East of the main Havelock jetty. The main bazaar is situated in vicinity of Village No.3.  Most of the accommodation is however located in Village No.5 (Vijaynagar) area. There are some hotels in Villages No.3, No.1 & No.7 and even at Kalapathar -10 kms away from the jetty.  As we had booked our hotel in advance, known as the Dolphin Resort run by the tourism department, which is situated at Vijaynagar area, I hired an auto to drop us there.  The chap driving the auto was a Bengali fellow called ‘Shubho Biswas’ (Mobile No.09476076338) and had agreed to drop us for Rs.80/-, during the journey to the hotel complex we chatted up with him and on approach to the hotel, found that it was a secluded area and it would be impossible to hire any means of transport easily from the spot.  The auto driver agreed to take us to Radhanagar beach and drop us back for Rs.400/- and accordingly, he was hired and asked to report back at the hotel to pick us up after lunch, at around 3.30 P.M.

Selling wares near Radhanagar Beach

View after the rains at Radhanagar Beach

Rain clouds looming over Radhanagar beach

Sunset over the Radhanagar beach

The Radhanagar Beach on Havelock has been voted as the Best Beach of Asia by The Time Magazine in the year 2004 on the basis of the quality of sand, sea, depth and other parameters. Most of the tourists therefore, flock to the Radhanagar Beach in Havelock. Radhanagar beach is a long, crescent-shaped beach with silver white sand.  It’s foreshore is framed by fine, mature specimen trees of the tropical rainforest and it terminates to the north and south by steeply rising ground which become forest covered buffs dropping down to the sea.   Although, activities like food courts etc. are banned from the core beach area, one can shop for trinkets etc. at the shops nearby.  For those who like to be with the nature, the Department of Tourism offers cozy and eco-friendly tented accommodation right in front of the beach at Radhanagar during the season. The sunsets from this beach is famed as being the picture- perfect view.  Having garnered all the information, we headed for the famed Radhanagar Beach right on the scheduled time, as Mr. Shubho Biswas had turned up right on time.  However, as soon as we boarded his auto, it started drizzling, but being a part of their daily activity, the autos here are well prepared for such eventuality and the covers put in by the driver, did not allow even a single drop of rainwater to breach it to drench us.  Having gone past the market area junction, we embarked on the side road leading to Radhanagar Beach that runs through some hillocks and en-route we found a big snake laying on the road surface, having been trampled under some vehicle tyre.  After driving for a good 30 odd minutes we reached the famed Radhanagar beach, but as it was still raining, we took refuge inside a shop and I ordered some tea for us.  Meanwhile, my wife and daughter literally jumped into the adjoining shop for buying trinkets for themselves and by the time I had finished with my tea, they had purchased a truckload of them.  As the rain had also relented by this time, we headed for the beach, but could not watch any sunset as the cloud cover had shut out the spectacle, but still I managed to get a small solace.

View of the beach from Dolphin Resort

 On our return back the auto driver offered to take us to Elephant Island through the forest route, which he assured was doable and as I wanted to avoid the trip by a small speed boat (Rs.2000/- round trip), I agreed and it was settled that we would pay him Rs.1800/- in total for all the trips in Havlock over the next two days, including the one we had performed on that day.  Accordingly, it was settled that we would head for the Elephant Island the next day and start from the hotel at 10.00 A.M. sharp.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road – Baratang again (Mud Volcano & Parrot Island)

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road)
Part-III – Baratang again (Mud Volcano & Parrot Island)

Sunrise over Baratang

Day 3 (Day 6 since we arrived in Andaman)
            The next day, we again started early as we had to reach Baratang by afternoon, since we were scheduled to visit the Parrot islands during the evening.  As per our pre-decided plan, we again went to Danapur near Mayabunder and had a sumptuous Breakfast of Aloo Paranthas (stuffed potato fried Indian bread), made with actual desi ghee (clarified butter), which he charged @ Rs.25/- per parantha, maybe he got smarter overnight.  The driver disappeared for quite some time and I could make out that he had some prior appointment at the place and thus, had been insisting upon visiting Mayabunder during the return leg.  Having stuffed ourselves well we headed for the long journey ahead, we embarked upon the 200 Kms. plus journey back to Baratang.  We broke the journey at first at Rangat, where we had some cold drinks and thereafter, a forced one at Kadamtala, waiting for the ferry and again had some delectable Pineapples there.  After crossing over to Batuktala we made a run upto Baratang and before going towards the jetty side, we headed for the Mud Volcano.

The hoarding at Mud Volcano in Baratang

The scene of the actual site of Mud Volcano in Baratang

            The road leading upto the Mud Volcano is in very bad shape and only bigger vehicles and jeeps can navigate, with difficulty across the terrain.  One has to further trudge another 500 odd meters, 200 of which is upwards to reach the Mud Volcano through some muddy & slipper slush.  The Mud volcano at Baratang came into being on 18th February, 2003 when an explosion at night with fire & mud spews being ejected from the earth, accompanied by minor tremors shook the region.  At present, the Mud Volcano covers an area of about 1000 sq. meters, with a central semi circular dome of about 30 sq. meter diameter and is about 2 meters high.  The main crater now appears to be submerged under a mass of grey colored clay, that is intermittently being ejected alongwith some odorless gasses, at a very slow pace.  However, for a person who is not well conversant with geological presentations, this place does not offer any spectacular views.   Having trudged back to the vehicle, we headed towards Baratang as we were booked at the forest Rest House for the night.  This Rest House was the best one I had seen or lived in during my stay in Andaman’s and the staff too was very courteous and prompt.

On the way back  - spotted a Black Serpent Eagle

The Elephant and Mahout - in the jungle

            We had reached the Forest Rest House at around 3.00 P.M and as we were considerably late, we could not have lunch, but the aloo paranthas that we have had in the morning saved the day for us.  We ordered some Coffee and pakoras (fried snacks) and after partaking these, took a short power nap to rejuvenate ourselves for our evening jaunt.   At around 4.00 P.M. we headed for the Nilambur jetty and boarded the boat that was to take us to the famed Parrot Island.  Parrot Island is another of the famous tourist destinations in Baratang, it takes about 30-40 minutes to reach these Islands by outboard engine fitted boats and cost @ Rs.400/- per round trip per person or Rs.2500/- for full boat.  The boats take off after 4.00 P.M and pass through very deep sea with mangrove forest bearing islands all around.  The Parrot Island is quite distinct from others and the resident Parrots having trimmed off the mangrove forest tops with precision, the entire island appears to have been trimmed by human hands.  The boats drop anchor about 200 odd meters from the shore line and the boats drifts continuously in the sea water, thus, taking long shots (through telephoto) becomes quite a difficult task, because of the instability.  The boatmen carry their fishing lines with them and utilize the free time at their disposal catching some fish for themselves, while the tourists gorge in at the spectacle that unfolds at the Parrot Island.  The Parrots, numbering in thousands, start homing in just after the sun set, first in small groups and then their numbers gradually swell and they roost for the night in these islands.  Due to low light conditions, coupled with continuous swaying movement, it is very difficult to photograph them.  According to my estimation, the number of Parrots is way upward of 7000 and apparently come in from all directions, so it can be conceived that they come in from all the surrounding Islands of Andaman’s, within a diameter of 25 odd Kms. or so.  After the birds had roosted for the night, the overboard engines were started and by this time everything had gone pitch black, only the boatmen knew as to how they navigated their boats during the night & in pitch dark conditions.  It is a spectacle that one watches but rarely in his life and having gorged in copious amounts of natural beauty, we bid adieu to Baratang Islands the next morning.

Parrot Island - on the right hand side - tree tops trimmed like professionals


Parrots roosting on the island


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road - Mayabunder & Diglipur

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road)
Part-II – Mayabunder & Diglipur

Deer found in Baratang jungles

Racket tailed Drongo

Andaman Woodpecker

Austin Creek

Day 2 (Day 5 since we arrived in Andaman)
            The next day, we again started early at around 6.00 A.M. in the morning as we had to visit Mayabunder, which is situated about 72 Kms. from Rangat and about 242 Kms. from Port Blair and thereafter head for the Ross & Smith Island during the day, before retiring for the night at Diglipur, which is further 70 odd Kms. from Mayabunder and 328 Kms. from Port Blair.  This part of the Andaman Island constitutes the North Andaman or North District.  It is sparsely populated and has some virgin, pristine forest cover and home to plethora of endemic birds, some of which I photographed during my trip.  As we headed towards Diglipur, the driver wanted us to reach there directly and visit the Karmateng beach at Mayabunder during the return leg of our journey.  But we insisted to visit Mayabunder first, as we were to stop by at Baratang during the return leg for seeing the Mud Volcano & Parrot Island and time would become a constraint.  He turned the vehicle, albeit a bit reluctantly and we crossed Pahalgaon village and reached the tri-junction of Danapur village, wherefrom the road towards bifurcates towards the right heading to Mayabunder.  We saw a few eating joints here at Danapur and decided to give it a try, as it was almost  8.00 A.M and we had not partaken our Breakfast till then.  The shop chosen by us was a small joint run by a Bengali chap, who was yet to christen his shop, but he was enthusiastic and he offered us thali comprising of two paranthas (kind of Indian oil tossed bread), a small bowl of channa/lentils (ghugni in Bengali), some fish/chicken curry (fish one piece or chicken one piece) and Coconut chuttni and this a la carte cost us a princely sum of Rs.15/- per plate.  I reconfirmed the price before tendering the payment to him, as I could not believe my ears at the paltry sum being charged by him and promised to have Breakfast at his joint during the return journey as well.  The area around Karmateng Beach is inhabited by the Karen refugees from Burma and their dress & houses are quite distinct from the other communities living nearby.  Karmateng beach is also famous for turtle breeding during December to February and also offers accommodation at the Swiftlet Nest Resort run by the tourism department.  The beach is said to have been damaged by the tsunami in 2004 but is pristine and has big stretches of shades to protect oneself from the blazing sun.  Having visited the Karmateng beach, we headed towards Diglipur and as we progressed, going past nondescript villages named Ramkrishna Nagar, Mohanpur et al, I could sense that we were heading into an area where Bengali settlers are pre-dominant.  The rain clouds were by now taking an ominous shape and by the time we reached the Aerial Bay jetty for visiting the Ross & Smith Island, it was almost 12.00 Noon and it had also started drizzling.

The food stall at Danapur

View of Karmateng Beach at Mayabunder

             I was apprehensive that the drizzle may turn into an outpour from the sky above and thus, refrained from taking any of my expensive cameras and headed for the Ross & Smith Island with a small digital video camera.  There was another family from Chennai, who had were also lodged at the Guest House at Rangat and we came to know later that our driver had already tied up with him for hiring a boat on sharing basis.  We had paid @ Rs.400/- per person for the return trip from Aerial Bay Jetty to Ross & Smith Island and back.  But apart from us, there were a few freeloaders i.e Policemen from Baratang named Mr.Vikas Singh, Sub-Inspector (on 18th May, 2012).  This group of Police persons were the real spoil sport for us, who comprised of another Constable called Mr.Mandal from the Diglipur P.S and another ASI, as they delayed the return back on their own whims and fancies, it was only on my strict posturing that they took off after half an hour of scheduled departure, else they would have delayed us further.  I was in a mood to file a written complaint against these free loaders, who bring in a bad name for government officials but on insistence of my family dropped the idea of fouling up my holiday. 

Distant view of Ross & Smith Island in Diglipur

View of Beach in Ross & Smith Island

            It takes about 20-25 minutes of ride in the boat to reach Ross & Smith Island from Aerial Bay jetty in Diglipur and one is allowed to spend about 1½ to 2 Hours by the boat operators on the Island.  Moreover, one has to seek permission from the forest department to visit these islands and this can be obtained on the spot also, on payment of a fee @Rs.50/- per head.  These two islands, namely Ross & Smith are two separate islands connected by a 50 meter wide sand bar, which is totally submerged during high tides and this separates these two Islands.  Whereas, the smaller one is the Ross Island and is totally uninhabited, it can only be explored with prior permission of forest department, the other bigger one is called the Smith Island is inhabited, but tourists are not allowed to stay back.  The place with clear blue waters is of bewitching beauty and is very picturesque and I rued my luck of not taking the chance of brining in my DSLR.  Another piece of advice for the tourists is that one should carry ones own food & water from Diglipur, as nothing is available on the islands.  Having visited these enchanting islands, the return marred by the police wallahs behavior as mentioned hereinabove, we headed for Kalipur to the Turtle Resort, where we had booked our stay.  There were some geologists staying at the resort, carrying out some research in the region and I chatted up with them and had an intense evening of discussions with them.  At night, we had another round of sumptuous dinner comprising of local Chicken et al and retired for the night thereafter.

Turtle Resort in Kalipur - Diglipur

View of Sunset from Kalipur


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road - Baratang & Rangat

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Excursion along the Andaman Trunk Road)
Part-I – Baratang (Lime Stone Cave) & Rangat

Map of the Andaman Trunk road (from internet)

              The Andaman Trunk Road runs from Port Blair to Diglipur, a stretch of road that runs from Chidya Tapu in the extreme south end of the Andaman Island to its’ extreme north i.e. Diglipur, which covers a distance of about 328 Kms. (one way).  The road runs along the eastern coast line of the Andaman Islands, but criss-crosses across the heart & soul of these islands, running through its virgin forests, aboriginal inhabited settlements and across several straits.  Having completed our sojourn in & around Port Blair, we headed for Diglipur, which was to be a four day journey.

Jirka Tang - the starting point of the Convoy

The local market up and going early in the morning catering to  the hundreds of vehicles & their occupants 

The Jarwas - who are protected in these reserve areas

 Day 1 (Day 4 since we arrived in Andaman)
            As advised by our driver & guide for the tour Mr. John, we started early in the morning at 3.30 A.M. sharp (delaying our start by half an hour after much haggling with him), in the Mahindra Xylo Jeep, provided by the tour operator Mr. Deepak, who also owns the ‘Da Bay Inn’ Hotel, in Port Blair, a person whom I found to be bequeathed with a very amenable & pleasant personality.  The main motto of the driver was to be ahead of all other vehicles in the first convoy that leaves Jirka Tang check post at 6.00 A.M.  After driving through the pitch dark roads, with hordes of Cows occupying the main road near many a small villages during the night, being pitch dark with no street lights and sudden appearance of dark cows or rain pits, it was a nightmare of a journey from Port Blair to Jirka Tang.  However, when we reached Jirka Tang it was merely 4.45 A.M. in the morning and the sun was just making an appearance in the east.  Despite having started so early in the morning, we were still second in the queue and it being a long wait till 6.00 A.M (Indian stretchable Time), as the convoy invariably starts at around 6.20-6.30 A.M. only, the children were advised to have a quick nap.  But this was going to be impossible because of the clamor caused by the vendors and hawkers.  Initially, I was reluctant to buy any street side food, but my experience in the Spiti region last year, coupled with the advice of the guide, I purchased five (05) plates of Vada (a south Indian fried snack), as a Doctor friend of mine had suggested that the hot oil kills most of the harmful Bacteria.  This turned to be our savior, as in the ensuing journey and even in Baratang we could not get any proper food.

The Middle Strait view


            The journey from Jirka Tang commenced with a lot of expectations of encountering some Jarwa aboriginal tribesmen, whose pre-historic ways of life have changed little, in these isolated Islands, during the thousands of years that they have been inhabiting these islands.  These tribes live in reserved forest areas and occasionally come out on roads, while traveling to different locations for their day to day needs.  In order to insulate them from the modern culture, interaction with the tourists is totally prohibited and filming them in any manner is punishable under the law.  The road passes through some really picturesque & virgin forest areas, with a plethora of birds singing, but few can be spotted from the moving vehicles.  The distance of about 45 odd Kms. is to be crossed from Jirka Tang to Middle Strait, but takes about two hours time for the entire entourage of vehicles to cross, as the speed limit is just 40 Kms. per hour on this stretch of road and that too is seldom achieved because of the State Transport Busses that move ahead in the convoy, just behind the Police escort vehicle.  The Police escort vehicles move at the head of the convoy and one at the tail end of it, with bike riding Policemen patrolling in between.  The decision to start early and heed to the advise of our guide/driver paid dividends, as we were the first to reach the middle strait and board the ferry, with the vehicle and people et al.  Having crossed the Middle Strait through a ferry, we reached Baratang (Nilambur jetty), having traveled about 105 Kms. (in about 4 hours), where we scourged for some decent food, but nothing was available, so we had a short Breakfast of biscuits & cold drink.  This part of the Islands is in the Middle Andaman or Middle District, as it is administratively divided at present.  It was almost 8.00 A.M in the morning and it was getting quite humid when we got into the speed boats to visit the lime-stone caves in Baratang.

Baratang Map (from internet)

View from Baratang or Nilambur Jetty

             The Lime-stone caves are situated at a distance of about 25 Kms. from the Nilambur jetty, wherefrom the speed boats can be hired personally (@Rs.2000/- for a small speed boat for a round trip) or shared with tickets available @Rs.300/- per head for a round trip.  The journey to the Limestone caves, is an adventure in itself with the speed boats cutting across the sea water and small islands passing by with Mangroove forests reaching out into the sea.  But as picturesque as it appears, at times it can be equally dangerous, as the Sea Crocodiles lurk in the water near the Mangrooves and it is advisable to avoid putting ones hands or legs out in the sea.  We were bewitched by the natural splendor of green speckled all around us and at the time we least expected, we were ushered into the Mangroove inlet and the boat passed deftly, avoiding the overhead branches and roots, through a narrow natural causeway, which led to a bamboo jetty.  We all disembarked and here from started the 1.5 Kms. trek through the tropical rain forest of Andamans, for reaching the Limestone caves.  As the rain clouds were gathering, the humidity levels had shot up many folds and the guide was urging every one to move fast because of the impending rainfall.  The weather conditions coupled with the uneven & slippery walking conditions, were adding to the woes and most of us were drenched in sweat and parched.  We finally made it to the lime stone caves, which have been formed by gradual erosion of the rocks rich in Calcium Carbonate (maybe of sea organism origin) by water over thousands of years, which has crafted these rocks into various hues & shapes, the only source of ventilation to these caves are the sky-holes above.  Inside the cave, massive limestone formations dangled from the ceiling like chandeliers, glowed from the sides and sprouted from the ground like short pilasters. One hung like a thick pillar from the ceiling of the cave and waters drips into the cave constantly. The serrated edges of the limestone blocks shine in the dark. Overall, the experience was worth the money and effort.

The description of Lime Stone Caves

Through the mangrove forest - towards the Limestone caves

Inside the Limestone caves

             Having returned from the limestone caves, we reached Baratang Nilambur jetty at around 11.45 A.M. and our driver suggested that we head for Rangat and should visit Mud Volcano & Parrot Island during the return leg.  We agreed and boarded the vehicle, which made its way from Baratang to Rangat, a journey covering a further 70 Kms.  Having passed Baratang and after having traversed through some more virgin forest, suddenly I spotted a bird perched high up on a tree and immediately stopped the vehicle to have a look and take a shot, if possible, it was an endemic Andaman Sea Eagle and I got a prized catch with my Camera.  Having traversed though the jungle area, we reached Batuktala jetty wherefrom we again boarded the jetty alongwith the vehicle and alighted at Kadamtala jetty, the cost of ferry ride across all such straits in Andaman are fixed i.e. @ Rs.4/- per person & @ Rs.50/- for passenger car/vehicle (one way).  We were a wee bit famished by now and decided to have some fresh fruits being sold by vendors, we found the local Bananas delectable and the Pineapples sweet and juicy.  Thereafter, we embarked upon our journey from Kadamtala and this was again through the Jarwa Reserve Forest area, but no convoy or Police protection is required in this region and one has to make an entry while exiting the area at Farlobjig Post.  Thereafter, we went past Rangat township, as we had our booking at the Hawkbill Nest Tourist Guest House run by the Andaman tourism department and is at a distance of about 20 odd Kms. beyond main Rangat township/bazar on banks of Cutbert Bay, the nesting grounds for the Hawkbill turtles.  Enroute we visited the Amkunj beach, which was nothing spectacular but for the total eco-concept of the beach, with all the constructions made of locally available materials like bamboo, wood etc. We also had a look at the Panchavati Waterfalls, which is actually a misnomer, as it is small 10-12 feet high rock from where the rain water drains out to sea and the water flow can only be witnessed during & just after rains.  By the time we had reached the Rest House it was almost 2.00 P.M. and only after much persuasion and coercion, did the staff agree to provide Dal & Bhaji for lunch.  This trait I noticed in most of the Tourism run lodges, as the staff is recruited entirely on ‘daily wages’ basis and are continuing as such for years together, thus their impetus to work is much dwindled.  However, by the time we had refreshed ourselves, it had started pouring outside and we enjoyed our hot Dal & Bhaji and rice immensely.   Having taken our lunch, we retired to our rooms as it was not possible to go out & explore due to intense rain, but I took a shot of a few Kingfishers resting on the electricity line to ride out the torrent.  Thereafter, I too retired into my room for a nap, as we were up since 3.30 A.M. in the early morning.

The endemic Sea Eagle - perched on tree top almost 100 feet high

Selling Pineapples at the Kadamtala Jetty

Elephants at work

Farlobjig check point

Aerial view of Rangat

Aamkunj beach - Rangat

Enjoying the rain - shot taken from the balcony of Hawksbill Guest House in Rangat

Fisher women loading their catch in local bus at Rangat 

More ominous rain clouds gathering at Rangat

            After a good nap, we got up and had a cup of tea, but by this time evening was setting in, as it sets in pretty early in this region of India i.e. by 5.00 P.M and we quickly dashed out to visit the nearby Cutbert Bay.  It had already become quite dark by the time we reached the bay.  It was also not very spectacular and because of the fishing village nearby, it was quite filthy also and we beat a hasty retreat back to the confines of the Guest House.  As the Guest House Manager had seen my identity as per entry made in the Guest House register, we got a very good dinner at night comprising of Chicken curry et al, prepared with care & caution.  Having partaken our first & last true meal for the day, we retired to our beds early in preparation for the second day of our journey.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Port Blair & around - Part IV

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Port Blair- Ross Island & Viper Island)

Day 4  (Day 7 since arrival in Port Blair)

Ross Island as seen from Aberdeen Jetty

The first structure to come in sight at Ross Island after alighting at jetty

View of Junior Officers quarters

The local store run by Mr. Ali

The close up of Printing Press now in ruins

View of the Power House

View of the Bakery

View of the Church building

The Commissioners' house

             Although we did not take the tour consecutively for this trip, we had kept a day for this on our return from Diglipur.  However, since I am describing the places in and around Port Blair in this series, I will place the commentary here, so that readers do not find it difficult to re-connect at a later stage.  One can have a trip to North Bay Island (coral islands), Ross & Viper Islands as a one day round trip to these three destinations.  I did not go for the trip to North Bay islands as I had already visited Red Skin islands and seen the corals, but during interaction with other travelers aboard Makruzz, while traveling to Havlock, I found that a multinational company based in Thailand called Sea link Adventures - was offering sea walking there @ Rs.3000/- per trip with an additional fee of Rs.500/- for set of seven (07) underwater photographs.    However, you can also do the Ross Island and Viper Island trips independently or together in the evenings. 

View of gallows at Viper Island

 We had been considerably, delayed on our return from Baratang as the driver sought to take a short cut and routed the vehicle through Bamboo flat while coming from Baratang.  Being a Monday, there was a huge rush at the jetty and we were struck up at Bamboo flats.  When the tour operator called up on the driver and came to know of our predicament, he asked us to board the ferry and board another vehicle that was waiting at the Haddo wharf near Chatham saw mills.  We did accordingly, but because of the heavy rush we all had a horrendous journey being jam packed on the ferry like a pack of Sardines.  As we were very late, we headed straight to Ananda Restaurant for having breakfast and then checked back in the South Point Circuit house.  In the afternoon we headed for Ross Island, which was the administrative headquarters of the British and is now in ruins.  It has nothing much to offer, except for being a Naval Base, where entry for civilians is prohibited and the remaining area comprises of scattered remains & ruins of once pulsating township of the elite British officers who controlled the affairs of the Islands around.  This Island houses the ruins of a Church, the Commissioner’s bungalow on top of a hillock, Press, Bakery etc. but as mentioned all in ruins.  The other island called the Viper Island was initially the jail house for convicts and freedom fighters of 1857, who were later shifted to Cellular Jail in 1906 and this island became the primary jail for female convicts, many of whom were sent to the gallows here, the ruins of which can be seen even today.  The ruins of the gallows on the hill top can be seen, but the same is in shambles at present.  The name of the island is said to be have been drawn from the ship by the same name, which was deployed to establish a Penal Settlement here by Archibald Blair and is said to have later perished & sunk near this Island.  Other than this, these two Islands have nothing to offer.  One can seek to visit these islands from the Aberdeen jetty at Port Blair and single round trip to Ross Island costs Rs.65/- for a round trip and for both combined i.e. including Viper Island it costs around Rs.110/- for a round trip, whereas if you want to combine all three i.e. North Bay Island included, the tickets cost @ Rs.350/- onwards for a round trip.

View of Aberdeen Jetty by night

            © S. Roy Biswas – All rights reserved