Saturday, July 7, 2012

Port Blair & around - Part III

Andaman & Nicobar - The Enchanting Coral Islands of India
(Port Blair- Cellular Jail, Museums & Mount Harriet)

Day 3 (Day 3 since arrival in Port Blair)

The infamous Cellular Jail

View of Museum in the Cellular Jail complex

            The day started at a leisurely pace as we were to visit the nearby museums etc. in Port Blair in the morning and accordingly, after having a heavy breakfast, we headed for the first destination for the day i.e. Cellular Jail.  This infamous structure was built by the British in 1906 to house both hardened criminals as well as freedom fighters.  The jail was initially a seven pronged structure, emanating as cogs of wheels from a central verge that housed about 700 odd inmates in each wing in solitary confinement cells.  The initial concept of Penal confinement in these islands, was started by the British just after the first uprising in 1857 and Viper Island was the first place where the freedom fighters were incarcerated.  Later on due paucity of space, a new Penal facility was constructed in Port Blair and the prisoners were shifted to the Cellular Jail.  At present only four of the original seven wings have been retained, the remaining three have been demolished to house a Hospital.  The jail complex also houses a museum wherein the photographs etc. of the Freedom fighters are displayed and in the other portion the life in prison is depicted.

A Jarwa Girl - photograph in the musuem

The Sentinelese trbals

The Shompens

            Thereafter, we visited the Anthropological museum that houses the detailed display of the aboriginal tribes of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands alongwith their lifestyle.  The display also includes the tools used by these aboriginals alongwith the weapons used by them.  The Andaman & Nicobar Islands were for long the exclusive home to the tribes, who have slowly been replaced by others.  The tribes inhabiting the Andaman group of islands are basically from the Negrito race and are as follows – Great Adamanese (now totally assimilated with the general residents of the Island – their spoken language is lost for ever), Jarwas (who are the darkest tribe in the world and are hunter gatherers – not meat eaters – now restricted in reserve areas in Middle & North Andamans) and Sentinelese (they are the most isolated and hostile tribes, who scarcely make any contact with outside people and inhabit the North Sentinel Island, situated to west of Port Blair) and Onges (These tribal group also refrains from contact with outsiders and their numbers are dwindling rapidly and live in a small reserve area in interiors of little Andaman).  In contrast to the Andaman group of Islands, the Nicobar group of Islands is mostly inhabited by tribes of Mongoloid race and are – Shompens & Nicobarese.  Whereas, the Nicobarese have adapted to the modern lifestyle and are flourishing, the Shompens on the other hand, still lead a semi nomadic life.

Samudrika - Naval Marine Museum

        The next destination was in the Naval Marine Museum christened as the ‘Samudrika’.  It houses an array of marine fishes in aquariums, but photography of these living fishes etc. is totally prohibited.  Apart from this, it houses an array of shells of all hues & shapes.  The display also consists of a wide variety of corals like Acropora, Pocillopora, Montipora, Leptoseris, Fungia, Tubipora, Gorgonian etc. alongwith sea shells of marine animals.  For the kids & ladies, this museum has also an outlet selling marine shells and handicrafts etc.

Acropora Coral

Bamboo Coral

Fungi Coral

Gorgonian Coral - Red Coral

Leptoseris Coral

Pocillopora Coral - Fan Coral

Tuburipora Coral

Football Coral

            There are a few more destinations that we skipped, as we were already late and we rushed in for lunch at the local Ananda Restaurant, which I found to be well priced with a decent ambience and delectable food.  The spots which I gave a miss are Andaman Water Sports Complex (near Cellular Jail), Fisheries Museum (also near Andaman Water Sports Complex) and the Science Centre.  Having had our lunch we proceed towards the Haddo wharf, which is situated right next to the Chatham Saw Mill, on an island connected by a bridge.  This saw mill was established by the British to ferry away entire ship loads of pristine timber and still continues to operate and produce quality timber.  We boarded the ferry alongwith our Jeep from the wharf for crossing the creek and to land across at Bamboo flat, which is a small village with sizeable Muslim population.  This was our first outing into the seawater and I too had the first time experience of crossing a sea front on a trawler with both vehicles and men being ferried alongside.  Having crossed over, we went past Bamboo flat and the gradual ascent towards our next destination for the day began.

Chatham Saw Mill

Nicobari Cottage - atop Mount Harriet

View of Light house - as behind Rs.20/- note

            Our next destination was Mount Harriet, which is the highest peak in the Port Blair region at an altitude of 635 meters.  Mount Harriet is situated about 55 Kms. from Port Blair (with 10 Kms. across sea on a ferry) and was the summer headquarters of the Chief Commissioner during the British rule.  As we started with the ascent, the ominous rain clouds gradually started gaining a darker hue by the minute until it was almost like night with rain pouring in pails of cascading water.  However, as we gradually neared the top the rain became less intense, but did not relent entirely, because of which I had no chance of getting any good shots of the place.  Mount Harriet is also a National Park housing rare endemic birds & butterflies, a natural trekking trails through this natural garden of Eden leads upto Madhuban beach (about 5 Kms. away from the top), which is another pristine beach of the Andaman’s.  One has to pay an entry fee for both self as well as the cameras being carried by you.  Enroute to Mount Harriet one can go for a detour to Hope town, where Lord Mayo was murdered by Sher Ali, a convict incarcerated to this Island.

© S. Roy Biswas – All rights reserved


  1. Dear Mr Biswas,
    Thanks a lot for such a wonderful article. Please let me know some good hotels (you stayed or heard of, in terms of amenities) at Havelock and Port-Blair, because I am planning to visit the place after going through your articles.
    --Amit Dixit (

  2. The photo you say is of the Sentinelese is not of Sentinel island natives. Unsure who exactly, but it's not of The Sentinelese.

  3. Very nice pictures. such a useful post. Thanks for sharing. Dubbed as the "Veritable Garden of Eden", Port Blair is the capital and the largest city in the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Check out best Port Blair tour packages also.

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