"That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material." ~ Swami Vivekananda


Andaman & Nicobar: Port Blair

The Cellular Jail is Port Blair's only firm reminder of its gloomy past. The sturdy brick Cellular Jail or Kala Pani overlooks the sea from a small rise in the northeast of town.

Located on the east coast of South Andaman, Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is a remote harbour. With just a cluster of tin-roofed houses, shops, restaurants and offices, it is a tourist destination less by choice and more because of necessity. It is the arrival point for the islands, and the only place with a bank, tourist offices and hotels.

Mineral water and other essentials are available here, only marginally more expensive than the mainland. Power, water and sewerage systems are beginning to show signs of being over-stretched and there are frequent breakdowns. Port Blair offers a variety of sea food delicacies, besides Indian, Chinese, Continental, and Burmese cuisine.


Cellular Jail
Port Blair's only firm reminder of its gloomy past, the sturdy brick Cellular Jail or Kala Pani overlooks the sea from a small rise in the northeast of town. Seven wings originally radiated from the central tower out of which only three remain, the rest being destroyed by the Japanese.

More on Andamans

Islands in the Sun

Scuba Diving

Built over a period of eighteen years at the start of the 20th century by the British, its dingy solitary cells were quite different and far worse than the dormitories in other prison blocks erected earlier. The prisoners endured extremely grim conditions in the dirty and ill-ventilated cells where drinking water was limited to two glasses per day and the convicts were expected to wash in the rain as they worked, clearing forests and building prison quarters. Food was stored in vats where the rice and pulses became infested with worms; more than half the prison population died long before their twenty years' detention was up. Frequent executions took place in full view of the cells, at the gallows that still stand in squat wooden shelters in the courtyards.

Corbyn's Cove, a 7 km walk away, is the nearest beach to Port Blair. The nearby Snake Island is surrounded by coral reefs. Currents in the water here are pretty strong and swimming can be dangerous.
The sound and light show (in English on Wed, Sat & Sun 7.15pm; in Hindi daily at 6pm; except for the rainy season) outlines the history of the prison, and a small museum by the entrance gate (open at the same hours as the prison) exhibits lists of convicts, photographs and grim torture devices.

Samudrika Marine Museum
Run by the Indian Navy, the marine museum has tanks brimming with exotic fish and coral from the islands' reefs. The five sections of this unique museum display history and geography of the Andaman & Nicobar islands. Displays include miniature models of islands, pictures of tribals and their life-style and archaeology.


This aquarium cum museum has a collection of some 350 species of marine animals found in the Andaman Sea.

Anthropological Museum
On MG Road in the west of town, the anthropological museum illustrates the lives of the aboriginal tribes with miniature models of the tools used by them, their dresses and photographs of their life style. Above the museum is a well stocked library where you can look up books.
Wandoor, 29 km from Port Blair consists of a stunningly beautiful group of 15 islands that form part of the 280 sq kms Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. There are a number of good beaches on Wandoor but watch for the strong currents.

Mini Zoo and Forest Museum
The small zoo has 200 species of animals and birds which include the Nicobar Pigeon, the Andaman Pigand and the rare agile luminous-green Andaman gekko. A salt-water crocodile farm that breeds and releases crocodiles into the coastal mangrove swamps is a part of the zoo. Near the zoo is the museum maintained and run by the forest department. This unusual museum displays local types of wood used in the timber industry such as padauk which has both light and dark colours present in the same tree, rosewood and marble wood. Lumbering methods are clearly explained here.


Chatham Sawmill
5 km North-west of Aberdeen Bazaar, on the peninsula that marks the northernmost edge of Port Blair, is the British built Chatham sawmill one of the oldest and largest timber processing plants on Indian territory. The seasoning of beautiful and rare woods taken from various islands is a sad testimony to continuing felling; photography is prohibited. Most of the timber goes from here to the mainland.

Water Sports Complex
Very close to the Fisheries Museum, is the water sports complex where you can rent rowboats, wind surfing equipment, sailing dinghies and snorkels. Water skiing is also available.


Chiriya Tapu, 30 Km from Port Blair is at the southern tip of South Andaman. A tiny fishing village it has beautiful mangroves, shell-strewn beaches, sharp rocks and vast coral reefs. South of the island is a beach well known for snorkelling.
Mt Harriet
Mount Harriet at 365 m is one of the highest points in South Andaman. A natural trail leads to the summit. Permission to climb the nature trails that weave through dense forest must be obtained from the Chief Wildlife Warden in Haddo.Open to tourists during the day, permission of the warden at Port Blair has to be taken to stay overnight in the forest rest house. Towards the north is the Mt Harriet National Park where one can watch elephants being trained to carry logs. One can take a ferry service or taxi from the Chatnam wharf to Bamboo flat. The summit , 7 km from here is an enjoyable walk but the route is devoid of drinking water. Taxis and jeeps are also available.

Ferries from Phoenix Bay Jetty to Bamboo Flat and a short bus ride gets you to Madhuban a felling area where elephants work alongside men. Private vehicles can be ferried from Chafham jetty to Bamboo Flat, which saves a long drive over poor roads on the route from Port Blair.

Ross Island
Ross Island was the administrative headquarters of the British during World War II. Formerly known as Paris of the East, this place now lies in ruins. Its manicured lawns adorned with umbrellas and shades and the majestic ballrooms were destroyed in an earthquake in 1941. Daily services were held at the Church but now forest and under growth has over-run the place which is in ruins and has a somewhat haunting air of poignancy. The small museum near the jetty presents a picture of the bygone era. The island is under Naval control and it is mandatory to sign the visitor's guest book on arrival. Ferries from Phoenix Bay take 20 minutes for the ride to Ross Island.

Corbyn's Cove
The nearest beach to Port Blair, it is a pleasant 7 km walk. The nearby Snake Island is surrounded by coral reefs. Currents in the water here are pretty strong and swimming can be dangerous.

Sippighat Farm
Located 15 km from Port Blair en route to Wandoor, this Government owned farm is used for research in various kinds of agricultural products. Research predominantly in spices has developed new varieties of cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and cloves.


Wandoor (29 km)
This stunningly beautiful group of 15 islands forms part of the 280 sq kms Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. There are a number of good beaches on Wandoor but watch for the strong currents. Do not venture on the corals as they might get damaged. Many coral reefs have already been damaged due to over enthusiastic visitors.

Part of the Wandoor National Park, Red Skin and Jolly Buoy islands boast a stunning array of over 50 varieties of coral and fish. Daily boat trips are organised to these uninhabited islands (departures from Wandoor jetty, daily except Mon, 10am). Food and drink are usually provided on the organized tours, which also provide transport from Port Blair to Wandoor. Although the trips give less than three hours to explore the fabulous reefs, they are still worthwhile.

Chiriya Tapu (30 Km)
At the southern tip of South Andaman, an hour's drive from Port Blair, is Chiriya Tapu or Bird Island; a tiny fishing village with mangroves, shell-strewn beaches, sharp rocks and vast coral reefs. South pf the island is a beach well known for snorkelling.

Cinque Island
South of Chirya Tapu, the uninhabited Cinque Island are surrounded by some of the finest coral reefs which can be seen a few hundred metres into the sea. Permission from the Forest Department is required to visit these islands and a night visit is rarely granted. It takes two and a half hours to get here by boat from Chiriya Tapu and three and a half hours from Wandoor. Ferries between Phoenix Bay and the island run only once a week (3hr).

It is the northernmost point of the Andaman chain. 9 km inland from its harbour at Arial Bay is a bazaar. One can swim at a small beach beside the mangrove swamps near a sawmill. A sandy beach, 11 km further on at Kalipur is connected by bus. Permission to make the three- to four-hour climb up the thickly forested Saddle Peak must be obtained from the Range Officer at Arial Bay. The nearby Austin Islands are also worth a visit.


Turtle resort, a PWD rest house and the smaller PWD rest house on a hillock down at Arial Bay are some places to stay overnight.

Long Island
The several sandy beaches on this island, which is off the south east coast of Middle Andaman are an idyllic camping site. It has a forest rest house and a PWD rest house. On Wednesdays and Saturdays ferries from Port Blair and Havelock stop here on their way to Rangat.

Neil Island
Predominantly inhabited by post-partition Bengali settlers, the Neil Islands offer good beaches for snorkelling. Some of the corals here have been damaged due to extensive fishing. The numbered beaches are popular for their hammocks under shady trees. The largest of Neil's wide and deserted beaches is at Sitapur, on the east coast.

Accommodation and Places to eat
Hawabill Nest Yatri Niwas, an advance booking for which has to be made at A&N tourist office at Port Blair and the PWD rest house (up to Rs100) for which an introductory letter can be obtained from the Chief Engineer's Office in Port Blair (20206) are the places to stay here. Camping is another option. The village market has a few shops, which serve dosas, fried fish, vegetables and rice.


How to get There
Ferries leave from Phoenix Bay in Port Blair every Wednesday and Friday.
Havelock Islands (45 km)
Havelock, full of Bengali settlers is the largest of a scattering of islets northeast of Port Blair. The island, popular for its long white beaches, turquoise waters and coral reefs with dolphins, turtles and large fish is slightly hilly and very fertile. Elephants brought here to work now offer rides to tourists. Fruit and vegetables are grown for sale.

Clean double rooms at the new Dolphin Yatri Nivas (21328; Rs225-500) about 3km from the jetty - an ANTO bus meets the ferry (book at the Andaman and Nicobar tourist office in Port Blair), where you can also get reasonable but unexciting food. The only other hotel is the poor VS Lodge (Rs225-350), not far from the jetty, where there are also a few shops and basic meal joints. The wide beach close to the hotel is good for sunbathing, and the sea is very shallow, but the best waters for swimming lie off the beach at Radhnagar, 10 km from the jetty at the end of a narrow and poorly surfaced road; watch for pesky sandflies, especially in the evenings. There's no guarantee of transport to Radhnagar - the best thing to do is to bring a moped (plus fuel) or bicycle with you from Port Blair.

Viper Islands
The islands got its name from a ship The Viper, which was wrecked nearby. Gallows, whipping posts and crumbling walls of the gallows remind one of the days of the Raj. Convicts were made to stay for a month to deter them from breaking prison discipline. Harbour cruises from Port Blair (daily 3-5pm; Rs20) include a short stop on Viper Island.

Middle Andamans
The Grand trunk Road links Port Blair to the Middle Andamans. Public transport has armed guards to ward off any attacks from the native Jarawa tribes who are very hostile to visitors. Independent travelling in this area is discouraged even though the island is open to the tourists and accommodation & other facilities have been provided. Tourists can also visit Rangat and Mayabunder islands.


Little Andamans
Home to the Onge tribals, who are confined to the south of the island, these reserves are out of bound areas. The waves make this place good for swimming. There is police station where one has to register his arrival. The main beach of Little Andamans is at Butler Bay, which is also a camping ground.

Festivals and Events
Island Tourism Festival, a 10-day affair, is held between December and February each year. Dance performances by people from the surrounding villages and the Andaman Dog Show are major attractions. Adventure

Scuba Diving in the Andaman Islands
Andamans are Coral islands with white sand beaches and surrounded by pristine beauty of Nature. The seas around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are some of the world's finest, relatively unexplored, unspoiled and multi-hued. Many species of fish and coral are unique to the area and fascinating life systems exist in ash beds and cooled lava around the eastern volcanic island of Barren. One can start by snorkelling; most hotels supply masks and snorkels. However, the only way to get really close, and venture out into deeper waters, is to scuba dive. The experience of weaving in and out of coral beds, coming eye to eye with fish or swimming with dolphins and barracudas is unforgettable, and at prices that are among the lowest in the world, it's an opportunity not to be missed.

The dive centers The Samudra, Port Blair Underwater and Andamans Adventure Sports and the recently established Andaman and Nicobar Scuba Diving Society run by Mr Chowdhary have almost similar rates. These centers have good equipment and the guides are well experienced. It's not uncommon to come across schools of sharks, which rarely turn hostile, but one thing to watch out for and avoid is the black-and-white sea snake. Though the snakes seldom attack - and, since their fangs are at the back of their mouths, would find it difficult to get a grip on any human - their bite is more deadly than that of the cobra.


It is essential to respect the environment when diving and snorkelling. Increased tourism inevitably puts pressure on the delicate marine eco-system, and poorly funded wildlife organizations can do little to prevent damage from insensitive visitors. Divers and snorkellers should never touch or pick coral; most of the reefs remain undamaged, but the dead coral in the shallow waters on the shores at Wandoor is an early sign of what happens if coral is walked on or picked.

General Information

Peerless Resort at Corbyn's Cove, Bay Island Hotel with excellent sea views and a sea water swimming pool and Hotel Sinclairs Bay View are the luxury hotels in Port Blair. The Holiday Resort, Andaman Teal House, Megapode Nest Tourist Complex at Haddo on the hill above the bay, Hornbill Nest Yatri Niwas and Hotel Abhishek are some mid-range hotels. Central Lodge, Sampat Lodge, Jagannath Guest House and the Youth Hostel are budget options. Several government guesthouses, two tourist homes, and a circuit house are also available.

Foreign tourists are permitted to visit only the Andaman group of islands, while access to Nicobars is restricted only to Indians. Though situated in the tropics, the islands have a pleasant temperate climate, due to the sea breeze blowing in continuously. The best time to visit these islands, is between November and May.

Places to eat
Mandalay Restaurant at the Bay Island Hotel, China Room, Islet Restaurant, New India Café and Dhanalakshmi Restaurant.


How to get There
The capital Port Blair, on South Andaman, is served by Indian Airlines flights from Calcutta (Wed, Fri & Sun; 2hr) and Madras (Tues, Thurs & Sat; 2hr 5min). Jet and East-West a private airline have services from Chennai. Both outward and return journeys should be booked in advance at the respective airline offices on the mainland.
SCI operates twice (four times at times) between Port Blair and Chennai (60 hrs, Calcutta (56 hrs) and Vishakhapatnam(56hrs) in its own vessels. Though more economical than flying, the long crossings are uncomfortable at times and often delayed by bad conditions and bureaucracy. Tickets cost from Rs690 for a simple, crowded bunk to Rs2500 for a deluxe a/c cabin. Meals of dal, rice and vegetables are served for around Rs100 per day. Taking along some supplementary snacks and fruit is not too bad an idea. Offices of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) are at First Floor, 13 Strand Rd, Calcutta (2482354), AV Bhanoji Row Garude, Pattbhiramaya & Co, Vishakapatnam port (565597) or Jawahar Building, near Customs House, Rajaji Rd, Chennai (Ph.: 5220841). You'll need two passport photos and should confirm your place on the boat 4 days before sailing. There's also an information centre for the islands at F 104 Curzon Road Hostel, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi (387015).

Getting Around
Port Blair has buses, taxis and a few auto rickshaws. Buses to key locations are available from the Port Blair bus stand. It is advisable to have own transportation to explore the island. Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and bicycles are available. Regular ferry services connect Port Blair to near by islands of Chiriya Tapu or Bird Island, Corbyn's Cove Beach, Ross Island, and other inhabited islands in the region.. Private boats can also be hired but may work out to be expensive.


Foreign tourists need a permit to visit Andamans. The Nicobar islands are out of bound for non-Indians. On the Andamans too there are many areas like the reserve places for the tribals on the Middle Andamans, Little Andaman and South Andamans that are out of bound. Further on the North Andamans, Diglipur is opened for foreigners. Day trips are allowed to Ross, Viper, Cinque, Narcondum, Interview and Brother & Sister islands. On the Barren volcanic islands boats go but embarkment is not allowed.

Permits are issued for 30 days, which under special circumstances can be extended for 2-3 days but not more than that. Permits are issued at the Port Blair Airport. If one does not have a confirmed return ticket he is allowed only a 10-15 days stay, which is extended to 30 days. Tourists arriving by plane can pick up the permit necessary to visit the islands on arrival at Port Blair airport; ship passengers should obtain one at a shipping office or Foreigners' Registration office before leaving India. The superintendent of police in Port Blair's Aberdeen Bazaar can extend your initial fifteen-day visa up to a maximum of thirty days. If reporting is not done on arrival then at the time of departure one may have problems in proving proof that he has not stayed longer than 30 days. Permits are stamped at the time of departure.

Andamans is more a place to swim, breathe the fresh airs than shop. Nevertheless, Port Blair's markets have muti hued and multi sized corals and sea shell souvenirs for sale. Mother of pearl jewellery and artifacts, objects d'art in local wood and palm mats are also available.


About 3.5 lakh people reside on this group of islands

Hindi, Nicobarese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali.

Tourist Information
The Government of India Tourist office is above Super Shoppe on Juglighat Main Road. The Andaman and Nicobar Tourism office has a friendly staff. Pamphlets and brochures are available here.

Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be changed at the State Bank of India branch. Port Blair's post and telegraph office has STD, ISD and fax facilities.

Tourist Offices
Port Blair Director (Tourism), Andaman & Nicobar Admn., Port Blair - 741101
Tel : (03192) 30933, 20747 : Fax : (0091-03192) 30933

New Dehli Resident Commissioner, Andaman & Nicobar Admn.,
Andaman & Nicobar Bhavan,
Plot No. 12, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 110021
Tel : 011- 6119590, 6871443 : Fax : 011-6882116

Calcutta Dy. Resident Commissioner, Andaman & Nicobar Admn.,
3-A, Auckland Place,
Calcutta - 700017
Tel / Fax : (033) 2475084

Chennai Dy. Resident Commissioner, Andaman & Nicobar Admn.,
C.P.W.D.Campus, K.K.Nagar,
Chennai - 600078.
Tel / Fax : (044) 4844715

Compiled by Puneet Sachdeva

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.