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Port Blair, the capital city is a bustling overgrown town of immense historical importance. Travellers usually visit the main historical attractions, some of which are in the city and some as day trips keeping Port Blair as the base.
The famous Cellular Jail (that housed Indian freedom fighters during the struggle for independence) draws hundreds on visitors and is perhaps the most visited monument in the Andamans. Travellers following the typical tourist route also visit Chatam Sawmill (one of the oldest & largest in Asia), Forest Museum, Anthropological Museum, Fisheries (Marine) Museum, Naval Marine Museum (Samudrika) and the Cottage Industries Emporium (Sagarika) to indulge in a bit of shopping. Souvenirs available here are very popular buys.
Easy day trips from Port Blair make it possible to explore close by islands like Mount Harriet (The highest peak in South Andamans and the summer headquarters of the Chief Commissioner during British Raj), Viper Island (where the gallows and ruins of the jail can be seen), Ross Island (the erstwhile capital of Port Blair during the British regime), Jolly Buoy and Red Skin Island (for great beaches and lovely snorkeling)
Day trips to the beautiful beaches of Wandoor and excursions to the Mahatma Gandhi National Park are also a popular choice for travellers.
Havelock Island is the recommended island and hub of all tourist activity. It is perfect for those who wish to kick off their shoes, have a relaxing vacation or be adventurous and try various activities that include but are not limited to camping, scuba diving and snorkeling. From Port Blair, Havelock is just a ferry ride away with 3 daily departures that are easy and convenient.
Located 57 kms northeast of Port Blair, Havelock has the most spectacular white sand beaches, rain forest canopies, turquoise waters and fantastic coral reefs. The water is abundant in marine life both large and small and this Island is ideal for snorkeling & scuba diving.
The two main beaches here are the Vijaynagar Beach (Beach No. 5) and the Radhanagar Beach (Beach No. 7) - the latter has been rated as the Best Beach in Asia. At Havelock Island, you can afford to be lazy and be a complete beach bum or fill your day with an explosion of adventure activities to get that adrenaline pumping.
For more information regarding places to stay in Havelock, visit the "Hotels in Havelock" (oliver to link) page of our website.
Ross Island, the erstwhile administrative headquarters of the British was referred to in the early 20th century as the Paris of the East. Manicured lawns that led up to clubhouses, swimming pools, granaries, officers mess, tennis courts and a majestic church lie in ruins, reclaimed by nature after an earthquake in June 1941.
Deer roam the islands today, peering from behind the thick bushes, and sometimes even mustering up courage to eat biscuits out of your hand. A graveyard has headstones of army officers who died young, and that of an infant who lived for just 22 hours. Some parts are off limits for visitors. A small museum displays pictures of its old grandeur and the entire island can be explored on foot and is open every day except Wednesday. Overnight stays are not possible on this island.
The island is spread over 0.6 sq kms and is a popular place with tourists and the Indian Navy has established a museum on the island known as "Smritika".
For travellers keen on photography, this island is intriguing and a 'must visit'. The old buildings have nearly collapsed and bare skeletal structures remain. Held together by just tree roots which have grown over the structures, this is a sight not to be missed.
It is a long and tiring walk to see this island and although a small cafe is present it is advised to carry drinking water and snacks.
Viper Island is a beautiful tourist attraction and can be approached by harbour cruise originating from Phoenix Bay Jetty in Port Blair.
This was the site of the old jail where the British used to house and torture convicts and political prisoners. The conditions at the jail were such that the place got the notorious name, "Viper Chain Gang Jail." Anyone who had challenged the British authority was bound and confined at night by a chain running through coupling of irons around their legs.
The Jail has secured a permanent place in the history of the freedom struggle as it was here that Sher Ali Khan, was executed after he assassinated Lord Mayo, Indian Viceroy, on February 8, 1872. With the construction and completion of the Cellular Jail, activities at Viper island prison reduced considerably.
Although in a dilapidated state today, Viper island continues to be popular with tourists. Its proximity to Port Blair makes it ideal for a half day trip.
Neil Island is situated 36 kms east of Port Blair or 18 kms east of the Havelock Jetty. This pretty island is the easternmost inhabited island in Ritchie's Archipelago as well as easternmost inhabited island in the entire Andaman & Nicobar group of islands. Daily ferries connect Port Blair to Neil Island as well as to Havelock.
Neil Island was uninhabited until the arrival of settlers in the late 1960s. Like Havelock, the vast majority of settlers at Neil were refugees from erstwhile Bangladesh, following the exodus of Hindu Bangladeshi's prior to that country's war of independence in 1971.
Neil is a much smaller island than Havelock. It is a comparatively flat island, and much of the landmass was deemed suitable for paddy cultivation. Unfortunately, as a result of this, very little forest cover remains at Neil, and almost all of it is concentrated in the reserve forest on Neil's north-western side. The jetty and main village are at the center of the west coast of Neil island.
Neil island tends to remain a degree or two warmer than Havelock as a result of the lack of forest cover. The island is not without charm however, but it is a different, pastoral sort of charm that the island offers. Beaches are numbered; the beach west of the village is popular with campers. Beaches ring the shores of Neil, and its 5 villages and sedentary (even more so than Havelock) pace of life is enchanting. It is easy to while away a day exploring this neighbouring isle. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities here.
Cinque Island is surrounded by pristine coral reefs and inviting blue waters. Uninhabited, North and South Cinque are among the prettiest islands in the Andamans. Getting to this charming island takes two hours from Chidiyatapu, and three-and-a-half hours from Wandoor by boat. Unfortunately, there are no regular boat services. Special permission must be taken from the Forest Department to visit this island.
Jolly Buoy Island
Jolly Buoy Island, in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park offers breath taking corals and amazing marine life. It is an ideal place for snorkeling and for basking on the sun kissed beach and getting that fabulous tan. Regular day trips ply from Port Blair to this island at present, however no night stays or camping is allowed here.
Red Skin Island
Red Skin Island is also located in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park has a nice beach and offers spectacular view of corals and marine life. Popular with snorkelers, this island is a great day trip from Port Blair for those looking for a fun day at the beach. Night stays are not permitted here.
Long Island is located 82 kms from Port Blair or 35kms north of Havelock. Connected by a ferry three times a week from Phoenix Bay Jetty in Port Blair, enchanting Long island is home to a lovely sandy beach at Lalaji Bay 6 kms north from Long island jetty. It also has beautiful forest cover and coconut plantations.
Long island was uninhabited until the arrival of settlers in the 1970s. A plywood factory was established near the jetty but is now closed. A village exists near the jetty, the population of which is approximately 1500 people. The island is populated by settlers and factory workers from different parts of India.
A varied and rewarding trek exists through the main village, plantations, fields, regenerated forest and primary rainforest on Long island for those travellers who wish to explore. This is a 6 km trail starting at the jetty and ending at Lalaji Bay. Another small trail runs north from Lalaji Bay, leading to a secluded cove with calm water, some regenerating coral and a white sandy beach. It is perfect for those who want to snorkel or sunbathe in complete privacy.
Currently no dive centres operate in Long island; however the larger diving operators of Havelock offer safari trips to explore the dive sites of Long island. Snorkeling is popular here, however finding good quality equipment can be a challenge.
Barren Island, one of the most easterly islands is the only active volcano in South Asia, lies 135 kms northeast of Port Blair and is 300 m above sea level.
The first recorded eruption of the volcano dates back to 1787 and further eruptions were recorded in 1789, 1795, 1803-04, and 1852. After nearly one and half centuries of dormancy, the island had another eruption in 1991 that lasted six months and caused considerable damage.
There were eruptions in 1994-95 and 2005-07. Since then, the volcano has erupted more than six times; most recently on 19 July 2009 and till date continues to spew smoke and ash.
True to its name, it is a barren area uninhabited by humans, though it has a small population of goats, birds, bats like flying foxes and a few rodent species such as rats known to survive the harsh conditions. A deep void land, the face of the volcano, and fantastic scuba diving possibilities is an attraction to the tourists.
Barren Island can be approached by board vessels and one can view the island from the vessel. There is no permission to get onto the island. The travel to this island is a breathtaking adventurous experience.
South Button Island
South Button Island is located southwest of Havelock and is a stunning islet that is almost fairy tale like. A part of the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park, this island is extremely popular for both snorkeling and diving. Incredible marine life and stunning healthy coral await visitors here. Schools of fish like Snappers, Barracuda, Trevally, Sweetlips, Groupers, Angel fish and Butterfly fish whiz around and lucky visitors are thrilled to see Turtles, Devil Rays and Manta Rays as well.
Simply awe inspiring, South Button can be visited as a day trip from Havelock. There are no beaches on this island and tourists are not allowed to climb the rocky outcrops. A pair of white bellied Sea Eagles can be spotted flying high and this island is by far the most popular snorkeling destination owing to its splendid coral and shallow depths.
Baratang Island is a large undulating island of approximately 80 sq kms located due west from Havelock Island. It lies in a creek between the two large islands of South Andaman and Middle Andaman, and forms a 'bridge' between the two. At Baratang, much of the landmass is under cultivation; however patches of denuded forest and primary forest do exist.
The island is geologically significant and boasts natural marvels - mud volcanoes and limestone caves. Baratang presents wonderful short trekking opportunities through the Ranchi village off the South Creek, taking detours into a number of limestone caves. The limestone caves and mud volcanoes bring many a visitor to Baratang.
Rangat Island is 90 kms by sea and 170 kms by road from Port Blair. At Cuthbert Bay beach, near Rangat, you will find a turtle nesting ground as well. Rangat is useful as a stopover on longer itineraries involving Baratang and destinations further north.
Diglipur area and Ross and Smith Islands
Diglipur area and Ross and Smith Islands that are joined by a bewitching sand bar, is 30 minutes away from Aerial Bay jetty near Diglipur, which is itself 120 kms by sea and 250 kms by road from Port Blair. One can feel the innocent beauty of village life everywhere in Diglipur. Diglipur is a useful base for excursions to Kalipur beach and Ramnagar beach.
Saddle Peak, accessible from Diglipur, is popular for trekking/nature trail through the lush evergreen rain forest. Saddle Peak is a national park and covers an area of 33 square miles. Among the animals found here are the Andaman Wild pig, Water Monitor and the Imperial Pigeon.
Kalighat, near Diglipur is a small passenger ferry terminal in the mangroves, and is connected by daily two boat services from Mayabunder. Port Blair - Diglipur (Aerial Bay jetty) boat services are also available twice a week.
Little Andaman Island
Little Andaman Island is 120 kms by sea from Port Blair and has a stunning beach at Butler Bay, a waterfall and plantation of oil palms. Apart from this there are several sandy beaches all along the coastline of the island. The break water at Hut Bay offers an excellent view to the tourists. Little Andaman is the vegetable bowl for the Nicobar group of islands.
North Passage Island is 30 kms northeast of Havelock island, and is situated between Strait island immediately to its south (home to the last remnants of the Great Andamanese tribe), Guitar island and Long island immediately to the north. To the east of North Passage island, across the channel, lies John Lawrence island in Ritchie's archipelago and much closer west lies the expanse of Middle Andaman.
North Passage island has very little history of habitation, other than sporadic visits from different sects of the Great Andamanese Tribe.
Approximately 100 acres of land was handed over to the Agriculture Department of Andaman Islands to establish a coconut plantation, four decades ago. The only inhabitants on this island at present are representatives of the Forest Department and caretakers of the Coconut Plantation - i.e. a single digit population. 95% of the landmass of North Passage Island is designated Reserve Forest.
The island has a beautiful beach - Merk Bay - on its north-eastern side, fronting the coconut plantation and looking out towards Ritchie's Archipelago. The western side of North Passage Island offers calm and sheltered waters between North Passage and Middle Andaman.