Andamans is now an international tourist destination.
But during my five-day family trip to the concoction of islands, I lived a childhood dream. For me, it was more than a beach destination. It was walking down the lanes of history, and witnessing unusual glories of nature!
The recollection that shines most brightly about that trip is the magnificent view of the clear blue sea from the plane above. The boundless stretch of the Bay of Bengal, with small islands in between – something that I have dreamt of witnessing since childhood.
The First Couple of Days
Although the first day was a washout, the next day shone on us with a clear, cloudless sky. It was pretty warm for the month of December. We took a car to reach the port, from where we booked seats on a small ship that took us to the Ross Island.
The beauty of Ross Island will remind one of the those captivating calendar pictures that one can’t help staring at.The picture perfect setting of the tall coconut trees, palm trees, the clear blue sparkling and calm sea and stretches of green grass – it was idyllic.
The friendly wild lives – peacocks, and deer were quite amusing.
The next stop was an island, with a sordid past.
Here the Britishers used to execute the female freedom fighters in the pre-Independence days. Though the sea surrounding the island was beautiful, the dilapidated and barren look of the entire island was both chilling and depressing. Our next destination was the Anthropological Museum in Port Blair. The place contained various beautiful pictures of the islands and displayed the different kinds of weapons and tools that the tribal communities of the islands use. The place was worth the visit.
Cellular Jail is stated to be a must-visit in Port Blair. Thus around evening the same day, we visited the Cellular Jail. It was getting cloudy again, and the atmosphere turned gloomy. The high red and orange bricked walls, and the central watch tower made an escape from this facility practically impossible. A few of the prison rooms were open for the tourists to visit, and the mere sight of the claustrophobic rooms was very disturbing. There was a museum which showcased the various weapons that the British Government used to torture the prisoners. The famous freedom fighter, Veer Savarkar, after whom the Port Blair airport is named, was a prisoner in this jail. We also attended the light and sound show in the Cellular jail, which portrayed the lives and torments of the inmates in the jail most beautifully.
The Pristine Underwater World
The next day was reserved for the Havelock and Neil Islands. This trip required a two night stay away from Port Blair, and we started early. The journey was two hours long, this in a small vessel again, that was designed for maximum viewing pleasure. The pristine clear blue sea on all sides, augmented with a light breeze, gentle waves, and a sparkling sunlight was spell-binding. When we reached the Havelock island, we first paid a visit to the to the Radhanagar beach. The crystal clear water, white sandy beach and green forest behind it made it irresistible. I felt like being transported to a divine universe while strolling on the beach.
Our next destination was Blue Corals Dive, where we experienced the thrill of snorkeling for the first time. The trainers were very supportive. We put on our gears and dove into the cold water.
The multi-hued corals, the various kinds of fish, just the silence of the underwater world was overwhelming. The trainers made me touch the starfish and corals – they were rubbery in nature.
Elephant beach was next. Here, for the first time in Andamans, we had a sea bath. The sea was flat; the place was sparsely crowded. That night we stayed in a local hut on land. Our hosts were a Bengali couple, and they were very hospitable. Most of the people in Havelock Island were Bengalis and spoke in their mother tongue.
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