Cities Of India
|Port Blair (Andaman Nicobar Islands)
The capital of the 350 odd islands of Andaman and Nicobar, Port Blair is located at about 1,200 km from Kolkata and Chennai. The superb beaches and fascinating marine life on the reefs coupled with the opportunities you get for water sports, bird watching of fishing makes Port Blair one of the most interesting and enchanting tourist destinations in the country.
It was in 1789 that Captain Archibald Blair of the Bombay Marine (the East India Company’s Navy) established a penal colony on this site, naming it
Port Cornwallis. The first European settlement on the islands was established in 1858 near the site of the old penal colony. The colony was named Port Blair in honour of Captain Blair.
The islands Andaman and Nicobar are home to some of the oldest tribal communities in the world. Though most of the tribes out here have modernized, some of them still continue to exist in the ‘primitive’ stage and are hostile to outside interference.
The climate in the islands is quite moderate with temperature ranging between 20 to 30ºC. The south-west monsoons arrive here between mid-May and June, and the north-east monsoons between November and December. The period between December and early April is the best time to visit this place.
Once you are in Port Blair, the list of attractions to visit is endless. Be it the wonderful and unexplored beaches, the picture perfect marine life and the islands or the many water sport activities, Port Blair has always been a favourite destination for many. The Zoological Park and the mini zoo with its unique collection of wildlife species; the Cellular Jail, the major landmark of the island; the government-operated Chatham Saw Mill, the oldest and largest wood processor; and the anthropological museum are some of the must visit sites here. Besides, you can visit the marine museum known as Samudrika, which houses a huge collection of corals, shells and 350 species of marine life; the cottage industries emporium, a storehouse of artefacts of pearl, seashells and local wood products; and the Corbyns Cove, the nearest beach to Port Blair.
While you are in Port Blair, take some time off to explore the nearby islands. The Ross Island houses the old British bungalows, most of which are now in ruins. Wandoor is a group of 15 islands, all stunningly beautiful. The Jolly Buoy Island, Havelock Island, Cinque Island, Viper Island and Neil Island are other exciting options.
ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN & MINI ZOO
The Zoological Park and Mini Zoo has some unique collection of zoological species rarely found anywhere in the world. It has more than 200 species of animals including the Nicobar pigeon and Andaman pig. The salt-water crocodile-breeding programme also attracts attention for its uniqueness and success. Most of the crocodiles bred here are freed in the wild waters of the forest.
||One of the major landmarks in Port Blair is the Cellular Jail, a three-storey prison constructed by British in 1906. It was originally built by the British to house dangerous criminals but was subsequently used to house Indian freedom fighters as prisoners. The massive edifice bears witness to the inhuman atrocities inflicted upon the inmates of the prison by the British. The prison had 698 solitary cells to ensure that there was no contact between prisoners. Today, just three of the original seven wings of the building have remained. Moving around you get to see the photographs and
lists of the ‘convicts’ held, a death house, and the gallows that give an impression of the plight of prisoners here in the early twentieth century. Besides the Museum and the Art Gallery, you can also witness the Sound and Light Show, both in English and Hindi.
CHATHAM SAW MILL
Operated by government on the Chatham Island, 5 km north-west of Aberdeen Bazaar, the Chatham Saw Mill is one of the oldest and largest wood processor in Asia. The mill was started by the British in 1836 and today it employs about 2,000 people round the clock in three shifts.
The Anthropological Museum built in 1915-16 houses some of the tools and evidences of the four Negrito Tribes of the Andamans, namely, Thelarawas, Sentinelese, Great Andamanese and the Onges besides two Mongoloid tribes of the Nicobar—the Nicobarese and Shompens. The museum is open for the public from 10.30 am to 1.00 pm and 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm except on Mondays and holidays.
The Marine Museum, also known as Samudrika, is an exciting site to visit in Port Blair. It has a huge collection of corals, shells and 350 species of marine life also including displays of the island’s people, the tribals, their lifestyle, marine life and archaeology. The museum has been divided into five sections. It is open for public from 9 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5.30 pm except on Sundays and holidays.
COTTAGE INDUSTRIES EMPORIUM
The Cottage Industries Emporium is a storehouse of a range of artefacts of pearl, seashells and local wood products. You can also see a unique collection of small Nicobari canoes, palm mats for floors, tables and furniture. The emporium is open for public from 9 am to 1 pm and 1.30 pm to 6 pm except on Sundays and holidays. The nearby Khadi Gramodyog Emporium is also worth a visit.
Located at a distance of 10 km from Port Blair, Corbyns Cove is the nearest beach to Port Blair. A treat to your eyes, the beach is calm, quiet and romantic. To add up to your comfort here, it has a tourist complex which is well equipped. The best way to reach here is by bicycles.
Excursions for Port Blair
A fishermen’s village, Chirya Tapu is a must visit excursion itinerary from Port Blair. The village is also characterised by its beaches and mangroves. It is located at a distance of just 30 km from Port Blair.
Cinque Island could be regarded as one of the most beautiful islands in the Andamans. It has a surrounding of pristine coral reefs and some extraordinary beaches. It also gives you to have a close look at the underwater coral gardens. The island also offers ample opportunities for scuba diving, swimming, fishing and camping. However, to visit this place you must get permission from the Department of Forests.
Known for being the home of the Onges in Dugong Creek, this island with pristine beauty is a must visit for you during your excursion from Port Blair. A visit to the unexplored and beautiful island is a once in a lifetime experience. However, you will need to have a permit from the Department of Forests to enter this island.
Jolly Buoy Island
Another important excursion destination to visit from Port Blair is the Jolly Buoy Island. The island makes a must visit because of its unique Marine National Park. The island also has options of snorkelling, sea bathing and basking on the sun.
The Mount Harriett is a wonderful natural park that is worth a visit. Nearby is Madhuban, a wonderful place cradled amongst the forest. You can also watch the elephants being trained to carry logs here.
Located at a distance of 40 km from Port Blair, this island is predominantly populated with Bengalis. It has some wonderful beaches that offer you snorkelling opportunities. Interestingly numbered, the beaches have their own specialties. The Beach No. 1 offers you with some relaxing hammocks while all the beaches maintain their common feature of being picture perfect.
One of the many excursion points from Port Blair is the Ross Island. Spread over an area of 200 acres, Ross Island houses the old British bungalows that remind one of the colonial rule. The ruins of bungalows, churches, ballrooms, bakeries, clubs and dungeons greet the visitor here. The island is now inhabited by herds of deer and majestic peacocks that roam around with no fear of captivity. If you want to catch a glimpse of some of the rare bird species, you must visit this island early in the morning.
Sippighat Farm & Water Sports Complex
The Sippighat Farm is located at a distance of 15 km from Port Blair. Sippighat is famous for its Government-owned research farm dedicated to the research on various kinds of agricultural products, especially the variety of spices. Sippighat also has a water sports complex with variety of water sports options.
Viper Island is of great historical importance as it was used by the British to harbour convicts. In fact, the first jail was constructed in this island, which later was shifted after the construction of the Cellular Jail. A wonderful picnic spot, the island also contains the dungeons, a natural amphitheatre, and ruins of gallows as reminders of a grim past.
Located at a distance of 29 km from Port Blair, the Wandoor is a stunningly beautiful group of 15 islands. This also forms a part of the 280 sq. km Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. Characterised by the coral reefs, and wonderful beaches, it’s a wonderful beach to be. But care should be taken not to be more adventurous as the underwater current is strong and the coral reefs could get damaged.
• Population 240,089
• Altitude 79 metres above sea level
• Languages Nicobari, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, English
• STD Code 03192
• Best time to visit December to April