Port Blair is the capital city of Andaman and Nicobar Island, a union territory of India. It is largest town and municipal council of Andaman Island. It is situated on the east coast of south Andaman. Port Blair is a refreshingly leafy but ultimately characterless cluster of tin-roofed buildings tumbling towards the sea in the north, east and west and petering out into fields and forests in the south. There’s little to see here just the Cellular Jail and a few small museums but as the point of arrival for the islands, and the only place with a bank, tourist offices and a range of hotels, it can’t be avoided. The only time the place really comes alive is during the Island Tourism Festival in the second and third weeks of January, when various cultural events take place. If you plan to head off to more remote islands, the capital is the best place to stock up on supplies and buy necessary equipment.
Andaman and Nicobar islands, a bewitching paradise of 572 islands, stretches about 750km from the north to south amidst Bay of Bengal. Only 38 islands are inhabited 25 in Andaman district and 13 in Nicobar district. The British India Government founded the penal settlement in these islands in 1858, for the deportation of freedom fighters from the mainland India and the islands came to be known as ‘Kalapani’, Today, this stretch of scenic islands, popularly known as the ’Emerald Islands’ is emerging as an important tourist destination in India.
Portblair, on South Andaman, is currently served by around three flights a day from Chennai on a growing number of airlines, and the new competition has driven prices for the two-hour trip down considerably. It’s also possible to get to Port Blair by ship. Services to and from Chennai can be reasonably relied upon to leave in each direction every five to ten days. Those from Kolkata are still somewhat erratic. Although far cheaper than flying, the crossings are long, uncomfortable and often delayed by bad conditions.
However you arrive, thirty day permits are obtainable on arrival in Port Blair. It is now a lot easier to extend them by fifteen days but the authorities sometimes ask to see a return ticket, which is no problem in the case of flights but not so easy when travelling by ship, as tickets only go on sale the week before departure.
Information about Port Blair town
The Water Sports Complex, you can see murky tanks full of fish and coral from the islands reefs at the disappointing Aquarium. Three kilometers out along the coast road towards Corbyn’s Cove, Port Blair’s newest attraction is the Science Centre, where you can choose to pay an extra Rs. 2 each to visit the main displays such as the Sky Observatory, Science Magic and other interactive exhibits.
On the south side of the centre, close to the Directorate of Tourism, the Anthropological Museum has exhibits on the Andaman and Nicobar tribes, including weapons, tools and rare photographs of the region’s indigenous people taken in the 1960s. Among the most striking of these is a sequence featuring the Sentinelese, taken on April26, 1967, when a party of Indian officials made the first contact with the tribe. After scaring the aborigines, the visitors marched into one of their hunting camps and made off with the bows, arrows and other artifacts now displayed in the museum. The anthropologist charged with documenting the expedition noted afterwards that ‘the whole atmosphere was that of conquering hordes over running conquered territory.
Further northwest in Delanipur close to the Andaman Teal House hotel, the Samudrika Naval Maritime Museum is an excellent primer if you’re heading off to more Remote Island, with a superlative shell collection and informative displays on various aspects of local marine biology. One of the exhibits features a cross section of the different corals you can expect to see on the islands reefs, followed by a rundown of the various threats these fragile plants face, from mangrove depletion and parasitic starfish to clumsy snorkelers.
Wildlife lovers are advised to steer clear of the grim little zoo, further down towards Haddo, whose only redeeming feature is that it has successfully bred rare crocodiles and monkeys for release into the wild. Further north, the Chatham Sawmill is at the end of the peninsula and marks the northernmost edge of Port Blair. One of the oldest and largest wood processing plants in Asia, it seasons and mills rare hardwoods taken from various islands a sad testimony to the continued abuse of international guidelines on tropical timber production, although the authorities swear that only fallen trees are processed. Photography is prohibited. The nearby Forest Museum is another dismal spectacle, feebly attempting to justify the Indian Forest Service’s wholesale destruction of the Andamans plant life with a series of lackluster photographs of extraction methods.
Port Blair Cellular Jail
This monument of national pride is a silent sentinel to many soul stirring stories of India’s freedom struggle. Countless martyrs’s sacrificed their lives and faced unimaginable hardships here.
Gandhi Park is studded with facilities like amusement rides, safe water sports, nature trail around the lake, garden, restaurant and historic remains like Japanese Temple as well as a bunker.
Corbyn’s Cove Portblair
Corbyns cove is the only beach of Port Blair. Some other attractions are Anthropological Museum, Fisheries Museum, Samudirka marine Museum, Andaman Water Sports Complex, Forest Museum and Chatham Sawmills etc.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is about 2pkm from Port Blair. The park covers an area of 281.5 sq. km and comprises of open sea, creeks and 15 small and large islands. One can observe rare corals and underwater marine life through glass bottom boats, Scuba diving and Snorkelling can be enjoyed here.
Mount Harriet National Park
Mount Harriet National Park is about 10 km from Port Blair. The park is dotted by some of the highest peaks of Andaman. The evergreen forests here support a remarkable biodiversity.
Sippighat Form is about 14 km from Port Blair. This 80 acres Government farm is engaged in research and development programmes for cultivation of spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut and pepper.
Eating and Drinking
Between them, Port Blair’s restaurants offer dishes from north and south India and a wide variety of seafood. There are a few run of the mill “meals” joint in Aberdeen Bazaar of these, the Gangan and Milan on AB Road are the best, but steer clear of the Dhanalakshmis notoriously dreadful canteen. Alcohol is becoming increasingly easy to come by, either in the upscale hotels or a smattering of less salubrious bars such as the one underneath the jaimathi lodge.
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