Port Blair – A Travel Guide:
Port Blair, the Capital of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, is located in the South Andaman Island. It is not only known for its lush green forests, museums, marine life, clean but also for clear beaches and wonderful night life etc. The famous tourist places are Cellular Jail, Corbyns Cove beach, Samudrika Marine Museum, Chidiya Tapu, Mount Harriet etc. The worth visiting other Islands are Havelock Island, Neil Island and Baratang Island etc. India’s only active volcano is also present in the Barren Island of Port Blair.
Tourists have a number of things to do in Port Blair, apart from sightseeing.
How to reach Port Blair:
You can reach Port Blair either by air or sea. But it’s easy and convenient to opt for Air service. Port Blair Airport is connected with major cities like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Visakhapattanam.
How to go to Port Blair City from Airport:
The city is just 2-3 kms away from the airport and can be reached through the State transport buses, cars and cabs. Cab charges are almost fixed, even though you may negotiate it.
Travel restrictions for foreign nationals in Port Blair:
All foreign nationals required a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit the Andaman Nicobar Islands, which is easily available on arrival at Port Blair by flight or ship from the Immigration Authorities for 30 days subject to availability of valid visa. This is extendable for another 15 days in certain cases with permission and the delegated authority to extend permission is the Superintendent of Police, FRO/CID, Port Blair.
The Restricted Area Permit can also be obtained from the Indian Missions overseas. You may also get from the Foreigners Registration Offices at New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and from the Immigration Authorities at the Airport of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Details may be checked HERE.
Best time to Visit:
• Best time to visit the Port Blair is the winter season (October to February) specially from the beginning of December to February end. During this time the average temperature ranges around 22°C to 28°C but morning, evening and nights are cooler than the mid-day temperature. So, it is the best time for sight-seeing and water sports activities.
Tip: Since, it is the peak season here, so you have book your hotel in advance, so it is advisable to plan your itinerary early.
• Summer season i.e. from March to May, the 25°C to 35°C temperature becomes a big problem for sightseeing and sport activities. However, early morning and the shades of evenings can be a good perspective for sightseeing.
• Monsoon season i.e. from June to September, the Islands receive substantial amount of rainfall so conditions for tourism are very low.
How to travel in Inter-Islands:
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands consists of a group of 572 islands, out of which only 38 are inhabited. They are considered as paradise on earth situated at the juncture of Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. There is no travel restriction for Indian tourists but foreign tourists have to obtain RAP.
The travellers have two options for inter-island travelling i.e. travel between the two islands:
Take helicopter service from Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd. to reach Havelock, Neil, Car Nicobar, Hut bay, Campbell bay etc; or
Avail Jetty service either from Phoenix Bay Jetty which offers its services to Havelock, Neil and other major destinations or from Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex which offers numerous ferries and direct services to Ross Island, North Bay and Viper Island, as well.
Top places of Port Blair:
The Cellular Jail:
Port Blair is associated with so many things but when heard its name, the first thing comes to our mind is a very beautiful island with clean and clear beaches with full of marine life and the other thing is the Cellular Jail. It is one of the most visited places in the Port Blair which is connected with the sacrifices of our freedom fighters of India. The Cellular jail has a library dedicated to the freedom movement with full of ancient photographs.
This jail was referred to as Kala Pani (Black water) Jail. It was used for isolated confinement of exiled political prisoners and revolutionaries by the East India Company.
The Cellular Jail was later declared as a protected national memorial by the Government of India. The Light and Sound Show commemorate the painful stories of Port Blair, Cellular Jail and the Indian Independence struggle. Three shows runs at 05.25 PM, 06.20 PM and 08.30 PM daily in Hindi while at 07.25 PM show is in Hindi on Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun and in English on Mon, Wed and Fri. The entry tickets of the Cellular Jail and Light & Sound show can also be booked online. If you want to save your time kindly book the tickets from the Government website HERE.
The Samudrika Naval Marine Museum
The Samudrika Naval Marine Museum was constructed to create awareness about the ocean and its marine environment. It showcases a number of fishes in their natural environment. Their gallery also exhibits a huge collection of marine life forms. It is open all days except Monday and Gazetted Holidays from 09.00 AM to 12.00 Noon and 02.00 PM to 05.00 PM. You can purchase some souvenir items from the shop in the Museum.
The Anthropological museum
The Anthropological museum is best place to learn about the past of the Islands and about the life of the pre-historic inhabitants of the Islands. Learn about the different tribes, their way of living and other facet of life the natives of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is open all days except Monday and Gazetted Holidays from 09.00 AM to 01.00 PM and 01.30 PM to 04.30 PM. You can buy some souvenir items from here.
If you want to do some serious shopping, kindly go to Sagarika Emporium.
Forest Museum & Chatham Saw Mill
The museum is located in the outskirts of Port Blair near Haddo Wharf. It offers insight into the forest activities through scale models and display of decorative artifacts made of Padauk, marble, Peauma, Gurjan, Satin Wood etc. It is situated within the Chatham Saw Mill which in itself is an interesting place to visit.
Besides the Gallery, they also house a mini zoo and a botanical garden that is home to some of the exotic flora and fauna found in the islands.
Timings: 10.00 AM to 02.00 PM and Closed on Sundays & industrial holidays.
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
The national park is about 27 kilometers from main city at Wandoor. This park is comprising 15 islands including the famous Red Skin and Jolly Buoy Islands showcases exotic birds like the White-Bellied Sea Eagle and the Andaman Teal along with colorful fishes, turtles and other marine animals. It is also famous for its extensive coral reefs, its white sand beaches and its magnificent islands.
You can undertake adventure sports like snorkeling, scuba diving and deep sea diving at Jolly Buoy and Red Skin Islands. At Jolly Buoy you may get to see red, blue, sponge corals and may be able to see zebra fish within these corals.
The benefit of visiting the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is that you can also visit Wandoor Beach which is famous the picturesque scenery of the beach and ideal for swimming and sunbathing etc.
Glass Bottom Boat Ride
If you don’t want to get into water and still want to see the marine life in their natural environment, you can take a ride in the glass bottom boat at Jolly buoy and Red Skin Island. While seated comfortably in the boat, you can still see the live corals, several species of fishes and graceful turtles etc.
Activities to be done in Port Blair & other Islands:
Everywhere in the Islands, you may hear certain things like Trekking, Adventure sports activities which include Snorkeling and Scuba Diving because these islands are blessed with widespread coral reefs and colorful fishes etc. The best part about these is that you don’t need to be an expert.
There is a basic difference in both the activities:
Snorkeling is swimming near the water’s surface with the use of a mask and a breathing tube, called a snorkel. They take underwater panoramic view from above without diving deep into the water; where as in Scuba diving they have to dive deep in the water to view the marine universe and breathe comfortably with the help of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, called a scuba.
Trekking in Port Blair:
It may be a surprise for you, but it is a fact that Port Blair has some very good trekking sites whether its Mount Harriet National Park or the Chidiya Tapu or Munda Pahar. These treks are easy to complete and may witness stunning views of the Island and also of neighboring islands in all their glory.
Mount Harriet National Park
The park is located at a distance of 20 kilometres from Port Blair. Mount Harriet is the third-highest peak in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago next to Saddle Peak in North Andaman and Mount Thullier in Great Nicobar. The picture on the back side of ₹ 20 old note is taken form Mount Harriet National Park.
It is a very popular destination for trekking and bird watching which also home beautiful birds like Red crowned Andaman Woodpecker and Andaman Wood Pigeon, reptiles like Andaman Cobra and many beautiful butterflies.
The Madhuban trek is famous for the breathtaking view of Port Blair and its neighboring islands and attractive beaches. One can see endemic avifauna (found in particular region), animals and butterflies that fly around and also see elephants carrying lumber.
Chidiya Tapu i.e. the island of birds, is a quiet place having a pristine beach on the southernmost tip of south Andaman Island provide a beautiful view of the sunset. This part of the island is home to the Munda Pahar, a small peak that is a favorite place of trekkers. It is a home of many lovely birds like woodpecker, goldfinch, sun birds, white bellied sea eagle, blue jay, long winged harrier, eastern bluebird, grackles, macaws and parakeets. Also famous for spotting crocodiles and the White spotted Deer.
The other places of Bird watching in Andaman Island are Mount Harriet National Park and Diglipur etc.
Food and Nightlife in Port Blair:
Traditionally, the food here is seafood which consists of mainly fishes, crabs, lobsters, oysters and prawns. They mainly prepare them in banana leaves and flavored by the addition of coconut. Port Blair houses a variety of restaurants serving Indian, Bengali and South Indian cuisines. Besides the cuisine, Port Blair is home to a number of delicious fruits like indigenous pineapples, oranges and guava.
Though the city does not have nightlife here but has some pubs that serve a wide range of beverages. Some Ships or cruise runs evening parties while sailing in the sea.
How to reach Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep (Ross Island)
The Ross Island is just 3 KM from Port Blair. You can reach there 15-20 minutes by taking a ferry either from Phoenix Bay Jetty or Aberdeen Jetty i.e. Rajiv Gandhi Water Sport Complex. Though the journey is short and pleasing to the eye with very good landscapes. Earlier, this small Island used to house the headquarter of Andaman and had everything like bazaar, bakery, stores, workshop, water distillation plant, church, tennis court, printing press, secretariat, hospital, cemetery, open air theater but you can find some ruins of some buildings. See the Japanese bunkers and a lot of tunnels. You will also find a lot of deer / stags, there.
How to reach Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)
Havelock is remembered as a paradise on earth having Radhanagar beach which was bestowed with the title of “Asia’s Best Beach” . It was rated as the world’s seventh most spectacular beach by Time Magazine in 2004. It is wrapped up in vibrant corals, turquoise blue water and fine powdery white sand.
Also famous for its water sports like scuba diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing etc. The main underwater attractions, besides the corals, are turtles, eels, seahorses, dolphins etc.
Here another popular underwater activity is sea-walking among marine beings while wearing a helmet. A walk along the pristine coastline is the best way to feel the beauty of Havelock.
Havelock Island is located 57 Km from Port Blair. You can reach here by hopping on a government or a private ferry. But opting for the private ferry is a better and easiest option. Make advance online booking through Green Ocean or Makruzz or Government Ferry. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach from Port Blair.
Helicopter service is also available for Havelock Island from Port Blair, but it is quite expensive.
There are 04 main beached viz. the elephant beach, Radhanagar beach, Vijaynagar Beach and Kalapathar. In Havelock, you can take a Trek upto Elephant Beach through the thick forests that will give you a taste of the islands terrestrial life.
Radha Nagar Beach is the best beach known for its beauty, its surroundings and sunset. The picturesque curve of white sand with cerulean blue waters lined by swaying palms. The breathtaking sight of sunset at Radhanagar beach is heavenly.
How to reach Neil Island (Saheed Dweep)
The Neil Island is 37 km away from Port Blair. It features a lush green landscape stretch with lined up coconut palms, untouched beaches kissed by turquoise blue water with mix of colored coral reefs which create a picturesque frame in mind and offer immense photography opportunities to the tourists. If you are fantasy loving person they you can indulge in various water activities like swimming, jet skiing, snorkeling and diving etc.
You can reach here by hopping on a government or a private ferry. But opting for the private ferry is a better and easiest option. You can make advance online booking through Green Ocean or Makruzz or Government Ferry. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach from Port Blair. You can also reach there in 1 hour from Havelock Island.
Helicopter service is also available for Neil Island from Port Blair, but it is quite expensive.
The Neil Island is a small island and can be easily explored on foot in 3-4 hours. If you take morning ferry from Port Blair then after visiting the whole Neil Island you can return from there by last ferry by making advance booking.
You can also hire taxis or autos for sightseeing in Neil Island. They do not charge much but its better to bargain and fix trip charges before stepping in. Hiring cycles or scooters is a relatively cheaper option for couples or friend groups or solo travelers.
If you want to enjoy the trip, rather than touching the ground, clicking some photos and moving to another location, then take one night stay there then you enjoy and take the feel of the nature at its best. You can witness the sunset and sunrise there which is considered as a very attraction.
How to reach North Andaman (Baratang, Rangat, Mayabundar and Diglipur)
One of Andaman’s best-kept secrets, North Andaman is a slice of heaven on Earth. This region is known for its virgin beauty and is often characterized by lush forests, pristine beaches and turtle nesting sites.
Places in North Andaman include Rangat, Baratang, Diglipur and Mayabundar. Only government ferries ply in North Andaman. Ferries sail almost every day to Baratang, Rangat and Diglipur. However, ferries operate once in 5 days to Mayabundar. The most common option is however to travel by road through private and government buses.
It is 104 Km away from the Port Blair. You can reach Baratang Island though Government buses plying from Mohanpura Bus Terminal or through private AC buses or by private taxi to the “Bamboo Trikery” Jetty and “Nilambur” Jetty, then board a ship to reach your destination. It’s a day trip to Baratang to witness the Limestone Cave and the Mud Volcanoes.
A mud volcano or mud dome is a landform created by the eruption of mud or slurries, water and gases. Several geological processes may cause the formation of mud volcanoes. Mud volcanoes are not true igneous volcanoes as they do not produce lava and are not necessarily driven by magmatic activity.
India’s only live Volcano is present in the Barren Island of the Port Blair. It is 138 KM north east to the Port Blair. It was last erupted in 2017 but eruption of 1991 which lasts for Six months and damaged the flora and fauna of the island.