Port Blair Information

 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.

Arrival Information About Port Blair

Port Blair has two jetties boats from the mainland moor at Haddo Jetty, nearly 2km northwest of Phoenix Jetty, the arrival point for inter island ferries. The Directory of shipping services at Phoenix Jetty has the latest information on boats and ferried, but you can also check the shipping news column of the local news paper, the Daily Telegrams, for details of forthcoming departures.  Advice on booking ferry tickets appears in the box on.

   The smart Veer Sarvakar airport terminal is 4 km south of town at Lamba Line.  Free entry permits are issued to foreigners from the immigration counters as you enter the arrivals hall. Taxi and auto-rickshaws are on hand for short trips into town, but if you have booked room in any of the middle or upper range hotels , you should find a shuttle bus waiting outside. Local buses also frequently ply the route to town from the main road about 300m from the terminal building.

     The A&N Directorate of Tourism counter at the airport hands out a useful brochure, but trying to get more than basic tour and hotel info from the desk in the lobby of their main office, situated in a modern building diagonally opposite Indian Airlines on the southern edge of the town, can be frustrating try to talk to someone in the hierarchy upstairs.  Further southwest, on Junglighat Main Road, the India Tourism office isn’t much cop either. Note that if you intend to visit Interview Island, you must first obtain a free permit from the Chief Wild Warden, whose office is next to the zoo in Haddo.

    Road names are not used much in Port Blair, with most establishments addressing themselves simply by their local area. The name of the busiest and most central area is Aberdeen Bazaar, where you’ll find the superintendent of police, the State Bank of India and most other facilities.  Some hotels will change traveler’s cheque, but you’ll get faster service and better rates at Island Travels, which has a licence to change money, and is just down the road towards Aberdeen Jetty from the clock tower in Aberdeen Bazaar. There’s an Icici Bank ATM at the lower end of Moulana Azad Road and a UTI Bank ATM near Netaji Stadium.  Internet access is available at a number of locations around town, including a couple of anonymous places between the bus stand and clock tower, at Cyber Net on the other side of the bus stand and at the Holiday Resort.

Islands North of Port Blair

Printed on the permit card you receive on arrival in the Andamans is a list of all the other islands you’re allowed to visit in the archipelago. Having travelled all the way to the Andamans, the vast majority of visitors make a beeline for the only two developed islands in the group, the admittedly enchanting Neill and Havelock, both of which are within easy reach of Port Blair.

To get further north, where tourism of any kind has thus far had very little impact, you can take a bus or boat from the capital or ferry from Havelock to ramshackle Rangat, at the south end of Middle Andaman, or bypass the whole east coast by catching a bus or boat from Port Blair direct to Diglipur’s port of Arial Bay, at the top of North Andaman.  Either way, you’ll be luck not be marooned from time to time in some truly grim little settlements, interspersed with a few long hard slogs up the infamous Andaman Trunk Road. On Middle and North Andaman and their satellite islands, accommodation is scarce, to say the least.  Aside from a handful of A&N Tourism hotels (bookable in advance in Port Blair), the only places to stay are a few basic lodges or, preferably, APWD Rest Houses. To escape the settled areas you have to be prepared to rough it, travelling on inshore fishing dugouts, sleeping on beaches and cooking your own food. 

      The rewards, however, area great. Backed by dense forest filled with colorful birds and insects, the beaches, bays and reefs of the outer Andamans teem with wildlife, from gargantuan crabs, pythons and turtles to dolphins, sharks, giant rays and the occasional primeval looking dugong.  Essential kit for off track wanderings includes a sturdy mosquito net, mats to sleep on (or a hammock), a large plastic container for water, some strong antiseptic for cuts and bites (sand flies are a real problem on many of the beaches) and, most important of all, water purification tablets or a water purifier, since bottled water is virtually nonexistent.  Wherever you end up, preserve the goodwill rubbish out carrying it in your of local people by packing your rubbish out carrying it in your backpack or burning it, and being sensitive to scruples about dress and nudity, especially in areas settled by conservative Bengali or Tamil Hindus.

Local Transport and Tours

Walking is tiring and time consuming in hilly Port Blair even taking into account the minimal amount of sightseeing the place offers making transport essential. Yellow top taxis gather opposite the bus stand.  They all have meters, but negotiating the price before leaving is usual practice. Expect to pay Rs 50 for a trip from the centre of town to Corbyn’s Cove.  The islands auto rickshaws try to charge just as much as taxis but shouldn’t cost more than Rs 10 – 20 for a ride within town.

Local Buses run infrequently from the bus stand in central Port Blair to Wandoor and Chiriya Tapu, and can be used for day trips, though it’s best to have your own transport to get around South Andaman. Bicycles can be rented from Aberdeen Bazaar, at Rs 5 per hour, but the roads to the coasts are most easily covered on a motorbike or scooter, available for rent at around Rs 200 – 250 per day from GDM Tours on Moulana Azad Road or Karishma Tours & Travels, 22 MG Rd, middle Point you’ll need to show a license and leave a Rs 100o deposit.  There are petrol pumps on the crossroads west of the bus stand and on the road towards the airport. Fill up before you leave town, as petrol is hard to come by elsewhere.

      Most of the Aniidco tours cramming the islands few interesting sights together with a string of dull destinations are a complete waste of time you’re better off renting a scooter or taxi and taking in the jail and museums at your own pace. The more worthwhile ANIIDCO harbor cruises depart from Phoenix Jetty, for fleeting visits to the floating docks and Viper Island and excursions to Ross Island. They also run day trips to Mt Harriet the bus tour to Wandoor connects with the 10 am boat to the islands of Red Skin and Jolly Buoy.

Port Blair Tourism Information

Gandhi Park

     Gandhi Park is small but beautiful park at Port Blair. It is an enticing park comprising of Children’s Park, Amusement and Entertainment Park.  Deer Park, Water sport, Japanese temple, nature walk, garden, restaurant etc. The erstwhile Dilthaman tank, which was the only source of drinking water to Port Blair, and the area around it was developed into Gandhi Park in an unbelievably short time of 13 days. This park is good for children.

Mini Zoo

      Mini Zoo is situated in Haddo, Port Blair. It has some of the rare species of endemic birds and animals found in this island. Time: 8am to 5pm  Closed on Wednesday.

Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park Wandoor and Corel Island

     Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor is situated 29 km from Port Blair. This park is made up of open sea, creeks and fifteen small and large islands. Snorkeling equipment is available. Boats are available from Wandoor for the coral islands of Jolly Buoy and Red Skin.

Sippghat Farm

     Sippghat Farm is situated nearly 14 km from Port Blair. Sprawling over an area of 80 acres (320,000 m2) is a Government farm. Research & Development programs for cultivation of spices like cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut and pepper are conducted here. A research and demonstration farm of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) is nearby.

Chidiya Tapu

    Chidiya Tapu is situated nearly 25 km from port Blair. Generally it considered as bird Island. It is southernmost tip of South Andaman. The lush green mangroves, forest cover with numerous chirping birds and the Sylvan Sands and Munda pahar beaches make it an ideal picnic site. The forest guest house situated on top of a hillock provides a fabulous view of isolated islands, submerged corals and the breath-taking sunset. Conducted tours are available from Andaman Teal House, Port Blair.

Madhuban

     Madhuban is situated nearly 75 km by road or 20 km by ferry Port Blair. This place is a trekking area, north east of South Andaman. Exotic endemic birds, animals, butterflies, and elephant lumbering are the most interesting part of the trek.

Mount Harriet

     Mount Harriet is situated nearly 15 km by ferry from Port Blair. The summer headquarters of the Chief Commissioner during British Raj, this is an ideal place for a fascinating over view of the outer islands and the sea. It is the highest peak in the South Andamans (365 meters high). One can trek up to Madhuban through a nature trail and can find rare endemic birds, animals and butterflies. Conducted tours to Mt. Harriet are available from Andaman Teal House.

Rose Island

     Rose Island is referred to as the Paris of the East, Ross Island was the administrative headquarters of the British. Ross Island is famous for its historical backgrounds and ruins which give a vivid depiction of the bygone era. A small museum named ‘Smritika’ holds Photographs, and other antiques of the britishers relevant to these islands.  One will find here well-landscaped lawns leading up to clubhouses, swimming pools, granaries, officer messes, tennis courts, a majestic church now ruined after the earthquake of 1941.

Port Blair Tour Information

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

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.

Port Blair Trip Information

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 Farm

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. 
Some other attractions are Chidiya Tapu is about 25km from Port Blair. Collinpur is about 36km from Port Blair etc.

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.

Port Blair History

Port Blair is established the colony of British in 1789. It named as Port Blair to honor Lieutenant Archibald Blair of the British East India Company. After two years, the colony moved to the northeast part of Great Andaman and was named Port Cornwallis after Admiral William Cornwallis. However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony, and the government ceased operating it in May 1796. In 1824 Port Cornwallis was the rendezvous of the fleet carrying the army to the First Anglo-Burmese War. In the 1830s and 1840s, shipwrecked crews who landed on the Andamans were often attacked and killed by the natives, alarming the British government. In 1855, the government proposed another settlement on the islands, including a convict establishment, but the Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced a delay in its construction.

Port Blair’s firm reminder of its gloomy past, the sturdy brick Cellular Jail overlooks the sea from a small rise in the northeast of town.  Built between 1896 and 1905, its tiny solitary cells were far worse than the dormitories in other prison blocks erected earlier.  Only three of the seven wings that originally radiated from the central tower now remain.  Visitors can peer into the cells and imagine the grim conditions under which the prisoners existed.  Cells were dirty and ill ventilated, drinking water was limited to two glasses per day, and the convicts were expected to wash in the rain as they worked clearing forests and building prison quarters.  Food, brought from the maijnland, was stored in vats where the rice and pulses became infested with worms more than half the prison population died long before their twenty years destination was up.  Protests against conditions led to hunger strikes in 1932, 1933 and 1937 resulting in yet more deaths and frequent executions took place at the gallows that still stand in squat wooden shelters in the courtyards, in full view of the cells.  The Cellular Jail is also known as Kala Pani (translated as "Black Waters"), a name given to it due to the torture and general ill-treatment towards its Indian convicts.