Why Cellular Jail in India is more than a National Memorial

I was born in post Independent India and grew up in the 80’s of Kolkata. Storytelling afternoons with a dadu (grand uncle) who lived with us were nearly always about Indian Independence. In between the stories of his childhood that revolved around ponds and trees in his small village he spoke of his teacher and a friend who had joined the Swadeshi movement to free India from the Imperial Raj. The freedom heroes he spoke about seemed to be men next door with a flaming passion for the motherland. They endured deep torture in the hands of the British masters for rebellion and heroism. Many were incarcerated in different prisons across the country. There was one Prison in a distant land, somewhere in the middle of the ocean in Andaman Island often referred as “Sazaa e Kala Paani” the prison sentence across the seas from where few or rather none returned. This infamous prison is Cellular Jail in Port Blair which was our first stop during a recent visit to Andaman.Cellular Jail in Port Blair

Why the name “Cellular Jail”

There are exhibition halls on either side of the entrance where pictures, memorabilia and stories related to the inmates and their struggles within the Cellular Jail are displayed. The miniature model of Cellular Jail encased in a glass box caught my attention. The building was designed like the spokes of the bicycle with 7 spokes or buildings comprising 3 Floors with rows of tiny rooms or cells. The guards kept watch over all the 696 cells from the tower in the centre of the spokes. These 15 ft by 7 feet cells had a small window located high on the wall and the inmates were served food through a gap on the wall. The Cellular Jail was constructed over a period of 10 years between 1896 and 1906 by the rebels of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 with bricks brought from Burma.Cellular Jail in Port Blair

Walking around the Cellular Jail Complex

The entrance opens out into a courtyard which is in between 2 spoke like buildings. The first thing that strikes is the demonstrated image of the man being sent to the gallows. Cellular Jail in Port BlairThere is a small workshed in the centre with life like installations demonstrating the day in a life of an inmate. It was torture, torture and more torture on the whims and fancy of the British Master.Cellular Jail in Port Blair

I could feel anger well up within the pit of my stomach for such demonstrated inhuman behavior.They were flogged, chained or given nearly impossible laborious tasks of churning oil or pounding husks to extract fibre. It is humanely impossible to manually churn 30 pounds of coconut oil and 10 pounds of mustard oil in a day.

I paid a quick visit to the area demarcated as the erstwile gallows and stepped into the building which was one of the spokes. As I walked along the long corridor, I peeped into the small cells. The lone windows perched high up on the wall was barely enough to get a glimpse of the sky, to hear the bird song and know the season. At the end of the corridor there are names of inmates and the states they belonged to inscribed on a pillar and along the walls.Cellular Jail in Port Blair

This was repeated on all the floors and most of them seemed to belong to Bengal. The known unknown names on these walls may just be a statistic for most but without their supreme sacrifice and contribution we may have experienced a different future.

On the 2nd Floor, I visited the room where Veer Savarkar spent his days of imprisonment. His pictures still adorning the wall and a few floral homages around. The airport in Port Blair is named after him in memory of his contribution to Indian Independence. Incidentally, his brother Babarao Savarkar was also confined in the cellular jail at the same time but they had no contact. The next level is the terrace which opens out towards the sea. The cool sea breeze was pleasant on my face and partially succeeded in diverting my attention away from the anger that was welling up as I pondered over the past. I forced myself to focus on the sunset instead which seemed to have a calming effect; the end of something giving way to the new and a day consigned to history

Brave Sons of India in Cellular Jail

Some of the famous and popular names were Batukeshwar Dutt; Barin Ghosh, Sohan Singh, Vaman Rao Joshi, Biren Sen, Jatish Pal, Yogendra Shukla, Nand Gopal, Maulana Ahmadullah, Diwan Singh, Fazl – e- Haq Khairabadi and many more. Ref Wikipedia 

Cellular Jail in Port Blair

Cellular Jail ~ Light and Sound Show

Later that evening; during the Light and Sound show; the anger that had taken shape was further aggravated after hearing the narration of various incidents. The prisoners were denied the right to relieve themselves and had to seek permission which was mostly denied. Some prisoners succumbed to losing their mind and some revolted against the inhuman torture and went on a fast they were force fed to death. The force feeding led to choked windpipes and food and water entering the lungs. Mohan Kishore Namdas, Mohit Maitra and Mahavir Singh succumbed to death as a consequence of this inhuman act. I had already seen their statues in the park opposite to the Cellular Jail Complex. My eyes welled up in the dark and almost everyone reached out to the edges of their saree, dupatta or handkerchief. Some of the inmates surrendered with their lives under extreme torture with on their lips as the dying wish and yet others just lived through it to see the Tiranga our National Flag fly higher than the Union Jack.The sacrifice of these young men confined here and countless others led to the hoisting of our tricolor on 15th August, 1947 !! The evening after, was one of gratitude; looking up at the sky and thanking the stars to have been born in a free country and the right to live my own way.

  • Light and Sound Shows are held for an hour twice in the evening at 6pm and 7.15 pm. The Second show is in English only on 3 days during the week Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Priced at Rs 50/- per person; tickets are obtained from the counter at the entrance. Free seating so queue up early to grab a good place.
Visit to Cellular Jail is a Pilgrimage

Cellular Jail in Port Blair and Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar are perhaps the only 2 memorials which connect to Indian Independence. Rest of them are more historical in nature with architectural significance. A Visit to Cellular Jail in Port Blair is more like a pilgrimage with respect and thanksgiving for presenting us a free India. It was dedicated to the nation as a National Memorial in 1979 by the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. 

For the children of the 21st century Cellular Jail is just another National Memorial. Born several years after Independence, they do not relate to slavery and subjugation. Independence Day is like any other day but to fly the flag, to perform a drill and sing the anthem and 15th August 1947 is just another date in History. We need to evoke passion and thanksgiving in them for the men and women who gave up their today for our tomorrow. I wish to see more school trips from mainland India to Cellular Jail in Andamans for a first hand brush with history and the very existence of post independent India.

Travel Tip
  • Cellular Jail is in the heart of Port Blair and is easily accessible by car and auto. The adjoining park is a must visit where life like statues of freedom heroes have been installed.
  • Open all days except National Holidays; from 9am to 4.45pm. it will take about an hour to go around. Recommend hiring a guide to go around to get a perspective on history
  • Entry tickets can be purchased at the gate. Currently it is Rs 30/- per person. They are reluctant to accept cash (good) and hence be ready to buy with card or e-wallets
  • The views from the terrace are gorgeous and would highly recommend climbing the flight of stairs.
  • Light and Sound Shows are held for an hour twice in the evening at 6pm and 7.15 pm. The Second show is in English only on 3 days during the week Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Priced at Rs 50/- per person; tickets are obtained from the counter at the entrance. Free seating so queue up early to grab a good place.
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Ruins narrate the Story of a Bygone Era in Ross Island, Andaman

I first heard of Ross Island when Tsunami struck the Indian shores on a fateful morning in December, 2004. There were stories of Ross Island taking it all on its chest and protecting Port Blair from the onslaught of the natural disaster that would have otherwise wiped out Port Blair and most of the population of Andaman. The name stuck in my head and while planning the trip to Andaman, I knew I had to visit Ross to see the great eastern wall along Ferrari Beach which stood guard for the Aberdeen (the jetty in Port Blair across Ross Island)Ross Island

How to Reach

Ross Island can be seen from Port Blair. Ferry services are available from Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex from around 8.30am in the morning and there after every hour until 4pm. Ross Island can be visited in isolation or as a 2 island (Ross+North Bay ) or a 3 Island (Ross +North Bay+ Viper) package. The cost of a ticket for Ross Island is around Rs 200/- and the package costs are about Rs 550/- for 2 Islands or Rs 750 for 3 islands.

Around Ross Island

Our Ferry docked in Ross Island around 9am in the morning and were given an hour to tour around. After paying the mandatory Rs 30/- access fee, we stepped into the island maintained by the Indian Navy since 1979 and opened up to tourists in 1993. I preferred to walk around the well marked trails to get closer to the ruins. However, there is a gold cart service that takes visitors for a guided trip around the island for Rs 75/- I would highly recommend that to senior citizens or anyone not so keen to walk.

I walked through the coconut grove towards the erstwhile bakery, swimming pool and water purification plant. The buildings which throbbed with life until about the great earthquake of 1941 was now in ruins. As I walked ahead, a pea hen majestically crossed my path leading me towards the subordinates club which seemed like a deserted barrack. Hearty conversations, sounds of tinkling wine glasses, throaty laughter and foot steps of ball dance from a hundred years ago are lost in those bricks in the annals of time. I continued walking ahead until I reached the church where a group of deer stood guard. The structure still intact, the sound of wind and waves made up for the missing church bells.

A few steps ahead and I could see the Ferrari Beach down below. It was a pleasant sight through the trees with tourists romancing with the mellow waves. On my right the large uprooted trees that were hanging from the ledge towards the beach bore silent testimony of that fateful morning when Tsunami ripped through the Eastern Coast of India.

I walked along the rugged high path that was nearly parallel to the beach occasionally stealing glances towards the varying shades of blue that gleamed under the morning sunlight. The fluttering of wings through the trees forced me to look up and there it was the state bird Andaman Wood Pigeon rocking on a branch.

I kept walking till I reached the Japanese bunker at the far end. The small structure and the short narrow door was befitting of the Japanese frame. On my way back, I joined the party with the deer and peacock prancing around in the garden. I had to literally chase the peacock for a while until it found its pride of place on a wall and obliged me with a ramp pose.

It was almost 10am and had to literally race back for the ferry pausing for a few seconds near the pond where the lotus blooms. I controlled my urge for a quick swing in the park for kids and headed straight to the jetty. It was hard to say bye to such beautiful natural surroundings. I wish I could spend a little more time around this island which was referred to as the “Paris of the East” by the British settlers.

History of Ross Island

Ross Island known as Chong-Ekee-Bood in local Andamanese dialect was named after British Marine Surveyor Daniel Ross. After the great uprising and Sepoy mutiny of 1857; 200 Indian freedom fighters were brought into Ross Island from mainland India. They were engaged in clearing out vegetation and constructing settlement for the British, the ruins of which can be seen now. The island buzzed with activity in the clubs and bazaars specially in the evenings when the island was lit up resembling a ship from afar. Life was merry and good for the British settlers in Ross Island as their  home away from home was evolving as the Paris of the East. The spotlessly clean island which was the head quarters for the British was ripped apart by an earthquake in 1941 during World War II. The Japanese quickly took over as the British retreated and used it as their base during World War.

Best Time to Visit
  • The island is closed on Wednesday every week so plan your trip accordingly.
  • Though I visited in the morning, I would recommend visiting Ross Island in the late afternoon and cover the Son et Lumiere (Sound and Light) show as well. A ferry leaves around 4pm for Ross Island and returns by 7pm to the jetty in Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex.
North Bay Island ~ To Go or Not to Go

The only purpose of visiting North Bay Island is for the adventure activities. After a week long tour of different islands in Andaman, I realised that this trip could have been avoided. I would rather spend the time in other places of interest.

Guide to Choosing Adventure Activity in Andaman

The activities held here is also done in other islands. If any of those is in your itinerary, consider dropping this island visit from your itinerary

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Guide to Choosing Adventure Activity in Andaman Islands

The coastline of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has one of the best coral reefs and marine life in India. While planning my itinerary, I was looking forward to atleast one adventure activity in Andaman to get a peek into the thriving marine life within the clear emerald waters

I have summarized the adventure activities and the beach locations where it can be done. The costs are indicative and all of them can be booked on location and no prior booking is required. Infact, if you are in a large group then you can perhaps negotiate the rates slightly. There are showers, rest rooms, changing rooms and waiting areas in all beaches of these islands.

  • North Bay is closed on Wednesday
  • Jolly Buoy is closed on Monday
  • Havelock and Neil operate on all days of the week

Adventure Activity in Andaman

Glass Bottom Boat Ride

These are motorized forms of Dinghy Boats with seats on 2 sides and a over head tarpaulin cover. The boat is fitted with a rectangular magnifying glass at the base through which the riders can watch the marine life below. The boats float on the clear waters around the beaches providing a clear view on a bright sunny day when the sea is calm. This is the most recommended activity for all age groups. I went on a ride in all locations except North Bay where I opted for Dolphin ride and found the views in Jolly Buoy Island to be the best.

Sea Walk

This is an unique experience of walking on the sea bed and does not require special suits.  I was gently lowered onto the sea bed with a huge helmet on my head powered by an oxygen tube. There was a pop in the ear as I was going down into the sea similar to the tingling pain felt during flight take off and landing. I continuously sucked and breathed through my mouth to equalize the pressure.

The guide assisted me to get my bearings right as I walked on the sea bed around the corals with different kinds of fishes for company. All communication was through sign language since we could not hear each other under water. The next few minutes were sheer bliss, I was in a giant aquarium with a net all around.

The experience will stay with me for quite some time. Complimentary photographs are provided within the charges. Video recording is provided for an additional amount of Rs 500/-

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is a fun activity floating on water with a giant pair of goggles that covers the eyes and nose and holding a tube in the mouth to enable breathing. After the initial few minutes of adjustment I loved the views below and lost track of time. I used a tube to float on the surface of water since I have basic swimming skills. In Neil Island you are taken far into the sea from the beach whereas in the other locations it is done closer to the beach. Make sure to select a certified and authorised guide for snorkeling if you are an amateur.

Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving is jumping off into the sea from a motor boat under guided supervision. Participants need to wear a special suit and carry the oxygen unit on them once they are in water. This also requires specialized breathing through the mouth and is akin to swimming with the fishes and getting close to corals and other marine life in the depth of the sea. I have not done this activity but have watched others diving and regaling their experiences. Make sure to dive with a certified and authorized dive instructor

Dolphin Boat Ride and Semi Submarine Ride

These rides are available in North Bay. I went on a Dolphin Boat ride and it was quite a forgettable experience with low value for money. Actually, the water in North Bay is not that clear and the marine life is not as thriving due to excessive tourism in the area.

  • The Dolphin shaped boat has an under belly which is deep into the water. A powerful magnifying glass is fitted underneath through which the marine life can be witnessed. Riders sit around comfortable in this area looking through the glass to catch a glimpse of corals and colorful fishes
  • The Semi Submarine has a lower deck immersed in water and hence the name. Riders watch the marine life through the windows adjacent to their seats. 
Which is the Best Place for these Adventure Activities?

In my experience of having visited all 4 locations I would rank them as below. You can skip North Bay completely if you are visiting the other 3 islands. The under water views and experience in the other islands are far better.

  1. Ist Position – Jolly Buoy Island within Gandhi Marine National Park
  2. 2nd Position – Havelock Island Neil Island
  3. 3rd Position – North Bay Island
What is the best time to do these Adventure Activities?

The best time for adventure activities in November to March. It is also the best time to watch corals and fishes. The ideal day and location for these activities

  • Clear Water devoid of sand
  • Low or no waves
  • Bright and Sunny weather with clear blue sky
Choosing the Best Adventure Activity
  • Which is the best activity for old travelers? The best activity would be to take a glass bottom boat ride and then relax on the beach.
  • Which is the best activity for young and teens? All activities are suitable for this age group as long as there is no fear of water
  • Which is the best activity for couples? Sea Walking since you could get a video recorded of your time together

My Recommendation:
  • Glass Bottom Boat Ride in Jolly Buoy
  • Sea Walk in Elephant Beach, Havelock Island
  • Snorkeling in Bharatpur Beach, Neil Island
  • Swimming in all the beaches
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Incredible Corals and Marine Life in Jolly Buoy Island, Andaman

While planning my itinerary for Andaman I was in two minds whether to include Jolly Buoy Island and after a bit of deliberation I decided in the affirmative. I am counting my blessings for this decision since this trip remains as the toast of my entire week long stay in the Andaman Islands. I would recommend and urge everyone visiting Andaman to include a trip to Jolly Buoy Island which is a part of Mahatma Gandhi National Park and can be reached from Wandoor Jetty located about 30 kms from Port Blair.Jolly Buoy Wandoor

About Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park

Jolly Buoy is one of the 15 islands within Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. This National Park was set up in 1983 spread across 281 sq kms of which 60 sq kms of land and 221 sq kms of territorial water. The park is accessed from Wandoor about 30 kms from Port Blair. Tourists are allowed to 2 of the islands within this park during the year

  • Jolly Buoy Island (2 sq Kms) between November to May ( closed every Monday)
  • Red Skin Island (7 sq Kms) between May to November (closed every Monday)

Jolly Buoy is located towards the open sea and hence access is not allowed during stormy monsoons for safety reasons. Also, this alternate mode of operation between the islands allows the corals to recover and revive and maintain ecological balance.

While on the Ferry to Jolly Buoy Island do not miss the Twin Islands at a distance which is the breeding ground for turtles.Jolly Buoy Ferry

Permits for Tourists

Visit to islands within the Marine National Park is controlled to maintain the fragile ecological balance. The permits are issued from the Tourism Office in Port Blair. To avoid long queues, it may be better to get a travel agent to organize this trip. We paid Rs 800 per head to visit the island which included Ferry Ride, Island Access Fee and a complimentary 10 minute ride on a Glass Bottom Boat to watch coral and marine life.

Eco Tourism

It was heartwarming to note that Eco Tourism is followed very sincerely in these islands. Tourists are not allowed to carry mineral water bottles or any kind of plastic packets to the island. The counter at the entrance of the jetty offers 1 Litre Milton Water Bottles for a rental of Rs 5 and a deposit of Rs 200/-  and Jute Bags for a charge. Every traveler is expected to change their water bottles and plastic bags else they are denied boarding since bags are searched thoroughly. The boatmen and other officials keep a strict watch so that the islands and the territorial waters are not littered.

On the Ferry to the Island

The ferry ships leave one after the other from Wandoor Jetty each one with capacity of about 40-50 passengers. It takes about 45 minutes to complete the journey through the territorial waters to the open sea where Jolly Buoy Island is located.Jolly Buoy View

It was a beautiful morning and a few minutes into the ride, I was completely mesmerised by the views around. The sky and water seemed to merge into each other at a distance. The unending tango of different shades of blue and green with a brief interlude of white clouds was a slice of paradise.Jolly Buoy View

After making a special request with the boatmen, they allowed me to the top deck for a brief period. Those 10 minutes were the best part of the journey, with uninhibited 360 degree views of the surrounding. The heat and humidity were blissfully ignored by the wind on my face and a few lines of poetry bubbled up in my mind. In the absence of a jetty, the ship is docked far away from the beach and the passengers are transported in small glass bottom boats to the beach.Jolly Buoy Island

Coral & Marine Life Watching from a Glass Bottom Boat

At first I was apprehensive about the glass bottom boat having had a rather disappointing experience in the Dolphin Boat in North Bay. I went ahead with the 10 minute complimentary ride and was hooked for more. I signed up for the 45 minute ride around the island for Rs 500 and the views were breathtaking to say the least. I did see corals and marine life in Havelock and Neil but the views from Jolly Buoy remains the toast of my trip.Jolly Buoy CoralJolly Buoy CoralJolly Buoy CoralJolly Buoy Coral

Glimpses from Jolly Buoy

I walked around the island and parked myself at the opposite corner far from the prying co-travelers. The different colors of the sea was therapy for the eyes and soul. It was a hot and sunny day, so much so that I could feel my skin burn. Though I was carrying creams and sun screen lotions, I preferred to soak in the moment; not a care for earthly worries in paradiseJolly Buoy View

The tourism department has done its bit to make it comfortable by erecting thatched huts for resting, benches for quiet contemplation, washrooms, showers and changing rooms for convenience. I did not carry any change of clothes and since they did not have a counter for renting clothes to get into water, happily watched others swimming, snorkeling and having fun.Jolly Buoy Island

On my way back, I kept wondering about the name Jolly Buoy; and looking at exhausted but jolly faces around I had unlocked the reason for the name 🙂

Travel Tip
  • If you are visiting in the overlapping months of May or November, speak to your travel agent or at the tourism office to know whether the trips are being made to Jolly Buoy or Red Skin Island
  • Start from Port Blair not later than 7am. The 30 kms to Wandoor takes about an hour. The ferries to Jolly Buoy start leaving from 8am and not later than 9am to return by lunch hour.
  • On the way look out for the large pools of water on either side which were cultivable land prior to the tsunami when the sea water gushed in and turned them into ponds
  • Carry Food, Snacks and Water since nothing is available in Jolly Buoy. At most you may find coconut, cucumber or a few biscuit packets
  • Borrow Jute Bags and Milton Water Bottles from the Eco Tourism Counter at the jetty for a fee in case you are carrying food, water in plastic bags and bottles.
  • Pack a pair of clothes for swimming or snorkeling in the island. There are changing rooms, rest rooms and showers on the island for visitor convenience
  • The entire trip from Wandoor Jetty and back takes about 4 hours. Travelers return by lunch time to Wandoor.
  • There are hardly any restaurants near Wandoor Jetty except for a shack selling homely Bengali food and Fish Fry which I had. It may be advisable to head towards Port Blair for proper lunch
  • Pop in to the museum next to the jetty which has free entry; they have a good collection of corals and marine life. Most importantly it gave me access to a very clean restroom
  • For the 2nd half of the day consider the following options:
    • Visit Ross Island at 4pm and stay on for the Light & Sound show which is a 3D affair
    • Visit Chidia Tapu or Bird Island for sunset or if you are up for some excitement then Trek to Munda Pahad close by under supervision for some exotic views of the islands. The trek takes about 45-60 minutes
    • Relax, visit one of the museums or amble around in Aberdeen Bazaar
  • Cost of Half Day Trip to Jolly Buoy
    • For 2 travellers : Rs 4000/- including (Rs 2400 for the vehicle and Rs 1600 for the trip)
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Day Trip to Limestone Cave & Mud Volcano in Baratang, Andaman

Andaman is a natural paradise and the beauty of its forests, mangroves and caves often becomes secondary to the white sand beaches. I decided on a day trip to Baratang Island from Port Blair for the limestone caves and mud volcano which was a 12 hour journey to and fro. At hindsight, I wish I had planned better and stayed over night in Baratang Island.

Port Blair to Baratang – 3 Step Journey through 100 kms

Port Blair to Jirketang : Approx 46 kms by road

This stretch can be done in about a little more than an hour by car. The state bus takes about 1.5 hours. We started around 3.30 am in the morning and reached around 4.30am to join the long queue of vehicles with passengers waiting for the 6am convoy through the Jarawa Forest Reserve. All vehicles registering before 5.45 am are allowed to join the convoy which is led by a state bus with armed forest guards on board. There is a temple and a few food joints selling idli/vada/tea/coffee for tourists.

Jirketang to Middle Straits: 47 kms through Jarawa Reserve Forest Area in Convoys leaving at 6am, 9am, 12noon and 3pm only

This stretch of Andaman Trunk Road passes through the forest reserve where the vehicles (2 wheelers not allowed) have to move in line at a steady speed without overtaking, stopping or rolling down windows. Photography is strictly prohibited in this stretch with forest officials patrolling regularly. I saw a jeep laden with bananas, fruits being carried for the Jarawas by the Andaman Aadim Janjati Vikas officials.

The forest ride is beautiful in the early hours of the morning and you may spot a few Jarawa tribesmen going abut their life on the way. They are of African descent and survive on fruits, honey, pigs and fish. A few years ago tourist vehicles would stop and interact with Jarawa Tribes offering them spicy food which led to disease and death among the Jarawas due to infection. The Jarawas are taking baby steps towards civilization, wearing clothes, attempting to converse in Hindi and opening up to medical treatment in hospitals when needed

Middle Straits to Baratang or Neelambar Jetty:

The forest stretch leads to a jetty from where there are regular ships to Baratang. The cars ferrying tourists for the day trip are parked here while everyone proceds towards Baratang. The 10 minute ride across the straits costs Rs 10 per person and is large enough to carry trucks, buses and vehicles moving towards North Andaman. I parked myself in the upper deck and soaked in the infinite expanse of blue and green merging into the sky in the far horizon

Baratang Sightseeing:

As soon as we got off at the Baratang (Neelambar) Jetty; our driver procured the ticket and permit for travel to Lime Stone Cave and Mud Volcano at Rs 850. Lime Stone Caves are accessed after a speedboat ride while mud volcano is a few kms away from the jetty

Baratang Lime Stone Cave

We shared a speed boat with others for this 15 minute roller coaster ride. The splash of water as the boat rocked over the waves was thrilling and the slow journey through the stream flowing within the mangroves was quite an experience. A 1.25 km well marked path way led us to the small cave in about 15 minutes. It is very important to carry a torch though the boat guides do have one on them. Having seen these kind of caves in other areas I was not very impressed or excited. The conch shaped structure and the pillar being formed by the stalactite and stalagmite growing out towards each other are the highlights of the cave. Stopped by for a glass of home made lemon juice and some freshly sliced cucumber in a shack near the caves. Travel responsibly and encourage local entrepreneurship is my motto in most situations 🙂

Baratang Island Mud Volcano

This one was a disappointment, specially having seen volcanoes in other parts of the world. Can be avoided if pressed for time or you are exhausted to walk. We traveled in a Car to the Mud Volcano Site about 3 kms away from the Jetty. This volcano erupted in 1983 and more recently in 2003. The temperature is not as high as the initial eruption which nearly burned down vegetation around. A short walk through a covered pathway led us to the mud volcano site. It appeared to be a barren field with bubbling eruptions in 2 locations which were continuously throwing us slush.

Mud Volcanoes are common in Middle & North Andaman areas generally created by gases emitted from decaying underground organic matter. Slushy mud comprising sandstone, rocks and other material is continously pushed upwards and settles on the groud; sometimes the push force may be very strong to result in eruption of several feet. The presence of mud volcanoes is indicative of an earthquake prone tectonically unstable area.

We managed to cross over to Middle Straits by 12 noon and joined the 12.30pm convoy returning to Port Blair around 3pm.

Baratang Parrot Island

This trip is done between 4pm and 5pm in the evening when the parrots are returning to their nests. The boatride to the island off Baratang may be Rs 2000 and it works if there is a group

Travel Tip
  • The Day Trip for 12-14 hours scrambling from the wee hours of the morning is not worth the sites but the journey only
  • I would recommend an overnight stay to enjoy the beauty as well as a visit to Parrot Island. Do ask your travel agent about this option.
    • Start from PortBlair latest by 7am to avail the 9am Forest convoy from Jirketang
    • Reach Baratang Island latest by 11.30am. Complete the limestone cave ride by 1pm and then post lunch proceed to mud volcano.
    • Check into the guest house or resort (Dew Dale)
    • Leave for the Parrot Island at 4pm and stay overnight
    • Next morning take the first ferry to Middle Straits to join the 6.30 am convoy towards Port Blair. You will reach Port Blair by 9.30 am which gives time for city tour/ proceed to Wandoor and Jolly Buoy or take the afternoon ferry to Havelock
    • OR proceed North towards Rangat, Mayabunder, Diglipur
      • 25 Kms away is Gandhi Ghat in Kadamtala to cross Humphrey Straits
      • 71 kms away is Rangat (Dhaninallah; Aamkunj Beach)
      • 140 kms away is Mayabunder (Karmatang Beach)
      • 203 kms away is Diglipur (Saddle Peak ; Ross & Smith Island)
  • Andaman Trunk Road passing through the Jarawa Forest Reserve is under litigation in Supreme Court due to the sensitive route. As advised by the jury, this arterial road that connects Middle Andaman to South Andaman needs to be closed to protect the Jarawa tribes. An alternative ferry route is being developed  from Port Blair to Baratang which is expected to be operational shortly.
  • Trip Cost
    • Budget Trip – Travel by Bus at Rs 50 per head and avail the sightseeing trips by speed boat and car at Rs 850 per head. Bus leaves from Aberdeen Bazar, Port Blair
    • Contract car for the entire trip can be between Rs 7000- Rs 8000 based on capacity of the vehicle
    • Forest, Panchayat and PwD Guest House accommodation has to be booked much ahead since it is cheap. Dew Dale resort may be Rs 3000-Rs 4000 per night
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