It was an impetuous trip to Andamans which turned out to be reinvigorating for the soul.
For reaching Portblair, we took a connecting Air-India flight from Delhi to Portblair via Vishakapatnam which lasted for 4 hours, but one should instead go for some private flight which would cost a little less. Reaching Portblair at midnoon, the very first impression after landing is that of hot and sunny day with a tinch of humidity but that holds your attention only till you hit the roads and your eyes gaze wide open cherishing the ocean black waters and surrounding beauty of the place. The coolest months of the city include January, February and March which is the best time to visit Port Blair witnessing an average temperature of 20 deg Celsius.
We headed to the place of stay, which for us was Andaman Castle located near the marine drive of Portblair. One have a number of options to stay at Portblair but I would suggest to go for resorts located near the Marine Drive which can add up to your night giving you the option for taking a soothing walk near the coast.
We started our day off by visiting “Cellular Jail” which is known to many of us as “KALAPAANI ki SAZA“.
Visit to Cellular Jail was nice but what made us rush the place was lack of time as it closes by 5 PM. So, if you are planning to visit Cellular jail, take notice to reach prior to 3PM and do not miss to go to the roof top which provides a picturesque of the amazing black waters surrounding the place.
Cellular Jail: Rooftop View
Our next destination was Ross Island, an island near Portblair. One of the best modes to reach Ross Island is by ferry. One can hire private ferries or take a short boat ride from Phoenix Bay Jetty.
Ross Island has a lot of history and with marooned buildings it gives you a glimpse of the bygone era, it is sure to make one feel like a tourist. The light and sound show here is one of the best I have ever seen, showcasing a grim reminder of the Indian freedom struggle and the unyielding military strategy of Britain. The show is a must watch and in the end it leaves you inculcated with mixed feelings of honour for the freedom fighters and the irony of the Ross Island.
Picturesque Ross Island
Post dinner, we went for a walk across the Marine Drive. While walking along the margin of the sea we enjoyed the view of the broad expanse of waters spread out before our eyes, an unfailing source of delight to any one capable of appreciating the beauties of nature.
It was a perfect night with your feet covered with black waters, striking tides giving a white color to the water on collision, I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony. I then realised the need to release the grime built up inside me to free my emotions like the ocean.
Early next day, we left to catch the ferry “Green Ocean” for Havelock. One can reach Havelock via private or government ferry. There are two private ferries to the reach the place : “Green ocean” and “Makruzz” with the difference that Green Ocean allows you to come out and enjoy the journey watching the ocean water added up with music arrangement to make it more enjoyable whereas Makruzz has strict seating arrangements for each traveller and provide snacks during the journey. I would suggest taking up Green Ocean while visiting Havelock as we are more excited in the beginning and taking Makruzz while returning to Portblair for a more relaxed return, getting a taste of both. Also make the bookings for the ferries well in advance as trying to get the tickets in last hour makes it difficult and unavailable sometimes.
Reaching HaveLock, we went to our booked hotel “Cross Bill Beach Resort” located at prime location (run by a Bengali woman). The resort also has a couple of lounge chairs right next to the Vijay Nagar beach and the amazing view coupled with the calming sounds of the sea made me drift into a stupor quite a few times. There is a Scuba School within the premises, SSI. The resort and school are located in such a way that you get to relax on your own private beach, all day long!
Private beach to make you feel rich
Delicious sea food made fresh to order by Chef Sujit. This jovial person has the best trained hands in fish curry, shrimp curry, daal and rice. He even cooked up a full butter fish for me which we had purchased from the local fish Market. Several resorts such as Symphony Palms Beach Resort and Dolphin Resort are located on the same road along with Cross Hill Resort. Dolphin resort is well maintained govt owned beach resort, very spacious. There are several such resorts located just few meters away from Vijay Nagar Beach. I would recommend to go for Cross Bill or Dolphin Resort for a more pleasant stay.
After freshening up we headed for Radhanagar beach which was my most favourite place, a must visit on the island. It’s fairly large beach, especially compared to the other beaches in Havelock and very peaceful, lots of trees and beautiful clear water, amazing sand and heavenly sunsets. There is only 1 place to eat on the beach, a small cute rooftop kind of restaurant located at the beach itself, and only had a set veg lunch of roti, rice, 1 veg, dal, salad and papad available. Food options were limited but simple and delicious especially if you are looking for veg, I loved having lunch there.
Coming back to cross bill, we get dropped at Squid’s restaurant about 180 metres from Cross Hill, a decent place for dinner. No booze is served here, but you can bring your own. There is a super market right next to squid, fill up on necessary requirements. There is a fish market in the vicinity too.
Coming back and relaxing for an hour we took our cycles and took a ride to Jetty. The ride was fun filled and you won’t find it unsafe even late night with various tourists walking by the road. Do not forget to book your cycles after reaching your booked hotel to enjoy the ride, also helps travelling in vicinity area and exploring the place.
Next morning we started for Elephant beach but was unlucky enough to only get to Light House Beach as the transport to Elephant beach was closed due to petrol/diesel scarcity in Havelock. Since the Elephant beach was closed, too many people were heading to the only available beach at the time : the Light House beach. The beach was small and heavily crowded, we didn’t had a very great experience there. Coming back from Light house beach, the boat took a 20 mins ride through the Mangrove’s as well. Moving back we stopped at Anju COCO restaurant for lunch very near to Cross Bill. Anju Coco is a shack with a lot of crowd puller, simple menus and good Indian food and especially Punjabi taste reveals the detail for the ingredients and the authenticity. Also loving the fact that the owner took most of the orders himself, chatted with the guests, and made sure we had everything we needed. They are especially known for their finger-licking tuna entree and of course the must-try Banoffe shake!! This place has their own bakery and the Banofee pie was to die for!
Coming back we rested for an hour or two and took a walk in the evening along the road which has all these resorts and restaurants lined up along road side. There were several cafe’s and restaurants along the way and one that took our attention was Fat Martin Cafe which was right next to entrance of Dolphin Resort with a notice displaying the DJ nite timing, we queried the owner and he willingly welcomed us. That party in Havelock was bodacious with deevy DJ from Holland, amazing crowd mostly foreigners and supernacular drinks. Do not forget to take a walk along that road and you never know may be lucky enough to be a guest for such an amazing party :).
Early next morning we went for Scuba diving at the Scuba School, SSI in the Cross Bill premises itself. Don’t be afraid to try this even if you are a non swimmer. Trained professionals gives briefing on what to do and what to expect and let you spend some time doing shallow water skills and getting comfortable with the gear and go for a dive after that. Trained professional divers assist you during the dive and also take photos of your dive inside water.
Scuba diving was one of a lifetime experience and a must try. Red Alert is to have your Scuba diving bookings done well in advance as they are heavily scheduled. Right after the dive was over we took bath and headed to Jetty.
Before boarding to be ferried to Portblair (this time it was going to be through Makruzz), arriving Jetty we took lunch at Dakshin by Barefoot. The seating was nice overlooking the Sea and Jetty, service was very slow with less quantity but good taste. This is the only good eating option near Jetty.
We reached Portblair by late evening, we quickly took dinner and headed for a walk across the marine drive which I was longing for. The night was silent and dark but not enough to hide the giggles of the waves diminishing at the beach and the white look of the colliding tides. As I moved forward the waves silently touched my feet, the touch of the sea was sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace. I savoured my last few hours of solitude, the ocean made me feel really small putting my whole life into perspective, marking my meekness.
Night walk at the Marine Drive
Next day early we had to leave for Delhi. I wish we could have some more days to stay there and visited Bara Tang and Jolly Bouy island as well :(.
My Havelock stay included 2 days and return on 3rd day which could have been planned better to one day and return late on 2nd day to have a day more in Portblair for visiting Jolly Bouy island. Since I had an Air-India flight which is not on weekends I had to return back on Friday, but one could extend their stay by 2 more days(weekends) by taking some other flight.
We came back but my memories of the ocean will linger on, long after the footprints in the sand are gone. The ocean tides taught me to keep moving forward as there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.
Writing this experience made me taste it twice in the moment and in retrospect.