Just around 2 km east of Port Blair is probably the most spectacular group of ruins one has ever come across. Ross Island has been a tourist favourite for years for being home to ruins from different eras. Right from the occupation by the British to the Indian freedom struggle, Ross Island features historical buildings for every appetite.
Ross Island is accessible via boat services that ply between Port Blair and Phoenix Bay Jetty. The island is wholly controlled by the Indian Navy, and all tourists are required to sign in and out.
What makes Ross Island the centre of attention for historians is the fact that the British Colonial government decided, in 1857, following the first Indian revolt for independence, to set up a hardcopy punishment administration facility to deal with high profile Indian freedom fighters.
This carried on for close to 80 years! Back then, the island had a hospital, bakery, a market place, tennis courts, living quarters and every other amenity one could think of. All of these today lie in ruins since the island was momentarily at war when the Japanese invaded during World War 2. Ross Island adjoins a twin island called Smith Island also worth visiting!
Located around 29 km from the city of Port Blair, the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is one that spreads across 15 islands in the Andaman Islands, in Wandoor.
Though the park was closed after the 2004 Tsunami attack, the islands of Jolly Bouy and Red Skin are still open during some seasons. The park is a place for those who love nature and is also an ecotourist hub. Apart from witnessing the colourful natural surroundings, the place is also known for adventure activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, glass bottom boats that take you to the world of marine life.
Barren Island is a small island around 84 miles northeast of the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Port Blair and is at present the only confirmed active volcano in India and in South Asia. Man’s relentless quest to explore the outdoors has made Barren Island a tourist hotspot.
As the name suggests, the Barren Island is barren, uninhabited by human beings and features only some variety of wildlife. While the species are few, they are as unique as they get.
The Barren Island features a species of wild goats called Feral Goats, believed to have been left there by ancient sailors years ago. They have, since their existence, relied on salty sea water for their survival and astonishingly have managed to survive such tough living conditions.
The island also features a species of bats called the flying foxes and some rodent variants. The last two eruptions occurred in 1994 and 2005, respectively; the latter is believed to have been an after effect of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Viper Island is best known for the prison that was used before the notorious cellular prison was constructed in 1906. It’s around 8 km North West of Port Blair and one can access the island by boat or ferry. There are two pretty convincing stories as to the origin of the name of the island.
One states that the island was named after a ship by the name that carried Archibald Blair to the island in the year 1789. The other, and the more unnerving one states that the presence of a large number of Viper snakes on the island is what has led to its naming.
Some of the greatest personalities linked to the Indian freedom struggle have spent their last days here at Viper Jail. Documented evidence exists that maharajas and peasants were treated alike and tortured to the hilt for having played a part in trying to overthrow British rule.
Tourists today flock to the island to get a glimpse of the ruins of this jail and for a moment feel like a part of history. Apart from this, Viper Island is also a wonderful picnic place. The island can be reached in 20 min via the Phoenix Bay jetty. Some cruise services also offer tours on a boat around the island showing tourists different parts of the island and the prison from the boat.
Jolly Buoy is an island proximate to Port Blair and as most tourists put it, is nothing short of heaven on earth. Part of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, also known as the Wandoor Marine National Park, this place offers superior tourist value and offers tourists a chance to get up close and personal with the coral reef, pristine white and emerald beaches, even a dolphin or two if you get lucky.
The Marine National Park initiative was set into motion by the forest department to preserve the indigenous natural life of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The Marine Park encompasses 150 islands and an area of approximately 280 square kilometres, Jolly Buoy being one of the best rated.
Getting to Jolly Buoy is an experience in itself. One has to get a clearance from the forest department followed by tickets on a ferry. The clearance and the tickets cost Rs 50 and Rs 550 respectively which is well worth the money. The ferry ride begins at Port Blair wherein tourists are taken through breathtakingly beautiful islands and waters, while the guides explain the various sights, sounds and marine life. Just short of the Jolly Buoy Island which doesn’t have a jetty, tourists are transferred into smaller boats with glass bottoms to view the coral reef as they approach the island.
The Jolly Buoy island is heavily regulated. One cannot carry their own food and water and have to buy the same issued by the Indian government at Port Blair. One truly understands the motive when you reach Jolly Buoy, the pristine beaches, clean shacks and pure unadulterated environment is close to impossible to find. An afternoon on the beach at Jolly Buoy, with the sun and the sand is a perfect way to spend one of your honeymoon afternoons.