Andaman and Nicobar Islands are part of a string of about 500 tropical islands, which lie scattered halfway between Calcutta and the equator. The existence of these islands was first reported in the 9th century by Arab merchants, who sailed past them on their way to the straits of Sumatra.
The first western visitor was Marco Polo. The Marathas took over the islands in the late 17th century. In the early, 18th century, the islands were the base of Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre, whose navy frequently captured British, Dutch and Portuguese merchant ships. Angre remained undefeated by the combined British / Portuguese naval task force, right up to his death in 1729.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands were finally annexed by the British in the 19th century and used as a penal colony for Indian freedom fighters. The colony was set up by Captain Archibald Blair of the Bombay Marine, who gave his name to the capital of the islands, Port Blair. During World War II the Japanese occupied the islands. After India gained independence in 1947, the islands were incorporated into the Indian Union.
Port Blair, is today, the pulse of the islands. Most tourists who visit begin their exploration from here. Port Blair extends around a harbour on the east coast of South Andaman, and is the most heavily populated of all the islands.
The one major landmark in Port Blair is the Cellular Jail. This seven-winged national monument tells tales of the torture of India's freedom fighters who were imprisoned within its walls. The islands were called ‘Kalapani'-islands with 'black water', because of the blood that tainted its waters.
The Andamans are a paradise for ecologists and ornithologists, with 242 species of birds, 46 species of mammals and 78 species of reptiles-some of them rare and almost extinct. These birds and animals live in dense rain forests surrounded by mangroves that seem to become part of the sea.
The islands are also home to some of the oldest tribal communities in the world. Six recognized tribes inhabit the several islands. While members of some of the tribes venture into the city, others keep to their forests, and can be quite hostile.
Population: About 3,50,000
Climate: The daily temperature in the Andamans does not vary much throughout the year. It usually averages between 23°C to 30°C. There are two seasons - the wet, or monsoon season, from mid-May to mid-November, and the dry season, from mid-November to mid-May. Rainfall is heavy and, depending on the location, averages 264 to 437 cm annually.
Main Language(s): English Time Zone: GMT + 05:30 Phone Area Code: 03192
Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit is between November and mid-April.
Airport Distance from City Center: 4 kms Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Taxi service available at Rs. 50 per pax to city
The Cellular Jail
This museum is a reminder of the torture that India's freedom fighters suffered at the hands of the British. It had more than 600 cells, so prisoners would have absolutely no contact with one another.
For a day of swimming, and fun in the sun, Corbyn's Cove and Jolly Buoy are popular beaches. One can also snorkel and visit the underwater world as long as one wants.
Ross Island was once an exclusive preserve of the British who ruled from there for over 50 years. The ruins of bungalows, churches, ballrooms, bakeries, clubs and dungeons, are an interesting and intriguing experience. They relive the glory of early 20th-century colonial life. Early morning, Ross is a bird-watcher's paradise.
The Viper Island contains the dungeons and a natural 'amphitheatre'. Another picnic spot, it still has ruins of gallows as reminders of a grim past.
A visit to the Havelock Island is a memorable experience. Its unspoilt and beautiful charm can take you back a hundred years.
Museum and Zoo
At the Anthropological Museum, Marine Museum, and the Mini Zoo, one can see a panorama of the life of the Paleolithic islanders, a display of marine life with sea crocodiles, dolphins, barracuda, and pearl oysters.
A harbour cruise takes visitors around the South Andaman Island and offers a beautiful view of mangroves, rain forests and other delights of this living museum.
The Andamans even have their very own dormant volcano and those who have the courage and stamina to climb to its mouth on Barren Island never forget the sight of the lava inside or the hard lava-like rocks that make the climb a near impossibility.
Eating in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a seafood lover's dream come true. You get an amazing variety of lobsters, shrimps and fish. Seafood cooked in coconut curries is particularly popular, as are the fried fish dishes. One of the most popular choices for a meal is the fish thali -a full meal with rice, Indian breads, vegetables and lots of delicious fish. If you're the adventurous kind, you might like to try the more gourmet seafood dishes.
If seafood is not really your scene, there are many restaurants that serve multi-cuisine food. There are also a whole lot of reasonable fast food restaurants that serve pizza, sandwiches, burgers, etc.
New Lighthouse Restaurant
Opposite Municipal Guest house
New India Cafe
Next to Hotel Jai Mathi
GB Pant Road
Andaman Festival: This annual cultural festival of Indian Classical Dance, Vocal Music and Ballet is organised by Directorate of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, A&N Administration, with South & East Zone Cultural Centres.
Island Tourism Festival: A 10-15 day cultural festival of Indian Classical Dance, Vocal Music and Ballet is held annually between December and February. The festival features performances by nationally and internationally acclaimed artistes, as well as handicraft stalls.
Subhash Mela: Celebrated in January, this week-long festival in Havelock commemorates the birth anniversary of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.
Vivekananda Mela: This festival is celebrated at Neil Island on the occasion of Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary in January.
© Jet Airways (India) Ltd.