Cellular Jail at Port Blair

Cellular jail

After relaxing a few days at Havelock island, it was time to come back home. We stayed overnight at Port Blair and visited the Cellular Jail – also known as ‘Kala Paani’ jail for exiled political prisoners during India’s independence movement against the British.

Port Blair is beautiful (though more commercial and developed compared to wooded and laid back Havelock) and offers a variety of day trips to Jolly Bouy island for snorkeling, Ross island for historic buildings, North Bay island for water sports etc. The Havelock- Port Blair ferry times don’t match the flight departure times from Port Blair and visitors to Havelock island are forced to stay at least one night in Port Blair.

Replica of the jail

This being the last day of the trip  we didn’t want to do anything hectic. We visited the Cellular Jail where Indian freedom fighters were exiled during the freedom struggle. An imposing structure, carefully planned with 7 wings with individual cells ( hence the name) around central watch tower that offers breath-taking views of neighboring islands. The wings were planned such the prisoners couldn’t communicate with each other and had a working area in its vicinity to make the prisoners extract coconut oil with bare hands. Poorly treated with barely anything to eat and clothe, fettered, abused and beaten, many would go insane in this hot tropical prison.

Picture gallery of Indian freedom fighters

Cellular jail photo gallery

The revolutionaries and freedom fighters went on hunger strike demanding humane treatment for political prisoners. Brutal force feeding methods were used to break their fast resulting in deaths.

Ironically, the British themselves were captured as political prisoners here by the Japanese during WWII – guess they got a taste of their own medicine then. Alas, five wings of the jail were demolished.

Wings of the jail

Wings of the jail 2

Fetters

Removing oil from the coconuts manually

Gallows

Door to remove the hung fighters

Cellular jail corridor

Savarkar's cell

But the remaining two wings, the central tower, the gallows, Veer Sawarkar’s cell (one of the famous inmates who wrote inspiring poetry on the cell’s walls using stones and pebbles) and the grounds are well maintained. Everyone must visit this national monument.

Its hard not to feel patriotic here. Its hard not to value our independence and freedom here.

It was a sobering visit and its best to leave it for the last day of the trip.

With its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, crystal clear water for snorkeling and fresh seafood, Andaman is a paradise. We would love to come back with our family and possibly learn to Scuba Dive and visit other islands 🙂

A Morning at the Kalapathar Beach

Kalapathar beach

Varun loved the bike ride to Radhanagar beach so much that the next morning he woke up wanting to ride it again.

After a leisurely breakfast, we drove to Kalapathar beach (literally meaning black rocks beach). Secluded, pristine and along the south-east corner of the island, the beach derives its name from the Kalapathar village nearby, which in turn is named after the black rocks that are found along the sea-shore.

Kalapathar beach

Black dragon fly on the beach

Unlike the Radhanagar beach, there were fewer folks on the beach. There are no facilities around – changing rooms, shower, restaurants or vendors. Also, there were salt water crocodiles warning around but that didn’t seem to deter people from swimming in the aqua waters. A walk on the beach came highly recommended and if it wasn’t for the mid morning heat, we would have happily indulged.

Varun played under the shade of the trees with corals, shells and sand.

Vipul tried to sleep but couldn’t as Varun started throwing sand on Vipul’s stomach. It was amusing at first but then quickly became tedious and we decided to leave the beach.

Road to the village

Typical houses

Houses under coconut trees

Bananas along the road side

We drove down to the Kalapathar village, set amidst paddy and coconut fields, banana plantations. A water buffalo was resting in neck-deep water. Cows grazed under the shade of road side trees. Only the chillies, coconuts and betelnuts seemed to be out in the sun – drying.

Chillies drying in the sun

We took it as a cue to go back to the Munjoh resort and rest in the shade by the beach.

Low tide boat

Two monkeys on a tree

Varun threw the fig-like fruits lying on the sand around. Vipul read. I took photos and then bored, decided to climb up a tree (in my defense the low branches were inviting!). Snails continued to crawl under our feet. Waves lapped. After a while we had lunch (cold beer and lobster!) and then headed to the room for a much needed siesta!

Sunset at Radhanagar Beach

Radhanagar beach is the most famous beach on the west coast of Havelock Island. It is a bit like the Kauai’s north shore beach where you have mountains form a backdrop for the beach.

Day trippers to Havelock island from Port Blair visit this beach, spend the day, snorkel and beach bum before going back. Unfortunately due to ferry timings they cannot enjoy the spectacular sunset from this beach.

We rented a bike and drove to the beach. There is virtually no traffic on the beach so it was fairly safe. Varun was thrilled to ride a bike – his first.

We drove to the beach, played in the sand, took photos and came back! The shades of reds, yellows and oranges and the pink afterglows were stunning. And the reflection in water made the Andaman sea glow.

Driving back in the dark after sunset was a bit tricky especially since our bike’s lights didn’t work. But we found a couple of bikers who rode ahead of us to provide light. Everyone who has been to Radhanagar beach raves about it. Don’t miss it if you plan to go to Havelock island.

Snorkelling in Havelock Island

Havelock island with its crystal aqua water is popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Over dinner, the resort host, told us about a boat going out to a private island for a snorkel trip the following morning. We had heard from other visitors about going snorkeling with larger groups of 30- 50 people and we were not sure how Varun would like that. This trip would have about 10 people, was leaving from the beach right off the resort and was a bit discounted as it was a semi private tour. What’s not to like about a trip to a virgin beach where you can snorkel from the beach and have a picnic lunch on?

The next morning, we scrambled to get ready for the trip. Sunscreen, toys, snacks, milk for Varun went into the tote bag and off we went.

We went in a covered motor boat as the sun is strong even in the early hours of 8:00 am. The water was calm except around the jetty area where the larger ferries caused some waves. We saw a traditional doongi boat going out around the same time.

We went past mangroves, smaller beaches and coves over prettiest shades of blue water – from aqua to turquoise to teal to sapphire. About 90 mins later, we were anchored on a small white sand beach.

A couple volunteered to play with Varun in the sand while Vipul and I went snorkeling. We didn’t have an underwater camera – so took a few pics from the boat and got a few pics from a couple who had a camera.

Clear warm water, beautiful purple and pink- brown corals, neon colored fishes, clams etc. We could see schools of tiny fish from the boat. It was amazing. The reef was a short walk from the beach but as not many people come this way, it was still pristine.

Varun was fascinated by the fishes but refused to come in the water. He was content playing in the sand and along the shore.

After snorkeling we had picnic under the shade of the trees – a lovely hamper packed by the resort with Indo-Chinese style paneer chilli and fried rice, chips, cold drinks, choco-wafers, juice and fresh fruits. No one wanted to come back – but the sun and the snorkel had tired us and all we wanted to do was sleep.

On the ride back, Varun dozed off in Vipul’s arms and woke up only when we reached the resort. I rained a bit over lunch and on the way back, but was over in a jiffy. We had a great morning snorkeling, shared a laugh with some cool people and chilled out. Exactly what the doctor prescribed!

Sunrise at Havelock Island

Sunrises early in the Andaman and Nicobar island.

In the pre-dawn darkness, I woke up to the sounds of rooster crowning and birds chirping. It was hard to crawl out of bed while Vipul and Varun snuggled in the warm sheets but I wanted to try to watch spectacular sunrise the islands are famous for.

I jogged down to the beach about 100 mts away through the coconut and betel nut trees. The beach was empty except for a few stray dogs. Empty boats bobbed in the clam water. I took a long walk on the beach, picking up shells, tossing them in water and feeling refreshed in the cool breeze.

The sun made its way slowly behind the dark stormy clouds.

Soon everything was bathed in the golden light. The beach was still except for the dogs chasing each other and the waves lapping.

I made my way back to the villa – stopping en route to watch the fungus on the little bridge, piles of coconuts stacked, crabs peeking out of the creek and generally soaking in the filtered hazy sun through the coconut trees.

It was bright and I was yawning. I hurried back to the warmth of the bed, snuggling in next to Varun who didn’t stir while I was out. A peaceful way to start a day ( and a vacation!).