My life has got some great stories. And trust me when I tell you this, my every travel expedition has got a weird plot behind it. And that’s been either my own doing or someone else’s. Nevertheless, a plot always exists.
The proof of this was in the last article that I shared with you about my road trip to Mana, the last village of India in the beautiful and serene Uttrakhand, to create awareness about the increasing hatred toward strays in India, which you can read HERE.
And today, I want to share the plot that resulted in me visiting the Andaman Islands for two and a half days. Yes, you read it right, two and a half days, not three, not two, not four, but two and a half days.
So the tale began with a phone call from one of my best friends Mr. Prem Singh Rathore, who unlike his macho and intimidating last name, is anything but. However, his first name; Prem (which means love in English), depicts everything that he is. A joyful, suave, and handsome man who is well-admired by the people around him (more so by strangers if I may add). Despite his age and plethora of grey hair, Prem refuses to grow up and still behaves like a young man (which he is not), who gets excited by little things in life.
Coming to the point though, Prem called me one fine day and told me that he had a couple of complimentary tickets from Air Vistara, which he would like me to use (if I wanted to) to visit the Andaman Islands. The catch was that either I left two days later, or not go at all.
Need I share that I chose what I chose?
I am a light packer when it comes to short trips especially to the coastal areas since I know that half the time will be spent in shorts and cut-sleeves or t-shirts. So, no stress there, unless I was to get lucky and meet a beautiful girl who would ask me out.
But what were the odds of that happening right?
Well, here is where you are wrong.
The day came and I boarded my flight on Air Vistara to Andaman Islands and to my surprise, I did meet a beautiful girl – on the plane. What better way than to start your journey with some amazing company right?
A catch though this young and beautiful girl was the air hostess – her name – was Vanshika. I am not going to write her full name here, because I do not know how many of you desperate men (or women), reading this will start looking for her on social media, and the next thing we know is you harassing the poor girl.
Let me tell you a little background of how we started to talk.
I wear a rudraksha bracelet in my left hand which Vanshika noticed and enquired where I had gotten that from, as most of the rudraksha that you get in the market are not original. We got talking about the spiritual side of life and the young girl impressed the heck out of me when she told me that she was preparing for NDA.
A soft-spoken but resolute girl, who knew what she wanted to do in life and a bit more. For the next couple of hours, we engaged in small talks about life, god, and other not-so-common topics that drove both our interests.
And as every good thing comes to an end, this conversation ended too once I landed on the Andaman Islands.
Before I share the story of the Andaman Islands any further, I want you to know a little habit of mine. Whenever I travel, I generally don’t make any hotel reservations and prefer to explore a couple of places after reaching my location. Of course, being single and traveling solo allows me to do that, but I have had the misfortune of traveling with a few people in the past who like it all organized and are way too snooty (up to their arses) when it comes to spontaneous decision-making.
Let’s move on though.
I hired a taxi and marched into the mainland of Andaman Islands to find – a hotel!
Sangeet, the cab driver, who was accompanying me was so fascinated by this move of mine that I did not book a hotel in advance and was fine exploring a place that would best suit my needs.
What was the need you ask?
The best view of the ocean – unobstructed, unfiltered!
It did not take me much time to find one and by 1 PM I had settled in my room, had taken a bath, had a cup of tea, and like a spartan warrior crying Molon Labe, I was ready to venture out.
I had asked Sangeet to be my guide for the next two days and take me around, which he happily agreed to.
And finally, the adventure began in the Andaman Islands.
My first stop in the Andaman Islands was Seakarting.
Undoubtedly, it stands as the ultimate experience to grace the islands thus far. Nowhere else can you enjoy the thrill of piloting your watercraft on the open sea, all while ensuring utmost safety. Accommodating 2 guests and a licensed instructor, each Seakart provides a unique opportunity. The instructor oversees your solo navigation on the waves. What sets it apart is its exclusivity—it’s the inaugural and sole experience of its kind in India, available in just three global destinations: Mauritius, Dubai, and the Andamans.
For a 20-minute ride, it costs you about INR 5500. Although on the internet it says INR 3700, once you reach the office of the people who run these karts, expect them to ask for a little extra (such is the plight of our life).
I won’t write much about what the experience was like, but instead, I will show you.
Watch the video below which at the beginning of it, may make you smile (after all that’s what we travel and live for right?).
I am assuming you did watch the video and in good faith subscribed to my Youtube channel too (please do if you have not), so let’s push the watersports away and get back in the cab as we need to ride towards a place that we Indians have got a great history with.
The Cellular Jail.
Constructed between 1896 and 1906 in Port Blair, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands union territory in India, the Cellular Jail has a rich history. The original Port Blair, named after Archibald Blair of the British East India Company, functioned as a penal colony on Great Andaman from 1789 to 1796. It wasn’t until 1858, in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny, that the British reclaimed the site as a penal colony. Indian revolutionaries, deported from the mainland, were sent 850 miles (1,370 km) west to the Andaman Islands. There, they were tasked with clearing land to construct their prison before being incarcerated.
As the Indian freedom movement gained momentum, the British deemed it necessary to construct a new jail. In the late 19th century, the ambitious project commenced, resulting in a large circular building to accommodate the increasing number of political prisoners.
Situated on a small hill in the northeast of the town, the Cellular Jail originally featured seven wings made of puce-colored brick, radiating like spokes from a central turreted tower. Each wing, spanning three stories, housed cells on the first three floors and a watchtower on the fourth. The prison boasted a total of 698 cells, enabling solitary confinement for prisoners. Executions were frequent and carried out in full view of the cells.
Following a campaign led by Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, prisoners were relocated to the mainland until the jail was completely emptied by 1939. During World War II, the Japanese occupied the site from 1942 to 1945. While three original wings remain, the jail, operational until 1945, attained national memorial status in 1979. It endured structural damage in the earthquake and tsunami of 2004.
You can experience the stirring narrative of the valiant freedom struggle through an emotive Son-et-Lumiere, presented daily within the jail compound at 6:00 PM (in Hindi) and 7:15 PM (in English).
Additionally, visitors can explore a Museum, an Art gallery, and a Photo gallery, all open every day except Monday, from 9:00 AM to 12 Noon and 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
While I was there, I also had the privilege of seeing the very cell in which Veer Savarkar was imprisoned. Each cell was 4.5 by 2.7 metres (14.8 ft × 8.9 ft) in size with a ventilator located at a height of 3 metres (9.8 ft). In total 696 of them, and at times one cell occupied by more than one prisoner.
All hail the king and queen!
Damn, it has started to feel heavy, isn’t it?
I capped my night off with a heavy dose of Chicken fried rice, at a small dhaba, since I was in no mood to visit a fancy restaurant and show my amazingly pleasant mannerisms as I was way too tired, but more than that, sad and mentally exhausted after witnessing the dark history of the Cellular Jail.
The second day of my visit to the Andaman Islands was spent exploring the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving (which I failed to do), and Sea Walking, videos of which you will see below.
Again, assuming that you did watch the videos, I won’t speak about these places or activities much, but will tell you a little story here. Not a story, but an emotion.
While snorkeling, attempting scuba diving, and then walking in the sea, I recalled something.
I recalled a haiku from an unknown writer I had read a while ago, which goes like this –
In the oceans that are dark,
And the deserts that are alone,
I roar the cry that I miss the most,
The inability to just let it go.
I was always tied to that emotion of not being able to let go. Let go of people, the pain inside me, the uncertainty, the wrath!
But in that water, I left everything behind! All of it!
The next day was reserved for Baratang, Lime Stone Cave, and the Mud Volcano (which was a huge disappointment).
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, I kept meeting an amazing family at every destination. Mum, dad, and their gorgeous daughter. And guess what they gave me a nickname – Mr. Solo – since I was traveling, well, solo!
Believe it or not, I met them at the airport also while on my way back to Delhi. Such is life, isn’t it?
Anyway, while I wrap this small tell-a-tale piece, wherein, the videos did most of the talking about the fun part of the trip, I cannot believe how long it has been since my last travel expedition.
Maybe, Mr. Prem Singh Rathore will call for it again, maybe a sweet girl like Vanshika will give it a perfect start, maybe Sangeet will bring in the joy needed, or maybe an unknown family will show me the love that we all want in life.
Here are some random photos that I clicked during this trip.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Andaman and Nicobar Islands
1. Where are the Andaman and Nicobar Islands located? The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of islands at the southeastern edge of the Bay of Bengal. They are part of India and are situated approximately 1,200 kilometers away from the mainland.
2. How many islands make up the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago? The archipelago is comprised of a total of 572 islands, out of which only around 38 are inhabited.
3. What is the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands? The capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is Port Blair, which is located on South Andaman Island.
4. How can I reach the Andaman and Nicobar Islands? You can reach the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by air and sea. The Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair is well-connected to major cities in India, and there are regular passenger ship services from Chennai, Kolkata, and Vishakhapatnam.
5. What is the best time to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands? The best time to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is from October to May when the weather is pleasant and suitable for water activities. Monsoons, from June to September, should be avoided due to heavy rainfall and rough seas.
6. Are permits required to visit the Andaman Islands? Yes, Indian nationals need permits to visit certain restricted areas in the Andaman Islands. Foreign nationals are required to obtain special permits for entry.
7. What are the popular tourist attractions in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands? Some of the popular attractions include Radhanagar Beach, Cellular Jail, Ross Island, Neil Island, Havelock Island, and Baratang Island.
8. What water activities can be enjoyed in the Andaman Islands? The Andaman Islands offer a range of water activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, sea walking, jet-skiing, and banana boat rides. The pristine coral reefs make it an ideal destination for underwater enthusiasts.
9. Are there wildlife sanctuaries in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands? Yes, the islands are home to several wildlife sanctuaries and a biosphere reserve. Some notable ones include the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, North Button National Park, and Saddle Peak National Park.
10. Is it safe to travel to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands? Yes, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are considered safe for tourists. However, like any other destination, it is advisable to take basic precautions and respect local guidelines for a secure and enjoyable trip.
PS: Can you guess what the next ‘plot’ traveling would be about?
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One of my friends once said, I am in love with words and a zoned out poser... well, I will keep it the way it has been said! Besides that you can call me a compulsive poet, wanna-be painter and an amateur photographer