Keeping busy in Port Blair for close on 12 days was quite the challenge as it doesn’t present itself as a tourist-friendly town. It’s a hustling bustling place with hordes of locals on the streets almost 24/7 and it boasts very few touristy haunts and those that they do have, comes with plenty of rules and regulations. I’ll be sharing some of these places that I’ve managed to visit with you but due to not having a car and the heavy rains at the time I didn’t manage to visit them all. I add a list of sights to see if you are ever in that area https://www.google.com/travel/things-to-do
I spent the first few days orientating myself in this strange new environment accompanying hubby and our host from pillar to post, which included trips to the harbor to look at the fishing boats they own to keeping an appointment with the Minister of Fisheries to arrange the necessary permits and trying to cut through some pretty thick bureaucratic red tape at times. The Minister of Fisheries turned out to be a very beautiful, intelligent but very young lady. I was impressed. She was visibly keen to help and support the project and very kind and accommodating, and although one could sense how much pressure she was under she was the epitome of courteousness.
On these trips our host would stop at a side cafe every so often to have us try the ‘best’ coffee in Andaman or the best this or the best that. However, at some point I had to make my break from the men so they could get on with the work side of things and I could start exploring! A girl cannot live on talk of fish and boats alone.
Having said that, the harbor area did make for some cool photos the times I did accompany them. My biggest sadness was just the immense pollution problem that this island is battling with. Single-use plastic poses an incredible difficulty as it is discarded with no thought whatsoever to the environment. The government is fighting an almost impossible fight to educate the people. We were very unfortunate in the fact that we caught the tail-end of the monsoon when we arrived in Andaman. I cannot in words describe the amount of rain that came down during our stay. I will just say, it was wet. Very wet. I bought 2 umbrellas in 2 days, the second one because I was stupid enough to leave the one at home. Go figure. You will notice that none of my photos seem like there was any sunshine, which is the naked truth. It rained, rained and rained some more. It was wet and humid. Just for interest sake, according to the book I purchased about the islands, Port Blair has approximately 159 rainy days a year and a ‘normal’ rainfall of 3180mm of rain but an actual rainfall of 4152mm per year. That is one heck of a lot of water in my opinion.
During the day I was mostly left to my own devices; but in the evening when hubby came back from their numerous adventures we’d take another walk to one of the two restaurants close by for supper. Venturing out on my own at first I only kept close to where we live which meant I walked the main road of Port Blair until I knew almost every little shop and alcove. Of course, nodding and smiling at everyone and being treated a little like a celebrity whenever I took the time to enter these little shops.
My first official ‘tourist’ place I visited was the Zonal Anthropological Museum. Unfortunately no photography allowed at all so I cannot even share the experience. What I can say is that it was very interesting to learn about the numerous tribes that originated on all the different little islands included in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Learning about their way of life and how they traded with one another. Today there are still some of these tribes in existence and the government takes every measure needed to protect them. Foreigners are strictly prohibited in some of the areas and on some of the islands. Hubby was warned very clearly about where they were allowed to fish with the boat and the distances to keep from those islands.
To give you an idea, the Andaman and Nicobar island consists out of a group of 321 big and small islands, some named and some still unnamed. The Andaman group consists out of roughly 259 and stretches from Landfall island in the North right up to the Little Andaman Island in the South. Our host told us that if we wanted to explore overland it would take us 12 hours or more to travel the 464 kilometers in length as in some places one is only allowed to travel in convoy and then in others one has to wait for a ferry. The road conditions are also not so great so one would probably need a 4×4. Once again, traveling through certain of these areas one is not allowed to use your camera to record your trip.
Out of the 321 islands in the Archipelago only 37 islands are actually inhabited and not all are open for tourist visits. They speak more than thirteen different languages on the islands of which English, Hindi, Bengali and Tamil. Some of the other languages I’ve never even heard of like Nicobares, Marathi, Gujarathi, Bhutu, Krein. It boggles the mind. The islands are home to 4 Negrito and 2 Mongoloid tribes consisting of the ‘Great Andamanese’, ‘The Onge’, the ‘Jarawas’ and the ‘Sentinelese’ under the Negrito classification and they are still at the hunting gathering stages of the economy according to my travel book. Of the 2 Mongoloid tribes the ‘Nicobarese’ has accepted the challenges change brought and have prospered and multiplied whereas the members of the second tribe, the ‘Shompen’, still shy away from contact with the outside world. Just a couple of years ago we read about the missionary that was killed by one of the tribes when trying to make contact with one of the tribes in the Nicobar islands, North Sentinel island , even after he was warned not to do so. Read the article on his death here https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-usa-murder/american-killed-on-remote-indian-island-barred-to-visitors-idUSKCN1NQ0QT
Out of the 321 islands we only visited Andaman North, Ross Island and Have-lock island, of which the latter two I will share more about in another blog.
It took me 5 days to discover the Marina-Water-park was within walking distance, well, about 3 kilometers away from our guesthouse as such. I went past in a tuk-tuk when the driver took me to the local beach…..via the long way of course,😉 but my senses were on overload and distance was relative the first few days. Once I discovered the park I went there as often as I could, walking between the statues of which there are plenty and taking photos of all the unusual sights.
I paid a visit to the aquarium which only cost about R2 to visit but I was prohibited once more to take photos. One is allowed to take videos but no photos, someone needs to explain the absurdity of this to me. I managed to take a few video clips. The aquarium is old and must have been impressive in its heyday but is now only a relic of days gone by. Not much left in the way of displays unless you count the shells and some windows with colorful little fishes in.
Of all the places we managed to cram in during our stay I can honestly say, Have-lock island, the Cellular Jail, Ross Island and the Marine Water Park was my favorites.
More on those in a later blog.