Saturday, 16 June 2012

A Holiday at Andaman - A Review - Day 2

This is Part III. If you have not read Part II of this review, you can do so by clicking here --> Day 1

Day 2: 16 June, 2012

Today is the day of the 3 Island cruise. The 3 islands to be covered were Ross Island, Viper Island, and North Bay Island. 
Do not mistake the word cruise here - for you will be taken along on a big run down boat. Nothing too fancy. And the boat will be filled with a lot of other tourists - so it is just a ferry and not a cruise. 

Tip: Do not forget to carry an extra pair of clothes. Extremely important. Swimwears are not encouraged - it is not that cool a place. Ladies were seen entering the beach in sarees!

We had an early breakfast and reached at Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex at 07:30AM. The boat starts only at 09:00. AITPL paid for the ticket for the ferry. We were warned before hand by AITPL that we will need to carry our own lunch. We opted out of buying anything since we did not know if we would be sea sick - turned out it was a wise decision. However, it would be good for you to carry some snacks if you cannot sit idle amidst a bunch of tourists who have 3 course meals - Indian Style!

The Ferry for the 3-Island Cruise

Tip: Reach the water sports complex as early as possible to find the best spots on the ferry. Later it became so crowded that some people had to stand throughout. It is on first-come-first-serve basis - no seat numbers or reservations.

Many people would try to sell you tickets to various adventure sports before the ferry starts and also on the ferry. But I would advise that it is unnecessary - you can get all those tickets on North Bay Island depending on your mood and on how tired you are.

Ross Island:
The first island we visited was Ross Island. It is not very far from Port Blair. 45 minutes were given to see this island which frankly is not enough to explore all of it. Entry tickets were borne by AITPL. Camera ticket cost Rs.10/-.
Ferar Beach, Ross Island

It is better to call this Island "The Ruins of Ross Island". It was the British empire's Indian headquarters and it is all in ruins now. But it is really beautiful and extremely windy. Extremely!!! 

Tip: Be sure to climb down to Ferar Beach. You will be amazed at how clean and blue the water is.

This island was supposed to be filled with deers and peacocks, but all I saw was a glimpse of a deer and a lot of hens! They probably hid themselves when all of us loud tourists arrived.

Extremely Windy @ Ross Island
Pros: - Extremely beautiful. Loved the way the tress have sprung their roots around all the buildings - like a big spider web. Ferar beach looks nice - but is out of bounds - you can only see it from afar. Don't miss the bunker that the Japanese built when they conquered Andaman and the church (or what is left of it) at the top of the hill.

Cons: - Too less time to see it all. Extremely windy - take care of your caps and umbrellas.

Viper Island:
Viper Island is the second island that we go to. Meanwhile lunch happens mid-sea (which we skipped). The journey from Ross Island to Viper Island is really long - about 1.5 hours.

Ship Repair, enroute Viper Island
Tip: Keep an eye out for 'Phoenix Harbour' the main harbour of Port Blair and the floating ship repair and maintenance thingy - not sure what it is called :)

Shortly put - Viper Island is a waste of time! There is nothing there. Absolutely nothing.

The only thing is the ruin of a gallows, on top of a hillock, were Indian freedom fighters were hanged. 

The Gallows atop a hillock, Viper Island
Pros: Nothing. You feel nothing even if you are patriotic Indian!

Cons: Why is this Island a part of the package?

20 minutes was given for this Island, but frankly getting on and off the ferry took more time than seeing the Island itself.

North Bay Island:
Now, you are probably disappointed that you did not get enough time at Ross Island and that nothing was there to see on Viper Island, do not be disheartened - For North bay Island is the best.

It is pretty close by from Viper Island. The first sight of the light house on top of North Bay Island as you are pulling up is the picture on the back of a Rs.20 note. 
The picture behind a Rs.20 note, North Bay Island

Tip: Keep a Rs.20 note with you so that you can compare the actual thing with the picture behind it. It is pretty amazing.

The ferry will not pull up all the way to the shore and there is no harbour here. Why, you may ask - because this island is rich with coral reefs. So a glass-bottomed boat takes you from the ferry to the beach. 

You are given 2.5 hours here, but be sure to get on the first glass-bottomed boat so that you have enough time to enjoy here.

Glass-bottomed Boat - Like the name suggests it has a glass bottom. Not all of it. Just a small portion - but big enough for you to see the corals. Yes, you can actually see the corals and they are beautiful. Really beautiful. If you want a private tour of all the corals, you can opt for them to take you on a ride around the island in the same boat. That will cost you Rs.300 per head.

Adventure Sports - 1 Jet Ski Ride and 1 Snorkeling session was a part of the package we booked with AITPL. Other than that there are a number of other rides like Banana ride, Speed Boat Ride, and Sofa Ride - all 3 of which are extremely aggressive. The speed boat ride happens with you sitting at the front end of the boat and not inside it - this is awesome! We tried everything except for the Sofa ride - cos we were just too tired to try it. Snorkeling was the best of all - saw a lot of corals and few ornamental fishes. Each sport separately costs Rs.500 per head. You DO NOT have to know swimming to try any of these. I don't - and it was perfectly safe.

Tip: For Rs.3,000 you can do a tame version of scuba diving here - called "Sea Walk". Have some cash handy if you want to try it. No ATMS on this Island.

Pros: Time flies on North Bay Island and before you know your glass-bottomed boat is ready to take you back to the ferry.

Cons: The toilets and changing rooms here are unkempt and dirty - but you have to adjust no other way! If you are not into adventure sports (not for the weak-hearted), you are going to be disappointed. Beach is not good for bathing as it is filled with corals and you can hardly walk barefoot on the beach or in the water.

Tip: Save some time for the end to have some snacks. You are going to be terribly hungry at the end of all these adventure sports. Cigarettes are also available here - Only brands available are Wills and Flake!

The journey back is long and all of the ferry is silent, too tired to speak.

Reached back at Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex at around 06:30PM. Went back to hotel for a hearty dinner and crash on the bed!

Tip: Keep band-aids handy. You will get several cuts during the snorkeling session from all the corals on the sea bed. Not a problem if you do know to swim.

Read Part IV of this review here --> Day 3
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