Port Blair, Andaman Islands
The Andamans lie on the ancient trade routes between India and the Far East. They were known to mariners from as early as the 7th century. Among the first western visitors in the 13th century was Marco Polo, who wrote of the inhabitants as being "hostile people who would kill and eat any outsider that ventured onto the islands." However, it was later established that cannibalism was not a practice in the islands.
The islands were first settled by the British in the late 18th century when Captain Archibald Blair, on behalf of the British East India Company, founded a naval station on Chatham Island, now known as Port Blair. In 1858 a penal colony was established in Port Blair, used mainly to hold Indian freedom fighters. The clearing of jungle areas and reclaiming of swamps by these first convicts gradually helped to establish a settlement. The growing population consisted mostly of convicts who, after they served their time, decided to stay and settle in the Andamans. During World War II, the islands were occupied by the Japanese, who incarcerated many Indians on the suspicion of being British spies. As a result the local tribes took up guerrilla activities against the Japanese. When India gained independence from Britain in 1947, the islands became part of the Indian Union.
Port Blair is the only town of any size in the islands and functions as the administrative capital. Situated around the main harbor and spread out over a few hills, Port Blair has the air of a lively Indian market town. A number of museums offer interesting exhibits featuring the marinelife, rare animal species found in the Andamans and the way of life of the indigenous tribes. A major tourist attraction is the Cellular Jail built by the British at the beginning of this century and regarded today as a shrine to India's freedom fighters.
The ship is scheduled to anchor at Port Blair. The Chatham Jetty is about 3 miles from the town center. Taxis are generally available at the pier. We recommend you establish the fare with the driver before setting out.
Your best buys here will be wood carvings, shells and spices. The main concentration of shops is found at Aberdeen Bazaar. Most vendors will expect you to bargain, while the State Emporium has fixed prices. Many shops close between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. The local currency is the Rupee.
South Indian dishes are a good choice in a variety of restaurants, as are fish, prawns or lobster. We recommend drinking only bottled water and beverages.
The zoo features exhibits of more than 200 Andaman and Nicobar species that are found nowhere else in the world, including the Nicobar pigeon and Andaman pig.
This small museum displays different types of woods that grow here, including padauk which characteristically has light and dark-colored wood contained in the same tree.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.