Thursday, April 30, 2015

Port Blair & Ross Island

Some scenes from around Port Blair

A view of Ripple Resort cottages

Statue of a freedom fighter - Probably Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Park around the Aberdeen jetty from where you catch a boat to Ross Island

Above & below - scenes from the Marine Museum

after some haggling, Meena, Meghana & self hired a small motorboat for the 2 minute journey to Ross island. tjis saml island visible from the Marina was home to the British officers who built a very comfortable camp for themselves while the natives toiled in the mainland across. Later, it also faced a brutal Japanese invasion during World War II  followed by a devastating earthquake. Today it is more of a memorial as most of the structures are crumbling. here are a few scenes.
Above & below - scenes from Ross Island

the Commissioners House

Remains of the Church

The Charming Corbyn's cove area was a great motivator for Meghana & I to have an early morning wake-up for birding
Above & below - Pacific Swallows congregating. Also seen the yellow bittern & the endemic Andaman Coucal. At night heard the call of the Andaman Wood Owl, but all efforts by our entire BNHS group to trace it came to naught. Well these are some of the disappointments that birders have learnt to take in their stride!

At dusk

Scenes near the Marina

Andamans is well known for being the "Kala Pani" or literally translated the black waters of India. during the British rule, Many Indian nationalists, the most famous of the being Veer Savarkar were interred in the cellular jail that was built to house something like 700 prisoners undergoing rigorous imprisonemt. Today, it is a national monument and a must visit for any tourist coming to the island. While the prisoners have long since gone, the ambiance is enough to instill an eerie feeling of an unfortunate era gone by in Indian history.The government has done a good effort in showcasing this monument to the world with good graphical presentations and a Son-et-lumiere in the evening.

you guessed it - the place where prisoners on death row where hung to death - 3 at a time!

RI extracting oil - an excruciating, body breaking task

See the many cells where prisoners underwent solitary confinement

model of the layout

Mt. Harriet National Park

An interesting ride across the city to the Northern side of Port Blair brings us to the Haddo Jetty for a ferry crossing to Mt. Harriet National Park. This amazing Park boasts a good number of endemic species & I get some of my lifers from here. It is a gradual & very enjoyable climb walk up the the Forest Rest house that has a distinct colonial air with its wood paneling & ambience
Not a good photo of the Oriole

This flighty butterfly kept us all running after it - it is the Andaman Birdwing, one of the endemics

Green Imperial Pigeon

Andaman Green Pigeon, taken in harsh light & at quite a distance from the watch tower

The sea from the watch tower

Another view of the Andaman Green Pigeon

Andaman Bulbul

the more common Red-whiskered Bulbul

female of the Cruiser

Each to his own - left the common Myna & right the White-headed Starling - an endemic

Two endemics - Left the white Headed Starling & right the Andaman Woodpecker

Trying to catch em on my lens at Mt. Harriet National Park

above & below, when looking for birds, could not help catch some scenary too

Baratung Limestone Caves, Havelock Islands & Chidiaya Tapu

8 days is surely a very short time to explore the extraordinary diverse area, yet time is of essence & we head towards some of the other interesting areas of South Andamans as well as a two night stay at the famous Havelock islands
Chidiya Tapu or literally translated as "Bird Island" is another interesting place for birding especially to see the endemics. Once again it is a gently undulating area & makes for a good early morning sojourn.
pair of Long-tailed Parakeets - again endemic to the Andaman& Nicobar Islands

its raining endemics! - Spot-Breasted Woodpecker

Try to figure out the bird with the berry in its bill - Vernal Hanging Parrot - the only Parrot found in India (others are Parakeets). This bird can also be seen in the NE Himalayas, the Eastern  & Western Ghats of India (the hilly range on Peninsualar India's Eastern &Western Coast)

another view of my favorite Long-tailed Parakeet 

this charming bird is the Andaman Woodpecker
a visit to Andamans is incomplete without a visit to the famous Havelock Islands. Catching the ferry from Phoenix Bay nr the Chatham Saw Mill is in itself quite a grand affair - almost feels like boarding a flight. You have to check in an hour in advance with your boarding pass A swanky vessel complete with an on-board counter of coffee & snacks ensures that you enjoy the two-hour ride in luxury unlike the rather smelly diesel polluting ferries for other destinations. However, out at the choppy sea, this boat really rocks & you need to hold on if you do not want to be thrown down.

This is the swanky ride
Andaman serpent Eagle right in the resort

Some good birding in Havelock too.

Flock of Blackbirds

the resort - Beach No. 5. good ambiance right on the sea shore, but maintenance & customer service need to be improved

After a two km trek through some beautiful forests & an adrenaline pumping  500 mts walk through the mangroves with the rising tide we come to elephant beach to view the marine life. This was rather a short 10 min ride in glass-bottomed boats. would have appreciated more of it to see the beautiful marine life

View of the resort grounds with the sea beyond
the famous Radhanagari beach is crescent shaped with forests all around. Beaches do have a great draw for most tourists to chill out & sure enough after landing at the jetty at Havelock we were taken directly to this beach. Entry is full of stalls selling various various bric-a-brac & of course the omnipresent Chai (tea)
Some creativity in the sand

Sunset at Radhanagari

Burrowing by Hermit Crabs
One of the 7 billion Homo Sapiens that overpopulate this planet. At Radhanagari beach, trying to gel with the background - Ha ha

more views of the beach

Andaman Teal at a wetland near Port Blair

Chestnut-headed Beeaters

Above & below - Mud volcano at Baratung

An increasingly popular destination for Andaman visitors, is the limestone caves at Baratung islands. The journey itself is quite memorable. First and early morning rise at 3 am, tea at 3.15 am and on our way at 3.30 a.m. That surely tells you something of the exciting journey. After a long drive in the darkness through some beautiful forests we reach a point at 5.40 am where our vehicle joins a convoy of some 20 other with a police escort in front & the rear. The reason - we will be passing the Jarawa Reserve Forest.  the convoy starts at 6 am sharp and there will be no stopping during this period. Strict instructions by our camp leaders - "Please remember that the Jarawas are people like us, so do not treat them as objects for viewing and photographing. If a Jarawa sees you taking a photograph or looking through any lens, there is every likelihood he will just come and grab your equipment & walk away with it and there is nothing we can do." Sound advice indeed! It got us all scampering to pack our equipment and stock it away in safety. We did get to view a few Jarawas with their faces painted white & bare bodies. the drive through some of the dense forests was a wonderful experience.
The convoy ends at Middle Street where we take a puffing, crowded ferry for a five-minute drive to Baratung & again a smaller boat to reach our destination through some beautiful mangroves. And a further 1.2 kms walk through forests and fields till we reach the Limestone caves.

Above & below - views of the Limestone caves