“Where there’s will, there’s always a wave” 😀
In order to visit North Bay Beach and Ross Island, one needs to take a boat from Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex in Port Blair. We booked our tickets in advance the previous night with a local operator. Many tour operators also have the ‘Three-Island’ tour which includes Viper Island along with the two aforementioned spots. We paid 3800 INR for 7 of us for the boat rides to the two islands.
Everyone on board is provided with a life jacket and a guide mentions general safety tips. The journey to North Bay Beach takes about 30 minutes and the one to Ross Island from North Bay takes 20 minutes. We tried to get some photos of the scenery along the way but with the boat riding the waves, it was hard to get a good one.
NORTH BAY BEACH
Although mentioned as an island by most operators on their sign boards, North Bay is actually a beach on the South Andaman island – the same island on which Port Blair is located. The beach, however is not accessible by land because of the thick vegetation and only way to visit is via boat which is why most people mistake it to be an island. The image with a lighthouse on a beach on the back of a 20 Rupee note is said to be of the lighthouse present on North Bay beach.
Upon arrival at North Bay in the morning we had to pay a minimal sum of 10 INR per head as entrance fee to the beach. The beach greeted us with being covered with infinite number of dead coral parts instead of sand. The water is so clear and pristine that one can see the exact color and shape of each pebble and coral below the surface. Adding to the view is the thick greenery that is present on the either side of the beach.
On heading inland, there are plenty of stalls selling snacks, meals and artifacts. Sipping on coconut water helped us to stay hydrated. There are 2-3 stalls offering a variety of water activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, sea walk, glass bottom boat rides and a semi-submarine ride.
We opted for the semi-submarine ride as this was something new. The ride costs 1850 INR per person. The semi-submarine is similar to a boat except that the passenger seating area is submerged with wide windows to provide a great view of the corals along the North Bay beach. The coral safari lasts for 2 hours showcasing different types of corals and various marine life in their environment. The ride seemed impressive till the first 30 minutes and then it got boring. About an hour later, it started getting suffocating and we headed up to the deck for some fresh air and spent the remaining time looking at the landscape from the deck. A few people on board even felt seasick. After the coral safari, we spent the rest of the time playing on the beach until our ride to Ross Island arrived.
Named after hydrographer Captain Daniel Ross who served in East India Company, Ross Island was the administrative headquarters of the Andaman Islands under the from 1858 till 1941 when an earthquake hit the island. The British then abandoned the island and shifted the headquarters to Port Blair. In its heyday, the island had a bazaar, bakery, church, hospital, secretariat, tennis court, cemetery, water treatment plant, printing press and several stores. The island was occupied by the Japanese during WW2 in 1942 which was later freed by the Allies.
Today, the island is reclaimed by nature and managed by the Navy which has set up a small post, INS Jarawa. The entrance fees to Ross Island is 30 INR which has to be paid at the island itself. Most buildings have given way and few stand amidst the growing vegetation. Ruins of the chief commissioner’s office with its swimming pool, huge gardens and ballrooms can be seen today. Deer, rabbits and peacocks that roam the island are friendly and not shy of tourists. You can expect them to approach you for food. At the shore, you can see tiny snails and mudskippers(a type of amphibious fish) climbing the walls of the island. Except officials, no one is allowed to stay here after sunset.
Both North Bay beach and Ross Island are a delight to visit. North Bay in particular must not be missed. It is arguably one of the best coral beaches in the Andaman with clear turquoise water. The semi submarine although was a good experience gets boring and can be an issue for people with a history of motion sickness. We would recommend to opt for snorkeling instead which is a more lively experience and also pocket friendly.