Ross Island Andaman: Unveiling the Secrets of a Colonial Past

Ross Island Andaman is steeped in historical significance and natural beauty, offering a unique glimpse into India’s colonial past amidst its rich ecological setting. Known officially as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, the name commemorates the prominent freedom fighter. Situated a mere 3 km east of Port Blair, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands administrative capital, Ross Island serves as a window into the bygone era. Its old structures stand as silent witnesses to the trials and transformations over the centuries, including those from British and Japanese occupations.

The island is not only about historical ruins; it beckons nature lovers and solitude seekers alike. A sanctum for various wildlife, it brings a plethora of activities ranging from exploring the lush green trails to watching a mesmerizing light and sound show detailing its storied past. With its natural charm and peaceful surroundings, it presents an escape from the bustling city life. The experience is made whole by the variety of fauna that calls the island home, and the warm reassurance that the island’s conservation efforts continue to preserve its delicate ecosystem.

Key Takeaways

  • Ross Island is a historical and natural attraction close to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.
  • The island’s ruins narrate tales of the British and Japanese era and host a vibrant wildlife sanctuary.
  • Visiting Ross Island offers a mix of heritage tours, animal sightings, and peaceful nature walks.

Travel Information

Ross Island Jetty

Before you set off to explore Ross Island, now known as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, in the Andaman Islands, it’s imperative to know how to get there and the prime time to visit. This section offers guidance to ensure your journey to this historic and scenic island is smooth sailing.

Getting There

  • Location: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island is situated a mere 5 kilometres east of Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.
  • Ferry & Boat Services:
    • Scheduled Services:
      • Daily ferry services are available from Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex in Port Blair.
      • Typically, the first boat departs at 8:30 AM and services continue at regular intervals.
    • Ticketing:
      • Entry tickets for the ferry can be purchased at the ticket counter at the Water Sports Complex.
      • An average round-trip ticket costs approximately ₹300-400.

Best Time to Visit

  • Optimal Season:
    • The best time to visit is between October and May, capitalising on pleasant weather and easier accessibility.
  • Weather Considerations:
    • This period avoids the monsoon season, giving you the chance to enjoy the island without the interruption of heavy rains.
  • Island Timings:
    • General Visiting Hours:
      • The island is open to tourists from around 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
    • Be mindful of local timings and allow for time to explore and return before services cease for the day.

Planning your trip to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island needn’t be complicated. By ensuring you’re aware of service schedules and optimal visiting times, you’re setting the stage for an unforgettable visit to a location rich with history and natural allure.

Historical Overview

Navy Office at Ross Island

Ross Island, enveloped in both natural beauty and a complex past, offers a captivating journey through time. The island embodies a key chapter in India’s colonial history, transforming from an emblem of British power to a symbol of freedom and resilience.

Pre-Independence Era

  • Penal Settlement: Discover how Ross Island began as a penal colony, playing a central role in the British administration’s efforts to consolidate control. Facts about the harsh living conditions and the treatment of prisoners highlight the island’s grim legacy as a prison.
    • Records from the late 18th century show the establishment of a penal settlement wherein prisoners were subjected to hard labour.
    • Notable structures like the Chief Commissioner’s House and the Presbyterian Church were built by convict labour, symbolising British authority.
  • British Colony: Explore the transformation of Ross Island into a thriving British colony complete with infrastructure and amenities that stood in stark contrast to the prisoners’ plight.
    • The island served as the administrative headquarters, and the remnants of colonial architecture alongside the picturesque scenery are a testament to this period.
    • Through the ruins of bakeries, barracks, and bungalows, you can visualise the daily life during its peak when it was known as the “Paris of the East”.

World War II Impact

  • Japanese Occupation: The island’s strategic importance was highlighted during World War II when it fell under Japanese control. Learn about the Japanese bunkers and other military structures that remain as silent witnesses to this era.
    • Artifacts from the time include Japanese Bunkers, illustrating the island’s shift from a British stronghold to a Japanese fortification.
    • Hear the personal stories of survivors that shed light on the day-to-day existence under the three-year Japanese regime.
  • Earthquake Devastation: An earthquake in 1941 changed the island’s fate dramatically, leading to significant damage. This event exposed the fragility of the seemingly invincible British Empire’s outpost.
    • The earthquake, followed by a series of natural calamities, left Ross Island in a state of ruin, which eventually led to the British abandoning the island.

Post-Independence Developments

Ross Island View From Boat
  • Indian Navy’s Role: Post-independence, Ross Island came under the jurisdiction of the Indian Navy. Insights into how the Navy has preserved the island’s historical significance while promoting tourism.
    • The Navy has established a small museum to curate the artefacts and photographs showcasing the island’s history.
    • Today, the island is considered a prime tourist spot, offering a unique combination of historical insights and natural allure.
  • Ruins & Regeneration: The remnants of buildings, once the stronghold of the British administration, are now overtaken by nature, creating a poignant scene that allures historians and tourists alike.
    • Nature has reclaimed the colonial edifices left behind, with roots and branches intertwining the ruins—an eloquent statement on the impermanence of human endeavours.

Engage with me, Vivek, your local tour operator in the Andaman Islands, and I’ll personally guide you through the historical labyrinth of Ross Island. Bring along your curiosity for an expedition that’s as intellectually enriching as it is visually stunning.

Attractions on Ross Island

British Buildings Ruins

Ross Island, known officially as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Island, is a window to the rich historical past and natural splendour of the Andaman Islands. Here’s a glimpse of what you can discover during your visit.

Architectural Ruins

  • Explore the British colonial architecture, which includes buildings like the Church, officers’ quarters, and the grand ballrooms.
    • Historical significance: The island was the administrative capital of the Andamans during the British rule.
    • Japanese influence: The remnants of Japanese bunkers provide a different historical perspective, highlighting the Island’s strategic role in World War II.

Natural Wonders

  • Experience the island’s nature through its lush green landscapes and panoramic sea views.
    • Activities to enjoy: Partaking in a leisurely stroll around the island allows for sightings of deer and other wildlife, enhancing the connection with nature. A visit to the Deer Park is a highlight.
    • Photography: With its picturesque setting, the island provides ample opportunities for those keen to capture its beauty on camera.

Museum and Galleries

  • Delve into the island’s past at the museum, which houses relics and photographs from the pre-independence era.
    • A learning experience: The museum provides insights into the lives of the British officers and the use of Ross Island as a penal settlement.
    • Interactivity: Engage with the Light & Sound show that brings the island’s history to life through a vivid narrative.

Remember, friendly banter goes a long way—did you know Ross Island was once considered the ‘Paris of the East’ due to its opulent lifestyle during the British era? Despite its small size, its story is as vast as the ocean surrounding it. So, when you’re packing your sunscreen and hats, don’t forget to bring along your curiosity—it’ll come in handy!

Visitor Amenities

Ruins Of old British Officers Quarters

When you arrive at Ross Island, you’ll experience a variety of amenities designed to make your visit pleasant and convenient. From satisfying your hunger with local delicacies to taking home a piece of Andaman in the form of souvenirs, the island caters to all your basic needs.

Dining Options

  • Lunch and Refreshments
    • No lavish restaurants, but several small eateries and a cafeteria serve local and mainland Indian cuisine.
    • Lunch: Typically a selection of Indian dishes such as samosas, biryani, and vegetarian options.
    • Refreshments: Available throughout the day, offering options such as tea, coffee, and soft drinks.
  • Seating Areas
    • Common seating areas located near eateries where you can enjoy your meal amid the island’s scenic backdrop.

Shopping & Souvenirs

  • Local Stores
    • A few stores present, selling essential items and snacks.
    • Farzand Ali Store: A well-known spot on the island, often highlighted by visitors for its range of products.
  • Souvenirs
    • A selection of souvenir shops on the island where you can purchase mementos of your visit.
    • Possibilities include everything from local handicrafts to Andaman-themed t-shirts and postcards.

Nature and Wildlife

Beach at Ross Island

When you step onto Ross Island, you are greeted by an abundant natural panorama that is as diverse as it is enchanting. The island’s rich tapestry of greenery and wildlife makes it a prime spot for nature lovers.

Flora and Fauna

Explore the verdant landscape of Ross Island, which boasts a variety of tall trees and lush canopies. Among these, you will find:

  • Tall mahua trees, known for their flowers used in local brews
  • Coconut palms, lining the beaches and further enriching the island’s tropical charm

The island is particularly noted for its deer population, which roam freely among the ruins, providing a surreal contrast against the historical backdrop.

You might also be lucky enough to spot:

  • Colourful peacocks add a splash of vibrancy as they strut through the undergrowth
  • A myriad of birds, both endemic and migratory, which can be observed in their natural habitat

Sanctuaries & Conservation

The concept of sanctuary is taken seriously here. Efforts have been made to ensure that the indigenous wildlife is protected, offering a safe haven for many species.

On your stroll through the island, here’s what you’ll find:

  • Designated conservation areas that provide crucial habitat for wildlife
  • Active measures to protect the natural environment and its inhabitants

Such initiatives ensure that Ross Island remains a sanctuary in every sense, giving you a peek into untouched and well-conserved ecosystems.

Events and Activities

Ross Island in Andaman is a treasure trove of history and beautiful landscapes, making it a great spot for cultural enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Here, you’ll discover the array of events and activities that could be the highlight of your visit.

Cultural Events

  • Light and Sound Show:
    • Experience the history of Ross Island brought to life through the captivating Light and Sound Show.
    • Schedule: Usually held after sunset; check local listings for exact timings.
    • Venue: Set amongst the historical ruins, the show is a blend of storytelling and visual splendour.
    • Feature: Narrated by Bollywood actor Om Puri, the show vividly narrates the tales of the island’s past.

Water Sports & Recreation

  • Water Sports:
    • Embrace the opportunity to participate in various water activities offered around Ross Island.
    • Activities Include:
      • Snorkelling: Spot colourful coral reefs and a variety of marine life.
      • Scuba Diving: Delve into the underwater world with guided dives for all experience levels.
    • Cost: Prices may vary; it’s worth checking with local operators for the best deals.
    • Tips: Always listen to safety briefings and wear appropriate gear provided by certified operators.
  • Recreational Facilities:
    • Although Ross Island does not have a tennis court or swimming pool, the island’s natural beauty compensates with ample space for relaxation.

Visitor Experience

Experience the historic allure of Ross Island with guided tours or through personal anecdotes.

Guided Tours

  • Significance: Explore Ross Island’s rich history with a knowledgeable guide.
    • A guide can offer insights into the Victorian-era ruins and their significance.
    • Guides are usually available at the entry point and can be hired for a detailed walkthrough.
  • What to Expect:
    • A guided walk usually lasts between 3-4 hours, covering the key attractions.
    • The cost for entry is Rs 50 for adults and Rs 25 for children, with tours starting from 9.00 AM.
  • Favourite Stops:
    • The Light and Sound Show weaving the island’s history into an auditory spectacle.
    • The Old Ruins: an exploration of a bygone era’s remnants.
    • The Sanctuary: a serene escape showcasing the island’s biodiversity.

Personal Stories

  • Connecting with Visitors: Share your journey on Ross Island.
    • Visitors often recount their awe at the sight of nature reclaiming historical ruins.
    • Personal accounts celebrate the island’s blend of beauty and history.
  • Unique Experiences:
    • Having a quiet lunch amidst the ruins, where the island’s past whispers to you.
    • Visitors often feel like they’re stepping into a “lost jungle city”, likening it to scenic backdrops from Hollywood movies.

Remember, your experience on Ross Island can be as enriched and unique as the tales the island itself holds. Whether you’re guided by a seasoned storyteller or crafting your own narrative, these memories will be etched into your journey.

Conservation and Preservation

Ruins of a Church at Ross Island

When you set foot on Ross Island, you are stepping into a world where careful conservation meets the call for sustainable tourism.

Restoration Efforts

  • Historic Ruins:
    • The crumbling structures that once stood as the administrative headquarters of the British Raj are now under preservation.
    • Efforts are in place to stabilise and restore these ruins, ensuring that history remains tangible for visitors.
  • Example: The reconstruction of the Presbyterian Church has been undertaken to prevent further deterioration.

Sustainable Tourism

  • Approach:
    • Tourism on Ross Island is managed with the goal to minimise environmental impact and preserve the island’s natural and historical assets.
  • Preservation Tactics:_
    • Regulations: Controls on the number of visitors to the island to prevent over-tourism.
    • Education: Tourists are informed about the fragility of the ecosystem and the importance of the ruins.
  • Economic Incentive:
    • Local businesses and tour operators, like ours, are encouraged to adopt eco-friendly practices to ensure a smaller footprint and to maintain the island’s allure for future visitors.
  • Success Stories:
    • The jetty area and reef flat, previously affected by tourism, have seen improvements due to these sustainable practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ross Island, known for its historical remnants and natural beauty, offers a range of activities and sights that intrigue many visitors. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions that might help you plan your trip effectively.

What are the top activities for families to enjoy on Ross Island?

  • Exploring the Island:
    • Take leisurely walks to explore British colonial ruins.
    • Spot deer and peacocks roaming freely on the island.
  • Beach activities:
    • Relax on the pristine beaches.
    • Enjoy picnics by the sea.

Could you reveal some of the lesser-known attractions on Ross Island?

  • The British Cemeteries:
    • Visit the old British cemeteries for a glimpse of the past.
  • Japanese Bunkers:
    • Explore hidden Japanese bunkers from World War II.

How can one experience the history of Ross Island?

  • Guided Tours:
    • Take a guided tour to learn about the island’s history as the administrative headquarters of the British.
  • Museum Visits:
    • Visit the museum to view photographs and antiques from the British era.

Are there any eerie tales associated with Ross Island being haunted?

  • Ghost Stories:
    • Listen to tales of sightings and mysterious sounds from the old, dilapidated buildings at night.

What is the cost of a ferry from Port Blair to Ross Island?

  • Ferry Costs:
    • Expect to pay approximately ₹100-₹200 for a round trip per person.

Does Ross Island feature any unique light and sound shows?

  • Light and Sound Show:
    • Attend the evening Light and Sound Show that depicts the island’s history, usually at a cost of around ₹350-₹450 per person.

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