Exploring Ross Island in Andamans was not on my “to-do” list. So, I had kept it pending until the very last day considering if I have some leisure time in hand, I would visit the place. Now that I think back, I believe I would have missed out on so much if I hadn’t made it to Ross Island.
Read on to know why.
Getting to Ross Island
My plans on the last day of my Andamans visit included a visit to Chidiya Tapu, a famed sunset point which is also popular for bird photography. Since it is situated at about 30kms from Port Blair, I didn’t want to club anything with it.
However, when I checked with the boat operators and at the Jetty, I found that there was a ferry that goes every one hour to Ross Island. And they assured me that I could be back in an hour or so.
So, yes. That is how I went about exploring Ross Island aka Netaji Subhash Chandra Boss Island as renamed in 2018 by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
Ross Island is only a couple of kilometers away from Port Blair and is accessible only via crossing the sea, that is on a ferry. You may take the ferry from Aberdeen Jetty or from the Rajiv Gandhi Water Sports Complex. It will take you only about 15 minutes in a ferry to reach Ross Island from Port Blair.
However here’s a catch.
Most of the ferries will give you a time cap of one hour to explore the island after which you will have to return to the boat to get back to Port Blair. Yes, it is unfair because you simply cannot explore this gorgeous island in under an hour.
The ticket for the boats range from Rs 300 to 500, depending on the type of the boat. When you purchase the ticket, you will be assigned to a specific boat and you will be asked to remember its name. This is so that you can get on the same boat back to Port Blair.
That said, if you wish to tour the island at your leisure, you can opt for a private boat which will cost you anywhere between Rs 2000 to Rs 4000. You may also hire a guide to get all the necessary information of the place.
Alternatively, you can always club the Rioss Island visit with one or two more islands while booking the ferry. Ross Island visit is usually accompanied with a visit to North Bay Island, if you are into water sports. You can also visit Viper Island and make it into a Three Island Package Tour.
Ross Island Timings
Ross Island is open on all days except Wednesdays (and public holidays) from 8.00am to 4.30pm. So, you will have to exit the island at the said time because Ross Island is uninhabited and is preserved for its glorious past.
Yes, it is open on weekends as well. The entry fee to Ross Island is Rs 90 of 25 May 2023.
Upon reaching Ross Island, you will be greeted by a herd of spotted deers. This is one of the main attractions of the island where the deers roam freely. They are accustomed to humans and are friendly but I found a couple of strong-headed ones trying to stop the children from patting them, with their horns. So, you should be always vary of the young males!
Some Interesting Facts About Ross Island
There is an interesting history behind the deers found in Ross Island.
It is said that the Britishers introduced spotted deers along with hog deers and barking deers to the island becasue they were missing the game of hunting which they were so used to in the mainland of India. The latter two couldn’t survive in the island and due to the absense of a predator, the spotted deers flourished well.
History of Ross Island
Ross Island was named after the British marine surveyor Sir Daniel Ross. It is believed that the island was occupied by the British as early as 1788 and later during the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the island was earmarked as a penal settlement organization for poiltical prisoners from India.
The British officers used the inmates to clear the jungle and built a mini town to themselves including the Commissioner’s Bungalow, a Secreteriat, Church, Clubhouses, Tennis Courts, Markets, Stores, Printing Press, Hospital, Post Office, Swimming Pool, Bakeries, Cemetery, and other communal amenities.
The island is also home to one of the first water treatment plants in India, set up by the Britishers after the deaths of the inhabitants, especially infants due to water borne diseases.
The Britishers even had an open air theatre for recreation.
Thus, the island was mostly occupied by British jailers, administrators and their families and no wonder Ross Island was called ‘Paris of the East’.
Later, Ross Island became the administrative headquarters of the British for almost 85 years.
Things to Do on Ross Island
Explore the Ruins
In 1941, a massive earthquake hit the island and it was abandoned. The ruins of the buildings that were constructed can still be seen and they are preserved as such. The Japanese occupied the island shortly after the earthquake and went on to stay here for three years from 1942 to 1945. Netaji Subhash Chandra Boss visited the island in 1943 and hoisted the tricolor.
To be honest, I was fascinated by the thick, massive roots of peepal trees engulfing each building ruin. It gave an eery vibe to the whole place as if a remembrance to the atrocities of the past. The grim history can be visualised through these ramshackle buildings.
Sit Around the Pond
If you get to the pond (I couldn’t, because of the time crunch), you can sit under the shade of a tree and relax. It is mesmerizing to be surrounded by such tall trees, peacocks and deers.
Enjoy the Light and Sound Show
Check with the administrators at the island and book the Light and Sound show. I was told that it is even better than the Light and Sound show at the Cellular Jail which in itself was exceptional.
I really, badly wanted to watch the show but it was cancelled due to less number of bookings.
Trek to The Lighthouse
It is next to impossible to explore the island in the one-hour time limit that the boat service sets for you. The only option otherwise is to choose for an eRickshaw or motor buggy drive available on the island.
The buggy takes you to the lighthouse location in a jiffy while the driver quickly explains the history, buildings, and ruins of the island. One still has to trek down (it will take you ten minutes) to reach the exact location of the lighthouse but it is totally worth it.
Spend some time at the location, click pictures, because you will be riveted to the spot, taking in the beauty of the sea.
The lighthouse location is truly a photographer’s delight.
Walk back up and you will be greeted with vendors selling fresh tender coconuts and kulfis. Make sure that you hydrate well. You may then choose to take a walk or hop onto the same buggy to head back to the starting point.
Spend Time With the Deers
There are close to 550 deers in the island. I chose to walk for sometime and spend the remaining of the ten minutes I had, with the deers. It was truly delightful. However, I would urge you not to feed the deers, especially human food.
There are many refreshment options available at Ross Islands. You have vendors selling kulfis, tender coconut, and packaged waterbottles at most corners. There are benches to sit on, under the shades. Washroom facilities too are available on the island.
Tips on Visiting Ross Island, Andaman
- As you can see in the pictures, I look super exhausted and tired because I managed to book the 1.30pm ferry to explore Ross Islands. Needless to say, it is a pretty bad time to visit the place given the soaring temperatures in the month of April. If time permits, opt for an early morning or evening ferry to explore the place.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes becuase you are going to walk quite a fair bit. Even if you are visiting the island during summers or rains, it is important to wear loose-fitted, light clothes that you are comfortable in.
- Carry sunglasses, hat, or umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
- Carry cash to spend on the entry fee, refreshments, and the buggy, if you choose to ride on it.
- As I mention always, carry your own waterbottles. Refill and use as needed. There are provisions like a free water station in Ross island. Avoid littering.
So, is Ross Island worth a visit?
Absolutely, yes! I would go on to say, it should be on top of your priority list when you are in Port Blair.
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