Viper Island-beautiful, serene and historical

Viper Island

Viper Island is a small, beautiful and serene island located 23.6 kilometers from Port Blair, capital city of the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Covering a surface area of 69 acres, the island got its name from the ship in which Archibald Blair, a British colonial officer, came to the islands to set up a penal settlement in 1789.The ship got wrecked and was abandoned near the island. There is also another theory that says that the island's name comes from the many viper snakes found on the island. These vipers are one of the main reasons why the island is so sparsely populated.

Main attractions at viper island

Before the famous Cellular prison was built in 1906, the colonialists used Viper Island jail. The jail was built in

1867 to hold Indian freedom fighters, and its construction was supervised by a British officer called Barnet Ford. The Indian freedom fighters who were held on Viper island jail underwent horrendous suffering, and convicts who violated the rules were made to work while chained on the island.

Due to such horrible working conditions, the jail was called the Viper chain gang jail. Historical documents record the torture that Indian royals (maharajahs) and peasants were subjected to as they tried to end British rule. Jail-life was characterized by whipping stands, lock-ups and solitary cells. Visitors flock to Viper Island to see the ruins of the jail and experience this history.

In addition to its historical importance, the island's serenity and captivating grandeur is another big draw for tourists. The numerous coconut plantations enhance the island’s scenic beauty. Viper island is perfect for picnicking or just basking on the sunny beach. Due to its clear waters, swimming and snorkeling enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy its facilities. With its low population, visitors can also take walks and enjoy its mesmerizing beauty and fascinating, pristine fauna and flora. This also makes it ideal for photography. Another popular tourist attraction is a hill which has gallows where the colonialists hanged female prisoners. Because of its tranquility, Viper Island is also popular with couples who are on honeymoon.

Other interesting attractions to visit in and around Viper Island include

  • Samudrika Marine Museum- Run by the Indian army, this museum provides a lot of information relating to the island, including its animals and plants, tribal history and marine ecosystem.
  • New India Cafe- this café is popular among the locals. It serves a selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes from various parts of India.
  • Chatham Saw Mill-Founded by the British in 1836, this is one of the biggest saw mills in the whole of Asia.
  • Adi Bengali Hotel-With Bengalis being the main inhabitants on the island, this hotel serves delicious Bengali cuisine.
  • Lighthouse Residency- This is the best place for lovers of seafood such as red snapper, crab or prawns (cooked or grilled) served with rice and chips.

Getting to the island

The island is accessible by boat from phoenix bay jetty and the journey takes 20 minutes. There are also cruise services which provide visitors with tours to various parts of the island including the prison. Port Blair is well connected by air from Kolkata, Chennai and Bhubaneswar. The flight from Chennai is the shortest, taking around two hours.