Wandering through Ross Island in Andamans

posted in: Andamans, Asia, Heritage, India | 86

I am sure that by now you know my fascination for ghost towns No matter where they are, what story they have or what their current state is, I am game for one. Ross Island was no exception. A trip to Andamans for me would have been incomplete without a visit to this ghost town. And what a visit that was. Wandering through Ross Island made me feel like Lara Croft in those hidden tombs. The only thing that seemed missing were her equipment, especially the torch. Not that I needed one. It was more to get into the role ;-).

Ross Island
Ross Island

Ross Island has none of those eerie stories or melancholic ones. If anything, that Island reminds you of the Good Times that the British had in India. From its gorgeous herds of deer to the roots covered ruins and the stories it left behind, there is plenty to see and discover here. The best part is that you can literally walk into those ruins without any restriction or direction. Kind of Do-it-Yourself, which makes the whole visit even more amazing. However, before I embark on my highlights of Ross Island, a quick introduction and history to the place.

History of Ross Island

Ross Island was named after a British Maritime Surveyor – Sir Daniel Ross and owing to its strategic geographical location, became a hub of the British hold in the Andaman Seas. For over 80 years, many families settled here and the entire island was transformed into a lively hub – almost akin to British town. Besides the officers’ houses, the British had also, established bakeries, stores, club houses, a church, cemetery and more – in short, all that was required for a comfortable living. Ross Island was dotted with manicured lawns and was quite vibrant with parties in the open air theater, ball room dances, tennis matches, some cricket, sailing races and swimming. The settlement was so good that it was soon known as the Paris of the East. Only till it was hit by an earthquake in 1941, which ended the British revelry on this island.

British then, abandoned Ross Island as a residential hub and moved to Port Blair. Shortly after the same, in 1942, it was captured by Japan, who held onto it till 1945. With them leaving, the Indian Navy took possession of this island and since then, Ross Island remains in their capable hands.

On Ross Island
On Ross Island

This entire history of Ross Island still lives on in the ruins that are found here. It is fascinating to walk through them and imagine what colonial life was back then. I had an absolute blast doing so and from the many relics that were left behind, here are my 8 highlights of Ross Island.

1) Fascinating Fauna on Ross Island

Deer on Ross Island
Deer on Ross Island

The first thing that you notice are herds of deer on the Island. It is like arriving on a small piece of natural paradise. Most of the deer are quite friendly and allow you to approach them and pet them. We had a fun time taking some pictures with these golden wonders. I do not have an answer to how they landed up here but they sure, seemed happy enough to be there. Ross Island indeed, was a home for them.

My new friend at Ross Island, Andamans
My new friend at Ross Island, Andamans

Other than those are our shy birds of the nation – Peacocks. They are found in various corners and within the ruined homes. The one thing that I can tell you about them is that they definitely seem to have polished their coats for even from afar, they really shone.

Peacock on Ross Island, amid the ruins
Peacock on Ross Island, amid the ruins

2) Officers’ quarters

Officers' Homes at Ross Island
Officers’ Homes at Ross Island

Gnarled Roots cover the outer walls of the erstwhile homes of the officers. From the officer’s barracks to the senior officers home, you can find them all along on Ross Island. This is where I truly was Lara Croft – with my mighty assistant climbing up the roofs and me squeezing between some to enter the inner rooms – lest there be a treasure left behind.

Officers' Homes at Ross Island
Officers’ Homes at Ross Island
My mighty assistant climbing along while I squeeze through those gaps - Ross Island
My mighty assistant climbing along while I squeeze through those gaps – Ross Island

Some of these buildings have gaping holes through which you can see the Andamans water while there are other that have steps leading to higher floors – something that one dare not climb, given the creaky conditions that were just held together by roots. On the whole, walking through these are quite insightful and exciting.

The waves of Andaman Sea through the root covered windows of Ross Island
The waves of Andaman Sea through the root covered windows of Ross Island

3) The Cemetery at Ross Islands

Cemetery at Ross Island
Cemetery at Ross Island

This is where the stones tell you a story of its residents. The Cemetery of Ross Island is a sad place but an interesting one as each stone epitaph gives you an insight into the life of its British inhabitants. From the small graves of infants and children who were lost to illness to the death of officers and apothecaries, there is plenty to understand from the graves at the cemetery.

One of the grave stones at Ross Island
One of the grave stones at Ross Island

4) The Church at Ross Islands

Presbyterian church at Ross Island
Presbyterian church at Ross Island

This one is one of the most impressive ruins of all on Ross Island. The Presbyterian church still stands tall reminding us of its glory. A sign next to it explains that it was a Protestant church and was made of stone and Burma Wood – some of which has lasted till date. It also, tells us that the church had some impressive stained glass. Sadly, the church interiors is out-of-bounds and you can only view it from the periphery.

Presbyterian church at Ross Island
Presbyterian church at Ross Island

5) Chief Commissioner’s bungalow

The Chief Commissioner's house
The Chief Commissioner’s house

Time felt a little short for this one as I would have loved checking out every nook and corner of this piece of history. The most impressive of all the houses on Ross Island, this bungalow was for the British Chief Commissioner. It’s description of a large hall, ball room with 7 – 8 bedrooms, a garden full of trees and Italian flooring was indeed impressive. Took me back to Mr. Darcy’s estate home in Pride and Prejudice.  🙂

A picture of the original Chief Commissioner's house
A picture of the original Chief Commissioner’s house

They say that around 24 British Commissioners took up this as a residence

6) The Club house

Subordinates' club house, Ross Island
Subordinates’ club house, Ross Island

Again, time seemed short for me to explore this one fully. The structure is said to have been a social gathering spot for all the subordinates of British Army . It was a cultural and sports hub for them. With its own dance floor and a place for the band, I can so imagine the zest of the evening parties that must have been held here.

7) Water Treatment plant

Water Treatment plant at Ross Island
Water Treatment plant at Ross Island

I did mention that a lot of infants were lost to diseases on Ross Island and to prevent further deaths, the British had this water distillery on the island. This was the main supply of drinking water for the entire island.

8) Japanese Bunkers

Japanese Bunker at Ross Island
Japanese Bunker at Ross Island

After the Japanese captured the island, they fortified it further as their hub in the Andamans. The famed Japanese bunkers can be found along the periphery of the entire Ross Island. You can enter a few while the rest are out-of-bounds. It is said that the Japanese used the wood and timber from the abandoned homes of Ross Island to build their bunkers.

Boat to Ross Island
Boat to Ross Island

The boats to Ross Island give you only about 1.5 hours for you to see these wonders. For a person like me, that sure was not enough. I missed seeing the highest point of the Island, the officer’s club, swimming pool etc. I would have loved to wander some more through those ruins to know what else went on in those years. Well, that is me – what about you? Would you like to visit Ross Island and let the ruins speak to you?

Ross Island

Getting to Ross Island

  • To visit Ross Island, you need to get to Port Blair.
  • Port Blair can be reached by a cruise from Chennai or Kolkata.
  • The best way, however, is to fly from Chennai or Kolkata to Port Blair. There are plenty of flights from these two cities. However, the same can get quite expensive as they are always running full.
  • Once in Port Blair, Ross Island can be reached by ferry from Aberdeen Jetty. There are regular ferries available here. You can buy a ticket for yourself for INR 450 – 750, depending on the package you choose. The various packages involve combining trips to other islands like North Bay Islands along with Ross Island. This is however, just the cost of the ride. You will still need to pay for the entrance to Ross Island

Travel Tips

  • Port Blair and Andamans, in general, has certain restrictions. If you are on Indian Citizen, there is no need for a permit to visit these islands. However, if you are a foreigner, you will need to obtain a Restricted Area Permit (RAP). This is easily got when you enter Port Blair by flight or ship, from the Immigration authorities. It is valid for 30 days. You can also, get these from the Indian Missions Authorities  or Foreign Registration offices in the key cities of India. Click here for a complete guide on this.
  • Ross Island entrance fees is at INR 30 per adult. Children below 5 years are free. Cameras are charged at INR 30 If you are carrying a video recorder, it will be INR 75.
  • There are no guides at the island. There are a few signage that explain the various structures to you. However, if you are keen on a guide, there is just one Ms. Anuradha, who can be hired for INR 300 for a private tour.
  • Feeding the deer is not encourage. Littering here attracts a fine of INR 500.
  • Remember to wear flat shoes and comfortable clothes as there is plenty of walking to be done.
  • For those who are disabled or are not keen on walking, battery operated golf carts are available on rent. Personally, I avoided those as they take away the charm of being a Lara Croft and I really wanted to explore the interiors of those ruins on my own.
  • There are snacks and water available on sale at the revived bakery of Ross Island.
  • Ross Island also, has a light and sound show. I could not attend the same but those who would like to, can get more details on 03192-232694 or 03192-244091
  • Be careful when exploring the ruins as there are plenty of sharp objects around the floor and walls.
  • Always carry your ID with you. Though we were not asked, you could be as this is under the Navy management .
  • Be cognizant of your time here. If need be, set an alarm as it is easy to miss your ferry with all the interesting things to see on Ross Island.

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86 Responses

  1. Andaman seems to be quite an interesting site ti visit.
    Hope you are not facing any currency issue while traveling 🙂

    • Thanks Jatin. I was there last month. Not right now. Though most of the stuff in Andamans operates on Cash!

  2. Andamans never tires me. such beautiful pics make me want to go there again and again.

  3. spent very less time here.. should explore more next tiime

  4. Amazing pictures and informative write up! The deer is so huge! I really like the way you share history of a place 🙂

  5. A wonderful trip I am sure…
    Place seems so much adventure and peaceful to

  6. Looks like a lovely place with lots to discover. I love the idea of the deer mingling with the humans!

  7. Looks beautiful. Nice coverage.

  8. Yogi Saraswat

    Its another beautiful face of beautiful iceland of Andman .

  9. Very informative post with lovely captures as always Ami 🙂 The research done by you for every post is indeed a treat to read!

  10. Hello Ami. I hadn’t previously heard of Ross Island. It looks like a place I would enjoy visiting, with wildlife, and a natural feeling about it. Don’t think I’d be looking for any ghosts, though!

    • There aren’t any ghosts Doreen but lots of stories that are being told by the ruins left over. 🙂

  11. Wow, this would be my place to be, I love ghost towns. It’s actually amazing how nature can take over. And it does remind of the scene with Lara Croft in Cambodja. Great place. Does it get a lot of tourists?

  12. Ross Island looks amazing! I love exploring ruins. Will need to plan a visit!

  13. As lovely and fascinating as this is, I have to be honest that I was loving it until I read that the area was abandoned after an earthquake. My family survived a devastating earthquake where we now live in Ecuador. It was terrible and the town is mostly destroyed. We had to relocate. I couldn’t visit this place without reliving the nightmare, it’s too similar to our experience with an earthquake in the beach. Did you have any thoughts about another earthquake happening?

    • So sorry to hear that. It is so sad. I can understand the loss and the feeling. I hope you get over the loss.

      Ross Island in fact, ended up being a savior during the last tsunami. Apparently it was shielded from a lot of losses.

  14. This seems like such a neat place to visit and explore! The deer on the island reminded me of those seen in Nara, Japan or Miyajima Island. They were very curious and continually tried to eat our clothes! The Officer’s Quarters are another spot that is so intriguing to me!

    • Thanks . The deer did not try to eat anything on us 🙂 They were a pleasure to see. Ross Island with its ruins and fauna is just amazing.

  15. So cool that you got to go here! You even touched a deer!! I wish I can get that close to one. Great photos too!

  16. Okay, this is much more cool than any of the ghost towns I’ve been to. I’m fascinated by how quickly the roots have taken over since the 40s. Really incredible.

    • Absolutely and that to me is one of the reasons that these ruins looked interesting and very Tomb raider like. Loved squeezing through the gaps to access the inner part of the building and seeing if I could find something.

  17. Guess what? Anuradha was my guide too when I visited Ross Island way back in 2012!

  18. I’ve never heard of this Island but it looks so beautiful and peacefull

  19. This is actually the first time that I’ve heard of this island, but seeing its beauty and your photos, it definitely has me curious!

    • Thanks Abigail. Andamans as a whole, is a little unexplored and undiscovered. If possible you should head there before it becomes touristy 😀

  20. What a beautiful and interesting place! The Japanese bunkers have a strange fascination on me but the thing that impresses me the most are those roots, they are immense and I would have guessed they had been there for centuries

    • Interestingly, it is not too far ago that the Island was abandoned. Just 1940s. Some miracles of nature I guess! 🙂

  21. So much to do so much to see, in such a tiny place and for sure haunted type places make for great photos 🙂

  22. How cool! Loving the pictures. I’ve never heard of this island before, but it sure sounds like an interesting place to check out, even though the cemetery would definitely give me shivers!

    • Thanks Anna. Ross Island is not as popular as the other Indian destinations. But is in no way any less interesting. 🙂

  23. I love how the island is slowly reclaiming the ruins from the British settlement.

    Is there an option to reach the island, but allow more time than the little you had?

    • Thanks Chris. Sadly no. You have to rely on the Ferries from Port Blair and it is generally done as a round trip. Not sure if you can hire one on your own as this is all under the restricted Navy section.

  24. That is so cool! the Paris of the East. What a different time it would have been with the British Raj in all of its splendour using it as a playground.

    • I can so imagine it. The little Tea parties, the dances, the cricket…..hmmm…Times to remember.

  25. What a fascinating place. I love how the trees have grown over the buildings. It does make it feel very Tomb Raider’ish. I really enjoyed all the details in this post and the pictures. The deer probably swam over. They do that here in Washington State.

    • That is interesting. They swim over in Washington. You should definitely visit Ross Island. I think you will love it

  26. Ross Island looks gorgeous and enchanting. But I too am intrigued by the ‘ghostly’ part os the island. The old buildings covered with roots et all! Remains of a once thriving community.

  27. My parents just visited Ross Island and they loved the place, and your post tells me exactly why. Yes the place is in ruins but like many a times – this place tells you so much about its existence and glory days! Some day soon I want to go there too!

    BTW I am surprised you didnt go crazy happy about the freely roaming deer and peacocks there!

    • Ooh I did go crazy with the deer but I also, was curious about the abandoned homes and other things there. One and half hours is too short …:(

  28. Wow this area is steeped in history! If I were there I’d be setting an alarm for sure, missing the ferry home is always a big worry. I love the Presbyterian church ruins!

  29. I cant believe id never heard of Ross Island before. Love the photos!! The nature and animals look incredibly beautiful

  30. The Ross Island does not seem hunting to me, but rather a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I am surprised that there are so much history involved. The deer are so adorable and I would love to approach and pet them.

    • The ghost town is just so because no one stays there…there is no haunting story here. But the ruins and deer are just what make it amazing.

  31. I love the unstructure of this place! What a great place to explore!

  32. Thanks for this great post. Ross Island looks like such a fun place to explore. It’s amazing that those deer just let you pet them. They’re so cute. What would happen if you did miss your ferry? As much as you love ghost towns, maybe next time you’ll “accidentally” miss the ferry and spent a spooky night on the island. We’d love to hear that story.

    • Thanks …I am guessing the NAvy captures you and takes you back ashore. Maybe I should have tried that 😀

  33. Ross Island has all the ingredients of those idyllic islands that we imagine and which are described in books. I do hope the island maintains its pristine quality. The old structures covered with tree roots lends an aura of intrigue to the place.

  34. This island seems not only interesting, but incredibly beautiful! I’m also a huge fan of ghost towns, they’re so much more desolate and magical, makes it seem there is more to discover. Definitely putting this on my bucket list! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks. There is nothing ghostly about it except that humans are not allowed overnight. It is mysterious though coz it is abandoned. 🙂

  35. I’d never heard of Ross Island before. It must have been amazing to wander the ruins and learn the fascinating history of it…how awesome that you could walk right up to the deer!

  36. I never heard of Ross Islands before as well – wow if it wasn’t from your blog post, I never should’ve known! Makes us realized there are WAY toooooo many places to visit around the world!

    • Thanks Thuymi. Ross Island is a little hidden wonder in India. 🙂 As is the rest of Andamans – unexplored and unspoilt.

  37. How interesting – from the initial photo I didn’t understand why you could be referring to it as a ghost island as it looked lovely! But I think being there would give me the creeps in a fascinating way. Such interesting history – I had no idea!

    • Thanks Juliette. The Island is a ghost island as it is abandoned . No creepy tales but enough intrigue.

  38. Never heard of it, looks like a place i should add to the ever expanding list!

  39. Great Ami aunty.. …Didn’t know so much about Ross island…By the way goog travel tips it’ll help many people

  40. Those church remains look fantastic, I had never heard of this place so I’m definitely going to do some more research on it.

  41. Andaman is high on my list Ami. Hope to make it this year or starting next year. Will definitely visit Ross island. My only worry is that I might waste too much time for ferry tickets when moving from one island to another. Any tips there?

  42. This island sounds amazing! I love that you get to be in contact with all these animals. I definitely added it to my list of destinations when I visit Japan 🙂

Would love to know what you think