Chatham island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is home to the oldest and the largest sawmill in Asia. The Chatham Saw Mill is a warehouse of bundles of wood that are shaped and processed into useful logs for further use in house construction, furniture making, and handicraft item manufacturing. Chatham saw mill is owned by the forest department and is a great tourist spot in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. People visit the mill to witness its magnificence and experience the history unfold in front of their eyes.
Chatham Saw Mill was established in the year 1883 by the Britishers with a prime motive to fulfill the timber requirement for themselves and the locals for construction work. The mill holds the status of being Asia’s oldest and largest mill since 1883. An interesting fact about this mill is that it was established with second-hand machines and many wooden logs used to get exported to New York, London and many other cities of the world at that time.
Chatham mill was bombarded by Britishers when the Japanese army captured the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during World War 2. The mill remained closed for a significant period and during 1945 and more prominently after India’s independence in 1947, the mill was restored and started again. The motive behind its restoration was to support the construction work for the resettlement of families in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and neighboring islands and countries such as Sri Lanka, and Burma.
A road bridge connects the Chatham island to Port Blair which makes the island accessible for the locals and tourists. The Chatham saw mill also homes a museum that features a great and unique collection of woodwork, hand-carved items and a lot more, that transports you back in time when the mill was in its golden period. Today, the mill processes timber to support the construction of furniture, homes and handicraft items and it has an in-built capacity to process 20,000 logs in three-shifts every year. Other than timber various other types of woods are also processed in the mill and some prominent types are Marble, Satin, and Padauk.
This beautiful Sawmill Museum is located within the Chatham Saw Mill. The museum still guards the old charm of the mill in the form of a collection of old photographs, handicraft items and ruins from the past. This Museum is a great place to explore the major highlights of the mill and the island.
Visit the Anthropological museum that showcases the tribal life of local communities of Andaman such as Jarawas, Sentinelese, and the Great Andamanese. The museum remains open from 9 am to 1 pm and from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm on all days of the week except on Mondays.
You can enjoy Glass Boat rides on the tranquil island. Apart from boat rides one may also explore the world underwater through Scuba Diving. Hone your scuba diving skills and admire the coral, the aquatic creatures and unique species of fishes while scuba diving. The island closes at 4:30 pm, hence one must plan a visit early in the day.
Elephant Beach is one of the most visited beaches of Andaman. The beach is a hub of water sports and refreshing activities such as swimming, kayaking, and fishing. Elephant Beach is a spot away from city life that is also home to coral reefs and rare species of turtles and many aquatic creatures.
Being a seaside settlement, the popular cuisine of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is majorly influenced by seafood. The most popular dishes of the island are fish curry, Macher Jhol, Coconut Prawn Curry, and grilled Lobsters. Moving to fashion, there is no specific dress that locals of Andaman and Nicobar Islands wear but there are a few tribes that still use coconut tree leaves, and bark apparel to cover their bodies. Apart from that, the locals use seashells and stones to make accessories.
The Chatham Saw Mill remains open on all the days of the week except on Monday. The timings to visit the mill are from 8 am to 2:30 pm. Talking about the climate, the island observes a moderate climate throughout the year hence any time of the year is pleasant to visit the Chatham island.
By Road. After reaching Port Blair, either by a flight or by ship, one may book a seat in the local transport such as a taxi, or a bus to reach Chatham Sawmill. There are two major road routes to reach the mill, one goes through Great Andaman Trunk Road which is 10km away and the other via VIP road which is 11km away. The best thing about going via roadways is that you will get the opportunity to explore the local life and serene views that surround this island.
By Water. In case you wish to travel to Port Blair through a ship or ferry then you will have to visit either of the following ports: Chennai, Kolkata, or Visakhapatnam. These ports have regular ship service to Port Blair’s Haddo Wharf Port and the reservations can be made online.
By Air. Veer Savarkar International airport is the nearest airport to Chatham Island. From the airport, one may book a taxi, bus, or an auto-rickshaw to reach the sawmill which is 7km away. The airport receives regular domestic and international flights hence booking flight tickets would not be an issue. Frequent flights from metro cities of India such as Delhi. Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru are easily available.
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