Andaman Islands: Paradise on Earth

No joke. We have seen paradise and it is a chain of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, reached only by the occasional ferry boat or by flight from Chenai or Calcutta. The trouble in getting there is immediately rewarded by the place. The Andamands, although closer to the Thai coast, belong to India and are populated largely by Begalis and Tamilians. The indigenous populations are hidden in the inaccessible reaches of the archipelago, tribes that have been there for millennia. Spencer Wells, in his Journey of Man, explains that the first wave of homo sapiens migrations out of Africa occurred along the coastline of Asia all the way to Australia, explaining why there were humans Down Under twenty thousand years before their appearance in Central Asia or Europe. The Andamanese tribes are descendants of those early waves of migrants. The islands are self contained ecosystmes with a long and storied history. We spent all of our time on Havelock, one of the two small islands ‘developed’ for small-scale tourism, which mainly means huts by the beach. Besides the beauty and tranquility, our reward of sorts after three intense months in the Subcontinent, we found a new passion: diving! For me, learning how to dive was like accomplishing a childhood dream, back when sharks and whales consumed my imagination. For Vivien it was entirely different. Diving became a way to conquer the fear of deep water. In Vikesh, our teacher, we found a man so composed, so in his element, and above all so generous with his knowledge that we quickly lost all of our fears and found instead another universe of sensations and sights. After our dives we played long card games into the night with Paul and Yshai. And in our days off we would all head to beach # 7, through an amazing forest, and just relish in perfectly clear water.

tired after two days of travel, waiting for the ferry to Havelock from Port Blair

time passes slowly

and it is the first time we see rain in three months

but by the time we reach Havelock the skies are clear and we are speechless

by our huts

on the way back to our hut after our first day of diving theory. we are nervous and excited for our first dive.

lobster fishermen returning in low tide

night visitor: green mantis

diving: day one

the boats were all manned by a Burmese gang. we like to think of them as our pirate guides.

Vikesh looking for the drop off

Yshai enjoying the peace after a dive

it was easy to be comfortably quiet, each one of us processing in our own way our dive

by our later dives, we all learned the basics of underwater photography. here, a school of great baracuda

buddy

holding on against the current to conserve energy

jackfish or truvalli

a territorial clown fish

forget what these are called

Vikas point us in the right direction…

…and we avoid a moray eel…

…and the lion fish…

…and we start concentrating on things at a smaller scale…

brain coral

…………………

more brain coral

…………….

quiet moments before our night dive

as usual, Vikesh preps us through the dive.

despite our nerves about diving in the dark, we still find ways to laugh

Vikesh, probably telling Vivi that sharks sleep too

our crew enjoying the last moments on light

we are in the water as soon as the sun sets

and surprisingly there is enough light to see a good amount of the reef, even without the aid of our lights

we find a nervous squid hovering

the urchins are active at night, moving about

while the seal-faced puffer fish are fast asleep

on our way to beach 7. just look at those trees!

they are huge!

through the forest we get glimpses of the perfect coastline.

and by perfect, I mean never more than ten people per kilometer of beach and a glorious surf

a typical moment with Paulie and Yshai

Paulie tells it like it is

a place we will make sure to return to

Advertisements

About this entry