ASTOUNDING ANDAMAN!

by Purbali Mukherjee

It was my twenty-first birthday and I was (of course) very eager to step into a new phase of life. My parents (they are the best) decided to make this a birthday to remember by taking me to a trip to one of those places that are yet to be invaded by the ever-increasing Indian Population — Andaman!! The Sea was calling me; and I had to go!!! As the marked date on the calendar closed in, my happiness knew no bounds and it all heightened when I saw the mesmerising green islands for the first time, tucked in the bluest of the blue ocean; from that tiny air-plane window.

The next ten days that followed, were, cliched as it might sound; the best days of my life!! Now, this wasn’t going to be one of those lazy trips. We had planned out a series of adventure sports and multiple island- hopping; to experience the maximum of what Andaman had to offer. A day-to-day journal will make this too long for our fickle minds; I am going to take you through the highlights of my trip. MY FIRST DATE WITH THE OCEAN: As soon as we checked into the hotel, I followed the sound of waves and it got me to the terrace. And the magnificent view of the ocean made me speechless. CELLULAR JAIL: That afternoon, we visited the infamous Cellular Jail of Port Blair. The museum, the various models of different punishment and the spine-chilling tales in the ‘Light and Sound’ show will force you to re-think all the incredible things our forefathers had done to ensure we would live in an independent nation!!

THAT MUCH-AWAITED CRUISE: We had our ship to Havelock Islands at 7am. Though I have been on the cruise-ride in Goa, this was my first time in a luxury ship (for five hours that too) and I was jumping with joy! After hours of checking and bagging submission and seat-searching, the whistle finally blew and we were off the coast! The first half an hour was really exciting, with everyone pushing everyone else to secure a place on the deck. And the sun began to show us its (warm) love and the Ship-officials shooing us off the deck, most of the passengers retreated to their cosy chairs and dozed off. The same thing was repeated in the last half an hour of the journey, with the ship approaching the giant Havelock. I couldn’t wait to step onto that island. Now, a warning for all the future-travellers, Port Blair are the only island with network coverage. Every other island has extremely poor network coverage (BSNL users, you are in luck, though!)

THE SUNSET YOU NEED TO EXPERIENCE: There will be moments in your life which will be so perfect that you would hope that time come to a standstill. Sunset by the ocean is one such moment. All those hundreds of curious tourists (noisy children included) turned numb as the mighty waters gulped the Sun. No words, phrases or photographs can do justice to the beauty I experienced.

YES! SCUBA DIVING!!!: We all have our bucket list! You might not have penned them down, but you do have a list in your mind, correct? Scuba-Diving is one of things on my list. Having already ticked off skiing and bungee jumping from my previous travels, this was one that I was eagerly waiting for. And the icing on the cake?? It was my birthday too!! Now scuba-diving might sound frightening. Well, It is not!! My parents and I, clad in the scuba-suits, shoes, belts with weights (Yes, these are a little heavy) and masks; swam into the water. Our guides gave us an hour of training. We were then given our oxygen cylinders and we started our journey towards the corals!! There are certain experiences which make your life worth living; this two-hour dive was one such experience. Yes, an experience of a lifetime! The corals (they are of millions of types, shapes and colours), the fish (we saw at least thirteen types), the giant turtles (these were so scary I ran for my life when I saw one of them approaching me) showed us how truly beautiful Nature is . That entire night, we could not stop talking about the unbelievable thing we had experienced and the incredible sea-life!

READY. SET. ADVENTURE!!: What is a visit to an island without engaging in water sports? Banana-rides, speed-boats, water-skiing, snorkeling, sea-walking — I did them all in Neil Island (made me feel like those Fox Traveller people)

OF CAVES AND VOLCANOES: The journey to the Limestone Caves and the Mud Volcano was the most challenging. It involves a car-journey,taking a ship (these ships even have Buses and Cars as their passengers), then another smaller ship and finally a speed boat. The journey doesn’t end there. This is followed by an hour of hike through an wooden bridge, followed by mangroves, a tiny hamlet and one rocky pasture. I won’t lie. I loved this journey more than the destination. The mangroves, shady forest areas, the wobbly bridge, tiny rest-rooms in between and the tiny village- it was an adventure on its own!! DEER? DEER!! When our driver told us Ross island is known for its deer and peacocks, I imagined ten/twelve of them, roaming about in cages. When I reached there, my my, weren’t we all taken aback!! There were about hundreds of deer, roaming all over the place like cows roam about in green pastures. The peacocks were all over the trees. We even saw two of them riding on the deer’s backs!! Yes, every thing about Andaman is going to make you love the place even more!!

SEA-FOOOOOOOOOOOD: The multiple Os made my love for food pretty clear, I guess! Well, as my father rightly says, you have never really visited a place if you have not tasted its local cuisine. So we made it a point to try whatever sea-food we could lay our eyes on — varieties of crabs and fish (The restaurants would not even tell us the names, they said they cooked whatever fish they would catch in their nets!!)

THE SURPRISE ELEMENT: Jarawas are the indigenous natives of Andaman, of African origin, who live in tribes in two major parts of the islands. They have shunned all communication with the outer world (although the Government has made considerable improvement by giving them clothes and medical help) and they speak a language totally different from us. They live the nomadic life, feeding on animals and fruits and rarely come in-front of the human civilisation. Gives you chills, right? Hence, you can only imagine my excitement when we embarked on your journey to their ‘part’ of the island. Photography is strictly prohibited and nobody is even allowed to step out of their cars. You cannot even slow down your car or stop it anywhere along the entire road. The area is off-limit after sunset, as these tribals are not used to artificial lights and consider them their enemies. To be able to see them, is purely based on luck (and chance). It is a four journey. More than three hours had passed and we had completely given up on the idea of seeing the tribals. And then, completely out of the blue, we saw four individuals, standing by the road,staring at the passers-by. Their bodies were covered with white painted dots, and they were only wearing barks and giant leaves to cover their privates. They were crossing the forest to collect wood for cooking, our driver informed us. It was a scene right out of Discovery Channel and we could only stare at them, in absolute awe. Scuba-diving, Sunsets or treks; nothing came close to the realisation that there, in the 21st Century, still exist people who hunt their food and wear leaves around their waists. To think that the world is more than Cell-phones and Internet, Movies and Books, science and technology. To see with the naked eye the nomads whom I had only seen on the TV. This trip made me think about life and our way of living it differently. Because I was away from the continuous Whatsapp and Facebook notifications for over an week, I understood the real joys of life. And most importantly, the ginormous ocean re-inforced the idea that we humans are but puny creatures in front of nature and no matter how many satellites we send to outer space or apps we develop, Nature will always have the upper-hand!!

Andaman Islands are breathtaking coastline to relax and chill out in sun. Been to Andaman? Share your travel experience on travel blog. If not use eChutti travel guide and plan it soon.

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