I was never a beach guy. I always loved the mountains and the peace that one generally associates with such remote places. However, since I got married I also had to consult my wife for travel destinations for vacationing. Amongst one of her very old and burning desire was to visit the Andaman Nicobar Islands. This I knew since our courtship days and finally decided to sacrifice my personal choices and take a vacation to the islands.
To reach Port Blair, the capital of Andaman Nicobar, one has to either take a flight from Chennai, New Delhi or Kolkata or alternately you can go by cruise from Chennai. All said and done I decided the best way to get there would be to take a flight from Chennai. Accordingly we reached Chennai airport and spent the night at the airport and left for Port Blair early in the 6:30 flight.
Having already arranged an airport pick up from the hotel in which we were staying we rushed to our hotel for a much needed shower and breakfast. Our hotel was a quaint little place near the beach. The people in general appeared quite friendly, not unlike the people of Goa.
For the first day my program included a trip to the much famed Cellular jail, wherein a great number of our freedom fighter were held and executed in the pre independence days. The light and sound show in the evening was very touching and struck a very melancholy cord in our hearts as we realized how easily and repeatedly we abuse our hard earned freedom everyday.
The next day we visited the Saw Mill on Chattham Islands. The island is connected with the main land by a bridge and was one of the oldest and biggest saw mills in the whole of Asia during the times of the British Raj. The mill also includes a museum wherein an oversight is provided to the tourists about the wood cutting activities carried out on the islands. And it also contains beautiful wood carvings of different types of woods. Next we visited the Samudrika museum which has a fantastic collection of sea shells and colorful fishes found in and around the islands.
On the next day, very early in the morning, we left via a public ferry for Havelock. We were again picked up from the ferry and transferred to our hotel where we got ready in some time to be taken to the Radhanagar beach.
This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip. We had planned on water sports and beach fun over at Havelock. The Radhanagar Beach, also known as beach no. 7, is supposedly to be one of the best beaches in the whole of Asia.
And a more beautiful place I am yet to see. Imagine a bright sunny beach, white sands and sea water which is so clean and blue that you might as well be bathing in a huge swimming pool! The splendors of Radhanagar beach kept me spell bound for quite some time as I sat in a beach side shack with a glass of fruit juice (I do not drink alcohol) in one hand and my wife’s hand in the other. And she was so mesmerized by the fabulous sight of the place that we just did not have words to talk with each other.
After the juice we took a long walk to an isolated part of the beach, not that it was over crowded, and spread our ground sheet in the shades of a grove of coconuts. We had a packed lunch that we had brought from the hotel and we had one of the most romantic of lunches at one of the best locations it has been my good fortune to visit.
After lunch we enjoyed a bath in the sea and talked to a few locals regarding their life in such a heaven. Surprisingly, what seemed heaven to us was not exactly what they felt about the place. Life for them was equally hard as it is to the rest of unlucky individuals like us. We were also informed that only the previous year an unlucky tourist, a young foreign girl, was killed in an attack by a salt water crocodile! It was good for our piece of mind that we had not heard of the incident while we were actually in the water and it gave us second thoughts about our snorkeling and scuba diving adventure on the next day.
On the next day we took a cruise to Elephant beach where we were supposed to do the snorkeling and scuba diving. After being assured by our experienced guides over the crocodile issue, we took to the water wearing the snorkeling apparatus on our faces. The water was beautifully cold as expected in winters and the sea was azure blue with unbelievable transparency. We had a look at corals and schools of small and big colorful fishes which sway beneath us. I was lucky to also observe a small octopus prowling on the sea bed with such amazing and changing camouflage that it was impossible to relocate it after I took my gaze away from it for a brief second to call my wife for a view of the beautiful creature. She was not as fortunate as I was.
After about an hour of snorkeling the hunger of exploring the sea increased. We went back to the beach and climbed on board a small boat that took us out a little to the sea. We had donned the scuba diving costumes and were given a brief regarding the oxygen tanks and valves in cases of emergency. Our experienced guide also taught us a few signs and their meanings as it would be obviously impossible to talk under the water. Communication was necessarily through sign language only.
Once we got into the water, the sounds of the world died down. All I could hear was the sound of water breaking above me and the sounds of my own breathing. It took me some time, but I also discerned the sound of my heart beating which really surprised me.
I had a great time snorkeling. But I had a better time scuba diving. I was able to reach the sea bed and watch the fishes and corals much closer then while snorkeling. The wide range of fishes really amazed me. I did not even know their names. Honestly, life under the waters looked much more colorful then life above it. No land animal can match the beauty of the aquatic life. Even the corals which made short and big mounds and low cliffs at some places were interesting and worth exploring. The vegetation growing on them and the smaller fishes which live within the open spaces between colors and fled here and there on approach were a sight.
We had been strictly instructed not to touch or place our feet on the corals or any aquatic life and we strictly observed the rules.
My wife was really happy that we planned this trip and was really thrilled at the having completed one of our dreams together. We leisured around the Elephant beach for some more time after scuba diving and returned to our hotel quite late.
While returning to Port Blair the next day, to catch my flight home, I truly counted myself amongst the fortunate few who have experienced the pleasure of water activities at the Andamans. And I would really like to go there once again in the near future. I always believed that mountainous landscapes were the best to watch and observe. I also believed that visiting forest on land was very adventurous. But nothing gets even closer to the views one can get under the waters of the unspoilt Andaman Sea. And there cannot be a greater adventure then to swim with the aquatic life in their own environment.
The Andaman Islands has something for everybody. There is ample opportunity for lazy people to just sit around at wonderful locations and relax with their books or board games and there is equal opportunity for the restless and adventurous like me to have the time of their life.
Do not forget to explore Goa India,incredible India,Kerala India and so on.