Thursday, April 26, 2012

Andamans: Green Waters n Blue Skies

After planning for years, finally I managed to make this a reality. We(3 friends n me) booked a flight to Andamans about 1.5 months in advance and then I started to look for a place to stay at and a dive institute to dive with. After talking to a lot of friends and researching on, I finally zeroed down on Barefoot Scuba and DIveandamans(Island Vinnie's). I sent a mail to both of them, but it was Barefoot's instant responses that made sure that I would stay and dive with them.

As I had already dived in Phuket, Thailand I wanted to do a certification course now. Then came the complications. We were flying into Port Blair on 6th noon and flying back on 10th morning. In all, I had just 3 full days there. But the certification course required 4 days. I spoke to Barefoot people and they suggested that I do e-learning to save a day which I actually did. Next came the issue of flying back. Somehow, the flights back from Port Blair are so scheduled that the last flight leaves before 1st ferry from Havelock reaches Port Blair. So we had to book the expensive but brilliant seaplane to come back from Havelock on 10th morning and fly back to Delhi.

DAY 1:
After researching a bit on places to stay in Port Blair, we reached there on 6th morning and I asked the Taxiwala to take us to Megapode Nest to check for availability there. We got lucky and got 2 Nicobari Cottages there. Again, this was pretty costly but the cottages were brilliant with balcony opening onto the sea and a window opening into the woods. We wanted to visit Cellular Jail that very day, but it being Good Friday, the jail was closed. So we visited Ross Island that day. The island is pretty small with ruins of british establishments there. This was their headquarters in Andamans and the place from where they enjoyed while our freedom fighters toiled in the jail. We came back from there in just an hours and enjoyed our awesome balcony view for the evening.

DAY 2:
Next day, we left for Havelock in Makruzz. The sail was pretty beautiful but they wouldn't allow the passengers to go onto the deck which made the 1.5 hour ride quite boring. After taking a small nap, we docked onto Havelock Jetty and I immediately took notice of the green waters. I had assumed Havelock to be a bit sparsely occupied but it was full of tourists and a number of auto rickshaws were there to take us to our resort.

Once at the resort, I immediately started with my course and learnt how to use and maintain my scuba gear after giving a small test. After that, we went for working on a few skills on a beach to simulate confined water dives. Slept early to wake up for open water diving next day.

DAY 3:
I woke up at 6 and after having some fruits for breakfast went to the dive shop where our diving gear was ready. Our first diving site was Lighthouse which is a reef near an old lighthouse. The sail to the divesite was beautiful with morning sun making the green reflections look just the perfect shade of green. Here we had a 45 min dive upto a depth of 11.2m with some skills training in between. During a skill in which I was supposed to let go off my regulator and breathe using my buddy's alternate air source, I put the alternate source upside down into my mouth and failed to breathe. After fumbling a bit, I tried making an ascent to get air. Thankfully, my divemaster was quick enough to purge and put my regulator into my mouth before that. The relief of getting air to breathe when you have run out of it is incomparable to any other pleasures of life. Our next divesite was MV Mars which is a wreck bottomed at about 18-20m into the water. A wreck provides fishes plenty of places to stay n play around, so there were plenty of small fishes here. While swimming around the ship's deck and Captain's cabin, I tried visualizing what might have happened on that fateful night.
After reaching back in our resort, we washed our scuba gear and got our first Dive Log, which we immediately filled and got stamped from our instructor. It was a tiring day, so we just chilled out in the resort and went to Full Moon Cafe in Island Vinnie's for dinner. The restaurant at barefoot Scuba, Cafe del Mar is pretty ordinary but decent considering its a resort totally focused on diving.

DAY 4:
Today we were going to make deeper dives. Also, our divesite was pretty far from the resort. It took us about 1 hour to reach there. The sail took us around a couple of small islands and we couldn't just stop appreciating the color of the sea while also speculating on the possibility of salt water crocodiles in the marshlands. The name of our 1st divesite was i-95(we had no idea why it was called so). Here there were plenty whip corals which seemed like sticks planted into the bottom. Here we went to a depth of 17.4m and saw some long fin bannerfish and moon wrasse(failed to identify the rest of the fishes ).
The real surprise awaited me, when we reached the surface. As I am not a good swimmer, so I was afraid of a swim-test of 200m required by PADI for this certification. We came up pretty far from our boat, and our instructor told us to remove our weight-belts and BCDs and swim to the boat using masks and snorkel. It looked tough as there was a slight current taking us away from the boat, but the fins and extra buoyancy provided by salt water made swimming much easier than in a pool and I managed to reach the boat!!  Next was a 10 min float test, which was a cakewalk thanks to salt-water providing buoyancy.
Our next divesite is called The Wall as its a 50m deep almost vertical wall under the sea. There was a strong current here and loosening grip on our rope could have meant a tiring swim back to the boat. Thankfully the current was much weaker under water and we could enjoy our final dive without tiring much.

Today, I went to Radhanagar beach after coming back from the dives. The drive to Radhanagar or beach number 7 was very pleasing to the eye as we moved through what seemed like a jungle with very sparse housing to disturb us. This beach is ranked highly among the best beaches in Asia and it clearly deserves it. The sands are flawless and the beach is not littered like most other beaches in India. After enjoying the sunset here, we rode back to our resort to pack for our early morning departure from Havelock next day.

DAY 5:
Although this sounds like the end of the trip, but even this was as serene as I could have dreamed of. We hopped onto the 8 seater seaplane and apart from the luxury it felt like, the aerial view of the islands provided us with the best pictures in the entire trip.
Upon reaching Port Blair, we decide that we had just enough time to visit Cellular Jail. So we called our old Taxiwalla to come and pick us up from the defense airfield, where we landed and take us to the famed, Saja-e Kalapani. We visited the jail in a whirlwind, but I personally couldn't appreciate it enough because of all the new paint and beautification which didn't allow us to feel the original fear of the place.
Finally at 12 noon, we bid adieu to the heavenly Andamans and hopped for our 5 hour flight back home. A much desired trip finally done.


Prits said...

Very well written. I was in Andaman in Feb 2012 and we did scuba diving which was amazing experience. We want to do a dive certificate and your blog will boost to plan soon.
Some extra information about diving will help others a lot. Will like to see some underwater photos.
You can visit my blog page for my travel blogs.

Pritesh Kulkarni.

sachin said...

Thanks Pritesh. I checked out your blog and I must say that the pictures and amount of detail provided is great work!!!
Unluckily I didn't have water proofing on my camera to take it underwater, so don't have underwater pictures of my own. A fellow diver took some pics but I can't share them here

Anonymous said...

good report.

sachin said...

Thanks mate!!

harish jindal said...

scripted well. Shows your passion for exploring new places
Would you suggest couple of good value for money resorts in havelock and port blair and any suggestions for travelling in november end?
Also, wats ur advice on travel by sea plane to havelock? Is it too expensive or worth it?

sachin dixit said...

Thanks Harish.
As for resorts, I stayed in Megapode Nest in Port Blair and loved its location and cottages. Service could have been slightly better though. Try Sea Princess!!
In Havelock, the dive crew of Barefoot scuba seemed great but stay and restaurant of DiveAndamans seemed way better..
Sea plane is an experience not to be missed. Offers some excellent views of the islands!!

havelockislandbeachresort said...

Hello, Thanks a lot for sharing such a good source with all, i appreciate your efforts taken for the same. I found this worth sharing and must share this with all.
Diving Trip in Andama

sachin dixit said...

Thanks..Planning to visit Andamans again sometime soon..

harshita joshi said...

nice write up