Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Surreal World

Our spirits soared as the airplane lowered through ‘rows and flows of angel hair’ onto the paradisiacal island. The first glimpses of the cluster of islands were in itself a play of color – brilliant sparkling blue all around with the green islands spotting the seas in emerald hues. The bright Andamanese sun welcomed us as we landed. We flipped through local directories and eventually found a small cozy lodging – originally the owner’s house, with tiny rooms that could barely hold two people – to save up on costs. Surya inn, as it was named, was hidden away in an unpretentious neighborhood at the top of a hill and the meandering roads leading onward had glorious view points from where we could see the whole town of Port Blair.

We started out to Marina Park, all eight adults stacked into two auto rickshaws.  This beautifully landscaped nonpareil park, complete with war monuments from world war days and Tsunami memorials from the recent past, was set against the mainland winding up gradually on the one side and the Bay of Bengal gently lapping against its boundaries on the other side. The turquoise blue waters and the white sand visible from mainland was only a telescopic glimpse into the real paradise that awaited us as we went from island to island.

Our first adventure on these uncharted waters was from the Water Sports Complex at Marina Park – a thrilling water scooter ride across the seas to Ross Island, which had us shrieking as the glittering blue waters showered us from head to toe.

We photographed every moment of the endless wonder that awaited us in the form of limestone caves, primordial species of birds and fishes (with forgettable names), mangrove forests with lurking crocodiles, translucent waters through which we marveled at a whole new world and an island with a volcano. We also became the lucky witnesses of a still tribal people who seemed as if they were made out of wax.  The whole archipelago collectively called Andaman and Nicobar Islands consists of 527 islands out of which a dozen or so are only accessible to our species and the rest remains an elusive, imaginary land, even now.

The sparkling waters and white beach sand of Jolly Buoy Island was approached on a rakish old glass bottom boat, through which we peered at fleeting, colorful fins. Changing into swimming gear in an interim thatched hut, we paid meager amounts to our guides, measured against the magnificence of the world we were about to gaze upon.

As I peered through my snorkeling gear, I came across star fishes, sea anemones, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea lilies, water sponges, clown fish, parrot fish, silver fish, octopuses, corals and more colorful corals and innumerous invertebrates. I forgot in those moments that the life I had lived on land was ever significant.  Designs, shapes and the vibrant colors of that world made my heart leap with the same grace that moved these creatures.

Moving on to Ross Island, we appreciated an old church in ruins with the penetrating roots of age-old trees holding it up as a monument of the past. We also saw the Chief Commissioner’s residence, the troop barracks, the gallows where prisoners were hanged and a quaint old British bakery from a still unforgotten era. The history surrounding Ross Island is rich with its own tales of valor, strength and power.  But on a lighter note, we galloped with friendly Sambar deer and posed for pictures with some wizened turtles and hares. Back in mainland, visits to the Anthropological and Naval Museums gave us a potted history of this little known paradise, the lives of its indigenous tribes and their sad tales of colonial intrusions, its endemic species of plants and animals and its jewels in the form of shells and corals.

Glimpses of the limestone caves left us wondering if it were really made of gold and silver and the chilly dark interiors of the cave wrapped itself around us as we tried to find our way out. The next stop at Volcano Island, observed from a distance, gave me a chance to boast when I got back home because surely I would not come across another person who had seen a volcano in this life, would I?

We collected oyster shells ( without the pearl – which was a loss), and miscellaneous other exteriors of crustaceans along with coral strips to take back to land with us as we walked along each of the spectacular beaches  and drank in the picture postcard surroundings.

But all along the way, we also saw the grim stamp of the Tsunami that devastated these islands in 2004; water pools, tilted landscape and tree stumps were the least of these markers.

On the way, we captured the stunning orange ball of fire in the sky, flashes of colors in nature’s blooms, frothy foam against sapphire blues and brilliant creamy sand set against the verdant greens.

As we sat around in roadside eateries and relished the taste of freshly cooked seafood, strolled around in the vegetable and fish markets to buy some of the local produce, and even scoured the souvenir shops to take back some solid memories hand crafted by the native people, we were charmed by the raw simplicity of life that surrounded us and we forlornly wished we could continue in this fairy tale land forever.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by saki koshy on February 7, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Really, really tempting! Apt for publication in a journal with some photos. Seeing both heaven and hell side by side and choose which one suits best?

    Reply

    • Thank you 🙂

      Find me a journal to publish in.. But once published online I dont know if I can give anywer else.

      Heaven and hell side by side? You mean the city and that place?

      Reply

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