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Andamans: Green Waters and Blue Skies

After planning for years, I finally managed to make this a reality. We (3 friends and me) booked a flight to Andamans as well as a diving institute, Barefoot Scuba.

Having previously dived in Phuket, 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.

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Day 1
We reached Port Blair on 6th morning and I asked the Taxiwala to take us to Megapode Nest to check in two 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. We came back from there in just an hours and enjoyed our awesome balcony view for the evening.

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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.

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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. 

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 dive site 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 11.2 m 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 dive site was MV Mars which is a wreck bottomed at about 18-20 m 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.

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After returning to 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 dive site was pretty far from the resort. It took us about an 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 saltwater crocodiles in the marshlands. The name of our first dive site 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 but 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 dive site was 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.

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Upon reaching Port Blair, we decide that we had just enough time to visit Cellular Jail. 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.

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