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Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Shades of Turquoise at Havelock
4th – 8th Dec 2011
Life was a riot of colors for a few weeks before this trip – there was the Greenness of health amidst the Gray of confusion and ambivalence; the Orange fun and the Olive drab at work splashed across in various shades. The canvas of life was a riot of colors.
This 5-day vacation infused so much of Turquoise; it soothed the emotions, recharged and invigorated us, true to what the color really symbolizes. (Source: Color Psychology)
In a crazy way there was everything going wrong till days before the vacation. My work load increase, Kingfisher’s cash flow problems, Shreya’s acidity were wrecking havoc. On the day of our departure from Bangalore, the weather added to our growing list of woes and we had fog delay our departure and hence miss our connecting flight from Chennai!
The picture cleared somewhat and we were booked on the first flight (a 4am one!) from Chennai for the following day. My hotel in Andaman was kind enough to book us tickets on the Makruzz catamaran to Havelock. In effect we lost one night in Port Blair but luckily our Havelock plans were not disturbed.
Day 1 – Preparing the Palette at Symphony Palms
We made it to the 8am cruise from Port Blair to Havelock Jetty in the high speed catamaran, caged inside our A/c ‘Royal’ seats. Royalty is not allowed on the deck to experience the spray and will be subject to ample swaying inside the boat.
Havelock is a quaint little island with only 2 roads – Jetty to Beach #7 (Radhanagar Beach) and Jetty to Beach #3/5 (Kalapattar Beach), the similarity to South Goa is inescapable. Our resort – Symphony palms, was on beach #5. Barefoot Scuba was a stone’s throw from the resort and it was easy to book ourselves on the first boat to South Button and Tamarind camp for the next morning. The package included the 1.5hour boat ride to South Button, lunch at Tamarind camp 30mins from South Button and snorkeling at South Button and Tamarind Camp. We were both first time snorkelers and we evidently excited.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the resort, in the cozy room and lazing on the beach, looking forward for the dash of Turquoise.
Day 2 - Sun, Skin, Sand, Snorkel & Surprise
Penned down my lovely guest writer and wife – Shreya
5th December 2011, it was my 26th birthday and I was very excited about the snorkeling trip to South Button. We gathered at the Barefoot Diving Resort at 7 am and were asked to fill couple of forms stating that no one is to be held responsible if we do not return. 15 of us were registered that day and I was the only one who did not know swimming. We got into the boat and traveled for couple of hours to reach South Button. We got into our snorkeling gear (masks, life jacket and life buoy for me and life jacket & fins for Manoj) and jumped into the sea. I had imagined how a sea life would be, but nothing can beat watching them for real in the sea. The first few minutes was an experience by itself and it was indeed a different world out there. The different types of fishes and corals with different colors were a feast to the eyes. They were zooming past us from all directions and I just could not get enough watching them. One and half hours of complete discovery and I wished I could swim.
We boarded the ship and were off to Tamarind Camp for another snorkeling adventure. Our instructor somehow felt that I could manage on my own in the sea. This time he made me wear a pair of fins and let me all alone to snorkel. Manoj and I were on our own expedition and this time it was better than the first. After an hour and fifteen minutes we went to the shore for lunch. As I was moving to the shack, my co-snorkelers started singing Happy Birthday and to my surprise there was a cake coming from behind the shack. Got to know later that Manoj had arranged all of this the day before and the Barefoot guys were more than happy to work this out. After lunch and cake cutting, we were taken back to our resort with pleasant memories and lots of colors to rejoice.
Day 3 – Mixed bag
My day began with a barefoot run 10k run on the white sands on the un-spoilt unbroken Havelock beach. It was a bit of an obstacle race in someplace, but my best beach run to date.
After having seen the best that Havelock had to offer, it was time to explore the extremes. The plan was to catch the last Government ferry from the jetty to Port Blair. We reached the ticket counter near the Jetty on a rental Hero Honda Splendor at quarter to 9, after having checked out. The counter was straight out of that Indian Tourism ad, where this travel agent is spitting all over the place. Only in this case, there was also an irate government clerk issuing tickets who for some reason refused to hand over tickets quoting ‘system problem’. It took us a forgettable 2 hours to get ourselves booked on the 4PM ferry.
The next stop was the highly acclaimed Radhanagar beach (or its nondescript alias, Beach #7) arguably the best beach in Asia. It was the farthest point on the island, all of 14k ride from the jetty. I don’t know about being the best, it sure was beautiful – pristine white sands, shallow clam waters, arching shoreline. As we strolled along to find ourselves some shade to dig into our books (Shreya, Time traveler’s wife and me, The girl with the dragon tattoo) we came across some fine sand art! Tiny little crabs would dig a little hole and then make little balls made out of sand all around - super cool sand art.
The return trip on the government ferry was way better than the Makruzz. The “Royal cabin A/c” was replaced by strong winds and salty spray on the deck of the ferry. We checked into the Hotel and after waiting like forever to be server dinner, we crashed for the night.
Day 4 – Best of Port Blair
We were to visit the best snorkeling site in Port Blair – Jolly Buoy. To get there, first we took a rickshaw to the bus station and then a State Transport (ST) bus to go some 40km to Wandoor. The contrast between this and the South Button trip were already surfacing. First, there were 3 boats, each carrying some 75 tourists each. The 45min boat ride had some great visuals of the Andaman Archipelago, islands strewn around carelessly, each with own distinctive vegetation. When the boat finally anchored close to the beach of the island, a glass bottom boat was used to ferry us to the island, in turns. This was also as an opportunity by the ‘guides’ to market the coral reefs.
Snorkeling was a huge difference. The ‘guides’ slide-in a life buoy and help you into a coral-infested snorkeling mask. Lo and behold, he then drags you around, while mercilessly stepping on the corals! The only credit that I could give is that he points out to each fish / coral and calls out its name. Shreya’s guide also got her out of her buoy and helped her skin dive to the floor of the sea! We fell for the “if you pay us more, we can show you more” line and ended up paying 300 bucks each for an extra 10mins!
The Jolly Buoy trip left us with just enough time to catch a rickety bus back to the city. We bought tickets to the much acclaimed ‘sound n light’ show at the Andaman Jail. We were more entertained by the audience than the show itself. Just as the show was warming up, at the slightest hint of rain, the audience (inspired by the Vir Savarkar story being narrated) marched towards the enclosure at the back. It was a sound and light 4-D show for us. Mercifully, the crowd, did not cry “Inquilab zindabad”, there was every other flavor of a freedom movement.
Day 5 – Turquoise in a box?
With just a few hours left of our trip, after a heavy breakfast, Shreya and I shopped around Sagarika emporium. We bought some beautiful coral jewelry in various pleasing hues of blue, green and red. We packed up and brought back much more than just bright colorful corals, we brought back a canvas full of colorful memories…
Some of the corals and fishes we spotted:
Fresh water Jelly, Giant Moray (peeping out of a rock), Lion fish, Parrot fish, Giant clam, crown of thorns starfish (big purple one with many tentacles), sea star (cute one that we held in South button), Indian cushion sea star (held in Jolly buoy), Blue sea star (in Jolly Buoy), boring clam, brain coral, Tube coral (with the Nemo-like clown fish), Bubble anemone (with Clown fish), Blue green damsel, Angelfish, schools of powder blue surgeon fish, striped surgeonfish (orange one with stripes), Anemone fish
Location of the snorkeling sites captured by GPS, the satellite images looks unreal. Click on Satellite on the map: