t’was hardly a month since we had moved to Port Blair that we got an opportunity to go into the seas aboard one of our friend’s boat. The plan was to go from Aberdeen jetty to North point where the boat would be anchored in the middle of the sea, we would then get into a Gemini and go up further North in deeper waters and do snorkelling.
For me, having never travelled on such a boat was itself exciting. My friend took me to the front part of the boat and made me sit on the bow? …the front portion of the boat, (imagine sitting on the bonnet of a car and speeding) water rushing, a fine spray caressing my face, with fear tugging my heart, my thoughts racing ... ‘am I holding on tight?, is my grip loosening?.... I am being clumsy, I am going to fall into the sea’ and so on. Meanwhile the breeze was trying to make each strand of my hair dance to its tune flying left, right, up and down and I, squinted my eyes against the wind barely managing to keep them open. Shirt flying, unstable legs and clammy hand, blind eyed, everything was working towards pushing me overboard.
One of the boys in the group let’s call him ‘Wish’ was thoroughly enjoying watching me, my careful walking on the boat, purposeful heavy footsteps, gripping toes ...holding this and that with my hands alternating so that at any point in time one of my hands was definitely holding on to something. There are so many jutting pipes and knobs to hold on to on a boat. (Very handy I must say!) One had to be careful though because what you thought was a fixed thing would turn out to be a handle of sorts and suddenly turn while you are holding on to it for your life.
Wish had a whale of a time watching my antics. He, (all of eleven years of age) was a pro and ran about as if we were on a play ground or something, jumping over this and that. Kids have this uncanny (“adults, please read that as bugging”) habit of making everything look simple. Forty-five minutes later it was time to move into the Gemini which I discovered was a very low boat on inflated tyres! with a motor. “Can it take all of us at one time?” I enquired worriedly. Wish promptly answered “Yes”. “Hello, Is there anybody else other than Wish over here?” (See the picture of Gemini Inflatable below)
We took off in the Gemini and went into the ocean, (well, it felt like the ocean to me) and stopped. Experts in the Gemini knew this to be the place where excellent corals and marine life could be seen. One by one people got off, each with buoy and snorkels fitted on. I also got into the water (snorkeled and buoyed oh boy!) and I found an expert diver next to me since it was my first time. The Gemini immediately moved away. It went quite far away, I felt.
The diver taught me how to put my head under water, snorkel and breathe. I think if I had learnt this part closer to the shore and after getting a hang of it, come along so deep into the sea, I would have enjoyed it. As things stood here I was knowing so little about it, I wasn’t very comfortable and after a little while I actually alarmed the expert by saying ‘I am feeling tired’. He panicked!.. and waved the Gemini to come closer. The moment it came close I had my hands promptly curled around a rope which was going all around the Gemini. I couldn’t (more appropriately, wouldn’t) let go. ‘Ma’am the buoy won’t let you go under, just leave the boat and see’ advised some helpful men. I said ‘no, no I am fine you guys go ahead and I dived my head under water, I could see some corals but I could also see, by titling my head just a little, the deeper part, endless chasm filled with water going deep, deep…. deep below.
I brought my head out, I was still holding on to the Gemini. ‘You are missing something ma’am leave the Gemini’ tried another. ‘I can see some corals’ I replied indignantly and dived my head down again more to avoid being told to leave the Gemini, I saw a big fish dart by. It was beautiful, golden and black striped. I brought my head up again and asked the one chap who was left there on the Gemini if he could move the Gemini ahead while I kept holding on to the rope (where was the need to leave the rope!) I could float (I know how to float in water, I swear!) and the Gemini could glide by. He discussed with other men and put on the motor and started slowly going forward. There was such a gush of water that I had to hold on tight to the rope, it was so difficult, my whole concentration was on not letting go. The idea was abandoned and people reverted to ‘leave the rope nothing will happen, look at me blah blah blah.’
Who should swim by, none other than Wish, he said ‘You are so scared of water, how do you take bath?’ I gave him a dirty look and said ‘I am not exactly floating in ten to twenty feet deep water while having a bath.’ ‘But still, it is just water’ he said and swam/floated away. Another expert, who had actually saved me from drowning once, Sri, came and said ‘I will follow you all the way, you just see the corals, get away from the Gemini’ and he was not even having a buoy with him (freestyle swimming, bah!). ‘You have to be right behind me’ I said. A pact was signed, with three, four witnesses, the only thing missing was a waterproof paper and pen, I finally, much to the relief of every single one of the group, left the boat and with gentle push from Sri went into the sea.
There were amazing varieties of corals. It’s a different world altogether, a very cliché statement but no other statement can fit in so aptly. I observed the going-ons mutely and mutely the fishes gave me a go ahead looking point blank into my eyes. A wide variety of fishes were there some sleek and fast, others as if out on a stroll swimming slowly, peacefully with all the time in the world. Looking at them I slowed and automatically my heart rate slowed. Indigo coloured clams opened and after a few minutes closed. The colour was so rich that I couldn’t take my eyes away from them. I think the term ‘vibrant colour’ must have occurred to someone while looking at these clams. It was as if the colour was alive.
Cauliflower corals, Staghorn corals, finger corals, boulder shaped corals and brain corals were there in abundance. All shades of brown, green, pink, yellow, blue, aquamarine, jade, viridian, malachite, cobalt, cerulean, Sapphire, midnight blue were there for me to catch a glimpse. I frankly didn’t know where to look, I didn't want to miss anything. Few clown fishes darted about around the rippling sea anemones. Orange coloured fishes, butterfly fishes, sand coloured ones, blue with yellow tail, twin tailed and many more swam in and out of the corals.
Here are a few picturesof the corals
taken from a friend's camera, not much justice done capturing its beauty, but still.....
I was glad that ultimately I was able to see all of the above, and I resolved to see more…a nagging feeling of invading the privacy and peace of the undersea world bugged me, I promised that I would observe quietly and would not touch any of the corals, I am ready to sign, where is that waterproof paper and pen?
Some interesting picture of the land that is North Point (from my mobile)
Turning Left !
Trek To North Point Light House
Way to go
~ that side (zoomed closer)