GETTING TO HAVELOCK ISLAND

Getting to Havelock requires first getting to Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman Islands, and then taking a ferry from Port Blair to Havelock.

Port Blair, the capital city of the Andamans, is connected to Chennai and Kolkata by both air and sea. The most convenient and quickest way to get to the islands is to fly. Kingfisher Airlines, Jet Aiways and Indian Airlines have daily flights into Port Blair from Calcutta and Chennai. The fares range from Rs. 5’000 to Rs. 12’000 depending on the airline chosen, and the flying time is about 2 hours. Tickets can be purchased online. For current flight schedules, fares and baggage allowances visit these sites:

* Kingfisher – http://www.flykingfisher.com
* Jet Airways – http://www.jetairways.com
* Indian Airlines – http://www.indianairlines.in

Kingfisher and Indian Airlines have daily flights to Port Blair from Chennai. Jet Airways and Indian Airlines have daily connections to Port Blair from Kolkata and passengers from Delhi have the option to fly to the Andamans with Jet Airways via Kolkata.

Ships also ply between the mainland and Port Blair, with departures from Kolkata, Visakhapatnam and Chennai. Tickets for the ships do need to be booked in advance and the 3-day journey can be arduous given the basic amenities on board. For ship schedules to the Andamans visit http://www.and.nic.in/spsch/sailing.htm or call +91-22-2202 2431.

Although the ship is an option for travellers on a low budget and without time constraints, we recommend flying into the Andamans. With the advent of low-cost airlines flying into Port Blair, ticket prices have reduced significantly, and the short durations, greater convenience and comfort of the flights compared to the ships justifies spending the extra money. Also, spending 3 days on a ship means that you get 2 days less diving!!

Once you have landed in Port Blair, Havelock is just a ferry ride away. There are three ferries that ply between Port Blair and Havelock on a daily basis. All incoming flights arrive in Port Blair in time for travelers to catch a ferry, allowing you to reach Havelock on the same day. Havelock has one jetty at Beach No.1,
Travelers can choose between the slower Government ferry and the faster new Catamaran depending on their arrival time in Port Blair as well as their budget. Below are the ferry timings with duration and approximate cost. Please note that timings and cost are subject to change without notice. Do recheck with us at the time of booking.

From Port Blair to Havelock:

Departure timings of Government Ferry: 6 am and 2 pm

Duration: 2.5 hrs

Approximate cost in Government Ferry: Rs.200 to Rs.400 per person per way

Departure timing of Catamaran: 9 am

Duration: 1.5 hrs

Approximate cost in Catamaran: Rs.850 to Rs.1,000 per person per way

From Havelock to Port Blair :

Departure timings of Government Ferry: 2 pm and 4:30 pm

Duration: 2.5 hrs

Approximate cost in Government Ferry: Rs.200 to Rs.400 per person per way

Departure timing of Catamaran: 4 pm

Duration: 1.5 hrs

Approximate cost in Catamaran: Rs.850 to Rs.1,000 per person per way

Indian passport holders do not require a permit to visit and stay in the populated areas of Andaman Islands, including Havelock Island.

Non-Indian Passport Holders however require an Indian visa to visit the Andaman Islands (as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are part of the Indian State).

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR FOREIGN NATIONALS TRAVELING TO THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS

All foreign nationals require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) over and above the Indian Visa to enter the Andaman Islands. The Indian Visa is to be obtained in your country of residence prior to arrival in India.

The Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is easily obtained on arrival at Port Blair. The procedure usually takes 15 minutes, is free of cost and is available to all foreign nationals.

It has recently been brought to our notice that some Indian Visas issued carry a stamp that reads “Entry to restricted areas NOT permitted”. Should your Visa carry such a stamp, please contact the embassy and have the visa re-issued as you will not be allowed to enter the Andaman Islands.

Most foreigners arriving at Port Blair are given a 30 day permit. Closer to the time of expiry (about 3 days ahead) this permit can be extended by another 15 days. This extension can be done either at the police station on Havelock or at the Immigration Office in Port Blair, and you will need to show a confirmed return ticket (for journey within the next 15 days) in order to get this extension. Please note that it may not always be possible to get this extension in a few hours and you may need to stay overnight to obtain the extension if you are applying in Port Blair.

It is rare that tourists are given less than 30 days on the permit. However it does happen to a few and it is recomended that you check the expiry of the RAP when the official hands it to you just in case it has been given only for a few days.

Diplomats are usually not given the full 30 days and usually get between a week and 15 days.

If you plan to stay more than 15 days and want to avoid having to go back to Port Blair to get an extension, we recommend that you purchase a return ticket for that specific date prior to your arrival in Port Blair. Be sure to show this return ticket to the Immigration Officer right away at the Port Blair Airport even though he does not ask for it.

Showing the official that you indeed have a return flight booked for a specific date beyond the 15 day period will get you the 30 day permit. Currently it is not possible to get to get direct 45 day permit on arrival under any circumstances.

Foreigners holding a valid entry permit into the Andaman Islands are allowed to visit and stay at municipal areas of Port Blair, Havelock, Long Island, Neil Island, the Islands of South Andaman and Middle Andaman (excluding tribal reserved area – 5 km away from Constance bay to Luis Inlet bay – western coast tribal reserve), Baratang, Rangat, Mayabunder, Diglipur, North Passage Island, Little Andaman (excluding tribal reserve) and all islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park except Boat Island, Hobday Island, Twins Islands, Tarmugli, Malay and Pluto Island. Tourists can also visit Jolly Buoy Island, S. Cinque Island, Redskin Island, Mount Harriet, Madhuban, Ross Island, Narcondam Island, Interview Island, Brother & Sister Islands and Barren Island during the day. (Visit to Barren Island is restricted on board the vessel with no landing ashore).
It has also been brought to our notice recently that tourists holding multiple entry Indian Tourist Visas (having visited and exited once) need to stay out of India for a minimum of 2 months or 60 days before re-entering the country. Should you leave India and return before this 60 day period you will not be allowed entry. Although a new rule, it has been put into effect and hence we advice you to ensure a minimum of 60 days between visits to India.

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Alert Diver Online Magazine

This is my favorite snorkeling spot on Havelock Island.   Radhanagar Beach, aka beach No. 7. This photo has just been published in the Conde Naste Travel Magazine and on this Online Magazine; Diver Alert.

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Introduction – Andaman Islands, India

This is my first attempt at a blog.  The intent of this site is to post helpful information regarding one of my favorite places on this big blue ball called earth.

Stay tuned as I will be posting more items here as they come up

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andaman adventure begins: 2006

Sun, April 23, 2006

THE AMAZING ANDAMAN ISLANDS!
Where does one begin? To find a few simple words to describe a cornucopia of sensual overload is a task beyond me. You dear reader, will have to endure many words.
Let me clarify…by “sensual overload” I mean that all of my senses were overloaded. I’m not intimating of a sultry story of a woman alone on holiday on an island. That’s not to say that there isn’t an element of romance in this story, it’s just not what I am talking about right now. Having cleared the air, I shall continue.
Ok, I came to the Andaman Islands, in particular, Havelock Island, for a ‘job’ teaching yoga at the ‘Jungle Resort’. I arrived on Feb. 3rd, and after getting my room, I unpacked and went immediately to the beach for a reunion with the sea. Ahh, the sea, my best friend, my place of solace and serenity, in it I am restored, by it I am bewitched, for it I have immeasurable love. As I waltzed down the magnificent shores of beach number 7 listening to music, I felt at one with the universe. It’s truly a treasure just knowing that where you are right now-in this moment-is home for your heart. I belong here. My spirit sings and dances in joyous union with the sea! I am in love! I am liberated!

The next day at 5:30am I awoke. As I lay upon my bed, upon my luxurious pillow I drifted into a peaceful state just absorbing the lovely sounds of nature, the sweet blend of the many insects and birds. The whoop-whoop bird I always associate with tropical mornings (it’s actually called a rooster-pheasant) and even the far away cockerel adds his morning blessing in a quaint way. The background sound to all of this is the surf hitting the shore, with thickness of the jungle as it creates this amphitheater for sound. Calming and yet invigorating. I will record this sound on my camera. My friend the racquet-tail bird is flitting about the banana trees and stops long enough for me to capture his image in my camera. It is peaceful here.

There is blueness in the sky and in the ocean, and not a drop of blue in my soul.

It has to be stated that the first few days of being there were disappointing in terms of the yoga lessons. Jungle Resort was not full, and the clientele, I came to realize, are interested in yoga only if they make it out of bed in time, and only if they are bored and don’t have other plans. They come there for the ease of a quick holiday, most stay 4 or 5 days, some stay 2 weeks, but not usually more than that. So, suffice it to say that I was student-less for most days and although I loved having the day to myself, I found it a bit dull. (I’m being given food and accommodation in return for nothing!) Aside from that, these folks are quiet, self contained holiday tourists, not really into interaction with a traveler. Seriously, they might say good morning, or nod hello, but they are into their own space, which I understand, especially having worked in a retail outlet for the last year, I might just not want to have to talk to anyone on my holiday. I reserve exception for Helen and Paul, a very cool couple from England, and we got on like a house on fire. They truly helped my first 2 weeks on Havelock. We went on a fishing trip together that was good fun, and I helped Helen to a ‘higher level’ in her snorkeling experience, I hope to visit with them in London (Bristol) before I return to Canada. I reserve exception also for Clare and her 8 year old daughter Cameron. Having a wee one around was special, and I enjoyed our day trips snorkeling, Cameron and I became fast friends. We snorkeled together; body surfed and collected sea shells. She is a gorgeous child with a ‘been on this earth a few times’ demeanor. You can see it in her photo, I hope I managed to capture her spirit. She really susses out a situation and then decides if she wants to get involved. She’s cool, as is her mom, and we shared most breakfasts together. Yes, of course, I fell in love with her! She reminded me of when Jade was that age. You know, when you can easily spend an hour just watching a child.

My good friends Jez and Miranda, whom I had met 2 years ago, were working and staying at Café Del Mar on beach number 3. They run the dive center there, named ‘Barefoot Scuba’. I went to see them and hang out there because of the backpacker/traveler crowd that stays there. Within my first few days, Samit, the man who “hired” me suggested I teach over there around 4 pm. So we set it up and then I had students.

Most locals here cannot say Zan, instead it comes out as Jan, and then to ease everything I was simply referred to as “Yoga Madam”, which I grew to love. It was cutest when my dive gear was put together, “that BCD is for Yoga Madam”….I got a big kick out of it.

The half hour drive between beaches was simplified with the use of a scooter that they offered for me to use. Everyday I scooted off to work and then home again. I was a commuter on a scooter! Driving it was a bit alarming at first, not the greatest roads; they get washed out with the monsoon and well, have lots of potholes. Driving during the day was ok; I managed, slowly, but at night, quite something else. The first night I set off on my scooter to home…. going through town was a bit crazy and I just blared my thankfully loud horn, because of a Bengali Celebration, there are many people in the center and through traffic is not a priority. I made it in one piece. I even crossed paths with a bus (a dreaded fear) and also some jeeps (another dreaded fear-all 4 wheel vehicles are dreaded)! Still I was fine. About ¾’s of the way home, I am ambling along minding my own business when I hear snarling behind me! Shit! A dog is chasing me! I gun it (dangerous on these bumpy potholed roads) and lift my feet up to my chest in case he is an ankle biter! For shit sake, this is crazy. Once my heart beat stops clamoring in my chest, I ease off on the throttle and mark in my mind where this is, so tomorrow I will be expecting him and drive faster to begin with. I do a quick scan: Heart rate back to normal? Check! Adrenaline stopped production? Check! Underpants dry? Check! Legs unbitten? Check! Backpack still in place? Check! Scooter still in one piece? Check! Able to carry on? Check!

The next morning I discovered that Rajan, the Jungle Resort Elephant, is going for a swim in the sea. So, I, with the other guests went along to the beach to watch this event. I wanted to swim with him, but it is too dangerous, or so they said. Regardless, it was just such a joy to witness an elephant swimming! He looked like a big teapot floating, dipping one end down and then the other. Way cool! I don’t know the stats but these domesticated elephants are rare and as far as I know, only here on the islands of the Andaman. Jacques Cousteau did a documentary on them, as did the BBC, as did National Geographic. Apparently these swimming elephants are used for tree felling – lumber industry- and then swim to the next island. From here, Port Blair can be reached in about 6 hours, that’s fantastic when you consider its 3 hours in a fisherman’s boat. A baby and mom elephant will be joining the scene here, as Susheel (the man who built Jungle Resort 12 years ago) has purchased the set and they should arrive here in a few months. I am positive I would like to be here again, same place same time next year, for the man of my dreams will be here filming a movie. Yes, Mr. Johnny Depp will be here! UNBELIEVABLE! The movie is based on a book called “Santaram” by George David Roberts, and Peter Weir is directing it. Apparently, they will be on a big cruiser yacht just offshore. I shall have to play my cards right and see if I can just be here. I think I will start to offer massage here: Divers Relief Massage, i.e.: back, shoulders, neck. Maybe Johnny would like one, ahh, the joy of fantasy. Oh the sadness of reality, maybe I can baby-sit his kids. Maybe Jade needs to be here with me!

I fell into a nice pace here; the morning yoga was not happening, but the afternoon one was, so I had the whole day to myself, and the whole evening in the midst of other travelers and divers. I began to have beers after class, with my friends, and every once in while I’d end up staying in whatever room was available so that I wouldn’t have to drink and drive. Taxis are hard to get in the later evening and costly too.

And then, I went on my first dive. It was a deep dive, so not much down time, but still, it got the ball rolling. I’m hooked again.

My days became busy… I went on another dive trip, with Laura from New York as my dive buddy, and Steven as my DM. Umeed and Narodi are doing the last of her advanced dive course, the Naturalist dive. Nice. Off to Minerva Ledge we went, almost 2 hours on the dungy (aka fisherman’s boat)! Man was it nice…. even though the current was intense and we used lots of energy just maintaining position over the reef. We had 2 dives at Minerva Ledge, with an hour break for lunch in-between. Offered up for our viewing privilege were the following: tiger cowry-shell, chocolate-dipped chromis, orbicular batfish, coronet fish, a large shoal of spotted unicorn fish, 2 radial fire fish (lionfish), a lovely diaphanous winged with a lavender spot in the center of it’s wings called a lyre-tailed anthias (looks a little like the fairy basselet), many variegated wart slugs, a moray eel, the palette blue surgeon fish (aka: Dorie from “Finding Nemo”), many Indian Star Cushions, a teeny tiny sea hare, a long-nose butterfly fish, a big lobster, clown anemone fish and their red egg sack, anemone crabs of all sorts, the mighty napoleon wrasse (just one), schools of red-toothed trigger fish with their medieval flag like tailfins of regal blue, and a first time sighting of the gorgeous clown triggerfish with its black and white spotted belly. Needless to say; excellent diving. I had a very nice time indeed. Back to shore at 2:30 meant rushing to get the log book filled, the shower taken, the hair combed and the coffee drank as I feel quite tired. I did manage to sleep on the boat, which was much needed. Amidst all of this preparation for my class, there were people coming up to me with questions about yoga, or about the dive, or whatever….and I just wanted to sit still, drink my coffee and be left alone for 15 minutes! Sheesh, now I know what Jez and Miranda are up against all the time. Everyone pulling at you! I feel like I am too busy!

But, my class was great, and I can only hope that they enjoyed as much as I did. They say that they love it, and this is enough for me.

At Jungle Resort, I lived in Susheel’s house, in my own room, under his, and beside the room that his father lives in. Uncle, as I call him, has had a stroke last year and spends a lot of time in bed, or sitting in a chair. His has double vision, and slurs when he speaks, but is an amazing chap, with lots of wonderful stories and a happy disposition. I quickly grew to love him. He is so lonely, and with me right there, I spent time just listening to him talk and helping him to exercise. I met a lovely couple from Montreal, Jose-anne and Patrick, who are physio-therapists and I asked them to come and give us a lesson on what to do. It was a nice experience. They were very generous. They taught Dalip (Uncle’s day nurse) to have him cover his one eye and try to walk in a straight line. Uncle tilts badly to the left when he walks and cannot walk unaided, because he will just fall over sideways. Uncle and I shared many lunches together, and I made him an eye patch with my airline eye-covers. He could give Johnny the Pirate of the Caribbean a run for his money! Hilarious!

Another wonderful person I met is Umeed. He is partners with Jez and Miranda, the three of them are certified Padi Scuba Instructors. He and I have swiftly become friends, and I enjoy his company. I have asked him to teach me my Dive Masters Course next year.

Umeeds parents arrived, and he took them diving, I met them, and they joined my yoga class. They are so cool, and so sweet, and so interesting. I’ve been invited to join them for dinner, which I accepted, and we had a very nice time. They are so lovely with each other and with their son, and you can just see how much they respect each other.

The South Button dive was stunning, and I wanted to just stay there forever…..actually I dove it, snorkeled it and then dove it again!!!

Among the many spectacular sights to behold i saw many nudibranch, napoleon wrasse, barracuda, an amazing pair of pipe fish(seahorse like), collard butterfly fish, and spine-cheek anemone fish (my favorite crimson red and mustard yellow ones).

It feels so right to be in the water again, with a tank on my back….the sound of bubbles to measure my breath…the feel of solace and floating freedom as I dangle suspended in buoyancy…….the stunning seascapes of the coral reefs and their frequent flyer fish….the serenity in the beauty of it all.

Ah, the big deep blue.

By the time I got to shore it was 4:15, so I had a quick shower and asked everyone to wait until 4:30 for yoga. I must admit that I was quite spent. I asked everyone to sit in easy crossed legs and find their breath while I slurped up the cup of coffee that would give me the power to perform! It went well, but I could feel myself losing my patience a little, as I had beginners who don’t actually listen and it’s quite hard to keep saying things over and over without getting a bit testy. Ok, bend your knees…ahem…..BEND YOUR KNEES! E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e-B-E-N-D your K-N-E-E-S!!!!!” I seriously could not think of another way to say it. Still, there were a few straight legs! I seriously could not think of another way to say it. Short of karate chopping the backs of their legs, I opted to just have everyone look at their legs and then see if they have a straight or bent leg. Communicating with people who have no body awareness can be challenging, having patience for it became my work.

My yoga classes were rewarding and a great education for me. I learned a lot about the dynamics of what makes a yoga class good. It is the good workout, surely, but for many it is the closing sequence, the relaxation and the meditation. I began to shanti my style and spend more time on the spiritual aspect of the class.

I wake up sooooooooooooooooooooooo happy, and spend each day being happy. I am not just saying that when I thought about it I realized I was happy. My happiness just kept surfacing daily like a dolphin swimming in my bow wave. Leaping up into the bright sunshine and painting a smile so wide across my face. I am so happy it hurts. I am crying over it. It’s the most bizarre feeling. It actually hurts. I never want to leave.

I decided to dive as much as possible and as we roll upon the surface of the mighty ocean in our little boat, I feel each wave’s gravity pull my heart in the sensuality of it, and as my hair sweeps across my back and shoulders I am once submersed in a overwhelming sense of contentment.

Not only am I on top of clouds, I am a cloud. I am utterly gob-smacked happy. This is THE LIFE. I am bliss. I am so alive. I spend more time in the water than on the shore it seems and this suits me very well. Hard on my hair, but I don’t care. My make-up remains unused as the smile on my face brings all the beauty I feel to the surface, why cover that up?

Far too quickly three weeks have gone by and I decide I cannot leave this haven yet, and because Samit has asked me to stay, and told me how easy it would be to get my permit extended, I accept the offer, and settle into 3 more weeks of nirvana. i.e.: diving, yoga, sunshine, boat-trips, and friendships.

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Today I spent an hour with Susheel’s dad and helped him do his exercises. He told me about his wife, and how she died in his arms. Then I went down to see Anna and Sonny

(a couple I met in Mahabalipuram) and met their friends, the Italians who had the turtle encounter. They shared their photos with me. Let me share their story.

‘They are lying on the beach, he is on his stomach reading a book, he feels a scratching under his towel and thinks he is on a hermit crab, but when he pulls it back he witnesses a newly hatched turtle emerging from the sand. I can only imagine the rest. I can only fantasize that I was actually there! The story they told and the photos they shared are pretty damn close anyway. They told me that of the 38 they counted, 10 were already dead, and 28 made it to the water….with the help of the sun-bathers!’

So pure is the nature there that turtles hatch right beneath your feet!

Monday, February 27 th, 2006

One of my favorite experiences came early one morning on the day I should have been flying off of the Andaman Islands but decided to extend my stay. It was a reward for making the right decision. I got to swim with Rajan. He is resident Male Elephant of the Jungle Resort. He was left there after being used to shoot a movie 2 years ago.

Where do I begin? I find it hard to describe the grace a beauty and agility of such a large cumbersome creature performing underwater “asana’s” with such magnificence! Rajan tipped his head forward and planted his trunk and tusks in the sand, then lifted both back legs, one front leg, and his bum… for what I am going to call ‘trunk stand’. Then he reversed this into ‘bum stand’; shifting the bulk of his weight into his rear end, bending both back legs and lifting one front leg while extending his trunk out of the water for air! All this with the Mahout (trainer) on his back! Wow, this was a very intimate experience, one I won’t soon forget. It had a strange effect on me; it was like I shared something with him of the caliber that only lovers can know. When I gazed upon him in the water with my snorkel and mask, I watched him watching me, and we had this exchange of glances. I fell in love! He is so beautiful. I even cried….it was a truly blissful and fortunate moment in my life. What a wondrous creature!

Out of breath and heart pounding I left the water when he did and resumed photographing him. He rested his rump upon a tree and began scratching his feet, legs and butt upon the trunk of this tree. Incredible, and so fun, he really is a joy to behold. To my surprise the Mahout offered me a ride on Rajan which I readily accepted, and we ambled along in the forest for about 5 minutes, me atop a great big long legged hunky elephant, wearing a bikini and a smile bigger than the sky! Getting down off of him was funny too, it felt like a ride at the midway, and I had to hang on very tight to the Mahout or I would be ‘ass-over-tit’ in a minute. All this before breakfast! Jungle life is pretty cool, no? Exhilarated and feeling a bit like blissed-out overload, I returned to the water to swim and just absorb the moment more fully. I feel drugged with the adrenaline and good fortune. I began thinking that today I have horseshoes up my ass…I feel so lucky. My moment with Rajan was like gracious gift from heaven. I feel blessed.

Monday, March 6th, 2006: Duncan Wreck and The Wall.

So, I should admit that I am not a ‘wreck’ diver, but I have changed my mind. The dives were lovely, really, the shrimp box at the wreck blew my mind and I wanted to stay there forever. In this cupboard on the side of a wall, is an amazing assortment of little shrimps and pipe fish. Some shrimps are transparent and wee, others long armed red and white striped, and others are blue-lined. It was like this whole little microcosm!

After yoga class at dinner, Umeed and I talked about Jade-MY NEICE, and how I want to bring her to the Andaman’s’ next year. Now get this…..Umeed asked if he could have the honor of instructing her to become a junior diver…and if I take my Dive Masters course at the same time, than I can assist in hers. I had to hold back the tears of joy!  I did cry, for this moment, and for the way I am missing Jade right now, just describing her to him, who she is and what she is like, and how I imagine they will get along famously.

On yet another day:

I had cancelled the Yoga class today-too busy diving- and had the luxury of having a little after dive nap. When I lay my head down, I fell immediately to sleep…when I awoke an hour later I vividly recall that I was still floating in water, all of my limbs still swimming, I felt like I was in the dream sequence scene from ‘The Hours”: the one where Julienne Moore tries to kill herself and drowns in her bed, except I didn’t drown, I was part of the ocean, it was part of me.

Friday, March 10th, 2006

This day is a sacred day, a celebration of life, of survival, of gratitude. 22 years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and look at the way it changed the course of my life. Without that event, the likelihood that I would be here right now, experiencing this reality is very low. I like to play at imagining what my life would be instead. I fancy that I would be divorcee, fat, with 3 kids, and stuck in Olds. Ok, it would be fine, I’d have my family and my life, but it sure would not be this! My god, I am so fortunate. So damn lucky…..so many fine fine people in my life, so many glorious experiences and travels. Even my alter ego is envious of my life. Umeed took the day off from leading dives, and we went diving together with others but in our own space, on our own separate dive. He brought his big underwater camera and we went to Duncan Wreck again. This time the visibility was fantastic and I agreed to be his model in the photographs. Unfortunately, I discovered a hawksbill turtle, dead, and caught in a net that the wreck claimed long ago from a fisherman. It made me sad, of course, and I managed to give it a little prayer before we left it.

It was interesting to model for underwater photos, the most interesting part is communicating with sign language, and of course, Umeed is well trained for this, it was I who needed the help! What fun.

To celebrate this day I have invited Jez, Miranda, and Umeed out for snitzel at Eco Villa. Of course, we left late, but never-mind, it was just fine. Unfortunately I drank too much beer, ate too little food, and was rather laconic before we even left. I really just wanted to go to bed, but after a coffee, I pulled it together and we had a very fine evening. The speech I had in my head evaporated with the lateness of the evening, and I simply said that I was so fortunate to be here, and that I am thankful for getting cancer, for the freedom it gave me, how it liberated me from the standard confines of society. I am thankful that I am not a fat divorcee, and that meeting them has enriched my life. Actually, it didn’t come out as graceful as that, but I think they got it. It came from my heart.

Sunday, March 12th, 2006

My last night….I had a terrific dinner with Jez, Miranda, and Umeed.

Because I couldn’t sleep, I quietly left the bungalow, and went down to the sea. Under the soon full moon, I lowered myself into the low tide….like a crocodile or turtle I ambled out further in search of deeper water. I was taken back to a time when I was a young girl, living near the river, sometimes I would go in to the shallows and just walk upon my hands, body floating, hands guiding me along the rocks and stones…..I had this same feeling now; a child at one with the water. I then let my tears join the sea, salt to salt; a fair exchange. I said my farewell. I can’t do this! I can’t leave. Why do I have to leave? Stop time, give me more, please, can I not just stay?

Monday, March 13th, 2006 my last morning here…

Today is an ugly day. I feel terrible, I have diarrhea, and a headache, and my heart is splintering. I feel abandoned by everyone as they left on their dive boats, and I am all alone. I had a last lunch with Uncle, and forced myself to pack. My heart is breaking for leaving my ocean…my love of life and the sea only intensified with each and every day in that moment that unfolded its beauteous wings to me. The friendships I forged and the special bonds with those who became very close to me became sacred.

On the verge of sounding like I smoke too much ganja, I ask you to read the sincerity in this excerpt. I could have gone on and on about the diving, and all the rest, but I think by now you have an idea of what the last 6 weeks was like for me, and why I found it so hard to leave. And maybe you’ll understand why I will return to this home for my heart next year, for 3 months, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a way to join me in paradise.

I invite you………..

October and November are still unknown to me, but by the end of 2006 I will again be Andaman Bound! So come see me in the first 3 months of 2007, let’s go diving, or ride an elephant, or just hang in a hammock in the jungle and watch turtles hatch!

Life is a journey…..and I am wanderlust-lost,

Yet, everywhere I go, I find myself!

Namaste.

zan

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march 2010 update

i am in india…again. i found myself missing it last year when i was in indonesia, philippines and borneo. so here i am AGAIN, on havelock island, in the andamans: “home”!

so much has changed, it’s hard to recognize the little village and the quaint beach bungalows, as there is now so many fancier places, more restaurants, internet places, and of course it went from 2 dive shops to 6. i feared for the diving, for the scarcity of fish. i was gratefully wrong. when i compare it to the philippines, i realize that there are still so many schools of fish, big and small, and i am happy to report that the diving has actually improved! there are more dive sites and more diversity in the types of dives. it’s now easy to do “dawn” dives. it involves getting up early- being at the dive shop at 4:15 am, and setting off into the breaking dawn, by speedboat (rib, dingy) no less. so the travel time is cut by a generous third, you descend in dusky darkness, watching the dive site come to life as the fish begin their day. sharks, rays, turtles, and big shoals of baracuda, surgeon fish, big eyed jacks and fusiliers whirl and wind thier way around the reef. it’s fabulous.
there have been manta and eagle rays in the area, and dolphins too. so all is well in the underwater world.

one thing makes me sad, and that is that the boats we now use, which are local fishing boats called dungy’s, all have to be replaced with outboard engine boats next year. i like the rustic feel of the chugging dungy, and the simple set up. there’s time to chat and suntan, listen to your ipod or read a book to and from the dive site. with speedboats comes increased opportunities to dive the further away dive sites such as barren island, which is a magical active volcano with underwater slopes of black sand, where mantas and shark are highly visible in the clear waters.
as of right now the airport has just finished becoming “international” in it’s standing, and soon flights from singapore will commence. until that happens though, havelock is still able to manage it’s increased volume of tourists, however, i think it will soon go the way of thailand once the flights start coming in. i am convincing myself that it is retaining it’s charm for now…but i fear for it’s inevitable ruination soon to come.

i have reconnected with dear friends, and have begun to establish new friendships as well.

i am teaching yoga under the shade of the coconut trees (not too near them, staying well clear of potential braining by coconut). the sea breeze fans and cools us….and keeps mosquitoes at bay until 5:30 pm when the mozzies are at their worst.
i am diving too, and enjoying my time, still painfully addicted to my camera! I just met my new camera the other day: the canon s90, it’s just like my 3 year old canon g9, but half the size and has a manual focus “ring” so i should be able to get better images.

today i am flying in and out of chennai (mainland) so i can renew my permit to visit the islands for 1 more month. i fly into the city, stay on the kingfisher plane for 40 minutes while it reloads, and then fly back to port blair. i leave at 6:50 in the morning and return by noon. then i take the 2:30 ferry back to havelock. the whole process is 24 hours. in 2008 when i was here last, it took 48 hours. so it’s an improvement. Plus, you can get the 2 week extension on havelock island itself, which is a great improvement!

my days are simple…eating fresh fruit with fresh coconut and homemade curd (yogurt) for breakfast….lunch is usually an omelet and chapatti..dinner is ginger fried fish or chicken with veggies. i don’t eat a lot of indian food, as i find most of it too heavy. there is a lot of variety here, and lots of western food too. my old boss Susheel, now runs a restaurant at the jetty, called B3, where you can get good pizza and even sashimi. so i am quite impressed.
yoga is at 3:45, diving starts at 7 am (on the days i do go), and socializing is during lunch and dinner. it’s all good. then there is always time to laze in a hammock or on the beach reading a book. even mediocre books are ok, as great ones are hard to come by.
i have a nice little bungalow, it costs 300 rupees, or $7.75 a day…meals are about 500 -day, just over 10 bucks so it’s not so bad…more expensive than indian mainland but still, it’s just so bloody beautiful here…the water is sooooooooooo blue and the trees soooooooooooon green…it’s just magical.

so another month in paradise awaits me….and then i am returning to bangkok where i might buy my new camera….then off to koh phanghan for some more yoga at the sanctuary. i just met a woman who went to the island of Kri in indonesia. it is the place that you can dive Raja Ampat (one of the best dive sites in the world) and she stayed a month in a homestay. so, i am going to consider this option as well. most plans are in a state of flux anyway…so i am just rolling with it and will see where i end up. it’s fun just to make the plans and fantasize about where to go next.

in conclusion, although havelock has changed alot, i will more than likely find myself here again next year!
nameste and happy h20!!! love zan

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