Category Archives: Responsible Travel

Exploring Andamans-Part 8-Nandu’s Day Out

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 , Part-6 and Part-7

Nandu and I enjoyed our time on the beach. Time was passing by slowly looking at the open sea, admiring the freshness of the experience by the sea. We ran on the beach, choosing which pebble to pick and throw into the sea, and observed that some pebbles were smoother than the shells that lay washed ashore. Before we went off for lunch, we stared at the sea, and I was telling Nandu that we are in many ways tied to the ocean and that is probably why we keep getting so attracted to the sea and that is where we will go once the eternity of a lifetime passes. I am not sure, he understood anything, but kids have a way to process information and retrieve it contextually on demand.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- For a calming day out, always trust the sea, and some time by the beach is always fun

Nandu was fascinated by the Go-Pro Camera that I was using, and I thought its a good idea to hand over the camera to him, since it was easy to photograph. I told Nandu to use the voice function that just required some one to say ‘Go-Pro Take a Photo’. Nandu lapped it up and went about clicking photos. I gave him a little task to get a peep into what he observes, and asked him to click upto 10 pictures of the things he likes.

These are a few of what Nandu came up with

  1. There was a little dog at the restaurant and at Parvati’s house that Nandu used to play with. It looked like he was on Nandu’s ‘LIKE LIST’.
The little dog at Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)
The little dog at Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)

Nandu’s Lesson #2- In a new place, mix with the villagers and the local and understand their life. Nandu made himself comfortable in Parvati’s shop by relaxing on the hammock and playing with their dog.

Nandu chilling in a hammock at Parvati's store near Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)
Nandu chilling in a hammock at Parvati’s store near Flying Elephants- Kalapathar Village in Havelock (Andaman Islands-India)

2) Kaushik from the Flying Elephants Team made us our breakfast and lunch. Nandu spent time sitting in the kitchen with him observing him make food. Since he fed Nandu well, Kaushik made it to Nandu’s ‘LIKE LIST’

Nandu developed an attachment to Kaushik-who cooked for us at Flying Elephants (Andaman Islands-India)
Nandu developed an attachment to Kaushik-who cooked for us at Flying Elephants (Andaman Islands-India)

3) Our Hotel room had some bird art made with paint. Nandu seemed to like it.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

4) Nandu liked the portico where we were sitting and spending most of our time at the resort.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

5) Nandu loved running, and he liked the pathway that connected our hut to the reception. So that made it to his ‘Like List’

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

6) I am not quite sure, if I influenced Nandu, but he seemed to also like this view of the open greenery from our windows.

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

7) And as a last item, he loved his little beach kit

Nandu's Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)
Nandu’s Go-Pro Photography Task at Havelock Islands(Andamans-India)

Nandu’s Lesson #3- If you have a camera in hand, and an easy one at that, its very rewarding trying to document what captures his fancy. A camera helps you freeze moments that you can take back home [Despite daddy doing that for a living]

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 7-Beach Bumming at Kalapathar

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  ,Part-5 and Part-6

The sun had made its way, by the time my monologue with the greens around had ended. The little world at Kalapathar was now the shared responsibility of other people and I. I woke up in the dawn, with a powerful feeling that darkness has that makes you feel that you own the trees, twigs, paths and nature. The sun had found its way through the crevices that the leaves and trees had hidden the beach from, and the golden hour was looking beautiful. The rain brought happiness, and the sunshine too brought happiness, and the transition was never noticed as the focus was just on the beautiful. It was like 2 people standing on a rug, and the rug was pulled without either of the legs getting affected. Rain or Shine, the beauty of nature was something I was sold on.

The sun cometh! The monsoon makes way for the sun-Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island( Andamans-India)
The sun cometh! The monsoon makes way for the sun-Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island( Andamans-India)

I sat on the beach, and kept my eye frame of reference as one of the sea shells and kept staring at it, while the waves kept crashing nearby. I read somewhere that sea shells bring good luck, and I only wished that I have a peaceful holiday and looked at the waves going in and out, leading to a rythm. I did this for a few minutes before the sun’s rays on my body got a little too warm for my city bred comfort. Every time I stare at the sea, I am in a state of trance trying to comprehend the world and the way it was created.

The sea shells out to sun bathing-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)
The sea shells out to sun bathing-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island (Andamans-India)

The leaves were welcoming the morning sun, and the golden shade on the sea confirmed that today was out to be a sunny start to the day despite the seemingly monsoon laced dawn. The dewy freshness of the morning was replaced by the sun’s healing warmth. If ever the plants were depressed by the rains, they were washing themselves in the bath of the earliest sunshine. The Andamans anyway has sunlight coming much earlier than the mainland, so the plants get to get light on their body earlier and quicker.

The sun's rays illuminate the plants on Kalapathar Beach(Havelock Islands in Andamans-India)
The sun’s rays illuminate the plants on Kalapathar Beach(Havelock Islands in Andamans-India)

I went back to my room to read a book on my kindle cloud reader on my mac. I was relaxing by the room, staring at the forest that the end of the hotel path opened out to. I went to the nearby petty shop run by a localite and sat on her mud floor trying to make conversations with Parvati who runs the shop. It was almost an hour of conversations as I sipped 2 glasses of tea. I figured out that Parvati’s parents had come here in 1961/71 when India moved all of the Bangladeshi immigrants from Kolkata to the Andaman Islands, giving them land. Parvati has grown in Havelock, and speaks Bengali which is the dominant language in the Andaman Islands. The ‘modified modern natives’ of the islands are bengali speaking Bangladeshi’s who have been living here for over 6 decades. The local tribes of the Andamans now live in North Sentinel Islands, which still remains out of tourist bounds.

I bought some chocolates for Nandu, who by then had woken up and walked over to the shop. Nandu quickly took the chocolates and asked me to come to the beach.  We went with our beach bucket and found a spot to perch ourselves.

'Working from Home'-View out from my room at Flying Elephants-Andamans
‘Working from Home’-View out from my room at Flying Elephants-Andamans

Nandu’s Lesson #1- The sea is a beautiful place to spend time, even though its warm, and we never do this in the city. Whenever it feels warm, apply sun cream lotion and take a dunk into the sea.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- Youtube is a great place to learn art, but there’s no place quite like the beach and mother nature to pick random twigs, sand. shells and the sea water to learn about elements and art work. There is life beyond Youtube and a 100 MBPS internet connection!

Nandu’s Lesson #3- Life is always better with Sandy shoes. He had no restriction on how dirty he could be while he was playing.

This part of the beach had very less waves, and one could walk into the water for quite a distance. I was anyway following Nandu wherever we went, so there was no danger from the sea. We decided to try our hand at carving some sand art from some of the templates we had. I seemed to have made an airplane and a car from the template we had. Nandu screamed in joy and appreciated that I had done it so well. I was gleaming in joy. My day had been made, since my little son came over and hugged me around the beach art. I took him for an extra ride in the water doing ‘Uppu Mootai’ where i would act like a crawling tortoise and Nandu would sit on my back and we would walk on the ocean floor. A few more flip flops in water, and our stomachs became empty enough.We just had enough energy to walk across to the restaurant at Flying Elephants.

 

Beach Therapy making sand art at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Island in Andamans-India
Beach Therapy making sand art at Kalapathar Beach-Havelock Island in Andamans-India

There was no clock or watch needed at the Andaman Islands since we were in sync with nature. We thought it must be about 3 pm, but we realised that it was just about 12:30. There was something about the Andamans that made you start early and feel very productive with a lot of time still lying to use. For some reason, if you lose an hour in the morning  you keep searching for that the whole day and never seem to find that extra one hour.  But now that we were at sea, it seemed like planet Earth’s most potent way to remedy for stress. Being connected to nature in these couple of days, made me cringe and feel a little immature for needing a mobile alarm clock for me to wake up to.

Motion on the Beach-Sand art for an airplane and car-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island-India
Motion on the Beach-Sand art for an airplane and car-Kalapathar Beach in Havelock Island-India

G E T T I N G   T H E R E

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 6-Monologue With Monsoon

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 ,Part-4  and Part-5 so far.

I stood outside our hut for about 15 minutes, waiting for the dawn light to crawl inside the forest. This post is about those 15 minutes and the little walk thereafter. This post is about my monologue with nature before my little son wakes up.

There is something about the monsoons or the first rains, that leaves you spellbound or attracted to the world outside. It’s like the feeling of the world around you has been bathed and is singing joyously, while you explore the trees, the leaves, the pathways have its own morning monsoon glow, even as the earthy Petrichor fills your senses. Travelling to the Andamans from the mainland can be a little like time travel as you go catch the monsoon before it hits the mainland. You revel in the future by taking a piece of it, and then head back to the sweltering humid climate of Chennai and the world beyond it.

The morning walk across to the reception at Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock Island-Andaman Islands (India)
The morning walk across to the reception at Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock Island-Andaman Islands (India)
Reception of Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)
Reception of Flying Elephants Retreat in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)

It looked like the rain had abated, and there was a sense of the wind and the buzz from the weather settling down. I actually wished it rained a bit more. There is something about a rainy day where you want droplets of water all around where you live. A blanket around you, a pot of tea and a book to lazily be transported mentally and physically into a different world of the book. The rain continuously falling could even be a GIF image that makes you feel bubbling with energy in the world that your book takes you to. I wanted to live within a book’s world, within the world that this green forest in Kalapathar Village was.  It was if there was a inner belief that rain has a way to heal the battered soul from the fast lives of the city. Rain has a way of making life pause, and take you on a different track for a new trip. It was like the movie ‘Inception’-Dream within a dream within a dream. Since it was not raining I walked out of the resort to the main road that curves its way amidst the chaperoning woods that would take me to the beach.

'Tip Tip Tip Baarish'- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)
‘Tip Tip Tip Baarish’- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)

As I walked outside, I saw the leaves had an extra layer of green and maybe a spring in their step. The heavens had within a few hours revived the beauty and done make up on its subjects below. The leaves and moss around were greener than usual, and the roads were beautifully filled with little brown puddles. I thought rain has its own art form, reflected on the grand canvas that earth’s layers were. It could be the sea, which could have a thousand ripples breaking into it, it could be badly made roads where the bitumen peals off drop by drop, it could be the mud on the roads, which has now become a chocolate ‘milk-shakish’ brown. Monsoon was art, and I was its connoisseur this morning.

That fresh feel of the monsoons- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)
That fresh feel of the monsoons- Kalapathar Village in Havelock-Andaman Islands(India)

The leaves around the betelnut trees, were up in arms, literally begging me to look at them. There was so much green around, that you felt like meditating into its gaze. Life was slow, Life was green and the world for a few moments was just me and nature. Mobile signals could not discover me here. Whatsapp’s carefully crafted ‘NASA predicts cyclone’ messages would not reach me. Arnab’s full throated voice or any kind of negative vibe could not find me. There was fun in this kind of hide and seek from media. Have you ever felt this?

Wet, Green and the Rains are around- Kalapathar Village in Andaman Islands(India)
Wet, Green and the Rains are around- Kalapathar Village in Havelock- Andaman Islands(India)

Click here to read the previous part, and the next part

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes.

There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 5-Reaching Kalapathar Village

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 , Part-3 and Part-4 so far.

Entering Kalapathar

It was about 10 am, when I had come to the Kalapathar side of the island. The island seemed breathtakingly beautiful as we made our way with the sea opening out on one side and the tall trees by a hill on the other side. The road was patchy, as the population decreased along the 10 kilometre stretch from the market at Beach number 3 to Kalapathar Village. There was something very inclusive about the village, as soon as we saw the board that Kalapathar village welcomes us. The beach had a small road which had about 7 shops, selling food and beach wear, and 10 metres from it was one of the most pristine patches of sand that I have seen. In between was a shelter made out of tree logs, as seen in Munda Pahar, dotting the beach sands.

Nandu loved the beach, and made it a point to get right to the beach, and open his book and spend the day by telling us Spiderman tales, and by immersing himself in the turquoise waters of Kalapathar Beach.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- Its possible to spend a day just reading a book by a beach. The sea is calming and is always a source of energy for every session spent playing in the water.

Nandu's day out at Kalapathar Village Beach shelter-Andaman Islands(India)
Nandu’s day out at Kalapathar Village Beach shelter-Andaman Islands(India)

We went and checked in to the Flying Elephants Resort, and quickly came out to the restaurant that lies a 100 metres away from the resort on the village road, with an easy ambience inside. Our food affairs were limited as we mostly ordered bread toasts for breakfast and usually had the Dal-Chawal-Roti combo for lunch in the couple of days that we were there.

At the Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar(Andaman Islands-India)
At the Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar(Andaman Islands-India)

 

The resort had 2 types of huts. One type of huts was having a ground and a first floor through steps within the house, and the other type of hut had a front area as a balcony and a room right inside, all made of wood and bamboo, and that too very tastefully by the founders Lynda and Benny (who we did not meet during our stay, as they were traveling to Neil Island around the same time)

The houses have a pathway connecting the main part of the resort, which also houses a yoga centre. This resort has NO Air conditioners, NO Internet, NO telephone signals. You have chickens walking across the grass on either sides, and you are in exactly the kind of surrounding that mankind was meant to be. Waking up to the sounds of birds at 4 am, talking with fellow humans, sleeping at 9 pm, go for long walks in the forests and use the moon’s light for navigation, See sunrises and sunsets by a calm sea. Nature can help us re-discover that side of us, only when we blank out digital noises around us. It was beautiful and surreal being in a almost zero night pollution zone and our bodies were slowly getting synced to nature. Our mobiles were stashed in a corner safe, as they were of no use. No GPS, No Internet, No Signals.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- It’s possible to stay in the forest without air-conditioning and without television, and to follow a healthy sleeping routine in sync with the environment

The Long Pathway to our room at Flying Elephant Resort (Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island-Andamans)
The Long Pathway to our room at Flying Elephant Resort (Kalapathar Village in Havelock Island-Andamans)

 

Rotis for Lunch at Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village in Andaman Islands-India)
Rotis for Lunch at Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village in Andaman Islands-India)

Monsoon and Siesta

After a little siesta we headed out to the beach again, and it started to get very overcast. I knew that I was missing a sunset this evening owing to the cloudy nature. It then occured to me that this was the eastern direction, and the beach to be seeing a sunset was actually on the western side at Radhanagar. I could do nothing about it this evening, as that would mean, I would need to travel all the way to the market and take another bus from there to Radhanagar, which was easily an hour of public transport. Maybe I could do with a rental vehicle, but for today, I was content watching the pregnant monsoon in the Andamans, since the Indian mainland was having a scorching summer.

Monsoon laced evening at Kalapathar Beach
Monsoon laced evening at Kalapathar Beach

The rains came about slowly. The clouds were slowly building up giving people enough indications that a downpour was imminent and with the gathering of clouds, most of the people packed up early. Nandu and I were in the outer fringes of the sea, and we were enjoying lazing in the water and splashing each other. When it started raining Nandu was still in the water, and he realised that the water felt warmer while being in the sea, and he felt chill as soon as he came to the shelter where new clothes and towels were waiting.

Nandu enjoying the chill reaches of the sea in KalaPathar VillageNandu enjoying the chill reaches of the sea in KalaPathar Village

Monsoons! Yay!Monsoons! Yay!

Nandu and I were brushing ourselves dry, when we noticed a fisherman walk into the sea to cast his net. He did not seem to go far. He was at the fringes and spent some time before coming out. On days like these fishermen, who live by the coastal villages are far more cognizant of nature’s fury (which has probably denied them business for the day), than tourists who come to the island. We city dwellers dont quite understand the slow pace of life, and always plan packed itineraries even when the sea is part of the equation. The locals respect the sea, and the un-predictability that comes with sea life (rough weather, high seas with swelling tides), while we city dwellers cant quite react or manage un-predictability so easily. The city dweller that I am talking about is people like you and me, who find the change in the pace of life so different from the mainland to the Andaman islands.

A fisherman finding his catch in Kalapathar for the evening!
A fisherman finding his catch in Kalapathar for the evening!

Meanwhile, I could smell Maggi in the air. The shop on the beach road was closing down soon, and he was belting out Omlettes, Maggi and Pakodas to the remaining few people, who wanted to savour the smell of monsoon along with some tea and hot tasty snacks. With some Maggi for the night, I walked across the forest path to the resort, to stare into the night sky and tell my little son over stars.

Fresh Maggi for the rains!
Fresh Maggi for the rains!

We had an early start to our bed time, and it was pleasant to watch Nandu sleep before me and that too around 9 pm. 9 pm in the Andamans feels like midnight on the mainland, since the darkness starts to creep in from 5 pm. The next morning, I woke up rejuvenated and energetic at 4:15 am, and noticed that there was light rain outside. The place looked beautiful. I waited to go watch the greens outside the resort in the path leading to the beach. There was a sense of excitement that last probably came during Childhood when you wake up to a cloudy morning, visualizing that there could be no school that day. Today’s feeling was similar, except that there was no element of school coming in here. I grabbed at my rain bag which had my camera, and proceeded across the pathway, waiting to be part of the surreal scenery that would unfold.

Dawn View of our pathway at Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar Village (Havelock Island-Andaman Islands(India)
Dawn View of our pathway at Flying Elephants Resort in Kalapathar Village (Havelock Island-Andaman Islands(India)

 

G E T T I N G   T H E R E 

We stayed at ‘The Flying Elephants’ in Havelock Island (Kalapathar Village). Check room rates, and facilities here. You can reach Havelock Island by a ferry/helicopter from Port Blair.

Between Port Blair to Havelock, there are 2 private ferries (Green Ocean and Makruzz) and 1 Government Ferry. The private ferries have online advanced booking, while the booking window for the government ferry is 3-4 days in advance. You would need a local/agent to book the government ferry for you.

There are daily flights to Port Blair from Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. Carriers that service Port Blair include, Jet AirwaysAir IndiaSpiceJet and GoAir. Round-trip fares vary in price depending on how early you book.  It usually costs a minimum of about 11,000 INR return from Chennai. A 15kg check-in luggage limit exists for most air-planes. There are no international flights from Port Blair.

Exploring Andamans-Part 4-On the High Sea to Havelock Island

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 Part-1 , Part-2 and Part-3 here

 

I had booked myself on the 0645 am ‘Green Ocean’ Ferry, which I knew was from the Phoenix Bay Jetty. Our hotel, was also in the Phoenix Bay area, so I figured out that a quick auto ride would help us get to the Jetty to find our cruise ferry. I woke up at 4:20 am, and it felt completely normal to wake up at this time, since that is the time the light starts seeping in, and that’s when you realize that your body has a connection with the outside environment. Our hotel serves free breakfast, and they got some nice dosas packed for us with chutney [They usually order for cheap from the army canteen nearby for which they have access].

Nandu was woken up again earlier than his usual time, and he was surprised that it was 5:30 am and really bright. This was his first brush with how the world and timezones work (though the Andaman Islands is wrongly tagged as part of Indian Standard Time as it seems to be ahead of when the light comes and goes). He was waiting to get into the ship and see how a ship moves in water. I had told him that we will do dolphin spotting possibly later today from the ship.

Nandu on his first ship journey
Nandu on his first ship journey

One of his first lessons at day break, was that places where we start our journeys are always loaded with muck and waste [Rail, Bus, Ships]. He saw that the jetty’s calm waters had many water bottles and plastic floating. It’s as if no one cared about places outside their home. People had thrown wrappers and plastic bottles into the sea, since it was not in their interest to keep any place outside their home clean. A lot of us humans are intrinsically selfish and false people. Our sense of cleanliness can reach fashionably reach OCD Levels when it comes to our home, but the same sense of cleanliness is found wanting when we go out of our home. We are completely okay to throw wrappers or waste on the road, all because we did not make efforts to find a bin.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- The definition of home, extends beyond the walls where we live in and the whole earth is our home. We cannot pollute the very place where others/we sit and live. Always carry a spare bag to put all used plastic contents, so that you can put it in a bin as soon as you find one.

Muck floating around in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Islands [Phoenix Bay Jetty]
Muck floating around in the Bay of Bengal-Andaman Islands [Phoenix Bay Jetty]
Kishore Da and Magic on the Ferry

We set off our journey, by quickly finishing our breakfast as the ferry started to leave. One of the pitfalls of these private ferry providers is that they don’t allow you on the deck, when the ferry starts from the port or nears a port. The ‘Green Ocean’ nevertherless allows you on the deck in all of the time in between, saving the first and last 10 minutes when you need to be inside your cabin. At one point mid-sea they also play popular music which includes Hindi, Tamil and Bengali songs on the deck. It was beautiful when they played Kishore da’s ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’ and ‘Chalo Jaata Hun Kisi Ki Dhun Me’, as the ferry slowly made its way across the vast expanse of the sea. That moment has magic in the air all around. Magic in Kishore Da’s voice and magic with views of random islands popping out of Bluish-Green sea.

The ‘Green Ocean’ is the best bet if you need the comforts of air-conditioned travel and the pleasure of an open deck. If you are someone like me, who is here for vitamin-sea and staring outside at the sceneries, get a local/agent and book the government ferry. It’s not as clean as the private ferries, but it more than compensates with the views and no rules as the private ferries. The ‘Makruzz’ is the other private provider, with very comfortable seating and lighting, but it allows no time on the deck and it can be quite the bummer. My recommendation is to land up at the ‘Directorate of Shipping Services’ early in the morning or the previous day to enquire about tickets. The locals have a quota, and as a result outsiders have very few tickets on the government ferry.  The ‘Green Ocean’ ferry play a documentary on Andamans, featuring Tom Alter. This can be found on Youtube here

The Air-Conditioned cabin of the Green Ocean ferry from Portbair to Havelock Islands [Andaman Islands-India]
The Air-Conditioned cabin of the Green Ocean ferry from Portbair to Havelock Islands [Andaman Islands-India]
Jetty Blues

Usually it is said that, being on sea causes some kind of nausea or sickness. The only blues that were getting to us on the sea, were the colours on the sea. It was various shades of blue on a paint card. Looking at the sea, as you lean in against the railing, and look at, is when you get an appointment with yourself. Nature manages to do that every time you are following a sunrise, sunset or the vast expanse of the sea.

Resting on the Rails of the Ferry, looking at the vast expanse of the sea
Resting on the Rails of the Ferry, looking at the vast expanse of the sea

There are islands in the horizon, and I wonder how these islands were formed, and whether people can drift off their for picnics there. If I had a genie, I’d ask for a boat or a helicopter that can take me to my island of choice and whims. Nandu was like a cop, coming by my side every few minutes to ask where the dolphins were. I waited for the dolphins to show up, but they did not. He soon found his entertainment in the deck, where people played music and some of the popular music included Nandu’s favourite songs. I meanwhile saw a moment there, out at sea, that reminded me of ‘I am the King of the World’ moment from the movie Titanic, where its only you and the sea, and there is nothing between the both of you. That moment where you feel connected in all vibes to the huge canvas that plays out in front of you. That moment when you are the sea, and the sea is you. It’s a fleeting moment and the moment fades away after a minute as a loud bollywood track on the deck, cuts through my moment.

'I am the King of the World' at sea- Between Port Blair and Havelock Island
‘I am the King of the World’ at sea- Between Port Blair and Havelock Island

In about a hour and a half, we were receiving instructions from the staff on the ferry to get back inside. Our brush with the sea was ending. Havelock Islands were approaching and one part of the island started showing up as a forest lined up against the calm azure waters of the sea.

Havelock Island Approaching [Andaman Islands-India]
Havelock Island Approaching [Andaman Islands-India]

Arriving at Havelock

The ship slowed down near the jetty, and it looked like a dream like sequence, even in a place like the jetty. We slowly got out, waited for our luggage to be pulled out. Airtel’s telephone signals were non-existent. I was given a number by Kumar to call for our taxi needs in Havelock, but due to poor signals, I could not call. Since our hotel at the Flying Elephants Resort was on the side with least populated traffic, we had very few buses directly heading that side, relative to Radhanagar Beach (which is a more populated area).

Arrival at Havelock Jetty [Andaman Islands-India]
Arrival at Havelock Jetty [Andaman Islands-India]
I fixed a taxi, and while the taxi driver was loading the luggage, I noticed that there was a water re-filling station near the Havelock Jetty. I asked Nandu to take our water-bottle and head to the water filling station to re-fill our bottles. This was part of the lessons for him on the island to make sure we never buy plastic water in bottles, and to also drive home the message to others seeing this to avoid plastic and bottled water. The Andaman islands, especially Havelock, encourages travelers to come and refill water at either the water refilling station or at their resort, instead of buying bottled water. It basically means lesser plastic to deal with on an island’s fragile eco system that is already threatened by burgeoning population.

Nandu’s Lesson #2- Always Refill water at re-filling station or the resort in Andamans. Never buy bottled water in the Andamans. Lesser plastic means helping the environment and eco-system survive.

Nandu about to go to the water-refilling station in Havelock Jetty
Nandu about to go to the water-refilling station in Havelock Jetty

Our resort too had a water re-filler at the reception area, which Nandu would frequent to fill water for us. It was convenient and hassle-free instead of being snooty about 2 plastic bottles at your disposal. We were part of the outdoors and nature, and were thrilled that we are privileged enough to be able to explore the world outside our home, which we were also calling home!

Water Refiller at our Resort-Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village-Havelock Island) [Andaman Islands-India]
Water Refiller at our Resort-Flying Elephants (Kalapathar Village-Havelock Island) [Andaman Islands-India]
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Exploring Andamans-Part 3-Sunset at Munda Pahar

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Check Part-0 , Part-1and Part-2 here

As we left the Loha Barrack Sanctuary, we took with us some fond memories of the place, and realised we have more reasons to come back here the next time we are in the Andamans. We wanted to see the crocodile park, the Mahatma Gandhi National Park and Jolly Buoy Island (which needs a tour operator to book, or you need to go to the tourist office in Port Blair to get a permit a day in advance) and probably do a local bus journey here.

Loha Barrack Sanctuary in Wandoor [Andaman Islands-India]
Loha Barrack Sanctuary in Wandoor [Andaman Islands-India]
On our way back to Port Blair, the beautiful and green Andamans got my attention. We used to stop every few metres on the Grand Andaman trunk road and observe the scenery. With some help of previous research, I was able to tell Nandu that the Andamans is famous for some of the thin trees, which are basically Betel trees. Betel trade is one of the reasons that people cut trees but plant it back since its essential to plant trees to run it as a business. I also showed him some of the other trees and asked him to point out really big trees on our way to Port Blair. The Andamans has a state tree called the Andman Padauk, which usually means its ‘4-6 daddies tall’ [My way of saying 25-40 metres tall]

We sat by a little stream, to pick another biscuit packet that lay like a treasure inside the reams of clothes that we had packed. Nandu also was starting to fall asleep in the front seat, so I thought he would be better off sleeping in the back seat, but when we stopped and he woke up to this, he was up and awake. He asked me, why dont we have so many trees near where we live. I thought a bit and told him that most of the homes today are built on lakes or lake beds, and as a result, a lot of trees have been felled to make way for houses and apartments. As a result when the rains pour longer, nature has its revenge by flooding quicker, increased temperature in the city and more pollution. The Andamans was like a breath of fresh air for even him.

Nandu’s Lesson #1- Nature is peaceful, and beautiful. As long as we preserve this, it will protect us

Green Andamans at Garacharma (Near Port Blair)
Green Andamans at Garacharma (Near Port Blair)

We saw a very viscous and thick layer of green on a lake. It took me a minute to figure out that this was a lake and not seem green solid bed.

Green and Viscous Stream near Port Blair
Green and Viscous Stream near Port Blair

After a rather expensive lunch at ‘Anna Purna’, we realised that the food on the island can be really expensive. Annapurna was a normal hotel with slightly below par service. In the Andamans, you pay a premium for a hotel that just looks clean, as the cost of bringing raw-food materials/vegetables from the mainland spikes up eating costs. So for a very basic thali (plate) at a non-airconditioned place, we ended up with an overpriced menu. What irked me even further was my driver, had forewarned me that while Annapurna was a well known vegetarian restaurant, their pricing is high and food is nothing to write home about. Lesson learnt, and we then went ahead to the next part of our trip in Port-Blair after picking my dad up from the Veer Savarkar airport. We were off to Munda-Pahar beach, which is a beautiful place for spending a sunset as per my driver/guide-Kumar

Approaching Munda Pahar Beach near Port Blair-Andamans(India)
Approaching Munda Pahar Beach near Port Blair-Andamans(India)

To Munda Pahar

On our way to Munda Pahar Beach in the Chidiya Tapu region, I fell asleep. We had a pretty long day with intermittent sleep. Waking up at 3 am for a 6:30 am flight and having a delayed breakfast and lunch certainly had affected my body cycle. When I woke up, I found myself amidst the hills as the car swerved its way. Kumar wanted to show me the path to Chidiya Tapu, which is a trek route to get to the top of the hill, but I was too tired to walk over. I earmarked the trek for a subsequent trip, where I would spend a day trekking with  Nandu to show him the beauty around a moderate trek. For now, the only place we were heading was Munda Pahar the beach.

There seemed to be some development of the beach for tourists, as one could see a pathway built, name boards on trees, wooden seat rests made out of tree logs, amidst the tall trees for people to sit. There was sand on either sides of the pathway, but there was not much of a beach here, owing to the low tide when we had gone. Kumar tells me that some scenes from the Tamil movie “Kaakha Kaakha” were shot in this area. Now when I look back at the video, after arriving home, I can see the connect clearly.

Also if you look into the sit out made out of the tree logs, the deciduous tree is made of a dark coloured bark and is supposedly a cousin of the domesticated Jackfruit tree. This is commonly found in all communities in the Andaman Islands. The tourism ministry of Andamans have done a good job in making sit outs and shelters for the travelers in the little parts of the Andaman Islands that I have seen (Kalapathar, Radhanagar, Wandoor and Munda Pahar)

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Uprooted Trees at Munda Pahar-Andaman Islands(India)
Uprooted Trees at Munda Pahar-Andaman Islands(India)

The sun set is an event that is treasured in this part of the world. The process of fading light starts from 1630 IST, and by about 5:15 pm, the place is steeped in darkness. By about 6 pm, it feels a little later into the night like 8 pm on the mainland. I was telling Nandu that in Bombay/Goa which is on the west coast, the sunset would stretch into 7 pm and it would be dark only by about 7:30 pm. I wish I had a little globe to talk through the phenomenen.

As the sun made its way behind the mountains, it created this surreal moment as it decided to shine on a selected area of the sea. I told Nandu that this is exactly life. Providence and nature decides to make you shine based on the good vibes that you generate for the world. Just because an area is shining and other areas are not shining, it doesnt mean that one area is better than the other, it just means nature decided to focus on that area for that time. Everyone gets their time and appointment with nature. I am not quite sure, how much he understood, but the moot point for that little lesson was to see if we can help the world to help us.

 

Beautiful Sunset at Munda Pahar Beach (Andaman Islands-India)
Beautiful Sunset at Munda Pahar Beach (Andaman Islands-India)

Nandu was constantly changing, getting into the sea to play with his swimming trunks and was quite enjoying the vast canvas that he had to run around. He had taken a love for the sea and the outdoors. I gave him a little lesson that I had learnt, and that was to be able to see sunsets, and meditate during a sunset by staying quiet. The sunset is so beautiful, that it has a way for your mind and your heart to talk. They seem to be at loggerheads as you grow up, and you need external tools to make them see the same things.

Nandu’s lesson #2- Trust the sunset, and consider yourself lucky if you can see sunsets and do deep breathing to soak in the moment. It has a calming influence.

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As we walked further on the sea bed, we noticed a couple taking selfies of the sunset. They probably wont be able to send it till they get back to their hotel. The Andamans has very little connectivity and 2G is very slow, but nevertherless that allows the travellers to soak in the moment at the place they are, and doesn’t make them seek the virtual world of likes and comments on Facebook. Andamans that way makes you discover that part of yourself which is pre-facebook. It’s a different version of you. I stayed without 4G for 108 hours. It never felt bad. My son stayed without Chota Bheem for much longer. We both felt better. You should try this!

 

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Exploring Andamans-Part 2-Wandering in Wandoor

This is part of a series, where I take my little son with me on my travels to help him understand responsible and sustainable tourism, so that he grows up to be a responsible citizen who can help inspire others to also understand the importance of respecting nature and nurturing it. In this series, we explore the Andaman Islands as part of #ResponsibleTravelForKids series. Can travel be made more meaningful and enjoyable for kids? Lets explore and find out. Part-0 and Part-1 have been passed and we are on Part-2 here.

Usually kids are used to an air-conditioned existence or an existence that doesn’t have them roaming out in a sunny day. My son was no exception. While he was playing with the cat [from Part-1], he got used used to the bliss of being in the shade of the long trees by the beach. I asked him to come out and join me in the sea where we would be at the fringes and feel the water. Nandu initially was grimacing at the thought of coming over to the beach, and then I told him he could go back if it was too hot. Nandu walked with me, and initially felt the water was too cold. I told him to trust nature and that the best swimming pool is indeed the sea. Kids take a while to listen in, but once they feel convinced, they literally take to the next activity like a fish takes to water. So off we went from the shade of the trees and benches to the new world of the sea!

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Once he had crossed the chasm of the warm sand into the waters, a little more cajoling and coaxing was required to make him realize the bliss that the waters of the sea could be on a warm tropical day. He then sheepishly turned around and told me that the waters are beautiful to be spending time in. This part of the beach in Wandoor was chosen as there were very little waves and the water was more or less very calm. With kids, its important to pick the right beaches to travel and make them familiar about the sea, and experience nature by respecting it.

Nandu initially ignored one part of the beach, saying its rocky and dirty and was jumping near it. I went near that side of the beach and noticed that these were basically not dirt but sea weeds and some fishes. I told Nandu that these are homes of the fishes and we are visitors here. We must behave like visitors and not act like we own the place. He sheepishly smiled and went aside nearby and played a little more calmly.

Nandu’s Lesson-1 : Respect the natural environment of animals when travelling to their place. It’s their home and we are visitors.

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In a while, Nandu had realised that the feeling of frolicking in the sea was bliss. The water was clear and he could see fishes in the water. Nandu could slowly start to feel what paradise looks like. First it was peaceful frolicking and then it turned to splashing water and jumping. The joy of being a child could never be truer.

Nandu’s Lesson-2 Trust Nature and learn that the best way to cool off is in a sea! No water getting wasted 🙂

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Nandu also spotted a lot of sea-shells by the beach. He asked me how do these sea shells are formed? I told him that these shells are usually skeletal remains of sea animals, after the death of those animals. Nandu probed a bit further, asking me where was blood on the skeleton and whether this was the skeletal remains of an electric eel. Where do his questions come from, I wonder? Electric eel was the most random reference I have heard. But with my limited knowledge, I answered some questions and let him explore the sea, and go back to the trees to re-apply sun-screen lotion.

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The beach hardly had any visitors. The few people who were out were changing their clothes under a bamboo rest and change place built by the beach. The ones who come to the beach, bring with them plastic waterbottles which they sometimes forget and throw it by the beach.

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After playing for a long time in the waters, we were getting hungry. There is some thing about bathing, that creates and opens up pathways in your stomach to be all clear for food intake. We decided to cool off, dry ourselves under the cool confines of the majestic trees of the Loha Barrack Sanctuary. We heard that the sanctuary is otherwise famous for crocodile conservation and was set up in 1983. I heard from my driver that turtles share the space with crocodiles in the environment of the sanctuary. This beautiful place, I heard has camping facilities too, but that’s probably for a much longer trip. Wikitravel lists a camping place, if you are interested.

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The beach had small strands of plastic even on the nets nearby. I showed Nandu that even that small plastic when it is blown away by wind can get into the sea, and a sea-animal could think of that as food and swallow it. The plastic goes inside the animal’s body and wreaks havoc. So for the next 10 minutes, Nandu went about collecting plastic along with his search for sea-shells and kept it in the bin at the beginning of the beach.

Lesson 3- Plastic does not work for the environment, nor for animals. We need to make sure that this is not there anywhere on a beach. If some one throws plastic on a beach, we should politely request them to use the dustbin.

Plastic-The-Killer is all around- Shot at Wandoor Beach (Andaman Islands-India)
Plastic-The-Killer is all around- Shot at Wandoor Beach (Andaman Islands-India)
Saying NO to plastics at Wandoor (Andaman Islands-India)
Saying NO to plastics at Wandoor (Andaman Islands-India)

And so we started on our way back to the airport, to pick up my dad. I only wish I had booked my dad on an earlier flight, we all could have boarded the afternoon ferry to Havelock Island and we could get to paradise on Kalapathar Beach. I had anyway kept the folks at Flying Elephant Resort informed that I would mostly land only on the second day, as I knew I would have problems coordinating my dad’s flight timing and the ferry to Havelock. For now, I was driving back to Port Blair, from the Loha Barrack Sanctuary for the much anticipated lunch at ‘Annapurna’, [ I had been here 8 years back for a quiet dinner]

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