After a month and a bit in India we we ready to head to The Andaman Islands to chill out, relax, and escape the constant chaos of India.
We arrived in The Andaman Islands after a short flight from Kolkata, an overnight stop in Port Belair, and an early morning ferry. The sun was shining, the water was clean, and we'd found a beach hut (literally a hut 50 metres from the beach, and it was only R400 a night!) to spend our lazy days. We soon settled into island life - long lazy breakfasts, reading on the beach, cooling off in the ocean every so often, making friends with the local beach dogs, snoozing the afternoon away and slathering aloa vera on our burnt shoulders in the evening - and the days passed in a blur of kindles, coconut milkshakes and suncream.
While we were in The Andaman Islands I did something that I never thought I'd do (again!) - I learnt to scuba dive. This was one of the most incredible things I've ever done, and one of the scariest. Luckily I had an amazing instructor who was patient, easy-going, and answered every single silly question question I had, and I had an incredible dive buddy (who was also doing her open water course) who had lived in India for ten years and taught me a lot about Indian culture, people, and language. I got up each morning at six, wandered down the beach collecting shells, spent the beautiful sunny day diving from a fishing boat cum dive boat, and then wandered back, collecting more shells, for a snooze and then dinner. Those first few breathes underwater were daunting, and I petrified when the instructor told me I'd have to take my mask off, pass it around my back, put it back on and clear it, but by the end of the course I was seriously considering giving up my day job, moving to the island, and becoming an instructor.
While there is a bus on Havelock Island, it's notorious for not running to a schedule (it comes when it comes where the words the locals used) and can be crowded with locals. It's not too far to walk from beach five to the village at beach three, and the jetty at beach one, but the best way to explore the island - and get to beach seven - is by scooter. We hired a scooter and zipped off to beach number seven for the day - my travel buddy driving, and me on the back. Zooming down those long island roads, through jungle, past long white sandy beaches and clean blue water was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I (even more) seriously considered moving to the island.
Another cool thing to do do on Havelock island is to trek to Elephant Beach, and if you're lucky, you'll bump into a couple of elephants along the way. About halfway along the trek we heard noises ahead and were surprised to see an elephant appear in the middle of the jungle - not that it was in the jungle, but that it was just right there in front of us! Elephants are big, but when you see one, in the wild, walking towards you, they're huge! I froze for a second, as this incredible elephant plodded along past us, so close if felt like I could have reached out and touched it. And then a second elephant appeared, following the path made by the first one. We watched them walk away, and we didn't move along the trek until they were completely out of sight. It was one of those things that you can't plan, and that is so simple, but you realise what an incredible place you're in, and how lucky you are. At the end of the trek is Elephant Beach, where we swapped out backpacks for masks and did some snorkeling and free diving. My travel buddy did most of the free diving, I did most of the snorkeling. At times my belly was skimming the reef, and other times I couldn't see the floor, tropical fish were as curious in us as we were in them, and sea urchins lay hiding in plain site. Does this place really exist, or am I dreaming?
All good things come to an end, and as sad as I was to leave my tropical paradise, the beach dogs I'd made friends with, and take my bikini off, I was excited get back on the mainland to explore the south.