Visiting Lakshadweep Part 2 - Kavaratti!

Sorry for leaving y'all with the cliffhanger there, ha ha. That post was becoming too long and I needed to get dinner on the stove, so had to leave it there! 

So there we were, first in line to go to the shore when the first boatload of passengers from Kavaratti enroute to other islands arrived. Once they got off, we were handed into the boat...

This exchange happens in the open sea as the shallow lagoons of the islands bordered by coral structures do not allow the ship to get near the islands. Thankfully for us, the first day the sea was pretty calm and we could just step on board. Another day each passenger had to wait some time before the boat got close enough and at somewhat the same level to step on or off. Needless to say, things got exciting. But there was plenty of help to be had and even the very young, the elderly and even a couple of people with broken arms and sprained ankles got on and off without any problem on all 3 days.

Soon we were cutting across the deep blue sea and heading for the coconut-lined shores of Kavaratti.  

 And then, almost without our noticing it, the sea changed color to a deep aquamarine...

I assure you, it is not a trick of the sunlight. We were still wondering over the color change when we were dropped off at the jetty and made our way to the head quarters of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep...

 On the way to the resort, we caught a glimpse of one of the main occupations of the islanders. Curing...

 and drying fish...

We were welcomed with bright smiles, free passes for a glass-bottomed boat ride and tender coconut juice if our throats had been parched between breakfast and entrance to Kavaratti. We accepted all three with grace, of course. There were two large hall-like open huts and plenty of cane chairs etc. for those who wanted to take things slowly. But of course we were not of that group! We directed our steps to this place right next to the welcome hut...

...and signed up ourselves for the scuba diving ahead of most others while they were still inquiring about the available activities. Then as the others signed up and we were waiting to be briefed about scuba diving, we jumped right ahead and had some fun in the shallow sea and gentle waves. Here are the kiddos all rarin' to go

Understandably, after this, our camera took some well-deserved rest. Our swim was followed by a short lecture on scuba diving by the instructor Mr. Amaan (you can see him in Anarkali!) who gave us some basic info including the hand signals to use underwater. This was followed by a short training session where we queued up to use the equipment in shallow water to ensure that we had got our basics right. Let me reassure you that knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for this experience. All you need is to be over 10 years old and preferably not have a head cold and be in good health. If you normally cannot see at all without your glasses, please wear contact lenses. One cannot wear eyeglasses underneath the mask. Each person gets a diving buddy who controls ascent, descent and underwater swimming. All we have to do is breathe through the mouth and see the sights. 

And finally, the time was upon us. The first batch of divers were ushered into a boat and were taken to a spot that was 10 metres deep. There, we climbed on to a floating jetty in groups of 5 and five divers took us down to see the treasures of the deep...

And treasures they were - a glimpse of which I can give you in this picture of our son taken down in the deep

For the first two minutes after I submerged and began breathing through my mouth, I was in panic mode, almost extending my thumb upwards in the signal to be taken back to the surface. And this is when I know swimming perfectly! But I managed to calm myself and answer my buddy's "Are you ok?" signal by putting my thumb and forefinger together in the ok sign. And then we were near the sea-bed and I totally got lost in watching the marvelous underwater life! 

I can't begin to describe what I saw underwater, there were huge brown coral structures as well as tiny new spiky ones on the floor. They came in all colors and shades. I don't know how they would appear in sunlight, but down there I saw coral in shades of blue, purple, green, yellow, pink and red. 

And if that was not enough, there were the fish. You can see the yellow and black ones in the photo above. The divers scatter breadcrumbs in the water so that they fish swarm near enough for one to touch them. It was a beautiful experience. I saw fish of such metallic blue that would put the proudest peacock to shame. 

Thanks to Finding Nemo, I recognized clown fish and puffer fish when I saw them. And the clown fish were playing about in flame-colored anemone just like we saw in the movie!!! My buddy asked me to put my finger among the delicate-looking anemone strands and I was surprised to feel their rubbery texture. 

My only grievance with the whole experience was that I couldn't talk. I wanted to scream, "Oh look at that!" each time I saw a new marvel (DH can tell you that I can be quite vocal in my appreciation and will jog his arm almost out of the socket if I'm really excited). During the dive I kept pointing to all the wonderful new things and kept giving the "Ok" sign to my buddy - he must've thought that I was demented!

My buddy drew me close to some coral that had beautiful spiky flowers in several colors blooming on them. At one snap of his fingers, they all disappeared like magic!! That is when I understood they hadn't been flowers at all!!! At that point I would have lost my breathing apparatus from my mouth if I hadn't been holding on to the hose with my right hand.

Soon my 15 minutes were over and my buddy gave me the thumbs up signal to show me that we were going up. Reluctantly, I made my way back up. When I was finally divested of my equipment and asked how it was, I mustered enough decorum not to scream, "Awesome!!!!" at him. But I did have the widest grin plastered on my face and I am sure that it had a reassuring effect on those who were waiting to get into the water after us!

After the dive, we went for a glass-bottomed boat ride over some deeper and more extensive coral structures where schools of huge fish hung out. When we scattered bread pieces by the side of the boat, they came up to snap them up. But the boatmen warned us against putting out our hands to touch them since they had razor-sharp fins. We followed this up with jet-ski rides that had us screaming as we jumped high over the cresting waves not unlike horses taking hurdles.

All in all, we were exhausted after our morning exertions and fell on lunch with an appetite. Post-lunch, we visited the marine life museum and took a short ride around the island. By that time, one of these began to look very inviting...

And so while the kiddos had a run-around and DH went hobnobbing with the dive instructors, I stretched out in one of these and contemplated the meaning of life... ahem... 

Soon it was teatime and we were regaled with a folk-music event 

This was followed by an Oppana performance with a medley of songs and a cutie pie selected from among the tourists as "bride"

To tell you the truth, I wished we had omitted this part of the program and gone sightseeing across the island on our own to visit the famous Ujra mosque and see a bit of local life. But after all the excitement of the morning and the beating down of the hot sun, we were too lazy to take the initiative.

Soon we donned our life jackets again and were ferried back to our waiting ship. I was glad to find that the ship's swaying no longer bothered me. We fell asleep quite quickly and dreamed about floating among fish in the coral reefs. At least, that is what I did!!!


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