Of beaches and elephants

Since I read about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands almost eight years ago during my first backpacking trip in India, they’ve been third from the top on my list of destinations. I knocked off No. 1 (Cuba, and specifically Havana) and No. 2 (Madagascar) this year, so I’m going for the hat trick.

I leave next Tuesday via overnight train to Calcutta. From Calcutta, I fly to Port Blair, once home to the prison used by the British for undesirables during the heady years leading up to Independence.

I’ll be there for almost four weeks roaming about; I plan to return to the mainland by ship, a three- to four-day journey.

I’ve got a full list of story ideas to pursue, some of which will almost certainly be jettisoned once I feel the siren call of island life.

The islands are hyper-remote, home to some of India’s remaining indigenous tribal people who are protected and outright hostile to Indian or Western intrusion. This seems as good a place as any to tell a different side of the “India Rising” master narrative.

Also, parts of the archipelago were also devastated by the December 26, 2004, tsunami (note: it’s the five-year anniversary, and we know how much editors like anniversaries), and I’m curious as how the island economy, tourism industry and environment have recovered.

There are also various other environmental issues, from sea turtle nesting to Indian government plans to open up tourism on several previously undeveloped beaches. And then the islands are home to some of the best diving and snorkeling in all of Asia, and I can envision a travel piece for the right publication.

The first several nights, I’ll be staying at an eco-resort, Barefoot, on Havelock Island. This isn’t cheap — definitely counts as major splurging, given my travel style — but I’m also hoping to do a bit of writing/photography while I’m there. Time Magazine named Beach No. 7, where the resort is located, as one of the best in all of Asia.

And Barefoot also has a resident elephant that, when he’s not being old and lazy, likes a dip in the ocean. (Elephants are not indigenous to the islands, but there’s a half-wild population that now roams and swims, having been brought here years ago to work in logging before they were released. Again another story to pursue, assuming I don’t fall asleep in the sand.)

I have bought — thanks to a generous gift from my mother — an underwater camera for this purpose.

And if anyone feels like ditching it all, spending some bank, getting a rush visa and flying to Port Blair, I’ll meet you at the airport from some serious fun.

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2 Responses to “Of beaches and elephants”

  1. kelly Says:
    December 3rd, 2009 at 10:44 pm


  2. Adam Jadhav Says:
    December 4th, 2009 at 7:01 am

    I’ll be there. Just let me know.

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