May 13, 2015 - National Geographic Orion
The Andaman Islands in the eastern Bay of Bengal is a unique and largely unheard of destination. Belonging to India, this chain of tropical islands is a fusion of Indian and seafaring cultures. Having spent yesterday immersed in the small hub of the Andaman Islands, the bustling Capital Port Blair, today was a contrast in terms of sounds, sights and pace.
With the rocky and ruggedly beautiful backdrop of Cinque Island behind us, today was all about the underwater world that encompasses this faraway island chain. Shuffling off the National Geographic Orion’s snorkel platform and into the balmy water, we were met with a myriad of colours and an abundance of fish. The calm conditions and sunshine meant that as the morning progressed and the sun rose higher in the sky, the snorkelling became better and better. Despite suffering from the 2004 tsunami and coral bleaching in 2010, the reefs around these islands harbour an array of marine life and in many areas the corals are making a recovery.
Only a handful of dive operators can be found in the area and very few tourists make it out here. But slowly things are changing. The marine realm of the Andaman Islands is slowly becoming better known across the globe. Our local dive guides Sid and Umeed explained how tourism was on the rise and the Andaman Islands are expected to see an increase in visitors over the next few years. Today, however, there was no sign of anybody else, bar a few local fishermen who slowly punted by in their small yellow boats. Diving and snorkelling in such a remote and peaceful location was an experience that cannot be achieved by the every day traveller. Looking down on the busy reef we could see it was alive with butterfly fish and parrotfish seemingly hurrying about their business. Very few people can claim to have snorkelled in the Andaman Islands and it was certainly an experience we will remember.
The divers also reported wonderful dives today. With the expert knowledge of Sid and Umeed, the divers were taken to the best sites in the area, ending their day with a dusk dive as the sun began to set. Meanwhile the snorkelers were all back on board, albeit for a short while – a sunset Zodiac cruise departed at 4:15 p.m. to cruise around the small bays and inlets peppering the coast of Cinque Island. With the sun lower in the sky the conditions were cool and still. There was a feeling of tranquility in the boats as we peered into the island through the tall palms and ferns.
Our location and the experiences of today were enough to have us all smiling and looking forward to a refreshing drink and the evening recap back on board the National Geographic Orion. But, ever one step ahead, the Hotel Team had come to us! Pulling up alongside one of the Zodiacs we found it was filled with tropical cocktails and the wonderful bar staff. As the sunlight faded we toasted to what has been a unique day and a rare chance to experience the intricacy of the Andaman Islands first hand.
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