My secret hideout at the Long Island

  • Andaman Island

    The sea roared, waves danced along the rhythm of the light breeze and as I looked at the deep blue ocean, my mind sailed off in serenity; within seconds I was lost in its vastness. Long Island, a name that reminded me of a hazy night, was now synonymous with an idyllic blue planet.You can explore various Andaman tour packages and go for the one that suits you.

    Long Island in Andamans is above all the clichés; it is nonchalant, austere and uncomplicated. Unlike other places in Andaman, Long Island is not populated by tourists. We were ushered in a lawn with two small bamboo cottages, 2-3 camps and a bamboo dining room. The cottages were clean and eco-friendly with a self-contained bathroom. There was a common bathroom outside for those who chose to camp. We were welcomed by Hilary, the owner of Blue Planet eco-stay; her sweet smile and British accent just added more smiles to my experience.

    Camping under a canopy of tress

    Camping under a canopy of tress

    The bamboo cottages or ‘jungle camps’ (as they call it) are besieged by woods and provide shelter to many birds. If you like simple, tranquil and homespun living, then you are in for a treat.

    The dining area is a short walk from the stay. It is situated at the ‘Tree House’, a laid-back zone with a central restaurant and accommodation, occupied mostly by foreigners. This zone is perfect for dining and lounging. A feast of fresh fish, delicious Nutella-banana pancakes and fruit smoothies made my meals delightful. They don’t have a fixed menu, so they cater to your requests and serve you the toothsome organic food.

    We chose Long Island for our scuba diving activity. Merk Bay, an island at a kilometer’s distance from our stay, served as our ‘private beach for scuba diving’. Our P.A.D.I. certified scuba diving instructors Niki and her beau, Yoeri, who stayed at the Tree House, made sure that we were well trained before the activity. During our stay at the Blue Planet, Niki taught us some German and in return, we gave her some lessons in Hindi. Well, such experiences stay with you forever.

    Confessions of a hydrophobic:

    1. Knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for scuba diving.

    2. We did a couple of drills before diving into the sea that got me prepared for the real deal. These are some instructions in terms of signs and techniques that need to be followed, in case of emergency. This largely comforted me for the dive.

    3. Once you see the underwater magic, you’ll forget all your fears, while the underwater world occupies you.

    Here are some underwater shots from this very little known gem, Long Island.

    Mantis shrimp in a bubble coral

    Mantis shrimp

    Lionfish herding some Yellowtail Snappers

    Yellowtail Snappers

    Yellowtail Snappers finding Nemo (a.k.a. clownfish)

    Nemo - Clownfish

    As I was exposed to this beautiful world, I quote crossed my mind -

    ‘Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.’ - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

    Tips for Scuba Diving:

    1. Scuba diving is very safe for beginners, but make sure that you follow your diver’s instructions to the tee.

    2. Take as much time as you like with the pre-diving training protocol. It is a must-do warm-up.

    3. Trust your diving instructor: Your diving instructor is certified and has a good amount of experience.

    4. Don’t hold your breathe. You will end up using more oxygen. Relax and breathe normally.

    5. Stay healthy before scuba diving. If you are feeling under the weather, then skip the activity.

    6. If you are intoxicated, then scuba diving may not be a good idea for you.

    7. Don’t touch an unknown coral or object, unless your instructor asks you to.

    8. Don’t give in to your fears. If nothing else, let the money you spent on scuba keep you motivated.

    9. Investing in an underwater camera will give you a treasure trove of memories.

    10. Carpé diem: Seize the moment and enjoy various corals, fish and marine life. Don’t be in a hurry to get done.

    General tips:

    1. There are inadequate street lights during the night, so a torch is necessary for effective navigation.

    2. Medical facilities on Long Island are very basic and carrying a personal medical kit will be necessary.

    3. Carry sunscreen, scarf, sunglasses and a hat/cap/sombrero as a protection from direct sunlight.

    4. Carry an extra memory card. You might surprise yourself and end up clicking more photographs.

    5. If you are a birding enthusiast, then a good pair of binoculars will come handy.

    6. Choose comfortable footwear to walk around in. Andaman has mixed terrain - a combination of beaches, forests, mountains and roads. You might be required to hike a few places to witness the most amazing views.

    7. Stack yourself with extra cash wherever possible. ATMs are sparse in Andaman.

    8. Do not carry corals, orchids, exotic rocks etc. back home. It is a punishable offence. The airport authorities will take it away, anyway.

    9. Do not interact with the local tribes (Jarawas). As per ‘The Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation, 1956’ contacting, photographing or interacting with the Jarawas is prohibited. This is mostly to protect the interests of the tribe.

    10. Miscellaneous: Swiss knife, mosquito repellent, sewing kit, power bank.

    Author : Winnie Karnik

    Photo courtesy : Nijae / Devocean Picture