Floating over the big reef

Kavaratti Travel Blog

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Sunset at Kavaratti
After having read a bit late into the previous night I wasn't upto getting up early to watch the sunrise. So I woke up just in time for a breakfast of omelettes. Looked like the sun would shine and wont be too much windy so we again decided to obviously snorkel. Today the two ladies, although still not very comfortable with swimming or snorkeling were also intent on trying it out. So off we went in the glass-bottomed boat, and asked to be taken to the big reef today (about 120-150 meters from shore).

We stopped the boat near one of the big "potato coral" formation and started snorkelling. This particular formation was easily 20 feet across and I was standing on it at times, till the current made me drift/step away. There were lot of bright orange and bright purple small "christmas tree" thingies on this one.
Our cook with a whole tuna.
This area of the reef was much more densely grown and had more fishes swimming through and hiding in the crevices in the corals.. pretty! Within 15 minutes of entering the water, however, the weather changed abruptly. The wind picked up and so did the currents, making it difficult to just float about and watch. So we were recalled into the boat and started back towards the shore, by that time it had started to rain. As we moved closer to the coast, the rain and wind really picked up! Made it hard for us to make distance in that kinda weather so we slowed down... everything was looking beautiful though - the waves seemed like they were almost stationary, a sea of lumps of rippling jello, the incessant pounding of big rain drops flying off them in a dense spray, the shore blurred by the heavy rain, the coconut tree line looking like a hazy line hovering above the horizon - all in all it was strikingly like wind blowing sand through desert dunes, except only this was water, and our boat seemed to be just rocking on the "dunes" not moving even though the motor was running.
Sunset at Kavaratti
All in all a strange, powerful, thrilling scene yet serene and cooling!

The rain vanished as rapidly as it had come though, leaving behind a sun bright enough that we could see clearly in the water. So turned around and stopped over another spot this time, again in the big reef. This time the better weather was for keeps, and we floated/drifted around for a couple of hours or so. The point where we dropped off was again close to a potato coral pretty close to the surface. After following some of the usual butterfly and cleaner fishes I reached the shallow coral and stood on it precariously for a few seconds.. swimming back against the gentle current to get back on it again. I finally popped off it and floated around only to be shocked to find that the very crevice that I was standing next to had a big gray moray (eel) quietly poised in it.
Sunset at Kavaratti
The big guy would recede in the crevice and once in a while move out slightly.. its deep mouth was open, an almost garish but inadvertent display of its rows of sharp nail-like teeth, as it opened and slightly closed its mouth "breathing". The moray was pretty thick after the head, I could make out, and I kept a safe distance, but it never came out. I just watched fascinated for minutes. I looked up and called Mithun over to check it out and then moved around to explore some more. I was tempted to go back and check to see if the moray was still there. As I swam over a small patch of moss covered old and rocky looking coral my eyes caught something move... it was a split second and after a second it realized that it hadn't so much as moved as changed color! Looking carefully I spotted a big octopus, masterfully camouflaged the exact texture and colour of the rock like surrounding.
After sunset at Kavaratti
It was parked completely in some spacious crevice, only its large head visible with the big eyes a different shade than its head that had comletely blended in. After floating almost motionless for a while the octopus came out a bit and I could now see it complete head along with the nozzle and flap moving as it breathed, as well some part of its arms with big suckers. Whenever I moved about a bit it would rapidly recede into the crevice, hiding everything but its well camouflaged head its two darker shrivelled looking eyes like 2 sores on the stone. I observed for a while more hoping it would come out more. With great difficult I pointed it out to Rajat, and moved away as he watched, to explore farther along the reef. They had moved the boat to a different point and I followed. Some time later I finally found a sea anemone that had a big and a tiny clown fish smilling carelessly through the tentacles, hugging them almost - the first spotting of "Nemo's family".. there were other anemone fishes running about through this one as well - black and black-white striped. Later the guide took us to another patch which was quite plain, with lots of sea grass around, but a few big corals towering close to the surface and some pretty big anemones growing on 2 sides of the coral. The coral was also tall enough to almost stand, except it was uneven and the current made it difficult. However I did manage to stand on one edge right next to a big anemone and (I had no fins on that day so) I poked my big toe about in the tentacles. The tentacles would sort of stick to the skin and then snap back as the current whipped them about... the same feeling as a thorny bush getting stuck on a sleeve and snapping free once you pull... but only at a minute level as if the thorns were too many and too small evenly distributed on the moss green fuzzy looking tentacles. The anemones had bright purple undersides and what looked like off-white coloured mouths. That was the last stop of the boat for the morning, and we packed in and left for the shore and another sumptuous lunch that was soon to be laid out.

I didn't see anything else exceptional during the rest of that swim... just a few more breed of lagoon fish - one of them puffed up and roundish like a puffer fish but not spiky and brilliant yellow colored, some big dark ones in a small school and similarly tiny bright turquoise colored schools near smaller corals, Nidhi apparently had spotted a starfish too. However as we were returning to shore, going over the sea grassy area, Rajat was looking down and suddently shouted "turtle turtle"... I didn't spot it under the boat since it was too fast, but we turned around. The turtle took off.. we could see a shadow speeding away in the water... it was pretty big, and dark colored. As we chased in the approximate direction we saw its big spotted head pop up over the water to breate, a couple of seconds only... and then again we saw its rough silhoutte speeding away towards deep sea, easily noticeable as it glided over the bright patches of the sea bed. It was fullsized I bet, but heck it was fast! That was the last interesting thing for the afternoon and we finally headed back.

I hadn't had enough for the day though, and I wasn't quite all that tired. Besides, since we weren't gonna do any scuba I wanted to do some free swimming and shallow diving. So once we got to shore I shed the snorkel and life jacket and swam to the small closeby reef with just goggles. Without the life jacket I was gettin tired sooner ofcourse but I could also dive in and swim through the fish schools which felt great! I swam about a short while, touched a few corals and sea cucumbers (all slimy feeling), till I felt tired and then escaped to shore.

The rest of the day was a bit lazy and quite usual, great food, loafing around, dozing and reading in the afternoon through evening, and so on. The sea had remained calm, and unlike earlier evenings there weren't many clouds that day. The sunset was balmy yellow behind a smallish cloud, and a bright orange before it dipped into a distant haze below a serene blue sky scattered with nimbus clouds.

-- Ashish Bhambhani
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Sunset at Kavaratti
Sunset at Kavaratti
Our cook with a whole tuna.
Our cook with a whole tuna.
Sunset at Kavaratti
Sunset at Kavaratti
Sunset at Kavaratti
Sunset at Kavaratti
After sunset at Kavaratti
After sunset at Kavaratti
Kavaratti
photo by: ashishrb