Towards the east end of the island.
Morning I somehow managed to get my rear out of bed before 7. The idea being to take a few sunrise snaps.. but the sun was already out. Oh well... I ran around the bend of the beach and took a few snaps anyway. Found a place where people had dumped some coral in small heaps... interesting place to pick a few.
The day turned out to be the most interesting till then. A perfect essence of what could follow in the rest of the trip.
Post breakfast, we convinced the resort people to show us the reef. Since most of the population on the islands is Muslim, and the month of fasting was going on they were not allowed to enter the water, but they were nice enough to take out the glass bottom boat. Fortunately, the sun had come out and they agreed it would be a good time, so we rushed off to get ready for the boat ride.
Towards the eastern end of Kavaratti - Me on one of the beaches strewn with coral.
We entered the lagoon - our side of the beach was facing it anyway. Starting off towards the smaller reef closeby, we initially noticed that the lagoon was mostly shallow (about 12 feet or less deep), and there was lot of sea-grass growing close to the shores. The grass is what made up the green debris on most of the shore.
Soon though, within 20 meters from the beach, we could see coral debris too grown over with mosses and sponges. And sooner yet small growths of corals spread out over the bed, intermixed with grass and in some bare patches. But the wait lasted perhaps only 10 meters more :) or less. We slowed down over the smaller coral reef patch... enjoying the brilliant sea life (for the first time in my life!). This patch of the reef was easily few tens of meters along the shore and the corals structures were pretty big.
Some of the coral visible barely 30 meters from the shore.
. most of them 10-15 feet across, and supporting all the colorful fishes and characters that straightaway reminded me of "Finding Nemo". Our guide started rambling off names, as and when we were spotting new fauna - butterfly fish, giant clam, sea cucumber, cleaner fish, trigger fish, "brain coral", "potato coral", sea anemone to name the initial few. With a whetted appetite for more, we moved to the main reef that runs along for easily a kilometer. Here there was a larger variety of coral life and of fish as well, and ofcourse more densely populated than the smaller reef. We snapped whatever few pics we could through the glass, although it wasn't too clear, and decided that snorkelling would be much much better to observe the flocks of lively coloured animals.
Me near the resort after a dip in the turquoise blue lagoon.
So we borrowed some snorkelling gear from the nice folks of the resort. Since this was our first time snorkelling we were advised to not go far into the lagoon. The idea was to checkout the small closeby reef for the day. I was swimming around lost for a while, trying to locate the reef, apparently having overshot the area and swum past it. But then there was a friendly tap on the shoulder and one of the resort guys had come kayaking up to me, to point me in the right direction... or rather rightly into the direction of a visual paradise. That part of the reef was really pretty much a scaled down version of the bigger reef... all the same fauna, just fewer in number and smaller coral colonies. And well within the initial half hour itself I had seen most of the fishes shown in "Finding Nemo", but unfortunately no Nemo that day, I didn't spot any anemone in that area.
A giant clam on the coral reef.
But ofcourse there were multiple brightly coloured small lagoon fishes... trigger fishes, butterfly fishes, cleaners and a small variety of coral. I followed some big wrasses (with buttheads) for a distance, but was soon distracted by another fish with a pointy protrusion on its face (few inches long), looking perfectly like a marine version of Pinocchio. The most impressive that day, for me, was ofcourse seeing 2 big (full grown I'm sure) Lion fish with their fanned fins looking like big bird feathers. I stay watching them thrilled, for quite a while since they dont move much. I found out later that Mithun had seen a sting ray as well.
Around 1 pm is when I came out, and got ready for a delicious lunch. For all the lunches and dinners since that day there was always some preparation of Tuna also in the meal.
Walking along the beach at some point.
.. yummy! After the lunch had settled in, I was still feeling spirited and decided to see more of the island. Just walking along the beach seemed like a good idea. Even though the fins had stretched my feet a bit much, and swimming so much after a long time, I was surprisingly feeling up to walking through the sand to check out what looked like a faaar end. My one mistake was not carrying water. But I guess my camera was all that was really needed. The walk was quite long and tiring (especially on the sand) but equally beautiful and scenic. Further up the beach there were more and more coral remains washed on the shore and I was getting closer to the edge of the lagoon where the waves were breaking. Some part of the shore was piled with stones and concrete blocks, but a farther part of the shore was indeed piled with (dead) coral! That pile was atleast a few feet high and 5-6 feet wide.
View from near my room.
.. enough to walk on it! Apparently a few decades ago, due to some hot currents, a large percentage of all the coral in Lakshadweep
had died, and this would definitely be some of their washed up remains.
The weather was as unpredictable as one would expect a tropical island's to be. Some places would become shaded suddenly, or receive a brief burst of heavy rain, only to be sunny in the next few minutes. I guess I took about an hour to finally reach the farthest end that was visible from the resort. Here the waves were breaking right next to the shore and a stony reef was protruding from the tide. The breaking waves were quite loud at that point, and especially since it was quite windy.
View from near my room.
They were constantly pounding the shore - each wave beautifully rising to become a bright turquoise blue lighted by the low sun before turning into violent white froth and crashing into the reef just a few tens of feet away. Nearby was a helipad, and looked like some of the locals were baiting some birds next to the pad. Never saw anything like that before. But by this time I was sensing the beginnings of feeling tired, so twas time to set off and retrace my steps back to the resort. The sun was lower in the sky but far from sunset. I was determined to make it back before sunset, in time to snap some cool pics of the sunset over the lagoon. And I did make it, after much thirst and wading through some of the beach which the tide had covered by then. Nothing better though, than resting in the cool evening breeze, watching the sun set and intermittently reading "The great train robbery".
At the main jetty of the island.
Dinner again was a sumptuous mix of vegetarian, chicken and tuna prepared in local style. Night, after dinner, brought an interesting turn of events however. Our ship (Amindvi) had apparently not crossed all the islands in time on the way back. Weather had been bad I suppose. The result being that the ship's schedule would be delayed by one day atleast, meaning all of us would reach Cochin atleast one day late. A mixed blessing, since we could enjoy a day more on the island, but would have to reschedule all our tickets from Cochin. The only other option was to leave the same night on another ship, cutting short our entire vacation, and on top of that a 30 hour voyage with a brief stop at another island. A somewhat tempting option since rescheduling would be a hassle and money spent, but nevertheless not tempting enough.
Brain coral.. seen under the boat.
We all decided to stay back and wait out the delay.
-- Ashish Bhambhani