Fire fighting in Thinnakara

18.01.2016:

While we were enjoying the coconuts and the coconut jaggery that was prepared fresh by Fathima aunty, an old man with a serious look on his face rushed towards us. He is Mohommed, husband of Fathima aunty. From his serious looks, I thought he might not have liked us being there taking off their privacy and enjoying his wife’s sweet dish, but I was wrong! It was more serious. Unfortunately, the fire which he made to dispose off some waste started spreading into a larger area behind his home and the old man and his son were not able to control it!

When we went to inspect the scene, we saw that the fire was spreading too fast and it was only these two who were fighting with it. Soon we too were into action – Imran, Jaleel, Uncle and I started fetching buckets of water from a groundwater source beside the home and splashing the water all through the patch of the land that was on fire. As it was almost summer in this part of India with very less rainfall and almost all the bushes and leaves are fully dried, the fire is spreading at a much faster rate! Aunty and Fathima aunty too joined us in fighting the fire.

How much ever hard we were trying, we were not able to curb it and Fathima shouted hard for help and soon the staff at the resorts rushed to the spot with buckets of water and were into action. A struggle of around 30 minutes, two burns onto the sole of my right feet, torn flip-flops of Imran, cramps on to everyone’s hands – our sacrifices seemed to satisfy the Fire God and finally we were able to put off the fire ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ . We relaxed for some more time sipping fresh coconut water and exchanging few words with Fathima’s family before we bid them a bye!

We explored a bit more of Thinnakara before we started moving towards another set of uninhabited islands – Parali 1 and Parali 2 which are famous for sea turtles. Locals often say that these islands should be visited on a full moon night as thousands of turtles come to the island to lay eggs. Probably they might come on other nights too. But perhaps the beauty of these creatures along with the beauty of the full-moon and the lagoon around the island might be surreal. Once we get a feel of any one of the islands in the Lakshadweep Archipelago, it would be the same with the other islands too.

We started back to Agatti by 14.00 hrs and tried our hands again at fishing and this time too we didn’t get a single fish ๐Ÿ˜ฆ . I retired to sleep after a refreshing shower and a hearty meal. Though aunty tried a lot to wake me up from my sleep in the evening, I didn’t and she gave up. Jaleel, Imran, Aunty and Uncle went to have a walk along the beach before I woke up! Lemme sleep for some more time ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

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Welcome to Thinnakara…

18.01.2017:

Thinnakara is another uninhabited island which is a 15 minute boat ride from Bangaram. This island too has some tent accommodation provided by SPORTS for the tourists. One can see these tent resorts from Bangaram island during the evenings. By the time we reached the island, there was no one in the vicinity. Thinnakara is as beautiful as Bangaram – to be frank more beautiful and peaceful with less human activity. The creamy sand beach, neatly placed chairs and hammocks cradling in between the coconut trees makes this island look more beautiful.

Thinnakara is also a well-known water sports destination. Tourists visiting Bangaram would also pay a visit to this island mainly for ship-wreck snorkeling. This is a famous snorkeling sport during the times of high tide when one can spot colonies of colorful fishes including the Tuna, star-fishes and if lucky enough you can see lots of turtles too!

After clicking a few photographs, we headed towards the restaurant to sip a cup of coffee. The resort staff were quite friendly and helpful. As ordered they served us some apples, biscuits and coffee. Though we wanted to go for ship-wreck snorkeling, we ultimately dropped our plan as we had had enough experiences of the underworld life by then ๐Ÿ™‚ . Filling our tummies, we walked into the coconut grooves to go to the light-house situated on this island. Thinnakara is much smaller than Bangaram and we thought that it was only the staff of the resorts who lives there.

As we reached the light house, I was not thrilled at the sight of it, but was more thrilled at the sight which stood infront of me. The beauty infront of me is simply beyond description! My own fascination with this island has extended well below the surface. If one wants more of the blue, I would definitely suggest this place! It was unexplored, totally pristine – and I still couldn’t believe that this is a part of India.” The gorgeous lagoon, the blue horizon, green coconut palms, silvery beaches – they are stunning!

Every scene that catches our eyes is a postcard pic and there is not justification needed. As I got myself busy in capturing those beautiful scenes onto my camera, aunty and uncle were enjoying this romantic gateway holding each others hands walking across the creamy sand of the shore. When I finished off my photography session, uncle and aunt were walking far ahead of me while Jaleel and Imran were out of sight. After catching up with uncle and aunt, I looked Imran walking towards us licking his fingers from a small soup bowl.

I was shocked to see from where he got that bowl and what it was that is so finger-licking good. Imran joined us and guided us towards a small hut and Jaleel gave me a bowl full of coconut flesh and another bowl with a sticky yellow substance and asked me to eat. At the beginning I was a bit nervous as I donno what that was and how it tastes. But when I tasted it, it was hot and pretty sweet. It was at this moment, I noticed an elderly women who is preparing this sweet delicacy – a Laccadivian woman ๐Ÿ™‚ . So, far in both the islands of Agatti and Bangaram, I didn’t come across a woman who is dressed in the traditional Laccadivian way and lucky to find one here! ๐Ÿ™‚

Let me relax for sometime and enjoy this sweet dish ย ๐Ÿ™‚

The diving experience in Bangaram…

17.01.2017:

The teardrop-shaped island – Bangaram is enclosed by a coral reef, is surrounded by a shallow lagoon and is ranked among the best hideaways of the world. It is a renowned spot for scuba diving and is comparable to the Great Barrier Reef and the Maldives. The island is open for tourists, national as well as international. However tourists are advised to check in advance as some of the activities are limited to specific islands at specific times of the year. Who ever visits this island will try to have a taste of what it feels like to dive under the water with their breathing apparatus and the flippers on their legs.

How will I miss it, when the place is a renowned spot for an adventure sport and when it is the best to go scuba diving? Yeah, Bangaram has the first dive center of Lakshadweep and the best time to go scuba diving is between November and March when the waters will be clear. Imran being toย Kadamat told us that even Kadamat is a famous diving center. So excited, we started walking towards the dive center. The sun is scorching and the crystal white beach is as if it is reflecting almost all the rays back to us and making us sweat.

Though aunty made so many futile attempts to make uncle agree to come along with us for a dive, uncle denied those requests softly and encouraged us to go. The lead’s name is Mohamed and he gave us a form each and asked us to fill all the details and sign the declaration. The form consists of columns like our details, address and emergency contact details and the declaration states that we take the entire responsibility for everything we are doing. We filled the forms, signed the declarations and handed over them. Once done we settled down to listen to our instructor who is going to explain us about the gear and all.

Our instructor started explaining about scuba-diving, the history of the dive center and where the people had been trained, the courses that they offer, the gear and the signs which we have to use during our dive. They do offer different kinds of courses like the basic diving courses as well as advanceย courses and the duration of these courses vary accordingly. Many of India’s certified divers began their underwater explorations in these shallow, clear waters. When once we are confident enough, he asked us whether we are ready and we nodded! We were so excited and ready to hit the waters with our scuba-diving gear on us! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

The best part of scuba-diving is that you will always have a buddy with you and you can enjoy the under-water life without being bothered about anything as your buddy will take care of everything. My buddy is a pretty friendly one and when entered the shallow lagoon as a test drive before going for the real dive,ย gave some instructions about having three regulators strapped on to me, in case one malfunctions. We’re skimming the turquoise waters and the dive site is about half an kilometer away. “I’m going to be with you the whole time”, he says, “so don’t freak out, okay?” Iย told him not to worry with a thumbs up! ๐Ÿ™‚

As soon as I entered the lagoon for my test drive, I have seen some colorful fishes and a clear sea bed. After playing for quite sometime and getting enough of breathing exercises, I hit the top of the water again, just to have a quick fresh breath. Immediately an instruction hit my ears, don’t remove your breathing apparatus, it has got ample amount of fresh compressed air and I don’t need any of that to remain in your cylinder by the time you come back! As an obedient student, I obliged his instruction and told my buddy that I am ready and let’s go ๐Ÿ™‚

We started swimming towards the diving spot and reached there within minutes. All the talk in the world doesn’t prepare you for the sensation of diving in the sea. As soon as my jacket is deflated, the weight strapped to my waist band take over and I begin to descend. The water became colder and I started to shiver! For a few moments what all I can see before me is an empty expanse almost threatening to swallow me whole. I sink some more, and am suddenly, keenly aware, of how labored my breathing sounds in my ears.

I feel pressure building and clogging up my ears. I started to acclimatize and my breathing is fine and I started enjoying the dive. I have seen shoals of fishes sniffing around crimson corals, a big black fish whose name is not known to me, some clown fishes scanning the waters with fierce concentration to find the pieces of fish feed that is being left by my buddy into the water. The dive is liberating and meditative even! The best part is that beneath the waves, the water around these islands offer something for everyone. And especially most of the islands in Lakshadweep have their own home reef and waters filled with rich marine life!

At the lagoons edge of the Bangaram Island, the barrier reef surrounding the island tapers off into deeper waters. Coral abound on these seaward slopes and coral of all shapes and sizes grow side by side, creating caverns and alleyways that host some of the most beautifully bizarre creatures on the planet. Though I enjoyed the sight of so many fishes and corals, I totally freaked out when my buddy asked me to touch some of the corals and feel them ๐Ÿ˜ . I simply rejected the idea and continued enjoying my dive chasing some fishes and finding out Imran and aunty, so that we can pose together for some photographs ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Diving in Lakshadweep is thrilling, to say the least!

Agatti Island – The Gateway to Lakshadweep!

16.01.2017:

Imran took us to our accommodation and informed us that we would go out for lunch in another hour or so. I excused myself for a shower while uncle and aunt were discussing things with Imran. The underground water is pumped into the tanks on top of the houses which will be serving the daily purposes. Never ever try to open your mouth while taking a shower unless you are a big fan of salt, b’coz the water here tastes too salty! The government of Lakshadweep however provides the localities desalinated water from the desalination plant which is located on the eastern side of Agatti Island.

Everyone else too refreshed themselves and were now ready to go for lunch. There are no big restaurants or hotels except few small ones to provide food in the island. However, the resorts which will be accommodating the tourists who opted the tourism packages would provide them with food, but they don’t provide for people like us who came through some known people in the island. There are only two modes of transport here in the absence of public transport like buses. Either we should go by an auto-rickshaw or ride a bicycle or go by a bike or car if we own one! Jamaal, a locality who works for Imran quickly arranged us four bicycles as aunt has insisted for them ๐Ÿ™‚

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We started riding our bicycles on the narrow concrete roads paved through the coconut grooves and Imran informed us that one should pre-book the meals in advance if they plan to eat it from outside and he booked them for us! Thanks to him, I am really hungry ๐Ÿ™‚ . After like a km ride, we reached the Hotel Al Mubarak. It is a small house which has got two partitions, most likely like the family partition and an ordinary one where in which people sit for a tea and a crunchy vada. The owner of the hotel guided us to the family partition and we comforted ourselves at a table. Imran order 3 vegetarian meals for uncle, aunt and me while he ordered himself a non-vegan.

The meal is simple. They served us some white rice, with Avial (a preparation with all varieties of vegetables), thoran (mix of boiled green gram and coconut), sambar, curd and a papad. The non-vegan meal consists of fish curry and fish fry instead of our green gram thoran! The food tasted good. Done with our meal, we cycled back to our room and laid down for sometime before setting out to explore the island. After a good sleep of about 2 hours, we ventured out to see the beauty of the Agatti Island.

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Agatti island is 10 km long and 6 km wide at the broadest point. Importantly, the only airport which serves the entire archipelago is situated here. This is also the transit point for the people who choose to go to the island Bangaram. We chose the bicycles again and started following Imran who is guiding us. The island is absolutely peaceful as there was no much traffic for that matter no big motors like trucks, buses and lorries etc. Mostly all the people here uses bicycles, some motor bikes, others auto-rickshaws and a car here and there! Limited tourist infrastructure here makes for an unusual but good experience. A ride of around 3 kms took us to the port officer’s office from where one can get the ship tickets for his/her voyage.

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There is a long bridge which connected us to the jetty from the island. At the entrance of the bridge, there is a board warning us that collection, destruction or selling away any kind of corals and turtles is a punishable offence under the Wildlife Protection Act and we made a mental note of it. This is the eastern jetty where the cargo ship ‘Sagar Yuvraj’ is loading offย the barrels of diesel which is the source of generation of electricity in the island. Agatti has one of the most beautiful lagoons in the Lakshadweep archipelago. The lagoon on the island side and the deep blue sea on the jetty side is a postcard scene! One can see the desalination plant from here.

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The jetty was full of activity. People sitting on the walls talking among themselves and wishing the others who passes by, while few people were fishing with their fishing rods, probably for a fish or two to cook in the evening, and the crew of the ship off-loading the barrels of fuel and people like us clicking photographs and doing all crazy stuff! In all, the life in island is simple. Everyone knows everyone else in the island and it’s like a close-knitted family ๐Ÿ™‚