Sun kissed beaches lined up with white sand, turquoise shaded transparent sea water, minimal human intervention and activity, far ahead of any competition of what you call paradise.
Lakshadweep islands are a group of 36 coral islands. For all those who aren’t travelling by cruise, Agatti is basically the entry gate to Lakshadweep. The airport which is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen is one of the most charming you’ll ever see. At times, beauty lies in small things, doesn’t it? As the aircraft descends, you get a feeling that it will land on the water, so close is the beach from the strip of runway. You can see the waves breaking down and forming lagoons. It’s beautiful, to say the least. I wanted to sail on a cruise but I didn’t prefer taking one because then your itinerary is scheduled.
From Agatti, I took a speedboat ride to one of the other islands and chose the Kadmat Island as the destination solely because they have a diving school and my intention was to do just that. The more the hardship while travelling, the more beautiful the destination appears. The speedboat ride from Agatti to Kadmat was worse than any experience on the most convoluted roller coaster ever designed. It’s difficult to describe a journey where you are being tossed in every conceivable direction every minute. But I got there! Finally! I could sit there for ages looking at them and may be would free the anchor someday and let them sail away. The first sight of Kadmat was breath taking; I approached the island just prior to sunset. Clear turquoise, rather almost green, waters calmly embraced the pure white sands. Every few moments the waters came and hugged the sand with joy, only to depart with a pang of separation, but with the hope to be back to spend some time with the shore. As this game of hide and seek went on between the waves and the shore, I disembarked on what turned out to be the most picturesque jetty that I have seen in my lifetime.
Nowadays on a holiday like this one, I prefer getting up before the sun rises. I did that on the first day morning and saw an enthralling sunrise with is orange-red reflection making the ocean look as if on fire. The increasing warmth of the sun in the background and some wonderful dry branches on the shore made for some amazing pictures. After breakfast, on our first morning, I was all set for our first dive of the trip. Pure enticing waters and a promise of colourful marine life were enough motivation for me to overcome the little fear that had settled in as I had not dived for about 18 months. The oxygen tanks, the buoyancy control device and the amazing divers all set with their dive watches tuned for another dive made us more restless as we took our boat ride 45 minutes into the ocean. My instructor Shamsuddin, rattled all the instructions I was supposed to follow without considering how nervous I was. Reminded me of the time when I was teaching a tough skill procedure to some of my team members in Accenture, and how narrow my tolerance was for their fear. When you are geared up and in water, there comes a command from the dive master to go down. At that point, I deflated the life jacket and allowed my weight to take me down. The descend requires you to adapt your breathing style and keep equalising the increasing pressure on your ear drums. Once the first few seconds pass, you open your eyes to the surrounding. The first glimpses are of all the little things that live under water. The fish are colourful, to say the least. Several are named after animals, so you have the leopard fish, the tiger fish etc, but what took our breath away was the large turtles that gracefully swam past us, as if to show us that big can be beautiful too.
On some of our dives, we saw spiky lobsters, the spikes of which resembled my childhood hairstyle. The schools of fish too seemed to be busy going about their daily business. I have still not understood why they swim a few feet one way and then turn back to return to the point of origin. I feel they play out the choreographed dance steps from time to time. In one of those silent moments under water I looked up to the sky from the ocean floor and I saw the fish shimmering in the rays of the subdued filtered out the sun. Even the sun does not like to be harsh on these underwater creatures. At that point, everything seemed to be in slow motion. You know your time under water is limited to the amount of oxygen in your tank and those few minutes you want to see as much as you can and more than that try your best to remember everything you see.
On the last dive, we went to this dive site called “The Wall”. It was a dive in which I started on the mountain peak under water that had a steep 20 feet fall into the valley. It was great to be under water but at the top of the mountain at the same time, falling down into the valley full of beautiful creatures. Buoyancy control is the name of the game under water. You have to strike a balance between floating up and sinking further down, almost like how we do it in real life on land. You don’t let your failures take you down and the success to make you rise up so much that your feet don’t touch the ground.
Good friends can share a lot of silence with each other very comfortably. I made few friends while diving for those few days. There were few travellers from Portugal and Mexico. When we came up from our dives generally for a few minutes no one talked after the pleasantries are exchanged. Each one got lost into reminiscent images of the beauty witnessed underwater.
My thoughts usually get more philosophical and these are the times I question the reason of my existence, the purpose of my life. The answer is usually very harsh as my inner voice tells me that in this big universe I am too small to take myself so seriously. I think my purpose now is to ‘just be’ and travel as much as I can to see the natural designs that are attributed to be of divine origin.
Kayaking into the glorious colourful sunset was an activity I have never done before. In Kadmat, the evening invited us to spend the time rowing towards the setting sun that only looked humble as it got ready to be engulfed by the water. It surprises me every time how the harsh beating sun can be humbled by the passage of the day, a quality many of us humans should learn. We had our snorkels with us, so we took a dip into the water to observe some superficial corals with their rich marine inhabitants. The bright pink colours of the live corals were, fortunately, better than the grayscale corals I had seen at Andamans. I was surprised to see so much beauty just a few feet under water. The fish must be finding us humans so colourless, with our shapes really funny and sounds that we make while breathing must be a pain to their ears. I saw some of the fish looking condescendingly at me, just the way I would look at an intruding stranger in my world.
So our days went by, from waking up before sunrise to see the hope of a new day unfold in front of our eyes, taking our morning dives and being impressed with all that we saw, to having some great simple local seafood for lunch (and during dinner we ate the fish we caught) with a relaxing afternoon nap and then as the universe gets energised to call it a day, we sat on the beach with some warm conversations and saw the beautiful sunset scenes orchestrated in front of our eyes. As the darkness of the night took over we laid there on the beach and looked at the stars in the busy sky, trying to make sense of the subtle messages we receive from them.
On our last morning, we went on a tour to see the Kadmat Island. The tour was over in 2 hours. We found the North end of the island rocky with the smallest lighthouse on the shore I have ever seen. It was almost as if the light house was in hiding, trying to prevent people in the sea from finding Kadmat. The highlight of the tour was the wonderful hospitality we received at the house of the tour operator with some local sweet dishes and a special item called coconut apple.
At the far end from where I was, I saw some of my friends talk to each other and a few minutes later as the sun bid us the last goodbye for the trip, I saw them get up to leave; as they did that, they left their soul there. I did the same and walked back to my room to pack up, the next morning will see us depart from Kadmat and arrive at the cacophony of the mundane, materialistic city life. I still feel great reaching home, I know I will rest and travel soon again.