Into The Deep

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“Not all those who wander are lost”…..So famously said J R R Tolkien in “Lord of the Rings”. Now that has pretty much been descriptive of me the past year or so-its been a roller coaster ride with some bumps on the highway of life. Having said that, it’s also a perfect description for the recent scuba diving cum sailing holiday that I recently experienced-on India’s very first Live-Aboard yacht-the Infiniti. Now hang in there and I’ll tell you why I use the adage.

The story actually starts 6 months ago when a close friend, Kanika-(thank you for that :-)), insisted that scuba diving changed her life and that I must try it. A slightly reluctant me-who like most Indians cannot fathom how physical activity and fun can go together ended up doing a basic scuba diving course in Goa. I learnt the basics, didn’t see much underwater and thought that’s all there was to it. A few months later I bumped into Vismaya and Bob who love diving so much that they’ve actually commissioned and built India’s first Live aboard yacht-the Infiniti.

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I told Bob and Vismaya that I was a PADI open water certified diver. Post that-one thing led to another and the next thing I know, I found myself looking at pictures of the Infiniti. I saw pictures of this beautiful yacht- it’s sundeck, the lounge, the bar area, heard about the onboard chef and hospitality staff and that there was accommodation for a very very selective number of guests per trip and that there was an almost equal ratio of on-board crew to the guests. Not just that, the Infiniti sails in the Andaman Islands with absolutely stunningly beautiful waters. A private yacht in one of the most beautiful seas of the world with all the comforts on board-what more could one ask for? Luxury loving me was hooked and off I headed to Port Blair to board the Infinti. Of course, I had conveniently pushed the actual scuba diving bit of it-to the back of my mind.

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On board I confessed to the Bob and team that while I was certified and had completed my requisite dives-I found the whole experience quite scary (jumping into the deep blue sea with 15 kg of equipment on my back was not my idea of fun). Bob and the Infiniti Dive Masters were wonderfully reassuring. They assured me I would be fine, answered my questions on sharks (none large enough to eat humans in those waters), laughed off my questions on giant squid (deep sea lore apparently) and insisted that rather than obsessing over underwater life as seen in the movies (Jaws, Lake Placid, Pirates of the Caribbean etc :-p) I should brush up my scuba diving basics-both in the water and outside it.

Lulled into a semi-relaxed state with this and the fabulous food, the comfortable yacht and the wonderfully cocoon like rooms (the best sleep I’ve had in ages) I promised them that I would be up and about for all the diving on board. Now at 6am (yes, early mornings) still half asleep I wore my scuba gear (double and triple checked it simply as a type of OCD) and headed out to sea. 20 mins later, pretending to be braver than I felt-with my oxygen tank, scuba diving suit and fins in place- I did a James Bond type backward flip into the water. 2 mins of panic later I was on my way underwater and I was hooked.

Firstly the waters of the Andamans are beautifully clear and a wonderful blue green. Secondly the plethora of underwater life that you see there just boggles the mind. Fishes in fluorescent, neon and all the colors possible. Fishes that I could identify from the movie “Finding Nemo” including Nemo, Dory, the school teacher sting ray 🙂 and the Australian accented sea turtle from Nemo were all to be found underwater.

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Even the tiniest fish had multiple colors and one could see upto 7 to 10 shades of blue or green in a single fish. Everywhere one looked there was something that completely overwhelmed ones senses with its beauty and its explosion of colors. One of the most thrilling experience on my first dive was when I spotted something with black and white stripes moving through the water. It was a sea snake and one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. When I said I found it frightening, I was told A-The snake doesn’t know he is so dangerous. And B-Since humans are too large to be prey, all sea life are normally frightened and stay clear of human so there is nothing to be scared off. They would not attack or bite unless provoked (with such perfect logic the last of my fear was banished and we moved onto the tougher dives)

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The sea life I saw included barracudas (50 of them and quite frightening simply because of their appearance), a very large parrot fish which was almost as long as I was and twice or thrice as broad and which was also unfortunately quite old and unwell) and electric clams too. Some of the clams were almost 5 feet tall and we actually saw a clam eat a fish. There were two fishes playing/swimming near a clam. A second later the clam snapped shut, one fish was missing and the other fish was suddenly looking around wondering where did my friend go? Wow-talk about a crash course in the circle of life!

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As a nature lover, I couldn’t ask for a better experience-it was like all the natural wonders rolled in one. Each dive was different-the sea life fascinating and after a point of time I forgot that one was underwater and finning (not swimming) and breathing through the oxygen cylinder all came more and more naturally to me. The coral were like the most beautiful gardens of the world-though underwater, the large fishes were fascinating, the small fish were stunning, the snakes and the barracudas were somewhat frightening but interesting nevertheless. Apparently whales have also been spotted there (though I didn’t see any) and I saw a new sea mammal I had never even heard of earlier. It was a dugong-which is a large sea mammal and surprisingly for such a large fish-its purely herbivorous.

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On board we spent the evenings either on the sundeck-watching the beautiful sky and listening to the sound of the sea or hanging around in the lounge, listening to music and exchanging notes on what we had seen through the day. The Dive Masters who spent time patiently answering our questions even after hours were extremely reassuring and excellent teachers and Bob was peaceful and chilled out in spite of some rough weather and some extremely demanding divers on board. The diving crowd was completely mixed with 4 Germans, an Australian and 2 Indians (including me) making for an eclectic bunch.

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The Andamans incidentally are a total of 576 islands of which only 26 are inhabited. The waters are largely still unexplored. For those who are interested in some trivia-some of the last indigenous tribes of India still live there. The tribes are hostile, protected by the Government and with an estimated population of around 250 people.

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Ours was the first trip of the season for the Infiniti and we faced some rough weather. In spite of the iffy weather, Bob and team were determined that we should go back with a memorable scuba diving experience. So every night, Bob and the captain sat with the map and figured out which island we should sail to (depending on what kind of diving we would be doing the next day) Post this we would sail through the night and voila, wake up the next day at a brand new island to start off a brand new day. Hence my adage of “Not all those who wander are lost” which applies to the Infinti and to me too 🙂

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My diving trip was 6 days and they went by way too fast. I didn’t want to leave at the end of it-scuba diving had me hooked and the beautiful Infiniti had spoiled me. With some frontiers like night diving, wreck diving and diving in the volcanic islands (of Barren(still active) and Narcondam) still unexplored I intend to go back there again soon.

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For ALL of my friends, who have been asking here are the links to all you need. Post your Infiniti experience, I am pretty sure like me, all of you going to come back completely refreshed-physically, mentally and emotionally 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/InfinitiLiveaboard/photos_stream?ref=page_internal

http://www.infinitiliveaboard.com

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4 responses to “Into The Deep

  1. Hey sampada,
    A blog so well written……..truly cherished reading ur 6 day journey and back alive were the same old fond memories.
    Hectic schedule in mumbai has left me off this meditative sport…..
    Hooked on again….will be in andamans soon for sure.
    Really charged n geared up to disappear into the blue…..once again 🙂
    Kunal

  2. Sam, This was such an exhilarating read. I’ve lived in Andamans for over two years in the 90s and been to some of these places including Barren Island. Brings back memories albeit not in the luxury of that beautiful yacht.

    Beautifullycaptured by your in words & images. wow!! More power to you girl!

  3. Dear Sampada, loved your opening line…”not all those who wander are lost”. You have wonderfully expressed the fears and fascination for the ocean that all new divers face. Reading your blog would encourage a “land animal” to take to the seas.. All the best.

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