Life lessons I learnt while snorkelling at Andaman Islands

 “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish”- Jacques Yves Couousteau

 So I agreed to a trip to Andaman Islands with the highlight of itinerary being snorkelling at Elephant Beach.

I felt as buoyant as the boat that rode over the inky blue ocean, the improvised motor reverberating noisily over the waves, leaving a frothy trail in its wake. The incandescent sun let its rays dance on water forcing its colour to change from inky-blue to blue-gray to inky-blue again as the shore neared.

The silver-gray sands on the beach were cool, despite the sun blazing with its full heat, prompting the kids, too young to snorkel, to frolic, build their sand castles, play mermaids and turn into mini Picassos on the huge sandy canvas while we awaited our guide who would introduce us one by one to a colourful world that existed under those ebbing and rising waves.

Huge tall trees that had long ago stopped being alive laid dotting the beach but somehow they never looked lifeless instead looked like sentries guarding the vast shoreline and the marine life. Rustic as those fallen trees looked, I was much attracted to capture them on film before it was my turn to try my hands at snorkelling.

Deep waters scared me to death, even of a swimming pool. Whenever we spent time at beaches, I would venture out in the sea but till a distance where water was only waist-deep and I could feel the earth beneath my feet. I was content combing the beach for shells and pebbles.

On our last vacation in 2009 to Andaman Islands, something changed however. Before we left for our vacation, I had forced myself to step into the tamed waters of the huge swimming pool to learn the basics of swimming.  I was hardly comfortable in the floating technique, when my husband declared that he had booked all flights and accommodation for our vacation at Andaman Islands.

Excited and overconfident of my new floating skills, I forgot all about my fear of deep water. And on a crisp January morning after a delayed flight from Pune, a rushed boarding at Chennai, we finally reached Port Blair at six. After catching up on the missed sleep, we were finally ready to explore the small islands, historical cellular jail, the marine museum, the beach and to binge on freshest seafood.

A day-and-half at Port Blair later, we shifted to our tents at Havelock Island. Next day was planned for a boat ride to the Elephant Beach and snorkelling afterwards.

Tent accommodation at Havelock Island

Tent accommodation at Havelock Island

Feeling upbeat about the whole swim-in-sea adventure, I donned the almost new swimwear and applied a generous amount of water-resistant sunscreen. I was pretty excited for a novice swimmer!

On route to Elephant Beach

On route to Elephant Beach

Fallen trees at the Elephant Beach

Fallen trees at the Elephant Beach

But sermons and ‘Lifestyle Gurus’ don’t help; some lessons are learnt in life only after one experiences certain situations first-hand. And I learnt mine while snorkelling at Andaman Islands.

  • Will to change

Change is definitely scary but once we embrace the change, it is quite refreshing. I was always missing the fun everybody else had during our beach vacations because I wasn’t going in the water. But in my heart of hearts, I did want to feel the water. I wanted to change myself from a scared onlooker to a participating fun seeker.

If I wouldn’t have had the will to change, I wouldn’t have gone for swimming lessons, wouldn’t have courage to face fear. I would have then missed the fun yet again.

  • Conquer fear

At the beach, I started having cold feet again. After much coaxing from dear husband and assurance from guide, I finally decided to face my fear and wore the snorkelling gear to wade into the water. Initially my body refused to even float but as the guide pushed me further into the blue-green water, I was mesmerised. My fear gradually dissolved in the salty ocean introducing a beautiful breathtaking view of the hidden world.

Had I sat back and let my fear control me, I would have never agreed to snorkel, guide or no guide and the vacation would have been just like any other beach holiday with me collecting the seashells while everybody else enjoyed.

Fear is in our mind; an obstacle that stands in way of progress. We just need to look into its eye and then it liberates us. One step forward and we are free of our fear forever.

  • Get out of the comfort zone.

We become so habitual of the everyday things and create a comfort zone around us. It becomes difficult to get out of this zone to try something new and the fear creeps in.

As soon as I wore the snorkelling breathing contraption, I was uncomfortable, I felt gagged at first. But, once in the sea face-down staring at the ocean floor, I saw the most exquisite creatures  with fins and fronds, shoal of some tiny colourful fish some transparent, some striped swimming past me. I saw the corals of all shapes and sizes; long and branching like twigs of a tree, some like pock-marked small rocks, the seaweeds growing among the corals…. the most beautiful shades of blues,  sea-urchins, star-fish and seashells all in vivid yellows, warm reds, bright oranges and striking greens. It felt as if I was walking inside an aquarium. It was so surreal. Had I refused to wear the breathing gear, I would have never known the beautiful world under the sea.

There are thousands of things to see and explore in the world, we just need to get up and go!

  • Faith on self

When I first put on the snorkelling gear, I kept telling myself ‘I can do it’. I didn’t exactly take to water as fish do and I was scared too initially but I had faith on myself that if I kept pushing I would eventually enjoy the sea. The faith kept me going, I relaxed and let the guide steer me deeper into the ocean.

“I can do it” are strong words that influence our brain into doing almost everything. Nobody knows us better than ourselves. We can achieve our hearts’ desires only when we trust ourselves and have faith on self.

My adventure in Bay of Bengal opened my eyes to a beautiful water-world and life just as Robert Wyland says:

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”


About shoma abhyankar

I like to believe that I am a creative person. I read, write, paint, sketch, rustle up some quick and some elaborate meals for friends and family, love chess, su-doku and scrabble, can hum an old Hindi song tentatively, always stand up for women rights, hate fake people, bugs, roaches, spiders and cigarette smokers!! I graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Architecture in 1998. Soon after, I married an officer in Indian Air Force and have been on move since then. For a brief time of two years when we were posted in Pune, I worked as a junior architect in a firm. Being aware of frequent movement that we would have to live with, I chose to be a homemaker and concentrated on creating a warm and welcoming home for my family. But sitting at home without any creative activity was not my cup of tea. I learnt candle making and soon put up an exhibition at Poona Club when my daughter was barely a year old. I also enjoyed a short stint as a home-based entrepreneur, supplying chocolates and cakes on demand, while we were posted in Bareilly. With an inclination towards writing, I completed a diploma in ‘Creative Writing in English’ from Symbiosis College of Distance Learning, Pune. Then I discovered the blogosphere. Now I hope to not only travel and share my experiences with the world but also to pen a book someday....
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10 Responses to Life lessons I learnt while snorkelling at Andaman Islands

  1. mukul chand says:

    Great Post, Lovely Pictures.


  2. Conquering one’s fears is the most daring task one can do….Congrats to you on being able to face your fears…You won…!


  3. Arun says:

    Quite an inspiring post…we all have some fear or the other.. but to conquer the fear is something amazing.. Kudos to you for that!


  4. Alok Singhal says:

    I am exactly like you was, afraid of deep waters. I do enjoy beaches and oceans, but haven’t snorkeled yet…let’s see when I get over my fears 😊


  5. Gama says:

    Nice place for memorable vacation, I have huge collection of photos of this place I am about to publish it, hope you will enjoy👍😊


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