A tale of the Andamans (part deux – Of sea clowns and their anemones)

Across nature, on land or below the surface, there are numerous illustrations of mutually beneficial patterns followed by the organisms. A classic example of such a symbiotic relationship in an ocean is the one exhibited by a clown fish and the sea anemone. Clown fish feed the sea anemone with the necessary nutrients and in turn the sea anemones provide the clown fish with a protective enclave. This assists the fish to be safe from predators as their skin is impervious to the sting of the sea anemone. A thriving population of the clown fish corresponds to abundant nutrition for the anemone which in turn would translate to a robust shelter for the clown fish – such a relationship persists in an endless loop.

On a trip to Andamans the fact that you will go for a scuba diving expedition is more or less predestined, and for good reason, few places in the world offer such an extraordinary diversity of undersea coral and aquatic life. On our second day here, we saw the clown fish in its sea anemone.

The duet of the clown fish and the sea anemone in their most natural element was so magical; in a way it helped us to put at rest the inhibitions we (the adults here) had for being underwater with oxygen tanks strapped to our backs. The kids were ever so keen, in fact, the older one completed his PADI course and got certified as a diver in the coming days.

For our final day here, a boat dive was scheduled. So, we hopped on to a speed boat with our equipment and sailed into the open ocean. After speeding through the waters for about 20 minutes we reached our dive site. The water here was so clear, we could see the ocean bed from the boat itself. It was so exhilarating to breathe under water while watching shoals of many different species of fish purposefully going about their day. On many occasions, a curious fish would make its way towards you, with its eyes firmly dotted on you, pause for a moment, charge again and then just dissipate. It was splendid – avid yet peaceful, serene, vast, tranquil, surreal. You could read the thesaurus twice over but would still fall short of words that aptly describe the serenity, magnificence and the calm of the world underwater. Truly, an experience of a lifetime!

After our dive, we got to the nearest beach with picnic mats. On this island, elephants once roamed “The swimming elephants of the Andamans” they were called, the most famous being the story of an elephant called Rajan. The waters of the ocean were dazzling like a sapphire under the sun. We found a beautiful cove and had a quick bite – a pizza and pasta that we were carrying with us. After lunch, we returned to the boat that would take us to the shore. Not before stopping midway – boat jumping and watching a beautiful sunset from the ocean.

The following evening, we visited the beautiful Radhanagar beach. Voted as the best beach is Asia and the 7th best beach on the planet by Time magazine in 2004; it is massively popular spot.  A beautiful dense rainforest leads to an immaculate beach with white sands and turquoise blue waters. The setting was stunning. Owing to its popularity amongst the tourists and the locals alike, at one point it felt that the entire island had converged on the beach. Everybody was here to watch the stunning sunset.

Our last day in Havelock began early as we made our way to the eastern corner of the island to catch a glimpse of the rising sun. We got to a beach with giant black rocks by its coast called the Kalapathar beach. While it is much smaller compared to its more flamboyant cousin situated on the other side of the island; watching the sun rise here is spectacular.  

Following our visit to the Kalapatthar beach, we drove further east. We got off at the edge of the rain forest here and started making our way to the eastern tip of the island. Since the day we had arrived, the bloke in charge of the forest hikes at our hotel was most insistent that we take a hike with him on one of our days here and he particularity insisted that we get the children with us.

We made our way through a beautiful lush rainforest, spotted many tropical birds and various migratory birds as well. Foraged a banana flower on the way – to be brought to the chef for our lunch, seemed he had a special recipe for it.

As we approached the sea, we could hear the waves and feel the misty spray of the ocean. We continued on our trail to the beach and when we got there and oh yea, it was a stunner, one of the most picturesque spots on the island; it was here, that he told us to look towards the beach, we were aghast with what we saw. All the plastic trash and garbage from ships and ocean carriers of all types (especially from the trash carriers) that were passing the Andaman seas had flown in and accumulated at various beaches on this part of the island. He told us that everybody should be aware about this part of Havelock as well, especially the younger generation.

What is a symbiotic relationship or rather, what is a relationship? Does a sentient being really understand this? He would most definitely be quick to remark that it is the “bond” between two species for mutual co-existence and nothing would survive without respecting it, he would further reaffirm his awareness of the concept by alluding to various age-old adages and symbolisms to drive forth his point – everything to suggest that he is a champion of coexistence.

With such awareness one would assume that we would be FERVENT in our pursuit of nurturing the only home we have, yet, here we are.

How is the fact that “one cannot survive without benefiting the other and the only way to sustain the equation of life is by nurturing the only home we have and coexist” so well comprehended and articulated by the so called “neuro-physiologically” inferior creatures than by ones with the utmost consciousness, is a tremendous conundrum. One that we need to collectively address, in our own befitting way.

I think its apt to conclude this post with an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish

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