Andaman Chapter 3 – Ross & Smith Island AKA Paradise
Previous chapter in series : Journey across the Island
|Ross & Smith Island|
The day began bleakly, as I woke up inside the wooden cottage cooled by AC and oblivious to the outside world. The cottage was neatly decorated with wooden furniture, all in the shade of chestnut brown, which were gleaming by the dim light seeping in through cracks in the blackout curtains. The room, in general, reflected of adequacy and not luxury and gave an impression of a beach hut rather than a resort cottage. This surely didn’t nullify my gratitude for having a comfortable bed to sleep on after a long terrible journey, which was whole of yesterday.
Outside the cottage, the small veranda area had a pair of beach chairs and a small wooden table laid on, neither of which showed any prominent sign of usage. The lawn beyond the veranda and the grass covering it also had the same neglected quality about them. Ours was the last cottage in the row, beyond which was the open sea separated only by a dense cluster of trees, which seemed to be part of denser forest. A gravel path ran in front of the rows of cottages, lined with a series of sleek Areca Palms. This path passed by the restaurant, then the reception and finally led to the tall entrance gate bearing the name Pristine Beach Resort.
The resort was sort of the only decent accommodation in that area and all those handful of people who made their journey from south end to the north end of the island mostly ended up staying there. It was built next to Kalipur beach, which was known if not famous for its black sand. However this was not the main attraction which brought all those tourists to this place. The main attraction, the Holy Grail of Diglipur, laid about 8 kms and a boat ride away from our resort, and that was the only plan we had for the day. Reaching the place, however, was a bit of costly affair and we were planning to share the boat ride with another group, which had been solely arranged by our driver with no contribution from our side. We couldn’t be more glad about it. But on the downside, we needed to wait till 10 before we could start. So we were left with plenty of time to kill and that meant some exploration of our backyard beach.
|Road to Kalipur Beach|
The resort did not have direct access to the beach, despite being very close to it. The backside of the place was completely walled with trees and bushes that spread for unknown amount of distance, which we none of us wanted to venture into. So we took the roundabout way. We left the resort through main gate and came upon the narrow concrete lane. The road on our right went towards the town of Diglipur about 15 kms away, which was the way we had come during last night. The left side would take us towards the beach. Another small path laid straight ahead of us which had the sign showing direction to Turtle Resort. This was the government property. Another hotel called “Saddle Peak View Resort” was also located somewhere ahead in the same vicinity. For some strange reason, all three decent hotels of Diglipur were built in the same area, which was clearly far from the town and not very close to the main attraction either.
After a short walk towards the left, we found a smaller muddy path going perpendicular to the main road leading towards the beach. The path first went through bushes, then went into a shallow forest and then finally opened into the beach. The beach was completely and entirely empty. There was not a single soul visible out there, at least not at that time of the day. The sand was indeed blackish. But for someone who is more used to mud than sand, this looked quite normal and ordinary. On our left the beach spread on almost in a straight line with only slight curving here and there. And on the right, it took a sudden steep turn and extended squarely ahead. Everywhere we could see there was a line of forest bordering the beach. On the right side, which was the south-west, the line of trees seemed to have extended into a vast forest. And beyond those forest we could see a hill standing upright. A cluster of white clouds were hanging over the peak creating an impression of a mist over the mountain. The whole place gave an impression of desolation. This combined with the knowledge of how far we had come made me feel like we were alone at the edge of the world.
We left hotel after 9:30 am. Then there was the fifteen minutes’ drive through countryside till our destination – the port. We waited outside in the car as our driver went in to check on things. The street seemed mostly empty, except for a street vendor selling fruits. But there were quite a few cars parked. We were still contemplating what to expect – were we too late and will end up being there with a lot of crowd? Will the place be as beautiful as it looked in pictures? In short, was the long journey worth it! After all, we had come all this way just for one and only one thing – Ross & Smith Island. And now we would be heading there soon.
|Boats near the port|
After a considerable time had passed, we were called in. Things had been arranged, deals had been made. Inside, there was a long building built in a manner of a warehouse. Entering through one of the doorways we found ourselves in a long hall with an officer in uniform standing behind a table and scribbling on her notepad. We got our bags checked and took our permit. The cost for full boat was 6,000 and we paid our share to our driver assuming it would make its way to the boat owner. We came till the jetty where many unmanned boats were floating about. We boarded the one we were directed to and put on our life jacket. The sea was quite deep in here, but the water still retained some of its transparent quality. Near the pillars I could see the green clear water swivelling around at the rhythm of wind.
There were a few rules that were shared with us. One rule was of the forest department who governed these islands and one was of the boat owner. Forest department allowed us to stay on the island for three hours with the same permit, but the boat owner would allow only two. For any extra time we would need to pay another 400 bucks to the boat guy. Not sure what the rule of forest department was if we exceeded three hours. With that we moved on. The boat cut through the water diagonally and moved ahead in a reasonable speed. There were no other boats in sight going either way. In fact apart from the sound of our own boat, everything seemed quite silent and peaceful. Looking around I didn’t get a feeling of being in an open sea. Everywhere I looked there were distant hills or lands bordering the water that we were manoeuvring.
We rode for about fifteen minutes before I noticed the land we were starting to approach. On the right side there was an island as big as a small hillock, which also contained a small hillock. On the left there was a much bigger one, I couldn’t tell how far it went. And in between there was a white strip of sand. This was the sand that connected Ross and Smith Island and it disappeared under blue water during high tide. This was not high tide though, and so we had the privilege to visit both islands. But first we had to head towards the bigger of the two, which was named Smith Island.
|Reaching Smith Island|
As we neared the beach, the water became shallow and the boat started to slow down. Ahead of us laid about 200 meters of crystal clear water which sparkled green and blue under the bright sun. We could see the white sands at the bottom of the water and the water spread above it seemed to be a vast pool of transparent diamonds twinkling relentlessly. Across the water, the white beach also shined brightly reflecting the sun. On the beach before the realm of the woods started, a few wooden gazebos and thatched umbrellas were placed, neither of which looked occupied at that moment. The forest in the beginning seemed to be a combination of familiar trees which eventually blended into the wilderness of Andaman.
The boat stopped when the water got too shallow and the boatman used a long stick to push it ahead a bit further. With the engine stopped we could finally feel the silence of the place. Apart from a faint sound of waves crashing somewhere in the distance, there wasn’t a single sound in the place. It didn’t seem that there was anyone in the island ahead and under the bright morning sun everything was calm and quiet. The boat fully stopped about 50 meters from the beach and we all slowly descended into the cool water that rested calmly up to our calves. We walked slowly trying not to disturb the tranquil water around us and reached till the blinding white sand of the beach. The land sloped upwards from there on and as we started to climb up, the other side of the beach came into view. On the other side a vast pool of terribly deep blue water with a tint of sea green was crashing rhythmically on the shore with a mist of white waves. It wasn’t very wild wave, but contrary to the calm demeanour of the other side it felt quite so. The water had a beckoning quality and we knew we would have to give in sooner or later. But first we must explore the lands.
|Our boat waiting at the sea|
On the Smith Island the place was neatly decorated by whoever had the authority to do so. There were many shades created for tourists to sit and relax or enjoy the sea breeze from. There were a few swings as well, but nothing too adventurous. One lifeguard was around and he issued permit for Ross Island – per head 75 Rs. We collected our permits and headed towards the other side of the sand strip. As assumed, there were nobody in the island except for us and our boat partners. So as we walked across the sand strip bound by colourful water on both sides, we felt absolutely separated from the rest of the world. The ocean, the sand, the wilderness ahead – it was all for us to enjoy completely and wholly by ourselves. And that, if not the beauty of the place itself, did make the whole journey absolutely worth it.
|View of Ross Island from Smith|
We did not explore the Ross Island too much, as it seemed too wild even for us. Instead we walked back the distance across the sand strip and ventured into sea near the Smith Island. The touch of the sea was just as mesmerizing as the first look of it. I swayed with the water and floated in it. I saw the sun going up and a few eagles gliding across the sky scanning for food. After a while another boat came in bearing some 5-6 people. But the place was vast and they blended in to nature just as we had done. We could see a few people sun bathing at the beach, but no one else ventured in. So making the ocean our own personal swimming pool, we kept paddling about. And what a beautiful swimming pool it was.
Later we came out and settled down in one of the gazebos facing the wilder side of the island. The sound of ocean and the gentle breeze brought me to the edge of consciousness and drowned me in a sweet and pleasing dreamy state. It was too wonderful to let go, not yet at least. So we extended our stay by an hour, speaking to the boatman and tried our best to take in as much as possible of the beauty, the silence and the pleasure that Ross & Smith Island had to offer.
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