As the kayak glided towards the creek, I saw a flock of egrets flying home in the twilight. After a little bit of practice, my hands had become used to the grip of the paddle and the strokes had begun to come naturally. By my side was Tanaz Noble, who conducts kayaking tours through the mangroves of Havelock in the Andaman Islands. One ear cocked to her instruction, I’d occasionally duck to avoid a stray branch. On the way to the second creek I realised I was speaking in soft tones as I became more aware of the sounds of the mudskippers and the chirping of crickets.
While Havelock Island’s pristine beaches are famous, visitors rarely find time to explore the surrounding areas. I was on a night-kayaking trip to explore the forest of mangroves around the island. Since it was my first time, we shared a double-seat kayak.
Forty-five minutes into the trip, we briefly let our paddles trail in the water as the tide around us rose. The sky turned dark almost as soon as the first star appeared, and we pulled out our headlamps. The mangroves looked shadowy and the water reflected the night sky.
Before long I realised that kayaking was less exercise and more a deeply relaxing experience. In the quiet of the night in those mangroves, my senses were enhanced; I heard the minutest ripple in the water, witnessed shadows even in the dark, and felt the hug of a light breeze. This peace was broken only when Tanaz spoke. “Quick, do a backstroke now,” she said. I did. And that’s when I saw it—blue-green bioluminescence that had enveloped my paddle blades. In disbelief I repeated the strokes on either side of the kayak. I was bowled over by the beauty of the bioluminescent bacteria in the water. It grew brighter and more magical as we moved into the thick, darker grove of tidal trees. The glow lined the kayak, marked the trail the blades created, and appeared wherever a drop of water touched it. I was enraptured by the bright stars merging with the glowing specks in the water.
As we made our way back to civilisation the port lights grew brighter, and the beautiful bioluminescent particles faded into the night. I’m still recovering from that ethereal experience, and I know I can never see the sea in the same way again.
Appeared in the September 2014 issue as “Lighting Up The Night”. Updated in March 2016.
There are daily flights to Port Blair from Kolkata and Chennai. From Port Blair, there are government (approx. ₹500 per head; tickets available at jetty) and private ferries (₹975 per head; www.makruzz.com) to Havelock once a day.
Night-kayaking tours are organised by Tanaz Noble at Havelock Island. The tour starts at Havelock jetty, near Barefoot Bar & Brasserie (99332 69653; ₹3,000 per person).
Amrita Das is a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit her corporate job to become a traveller. She shares her off-beat and cultural adventures through her writing. She tweets at @Amrita_Dass.