Who could have imagined that tiny lighted galaxies and miniscule stars would one day float under our feet and not only in the blue sky? See this happen during the wee hours in Andaman Islands, where water glows as you row your boat through them. Remember bioluminescence, the amazing phenomenon that you saw in “Life of Pi” movie, yeah, you get to witness this for real, in India, in Andaman.
Let me tell you how I happened to witness this. We were out exploring the night life of Andaman. What better way than to take a ride on the sea. We decided to go on a night kayaking tour with Tanaz Noble and her brother to explore the mangrove forests of Havelock.
We walked towards the mangrove forests from where the creek began. I saw the sun cross over the horizon with a hint of twilight hue in the sky. Somewhere near the forests, Tanaz made a halt and instructed us on the different kayaking techniques and safety measures. By the time she completed her instructions, the night had set in and the sky had gone dark.
As I slowly glided the kayak onto the creek, I could hear the sounds of the mudskippers and chirping of the crickets. The pitch black canvas in front of me invited us to come and explore its hidden secret. As I started rowing the kayak, an eerie sense of feeling crept in as darkness engulfed from all sides. I held on tightly to the grip of the paddle and stroked the waters to move further and then the scene opened up, a huge canvas of nothingness, the endless sea in shades of black matching with the night sky. The sight was overwhelming to even soak in the moment. It was like switching off from the universe. All sense of direction and dimension was erased instantly.
“Front stroke on your right”, “do it now” I could hear a voice throwing random instructions, which I later realised was intended towards me to follow. In the process of absorbing the visual in front of me, I had moved afar from the rest of the group. I increased the speed of the strokes and joined the group as Tanaz began to explain the different constellations in the sky from orion to canis minor and sagitta.
I realised onething, kayaking is more of a deeply relaxing experience than a mere exercise. Your body loosens up, the fear of being surrounded by only water vanishes and your senses are enhanced. You will eventually fall in love with the millions stars that you have for company. In the quiet of the night, one can actually hear the minutest ripple in the water, witness even shadows in the night.
As we glided slowly in the dark waters, we did what we were itching to do: give the inky waters a quick swirl and then I saw the waters come brilliantly alive. “Try a backstroke now” Tanaz spoke. I did and that’s when I saw it. The water was instantly speckled with the magical blue-green bioluminescence of microscopic plankton. It’s like being enveloped by a million swirling stars, moving outward in slow motion towards infinity. I let out a squeal of joy in disbelief, I repeated the strokes on either side of the kayak. I was bowled over by the beauty of the bioluminescence in 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.
It was sight to behold forever. It was surreal. Words would never be enough to describe what we saw. I know I will never look at the sea the same way again. I rowed back to civilization with every bit of me wanting to just stay back in the ocean surrounded by a million stars, in the sky and in the sea.
The images in the blog are only for reference taken from Google, we weren’t allowed to take pictures during the ride.
Do I hear “details please” already! For those ones who have adventure in their blood, I have penned down the night kayak FAQ’s for you.
When is the good time to try this?
Night Kayaking is done on moonless nights. Even a little bit of light can hamper the visibility of bioluminescence in water. So check on the calendar before you make a plan.
What can we carry with us?
Phones, electronic gadgets, cameras, ornaments etc aren’t allowed to be carried. The only thing allowed is you along with your life jacket and headlamp.
What’s the duration of the kayak tour?
The trip takes around 2.5 hours, with 30 mintues for instructions, demonstration and practice for safety measures during emergency conditions and roughly 2 hours in the sea for the ride.
What are the safety measures taken?
You would be provided with a life jacket, a headlamp and a fluorescent wrist band as safety precautions. The fluorescent wrist band will help the instructor identify you in case you get lost in the dark. All these would be provided by the instructor.
Is it safe to go on night kayaking?
Yes it is, as far as you listen to the instructor and follow the instructions accordingly. You will be given a life jacket that helps you float in case you fall into the water. Do not let go of the kayak even if it topples. In case you’re lost, use the headlamp to navigate back to the group.
How many people does the tour consist of?
It usually consists of 5-6 people per group.
Why are cameras not allowed?
Kayaking involves body balance. The human body has to perfectly balanced with body of the kayak to make it move further. A slight change in the posture can topple the kayak. Hence it is generally not advised to carry cameras/mobile phones along. That is the reason why you won’t find any pictures of bioluminescence in Andaman or night kayaking floating on the internet. Do I hear water resistant cameras? I was told a national TV reporter tried capturing this phenomenon through his water resistant camera and eventually fell into the water as the kayak toppled. Some experiences are just to be felt than captured. Am sure you will thank the instructor at the end of the tour.
Is it a very popular activity?
No. This night kayak trip in Andaman is not known to many. Lot of people go for day kayak trips and all the agents there will also offer only that. Tanaz Noble is the only person who can take you on this night kayak tour. And this is done only in Havelock island. She can be reached on +91-9933269653 or through Andaman kayak tours site.
Coming to the main question, how much does it cost?
It depends on the time of the year that you chose to do this. It also depends on the number of people you’re booking for, solo or group, peak season or shoulder season. It roughly ranges from 3000 to 3900 rupees depending on the above mentioned factors.