There is one place outside of dreams where elephants fly.
Earlier this month, it was reported that one of the oldest human civilizations on Earth had died out, on India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands with the death of its last known descendent.
And with that historical moment comes another great wave of change for the group of over 572 Islands and islets in the Bay of Bengal, south-east of the Indian mainland (actually closer to Burma, Indonesia and Thailand than to the India itself).
According to SBWire, the area has this week launched a tourism portal at www.andamantourism.in/, containing information for prospective international travelers. The website, Andaman Tourism, asserts that its target is to ‘promote eco-friendly & sustainable tourism in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.’ This is a pretty big development, especially considering the picturesque and remote Andaman islands have generally remained closed-off to tourism until very recently.
The website effectively sums up the islands’ tropical allure in stating that they are ‘India’s best-kept secret with world-class beaches, coral reefs, lush green rainforests, an active volcano, swimming elephants and giant fish.’
The particular mention of ‘swimming elephants’ reminded me of a captivating feature in Conde Nast’s Traveler magazine last month called ‘Babar and Me and the Deep Blue Sea’ where one lucky writer recounts his visit to the Andaman islands, which included a surreal underwater experience with Rajan, a majestic swimming elephant. Said Tony Perrottet of his encounter with the retired logging ‘worker’:
‘For one unforgettable stretch, I flippered downward and swam beneath Rajan, watching him from below; weightless and drifting in silence, I had the strange sensation that we were flying….I’d already learned that the Andamans were insanely exotic; but this was taking things to a new level, more like a Hindu fantasy—Babar gone Bollywood.’
Perrottet’s piece in its entirely is both vivid and informative and he is careful to mention the threat to the Andamans now–‘ominous signs’ for the future, due to things like increased migration and tourism.
But he remains cautiously optimistic. And I remain wistfully envious of his time spent in this fascinating place.