Explore Long Island
Gallery with clips underwater and on land
An additional read: Out of India
Just follow the red arrows, he said. But there are none, in fact, there haven’t been any in quite a while. The squishing sound of our feet sinking ankle-deep into the mud mixes with the buzzing of countless insects. Lit by a sunbeam falling through the thick forest canopy, a butterfly lands right in the centre of one of these huge, almost heart-shaped leaves that can serve as umbrellas. Somewhere in these 50 shades of green, a bird is singing. With the back of my hand, I wipe the sweat off my forehead and check my legs again. There they are, every time, leeches. Some we removed early enough, most leave bloody marks behind. Where’s our beach?
Nicely visible blue arrows on the concrete path lead us from the jetty to the Tree House. After six hours trapped on a steel boat, I actually feel relieved to be “walking the plank”. On the jetty Malik is already waiting, ready to stack our bags onto the motorbike and inform Blue Planet about our arrival. Chickens and dogs are crossing our path but no traffic, let alone trucks with stickers like “How do you like my horning?”. We smile and nod, and the locals smile and head-wiggle in return. I like it already. Tucked into the Eastern coast of Middle Andaman, only little over a 1,000 people are living on Long Island. With 14 km², it’s less than one per cent the size of the more famous Long Island in the US.
I clean out the last Chana Masala with a piece of Paratha and lean back against a majestic Padauk, the Andaman state tree, that rises in the centre of the communal area. Yoeri opens the bottle of Signature, Indian whiskey, and pours three glasses. The chef, a very small man with an oddly contorted chest, sneaks out of the kitchen as soon as he gets the chance. Alampana has worked here since the beginning, imported so to say by the owner from the mainland, 1,350 km away. After a couple of evenings together, I wonder if his ribcage is so wide in order to fit his enormous heart. He apologizes for his English, praises the whiskey and Long Island. “Go and visit Lalaji Beach. It is absolutely beautiful.” He takes a sip, grins and adds: “I have never been. It’s an hour walk.”
But why rush it. Instead, we follow the green arrows to the village and loop back for a siesta in the hammocks. The yellow route will be the one we walk the most, winding through the forest to the beach close-by. The sea still looks a little green as it’s the end of the monsoon. I am ecstatic to find a Shiva eye, and then another, and another. Also known as the Pacific Cat’s Eye, this pretty circular shell actually functions as a door to the Turban snail’s house and gets detached after the creature dies. Suddenly the beach is moving. Hundreds and hundreds of little hermit crabs come crawling to the waterline to look through the sand for their next meal. Then a group of long-horned cows enters the beach to settle for the night. As usual, the sun sets way too quickly in the tropics, but as there are virtually no lights anywhere around us, we wait for the stars to come out and get glowing seas as a reward on top.
After almost two hours we step out of the jungle onto a small coconut plantation, then finally we set foot on Laliji Beach. Salvation, not only because we can wash away every last one of the leeches, but also as it’s a perfectly curved bay with gentle waves rolling onto fine white sand, decorated with huge logs of hardwood. My fingers glide over the deep grooves, the wood feels smooth and warm. Sun and sea have turned each log into a unique piece of art. Towards the Northern end of the beach grow mangroves, to the South the coast gets rockier and rockier. That’s the route we take to get back, jumping from rock to rock, feeling like Super Mario and watching the mudskippers hopping from one tidal pool to another.