Baratang Stories

How many of you remember the lesson on mineral formation from the geography classes? More precisely the limestone structures of stalactite and stalagmite. Like many another interesting phenomenon we studied in our geography classes this was pretty awesome too. Those impressive pillars within the dark caves, some growing upwards while some descending downwards. All sounds so spectacular. Yes, I am talking about limestone caves of Baratang in the Andaman Islands.

The pointed structures of stalagmite
The pointed structures of stalagmite

So the first time I heard of limestone cave I could not control my childlike excitement. Immediately I made my plans for the same. But unfortunately missed it on all my past visits. Even travelling till Middle Strait and returning back was the saddest part of my misadventure.

But the lady luck was pleased on me this time and I made it to Baratang to see the long cherished limestone caves. On my way to Mayabunder, I have been to Baratang Limestone caves. My journey to Mayabunder and my stay there has been covered in my previous posts.

Mangrove Creek
Mangrove Creek

My readers can go through my Mayabunder stories to get an idea of the route covered and how I reached Baratang jetty. On reaching the jetty we had to board speed boats. These boats rush through the backwaters, crossing various islands, displacing a huge volume of water to rock the nearby boats and leaving behind a deep watery trail.

Mangrove forest all around
Mangrove forest all around

The boatman was steering through the turns sitting on the transom of the boat. While his young helper was sitting on the bow with his feet dangling out of the boat. The saline water splashing all over him and occasionally on us too. I enjoyed the cool splash in this hot humid climate. In fact, I was envious of that young guy who was having the most fun.

Our boat moves through the backwaters as the water splashes on the boat
Our boat moves through the backwaters as the water splashes on the boat

We were not in the right time to visit the parrot island. Sunset is the perfect time to visit the island. As per the locals every evening five parrots arrives for the initial inspection followed by thousands of them. Throughout the night they gorge on the soft leaves and thus gives a pruned look to the mangrove forest of the island.

Water dripping down from the stone structures
Water dripping down from the stone structures

On reaching a narrow shaded creek we were advised to deboard the boat and walk through the mangrove forest then through the evergreen forest some grassland and again a forest to reach the limestone caves. An approximate span of a kilometre. There was a wooden bridge on the mangrove forest.

Sailing through this narrow creeks
Sailing through this narrow creeks

This was my first experience of mangrove walk. Though later I had experienced an enhanced version of the same in Dhani Nallah. But this being the first was a different experience altogether. We were walking through the wooden bridge on the exposed Rhizophora roots of the mangrove. Tiny mudskippers were seen jumping here and there on the wet soil. While the crabs on slightest of disturbance seek for their den.

Mangrove bridge
Mangrove bridge

Then through the rainforest, where we could hear calls of a variety of birds. The floor was also the home to many species of vegetations including some colourful mushroom. Then we reached a grassland area. Here we could see a sparse human settlement. The remoteness of the place was the answer for no electricity in the region.

Is it a peach coloured mushroom?
Is it a peach coloured mushroom?

These small houses were made of bamboo shafts and straws. The residents made their living from the meagre amount they earned selling tidbits to the tourists and cultivating food crops in the available lands. How refreshing was the sweet and tangy lime juice they were selling? In this hot and humid weather, it gave us the required punch to carry on our further journey.

The simple beautiful house of the residents
The simple beautiful house of the residents

The narrow entrance of the cave took us to the dark interior with this huge structures within. The torch lights carried by us and the other passengers and guides showed the various structures formed by the water dripping from the overhead cavities. On watching upwards it seemed like a pair of worried eyes weeping to narrate a different tale.

Rays of light entering the limestone cave through the opening on the ceiling
Rays of light entering the limestone cave through the opening on the ceiling

Some structures were like a lion while others were like Hindu God Shiva and Ganesha. All of a sudden the light from some flash grabbed my attention towards a tiny lizard who was a resident of the crevices within this stone structures. I took a quick shot of the fleeing creature and missed my point of focus. Then we left the stone structures to move on to Baratang to see the mud volcano.

Entering the limestone caves
Entering the limestone caves

The mud volcano some years ago was more furious is throwing up mud and steam. Now the mouth of the volcano has been narrowed down with the deposition of debris from years. We were not fortunate enough to see the splendour in its full glory. But this was still a beautiful place to see and enjoy. After seeing all these wondrous structures I went forward to the rest of my journey which I have covered in my previous post.

The remains of the Mud Volcano
The remains of the Mud Volcano
A crab in the mud
A crab in the mud
Leaving the cave from the narrow entrance
Leaving the cave from the narrow entrance

Andaman at a glance, with travel information.

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