Saturday, 16 June 2012

Andaman Island's Rajan: Ocean-Swimming Elephant

Sometime things are so unimaginable that till the time you don’t see them from your eyes, you don’t believe them. Such case happened with me last year, when I heard about Rajan from my parents who are staying in Andaman Islands. Dad told me that Rajan is the only elephant left in entire Indian sub-continent who swims in the sea. I was surprised that how come an elephant can swim. Dad told me to visit Havelock Islands and see it from your own eyes. Without wasting any time, I booked the cruise for coming weekend from Port blair to Havlock. Havlock Island has its own charm but I was more interested in Rajan.  As Dad said, I went to the Barefoot – Havelock Resort to meet this unusual elephant. 

Rajan - The Swimming Elephant
What I saw was totally outside of the norm. An elephant, swimming, snorkelling! Rajan, the permanent elephant resident of Barefoot at Havelock Resort, knows the water well. At 59 years of age a simple morning or afternoon ritual is a plunge in to the waves along the beach. Using his trunk as a snorkel, he finds his way along the seabed to deeper water, enjoying every moment floating.

Rajan Playing in Ocean
Rajan mahout' or elephant driver told me his tragic story:
Unlike a lot of logging elephants at the time, Rajan was born in captivity in mainland India around 1950. Initially trained using very cruel methods to log the islands of the Andamans, he was forced to swim with massive loads. He was trained on the mainland and bought by a Karen Businessman to work in the Timber Industry in the Andaman Islands. He arrived in the Andaman’s in his twenties & worked in Little Andaman, until about 2002.
But in 2002, logging was banned in the islands and most of the 200 elephants were sent back to the Indian mainland. However, Rajan was kept on by a wealthy owner who had no desire to see him leave Havelock Island, and enjoyed a blissful existence eating bananas and swimming in the crystal clear water.


Rajan with his driver


Rajan- Only Elephant who knows how to swim in Ocean
 
Five years ago a Kerala temple offered £40,000 for the elephant and Rajan almost had to leave, before a tourist lodge launched a campaign to raise the funds to keep him. Since then Rajan and Nasru have become something of an attraction. At 60 years he is the last of the group to survive. Now retired, he spends his time with his caretaker and now enjoys swimming and walking through the forests he once logged. He is truly the last of his kind.

 
People at Barefoot Resorts have taken it upon themselves to raise the money required to free Rajan. This amounts to nearly 70 000 USD. It is a mountainous sum of money, and in order to collect it they  undertook merchandising methods, selling Rajan T-shirts, or even offering people the once in a blue moon, exquisite opportunity to swim or dive with an elephant, with Rajan.
 

Rajan Playing in Ocean
When swimming with Rajan you are almost certain he is aware he is being photographed. Rajan is very friendly elephant. He is like a dog paddling when he swims and his mahout swims alongside him and never loses track of him. They are almost inseparable. It was a magical moment to observe – this majestic beast paddling effortlessly through the water.
 

Rajan in Havlock Island Beach

Rajan at 61 has only few more years to enjoy his life
I was fortunate that I had this chance to do a few dives with him and it is for sure an amazing experience. Very often, when people ask me what is the biggest creature that I have seen underwater, I say – Rajan!

How to Reach Havlock Island:
  1. Ferries are the major way on or off the island. 2-3 arrive daily from Port Blair (2-4 hours) and one from Rangat, one of which comes via Neil Island. Schedules vary according to day and season, so enquiry locally.
  2. There is also an air-conditioned catamaran ferry from Port Blair to Havelock. Tickets are 700, 800 or 1100 (which gets you a leather seat and your own tv). As the ferry is more expensive it is less likely to be full, and its schedule meets incoming flights. Tickets can be booked from a dedicated ticket booking window at Port Blair, thus avoiding the queue barging.
  3. The other option is to fly in. Pawan Hans (+91-3192-233601), which until 2011 operated sporadic helicopter flights to Havelock, now flies an amphibious 8-seater Cessna seaplane from Port Blair to Havelock and back every day except Sunday, covering the distance in about an hour. The standard price is a steep 4100 rupees one-way, but discounts may be available.

30 comments:

  1. That is amazing! A few years back I had seen in Television (I think it was Discovery Channel), a program showing elephant swimming in the sea, and it was somewhere in Andamans. But not sure if it was Rajan. But I thought there are many elephants in Andaman which can swim in the sea.

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  2. Very nice, Ruchi. Really amazing sights you discover.

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  3. @abhinav: There were other elephants too who can swim but all died except Rajan.
    @TF: Thanks TF!!!! Glad that my blog is on your blog roll and you are regular reader

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  4. u r really lucky to dive with rajan ruchita,last time when i had queried barefoot for the dive cost with Rajan it was beyond my budget..thanks for sharing ur experience :)

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  5. Wow. What a splendid elephant and what pictures.

    Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. I have seen his photographs before but did not know the context. Thanks a lot for sharing this story with us :)

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  7. Wow! Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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  8. What a wonderful story accompanied with great pictures. It must have been a truly wonderful experience. Glad you shared it with us.

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  9. Thanks Everyone!!! It was an amazing experience

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  10. Hmm...Rajan's got an interesting story. And he's a celebrity. :)

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  11. These elephants are really amazing. One of its kind.

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  12. Hi Ruchita,Award waiting for you..:-)
    http://ahomemakersutopia.blogspot.in/2012/06/awards-galore.html

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  13. Nice to learn about Rajan although I know that Elephants are great swimmers too. Beautiful photographs as well. Thanks.

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  14. Thanks everyone for the comments

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  15. exciting....great to know.. thnxs

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  16. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you




    Andaman Tourism

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  17. I'm enthralled by the description. Elephant doing swimming in the sea is like humans flying in the space. Enjoy! The world has so many things for enriching our lives.

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  18. Thanks for Information, Holidays in the paradisiacal islands of Indians Andaman & Nicobar Islands are know within your reach with attractive deals of Andaman Travel Packages. The heavenly islands in the midst of Indian ocean are delights that relax, rejuvenate and exhilarate you.

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  19. How is Rsajan doing these days? Any news?

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  20. Do you know that all elephants of Andaman are good swimmers, they can swim almost 1 km in the sea with their little ones as well?
    www.paradiseandaman.com

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  23. Let me repeat my query: How is Rajan doing these days? Still swimming with tourists or left that?

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