Before we left for Barren Island we had to say goodbye to Karo and Bernhard, who had to leave early due to appointments at home. The rest of us set off east and had to sail during night and day because of only moderate wind. Barren Island is volcanic with an active stratovolcano with pyroclastic cones (clouds of ash) which had the last major eruption with lava in 2005 - apparently connected to the big earthquake and Tsunami in 2004.

The most impressive feature above water is the Volcano itself, were you can see clouds of ash coming out from time to time. Under water it definitely is the dark sand from the volcano which looks really spooky when you go snorkeling or diving. Just like a scenery on the moon.

You can only visit Barren Island around February and March each year. There are no safe anchorages for the other months because of the prevailing wind direction. The island is almost round and doesn't have any sheltered coves.
During February and March the weather and wind conditions are generally calm so there are three possible anchorages on the west side - although often with an ash shower. In the Cruising Guide those anchorages are named A, B and C - very stimulating - so I decide to rename them. Anchorage A is now called Manta Bay, because we already saw some mantas (Manta birostris) while exploring the bay with the dinghi. Not talking about more than 10 - there I stopped counting - we saw during our Manta Dive on our last day. Probably because the island rices from a depth of over 2.000 m to the surface one can see many big open ocean animals during diving and snorkeling. That's what those big Manta Rays probably like and you can even see them in really shallow water of about 2 meters where they swim around in circles. (see Video).

I called anchorage B "Deep Current Bay" although only two of us - Tom and me - made a dive there. First there was not much to see except dark sand which disappears downwards into the depth. Buried in the sand are thousands of garden eels (Hetercongrinae) which disappear in the sand when you come to close. First we dive down the slope and are amazed what comes up from the depth. A swarm of big jacks (Carangidae), two huge tuna and other shoals of fish. The current downwards gets stronger by the minute and we have to swim against it to prevent being pulled down. While slowly emerging  we finally have our first encounter with an impressive manta ray who is slowly gliding above us and disappearing down the slope.
Anchorage C we finally call Lava Bay since it's just in front of the huge solidified lava stream. And here we find the only intact coral reef of the Andaman Islands in shallow water (thanks Dieter for the tip!). The sight of the wonderfully delicate Acropora-colonies gives us hope for the future and all those coral reef cemeteries of the last weeks.

This coral reef can't be very old since the last eruption with lava was in 2005. Nevertheless the cover ratio of the corals (although only a few species) is app. 100%. Also there are lots of reef fish and again white-tipped reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus), Napoleon-wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), lots of small reef fish of the group Anthiinae as well as Pomacentridae, Rabbitfish (Siganidae) and much more. Next to the reef there is a steep slope with sponges, locusts and also some gorgonian. We stay here for a few days, longer than we are actually allowed to according to our itinerary, and enjoy the beautiful reef. Officially we had motor problems...
After we rounded the island we stay one last night at Manta Bay were we find lots of ash on our boat in the morning. At some point this had to happen. One last dive and then lets go. The ash sand is not sticky and so the boat is clean again real quickly. We sail directly to Port Blair where we buy some last fresh fruits and vegetables before we check out - which is quite easy - and are seen of by the coastguard on the radio with the words “See you again next year!”. The crossing is a little slow because there is no wind and the whole crew - with the exception of Keanu and myself - got some kind of virus infection at our last dinner in Port Blair. With rheumatic pains, fever, nausea and tiredness all lay flat for one to three days. In the end we also caught some thunder storms and squalls but managed everything and arrived safely in Thailand. Cheers for our great crew, our adventures and we look forward to seeing all of you again! Team beer with Elke & Martin - because they love beer, team ENT Karo & Bernhard, because they had a cold in the beginning, and team stomach with Bigi & Gunther, because they both had a case of seasickness, but didn't let it dampen their spirit.

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Krüss Mikroskope