TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

LOVE LETTER TO THE ARABIAN SEA: SMH TRAVELLER

My love for the Arabian Sea began to blossom before I ever even laid eyes on it. Having never set foot in India before, my husband took a job in Mumbai and travelled ahead, both to find us an apartment and to decide whether we could actually live there. Five years later, I still remember those fuzzy cross-continental Skype calls and my husband’s giddy tone as he told me, “some of these places overlook the Arabian Sea!”

The Arabian Sea. The name itself invoked such exoticism, such adventure, such wild possibility. Never mind that by the time I arrived in Mumbai, the apartment we had secured overlooked a parking lot rather than water. Or that the little scoop of sea we could spy from the far corner of our balcony, if we stood on our tippy-toes, was so polluted we were told we may contract a fatal illness if we ever swam in it. My blind affection for this body of water – bounded by the Indian peninsula to the east, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa to the west – was set the moment its name oozed into my ears.

Quickly, the sea became the axis around which our Mumbai days turned. Sunrises were spent tracing its curve along the waterfront to the iconic Gateway of India, where we’d watch battered ferries and fishing boats bob in water transformed from gloomy to gilded by the rising sun. At the other end of the day, we’d wander down buzzing Marine Drive to Chowpatty beach which, come sunset, transformed into a seaside carnival. Surrounded by fairy floss and balloon sellers, we’d sit on the sand envisioning Oman beyond the horizon and watching locals wade into the shallows – fully clothed, bright-eyed and full of salty delight.

After months of being teased by a stretch of the Arabian Sea we could never immerse ourselves in, we ventured further afield to places where we could. Long weekends in Goa spent surfing, swimming and soaking up the susegad (laid back) vibes of beaches in Arambol, Madrem and Morjim. A trip to the small beach town of Varkala in Kerala, where I paddled out among the sea’s golden waves uncurling beneath a new dawn. Each time I plunged into those waters, they seemed to became a deeper part of me.

My bucket list is now littered with wild destinations that call to me from the shores of my favourite sea. Yemen’s untouched island of Socotra, where I dream of one day hiking through groves of desert rose and dragon’s blood trees and down camel-pocked sand dunes, before plunging into sun-splashed lagoons. The coastal towns of Oman, where I plan to learn to scuba dive amongst lionfish and honeycomb morays, the rocky desert beckoning from beyond the shore.

One rainy monsoonal afternoon back in Mumbai, while inspecting a map of India, I noticed that the Arabian Sea is shaped like a person reaching their two arms out – the lower being the Gulf of Aden above Somalia, the upper the Gulf of Oman. Instantly, I knew those arms had captured me in an eternal embrace.

 

THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED IN PRINT AND ONLINE HERE

 

1 THE SIZE

Approximate surface area 3.86 million square kilometres; width 2,400 kilometres.

2 NEED TO KNOW

The Arabian Sea is part of the main sea route between Europe and India and has been crossed by vital marine trade routes since as early as the third millennium BCE. From the ninth-century to the late medieval period it was dominated by the Arabian merchants, hence its name.

3 THE COUNTRIES

The Arabian Sea coastlines of India, Oman, Pakistan and the Maldives are particularly enticing. And although those in Yemen and Somalia are also beautiful, current political situations mean they’re out of bounds.

4 THE PORTS

Serene Kochi (or Cochin), one of India’s loveliest ports on the Malabar Coast of Kerala, is an enticing mix of cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, Dutch palaces and heritage hotels. Oman’s ancient port of Mutrah in Muscat is a must-see, fringed with squat latticed white buildings and mosques backed by mountains, as is Malé, the colourful, crowded heart of the Maldives.

5 SEE THE SEA

Various cruise lines weave the Arabian Sea into their itineraries. Celebrity Cruises runs a 14-night Arabian Sea and India holiday including Cochin, Mumbai, Goa and Muscat, from $2,449 per person. See celebritycruises.com.

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