Call of the Wild

On a month-long trip through India’s Andaman Islands, local residents Mark Arico and Bryce Lowe-White explored the unexplored and discovered more than just perfect waves along the way.

When real estate broker, film producer Mark Arico decided it was time to organize another adventure to a distant land, his favorite pastime, he knew he would need to rally a group of traveling companions who would embrace the unexpected. As a surfer, he was ostensibly in search of great waves and a chance to commune with the natural world, which made inviting fellow surfers to come along for the ride a given choice. He also knew that since this trip would take him to India’s Andaman islands, one of the earth’s last truly untouched bastions of ecology and human life, he would need to bring along a photographer whose curiosity and thirst for adventure matched his own.

Enter Bryce Lowe-White. Just 18 years old when the trip began, Lowe-White’s resumé was already shaping up impressively. A surfer himself, he had shot numerous photos of neighbor and pro-surfer Alex Grey, and he was developing quite a reputation in the surfing community as someone who was eager to learn and develop his craft. What ensued was, in no uncertain terms, the trip of a lifetime for all involved. Not merely a sun-dappled jaunt across sandy beaches, it encompassed all of the elements that gave legendary authors like Jack London fodder for their masterpieces: unadulterated views of nature, brushes with death, and encounters with both solitude and humanity that left indelible marks on the psyche.

Rising out of the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are flanked by India in the west and the southeast Asian locales of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in the east. This collection of 572 islands exists as a curious punctuation mark at the end of the sentence that is the Indian subcontinent, first and foremost because they have remained so startlingly desolate and primitive over the course of India’s centuries-old arc through civilization.

Inhabited by Stone Age Negrito tribes in the Andamans and Mongoloid peoples in the Nicobars, the islands managed to fly under the radar during the era of British Imperialism in the 18th century, with Port Blair existing as one of the lone testaments to European exploration of this area. The journals of English seamen are replete with cautionary tales regarding the dangers of washing ashore here, and one can’t help but wonder why they were so daunted by their experiences with these natives when history tells us they were undeterred elsewhere.

The Adventure Begins – Chennai, India

Leg one of the trip began in Chennai, a city on India’s eastern seaboard. In the context of the trip, this location provided Mark and Bryce (along with surfers Jalian Johnston, Dino Miranda and Ned Snow) a window through which to glimpse the unprecedented moments that they would log on their journey. Chennai floored Bryce in particular because of the sheer number of people that eclipsed all of his Western notions of “bustling.” He stated, “Chennai was cultural and amazing – a city of smiling people wearing collared shirts and nice shoes even though they didn’t own much else. Their ideas about personal space are completely different from our own, and staring was their way of figuring out who we were.” After spending some time sightseeing, the group reconvened for their flight to Port Blair in the southern portion of the Andamans, where they then met their trimaran boat The Gaea. This chartered outfit based in Phuket would serve as their sole base of operations in the days to come as they traversed seas that had their own itinerary in store.

Jawara and Kumari Points – Legacies of Fickle Mother Nature’s Power

According to Mark, Kumari Point was his Holy Grail of sorts in his quest for the perfect wave. The Gaea motored for an entire night after leaving Port Blair, and the group approached Jawara Point by morning. Here they encountered enjoyable waves that barreled left, in an area where untouched nature made its first appearance. Bryce recalled the following in his journal: “Each island {in this region} is made up of nothing but nature. We passed so many atolls that looked identical to the last – a small ring of white sand beaches lying amongst giant hardwood forests reaching upwards of 100 feet. The beaches were littered with turtle nests and trails left by hermit crabs, not footprints.” By this time, Mark had begun to wonder when and if they would see evidence of the swath of destruction that tsunami waves and earthquake aftershocks cut through the region on December 26, 2004, and he soon received his answer at Kumari Point.

As a result of that tectonic activity, portions of the Andaman and Nicobar islands have risen as much as four meters (a little more than 13 feet) while others are now completely submerged. These changes were obvious to the men and crew as they happened upon Kumari Point the next morning, and witnessing them first-hand was sobering, if not eerie. Where perfect surf once hurtled toward the shore, a higher tide line and exposed reefs now reveal the remnants of teeming sea life that died on the spot, remains exposed for all to see. Fifty to 60 feet of dried coral reefs and a steep drop-off are now all that is left of the shoreline, and the sole reason that inhabitants of these islands have been able to re-adjust to life post-tsunami as soon as they have is because they possessed so few material possessions to begin with. The group’s first encounter with the islands’ humanity lay before them, and having been significantly impacted by this view of nature, they moved on.


Their meeting with the Negrito people of this region was one they will never forget, so closely did it resemble tales that graced the pages of journal entries and stories written hundreds of years ago. The Negrito tribes are the last of the Stone Age cultures to exist on our planet, and their numbers are dwindling. Armed with spears, they approached The Gaea as it idled toward the beach and then stalled due to the shallowness of the water. Before they knew it, a band of 30 mostly naked tribespeople came out to greet the boat, all of them adorned with the body paint and loincloths that they have worn for thousands of years. When six children jumped onto the boat, the men’s only recourse in terms of communication was the ancient art of body language. Thankfully, it is one so primal that even the most urbane among us can access it when necessary.

After they made their way to the shore on foot, Bryce captured on video the welcome dance performed by the women and children who, needless to say, were amazed to see themselves on the camera’s LCD screen. Once back on the boat, the men were approached by the tribe’s elders. They arrived bearing spears on their shoulders and the dignified air of apprehension that precedes any encounter with the unknown. Our itinerant voyagers gifted them with such mundane modern treasures as cold soda pop and Neosporin for the cuts on their legs, but not before they realized that a youth had stolen their camera. The men then sent their deck hand back to shore to retrieve it, which he did after undergoing the requisite summation of his man parts by tribe members who customarily grab this area on strangers to get a better read on them. As Bryce so aptly and succinctly explained it, “I may never meet someone who has had a similar experience. It was crazy.”

South Sentinel Island – Last Stop Before Nature Unleashes Her Fury

To hear Mark and Bryce tell it, the first leg of the journey was filled with sunshine and wonder, while the last leg made clear just how futile it is to venture on a journey such as this with preconceived notions of what one will find. On South Sentinel Island, the men’s five-hour trek through dense jungle rewarded them with an expanse of coastline and ensuing photo ops that perhaps best encapsulate the natural beauty of the area. On this island that rose after the tsunami, the lengths of the waves they found were ideal for surfing, which was just as well considering they would not surf for the rest of their trip.

An Angry Sea – 10 Days on the Fringes of Cyclone Nargis

According to the history books, the cyclone now known as Nargis tore through the Bay of Bengal on its way to Indonesia in May 2008 and ultimately took 300,000 lives with it. Once The Gaea arrived at a small local port and exchanged travelers Dino Miranda and Ned Snow for longboarders Andrew Legreco and Noah Shimabukuro, it set out again under sunny skies that conveyed no hint of the secrets they held. When the men woke up the following morning, the sky had turned ominously black and sent forth bolts of lightening and a white sheet of rain that approached the boat seemingly quickly and in slow motion all at once.

It should be noted that The Gaea housed no communication equipment, let alone weather monitoring apparatus, so our band of travelers were taken quite unaware. Eighty- to 100-mile-per-hour winds did not prevent Mark from fighting his way onto the deck to record portions of the storm, and this little anecdote speaks volumes about why this particular meeting of journey mastermind and journey could not have been more serendipitous. By day five, nearly every portion of the boat was drenched (beds included) and the men wondered if they would ever make it out of the storm alive. They did.

Hut Bay – S**t Beach, Baked Goods and Hospitality

Hut Bay did indeed serve as the proverbial shelter from the storm for The Gaea, as well as yet another opportunity for the men to witness a way of life far simpler than their own. After finding themselves bemused by the trails of human excrement that dotted the beach (this region offers no modern sewage system), Mark, Bryce and company made their way through a tangle of uprooted trees that were left by the tsunami and entered the town. Here they found respite in what most Westerners would deem a shantytown, while the residents (seemingly happily) call it home. Aided by small, rickety taxis that shuttled them to and fro, they shared two days of their lives with the scraggly, feral dogs that crossed their path and locals who welcomingly opened their doors.

Bryce recounted one encounter with a husband and wife who invited them into the one-room bakery in which they lived, offering them the freshest baked bread he’d ever tasted while giving all the men on the trip pause. More specifically, the experience begged the question – what truly constitutes a good life, particularly when modern conveniences enslave so many of us? It is a question that they have pondered in their travels since, and one that has inspired them to make subsequent treks to similarly primitive locales in search of a freedom our realm may not offer us.

Afterward: Mumbai and Beyond

Before leaving for home, the group spent a few days in Mumbai, staying at the legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel that only six months later would be invaded and bombed by Muslim extremists. It is a footnote to this tale that bears repeating for the simple reason that in relating this bit of information to me, both Mark and Bryce seemed startlingly matter-of-fact. My question for them was this: how exactly do you maintain such calm centeredness in the midst of travels that pose so many dangers? Mark replied, “You only live this life once – there are no rewinds. Of course, you have to be vigilant. That being said, I think the way you perceive differences and react to them impacts what you can give back, and in a world where the media works so hard to propagate fear, it’s even more important that we journey outside of our comfort zone. The pure simplicity I encountered on this trip made me want to return to it, and it’s changed me forever.”

To view more images from this trip or to contact Mark or Bryce, visit and




There are no direct flights from LAX to the Andamans, so you must first touch down in either India or Southeast Asia and depart by chartered boat.


Unless the idea of experiencing inclement weather in all of its bracing glory excites you, it is best to avoid the months from May to September that essentially mark monsoon season in this part of the world.


As stated, this area is comprised largely of virgin territory, and a vacation here is best suited for the adventurous at heart. With the exception of hotels in the city of Port Blair itself, one would for the most part travel from island to island in a chartered boat. Please note that there are areas of the Andamans and particularly the Nicobar islands to which travel is prohibited by the Indian government in an effort to preserve the pristine quality of the land as well as to protect travelers from tribes who at present are still not amenable to visitors. Visit for more information.