WE GOT UP BEFORE 4AM, drove across the little tropical island, drank a slow cup of tea and were kitting up as the sun rose, bathing the long white sandy beach in a gentle light.
You need to make sure you stay at least three metres away from him, the guide said. He may seem slow, but he is very big and you definitely dont want to come into contact with him in the water.
We waited. Another cup of tea. A biscuit.
A rustle from the trees, and a skinny man carrying a stick appeared from the forest. Next to him, our dive partner slowly came into view - heavy grey skin, tree-trunk legs and a long, sensitive nose. This was Rajan, an ocean-swimming elephant.
As we hopped around in the shallows sticking on fins and adjusting cameras, Rajan approached the water, accompanied by sharp barks of encouragement from his mahout.
A cautious sniff at the ripples which passed for surf at this time in the morning and gently, regally, Rajan walked into the sea.
One could imagine him groaning with relief as the water advanced up his legs and slowly took his weight.
As he proceeded, we sank into the water. It was only a few metres deep, but dive gear was essential to stay under and really watch him.
He seemed almost puppy-like when he first started to float, tucking his back legs up under his belly while still walking on the sand with his front legs.
Soon he was swimming properly, all four grey tree trunks churning around in an aquatic run - the guide was right, you really wouldnt want to come into contact with one of those.
Because there were only four divers and a couple of snorkellers, there was room to get in and around Rajan, although at first he kicked up quite a lot of sand from the bottom.
But once he got going and into deeper water, one could simply swim with him, ccasionally wondering what on earth was happening, but mostly just watching.
Sometimes he held his trunk tip up out of the water to breathe - the ultimate snorkel - but at other times he was completely under the water, eyes open, simply having a bit of a swim as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Its not. Elephants love being wet, splashing and squirting themselves and each other or coating themselves with mud to keep off parasites.
Sometimes they will swim a little in their water-holes or lakes, but ocean-going elephants are very rare -- they generally stay out of salt water.

RAJAN LIVES ON HAVELOCK, one of the Andaman Islands out in the Indian Ocean, where elephants were trained to swim in the sea.
They were brought there by the British, who used them for logging. The story has it that a number were forced to get used to the sea so that they could be more help getting logs into the water, and even swim from island to island, where the distances were possible.
Rajan is said to be the last of his kind, and is certainly the only ocean-going elephant that invites divers along into the water.
Now about 60 years old, he is practically retired, spending most of his time wandering around in the rainforest.
The people at Barefoot Divers on Havelock recently bought him from his owner, and now sell the coveted and limited opportunity to dive with him to repay their investment and cover his upkeep.
But Havelock is not all elephants - its mostly about boat trips to offshore reefs that are some of the prettiest and least touched this writer has seen.
Conditions are not often challenging, and there are no big, dramatic dives with drop-offs or huge currents. Visitors who are dead set on whizz-bang dives will be disappointed.
But it was an opportunity to enjoy the water and reefs in a really relaxed setting - and, for the uninitiated, to turn from looking for animals on the scale of Rajan to smaller creatures often overlooked.
The waters are rich, and the reefs are covered in a huge range of mixed soft and hard corals, teeming with life - the tiniest crabs hiding deep inside hard corals, mini see-through shrimps blending almost perfectly into soft corals, and not only the big juicy-looking nudibranchs, but also miniature ones.
It adds layers to a dive to get into spotting the tiny things that are all over the place. To recognise a white tree coral as one that might be home to near-invisible transparent shrimps - and then to spot some - is enormously satisfying.
The layered-dive mental approach works well on the wreck of the Inket, a Japanese coal transport ship that sank about 50 years ago.
It is beautiful from a distance, still very ship-shaped, with massive propellers that are home to large lobsters, and old nets artistically draped over the more exposed metalwork.

COMING CLOSER TO THE WRECK, it is covered with soft coral, gorgeous in differing colours depending on depth, and companion to many different fish species. Big floppy anemones and stonefish, as well as a host of large shrimps, also provide entertainment.
But come in even closer to the hull and not only can blue-black, liquorice-sweet nudibranchs be spotted, but also yellow and creamy ones with external lungs and, with a bit of patience, their bright yellow cousins, smaller than a peanut, but unmistakably little nudis.
Elsewhere we had the pleasure of an electric clam which, fairly interesting for its rounded shape during the day, provided fairground-ride visuals at night, as flashing blue lights zipped along its lips and back.
And coming back up the scale of size, the waters are often filled with decent-sized fish, which serve only to highlight the lack of such big groups of fully grown fish in other, more heavily dived and fished areas.
We saw an enormous troop of big bumphead parrotfish during a dawn dive, trundling along looking prehistoric in the odd early morning light.
A huge cloud of batfish also entertained us one afternoon, floating in seemingly dozy formation above the three points known as Dixons pinnacles, one of the prettiest dives
in the area.
The water was about 28°C in February, with air temperatures well into the low 30s, making the entire experience a soothing one for Europeans sick of short, cold and grey days.
A certain degree of composure is needed to dive the Andamans - this is not a destination of instant gratification. Its not a destination of instant anything.
Most dive sites are about an hour away from the shore, trips undertaken in slow, local-design narrow boats.
Yet the boats limit the dive groups to a maximum of around eight, and there are so few operators that it is extremely rare to encounter other divers in the water. A two-dive trip is generally the rule, with surface time taken up by chugging to the second dive site, drinking spicy, sweet chai and munching on warm samosas or sweet bananas.
A one-week trip disappears all too quickly like this, with afternoons spent eating fantastic curries and hiring bicycles to pedal around the island to explore various beaches.
More than this is not to be found on Havelock - it is tiny, and development is deliberately being limited, so that it doesnt turn into another Goa.

HALFWAY THROUGH THE SECOND WEEK
, however, we were hungry for something else. Because the dive operations are still pretty new in the area, there are only about 20 decent recorded sites.
The solution - organised as a favour by the very friendly and competent Dive India team at Island Vinnies resort - was exploratory dive days.
We had been diving with guides Dixon, Jackson and Johnny, whose names adorn three of the best dive sites in the area. The idea of discovering a new site with one of them was exciting.
Jackson took three of us out to areas that seemed promising on charts, and according to gossip among fisherman.
The process was understated - you stop at a spot where there seems to be more than sand on the bottom, and do a couple of freedives to see if there are fish, or anything else, on the bottom.
When it seemed as if it might be interesting, we kitted up and went down to see what we could find. Generally as pleasure divers we jump off the boat and pretty much land on a beautiful spot, be it a wreck, a wall or a reef offering up coral and fish.
This was different. We were in water that had probably never been seen by a diver before, and it was a fascinating reminder that the stunning dive spots one usually visits are the exception rather than the rule.
We formed a line to cover as much ground as possible, and then, remaining about 15m above the bottom to maximise our dive time, swam as fast as seemed reasonable in one direction.
Sometimes the ground was dull, stones and sand that had something of the scrub landscape of cowboy films to them, stretching into the distance.
Sometimes we followed low, unspectacular reefs, hoping that they would lead us to pinnacles or a gorge.
We would stay out all day, diving three times, pausing for curry cooked by the boat crew, and to chug along to new potential spots.
We didnt find Hannahs Reef, but the experience did bring home to us what most of the ocean bottom must look like - pretty unremarkable on the whole, and very, very big.
It was a healthy reminder if one were needed, that the spots we dive are impossibly special and precious.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Daily flights from Chennai/Madras and Calcutta on the Indian mainland with several airlines including Kingfisher, Jet Airways and Indian Airlines. You can also travel by boat from Chennai and Calcutta, though this takes around 60 hours. Flights and ships arrive in Port Blair on South Andaman, the main island. It has one dive operation, but most tourism activity is on Havelock, a ferry ride away. Some Indian embassies may try to charge extra for an Andamans permit, but if you hold a valid India visa you can obtain one readily on arrival at Port Blair for free.
DIVING & ACCOMODATION: There are several dive operations on tiny Havelock, notably Barefoot Scuba (www.diveandamans.com, www.divingelephant.com), and Dive India/Island Vinnies (www.islandvinnie.com), both offering accommodation and combo packages. Places to stay range from rudimentary huts to fancy tents and huts with en-suite bathrooms, and cottages in one resort.
MONEY: Indian rupees.
HEALTH: Take malaria precautions. Nearest recompression chamber is in Port Blair, up to two hours away on the ferry.
CROCODILES: The recent fatal attack on a snorkeller by a saltwater crocodile in the sea off Havelock (see News) occurred after Hannah Cleavers departure. We didnt hear anything about crocs in the sea off Havelock, only the possibility of them being spotted in the mangroves, where you wouldnt swim, she says. According to Barefoot Scuba, this was the first known incident of a crocodile attack outside the mangrove areas. The dive centre says it is taking precautions to avoid any potentially hazardous locations.
WHEN TO GO: For diving, any time other than June/July, which is monsoon time. Its sunniest from December to early May, with some cloudy and rainy days August to November.
PRICES: Accommodation costs from around 500 rupees (about £7) a night for a basic hut. Flights from Chennai can vary wildly in price depending on availability and season, from around 10,000 rupees (£140) in September 2010.
TOURIST INFORMATION: www.tourism.andaman.nic.in