Scuba Diving in the Andaman Islands
Scuba Diving in the Andaman Islands
Scuba diving is an exciting recreational sport, which can be undertaken by anyone who is in good physical and mental health and above all you do not need to be an expert swimmer to take a plunge into the deep blue waters. Irrespective of whether you can swim or not as long as you are 8 years old, and above you can try your hand at Scuba diving and get addicted to it for life.
Even today scientist believe that we have only explored about 5 % of the world oceans making it by far the most undiscovered part of our planet. There are 3 main centers for scuba diving in India, the Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea and Goa in mainland India and every destination is completely unique in its own way and they all have a widely different diving conditions and marine life.
The seas around the Andaman Islands are some of the worlds most unspoiled and unexplored and the only way to get close to these underwater treasures is to venture into the deep waters and take up a scuba diving trip. The coastal waters surrounding these Islands is the abode of one of the richest coral reef ecosystem in the world and till date the coral reefs and underwater formations are undamaged by human activity and the marine life here is abundant with an estimated 750 species of fishes.
Preparing for Scuba Diving
Unlike snorkeling, Scuba diving requires some preparation before you venture into the sea, the basic operational skills with diving equipment is necessary to begin with. On the first day of the training you will be taught how to breathe with your scuba diving equipment, how to connect it, understanding changing of depths, adjusting with swimming with the entire equipment and some brief lessons in the water and basic diving with the instructor.
The rest days you will spend in water with the instructor exploring the seabed and marine life. One basic advice to all divers is to be completely relaxed and do not take stress and maintain normal breathing even when you are underwater. Once done with the basic training you can then hire a professional diver’s service to help you discover the natural beauty underwater to your satisfaction.
Scuba Diving Gear
The word SCUBA is the short form of SELF CONTAINED UNDERWATER BREATHING APPARATUS which is the primary equipment used in Scuba Diving. The Scuba diving equipment consists of an air tank, a suit (wet or dry), mask, fins, snorkel, breathing apparatus, belt, dive watch and a slew of optional accessories.
What each diver wears (wet or dry suit) completely depends on the temperature of the water, the length of the dive. Dive watches can be used as it indicates the time when you should swim back to the surface, the length of the dive and the depth you are at. All the above equipment is available on rent and beginners should stick to renting. Advance or professional divers can carry their own gear with an exception of an air tank which is available at every diving center of Andaman Islands.
A word of caution: The state and the quality of the scuba diving equipment are extremely important. Your equipment should be tested often for your own safety as in the past serious injuries and deaths have occurred across the world simply because of faulty equipment's.
Diving Sites in the Andaman Islands
Dive Sites near South Andaman/ Port Blair
The Cinque Islands is one of the best diving sites in the Andaman Islands because of its crystal clear waters which offer a good view of the sea bed up to 80 feet. An ideal place for experienced divers as a dive here will give them amazing views of a variety of black corals, marine life and if lucky there can be rare sightings of sharks.
The North Point dive site is located at the Cinque Islands and is a popular dive site for viewing natural sponges, small to midsized corals and a diverse variety of fishes and other marine life.
South East Reef
The Southeast Reef also a part of the Cinque Island is home to a very large variety of hard and soft corals, this diving site is ideal for beginners to get acquainted with underwater marine life.
As the name suggests, Fish Rock offers a wonderful dive spot to view a wide variety of fishes in their natural habitat. Here divers will get views of some rare marine life like Eagle Rays, Potato Cod, Turtles, Bat fish, Bump heads, Parrot fish, Squirrel fish, Oriental Sweet lips, Surgeon fish, Yellow Tangs, Trigger fish, Tuna, Rainbow Runner and many more species of rare fishes. Apart from smaller variety of fishes divers will also get rare views of Reef Sharks and Nurse Sharks in the near vicinity. Also Coral lovers will get amazing views of a variety of corals and natural sponges making it a memorable dive which they will remember for a lifetime.
Bala Reef :
The Bala Reef is located on the western side of Little Andaman and spreads over an area of 5 km; this site is popular with divers for its variety of colorful corals.
Snake Island :
The Snake Island is off Corbyn's Cove Beach and the diving site here is popular for its incredible rock faces and impressive dive capes along with a variety of colorful marine life which includes rare fishes.
Corruption Rock :
Corruption Rock lies between Chidia Tapu and Rutland Island and the dive site is located on the western side of the rock and consists of huge underwater boulders. This site does not have much of coral life but is extremely popular for its undersea landscape of boulders. The entire underwater stretch is like a fantasy world full of ridges, gullies, channels and underwater canyons. Divers will also get glimpses of a rare variety of fishes that are seen here like Reef Sharks, Dolphins, Tuna, Banner fish, Unicorn fish, Eagle Rays, Giant Snappers and Schooling Fusiliers.
Rutland Island :
The shallow waters of the Rutland Island is an ideal spot for beginners and for initial scuba diving training as here divers will discover a large variety of small fishes and corals and there is also a shipwreck near this site.
Located at about 50 km away from Port Blair, Havelock Island is a paradise for Scuba divers as there are many unexplored diving sites that are rich in coral reefs and other marine life.
Dive Sites in and around Havelock Islands
Is considered a good diving site as the visibility here is one of the best. The site is popular for hard corals and their inhabitants and even Dugongs have been sighted here.
Is an ideal place to view a large variety of fishes and hard corals, the clear water here offers good visibility to add to the thrill of diving.
This dive site offers divers with an excellent blend of hard and soft corals, a wide variety of fishes and if lucky glimpses of turtles. This is an ideal dive site for beginners and novices in diving.
True to its name Turtle Bay is an excellent place for turtle spotting along with other marine life. Known to be a pleasant diving site, the depth here does not exceed more than 45 feet giving clear views of the sea bed.
Seduction point is a rocky area with a rich marine life and being a shallow area it offers divers excellent views of Napolean fishes and staghorn corals.
This is one of the best diving sites at Havelock Islands as it provides a good and equal opportunity for all kinds of divers to explore the sea. Popular for having night diving facilities too, this site is home to a huge variety of soft and hard corals and other marine life.
The Wall is a unique diving spot as it consists of a mammoth sized submerged rock which descends up to 180 feet and is full of marine life. It consists of a dense forest cover full of soft corals and many species of fishes encircling the entire structure making your dive a memorable one.
The Pilot Reef dive site is an exciting site as it consists of a vast area of unspoiled and untouched hard corals. At about 80 feet at the bottom of the sea bed there are canyons that are stretched out where leopard and white tip sharks can be easily spotted.
The Minerva Ledge has a much larger stretch of hard corals, a large variety of fishes and generally this diving site has a clear visibility making it an ideal site for viewing sharks at a close range hence making it one of the best dive sites near Havelock Islands.
Campbell Shoal off North Button Island
Campbell Shoal is another preferred diving site for all kinds of divers as here the sea bed is largely covered with a colorful variety of hard corals and in addition to a wide variety of marine life like Large Cod, Grouper fish, Coral Trout, Blue and Golden - banded fusiliers, Giant Trevally, White tip Reef Sharks and a host of rare colorful reef fishes.
Other Dive Sites at Andaman Islands
Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (Wandoor)
The marine national park comprises of 15 islands out of which only 2 are open to tourist alternately i.e. Jolly Buoy and Redskin Islands. This dive site is a gold mine for all divers as here they can get a glimpse of many colorful varieties of coral reef fishes like butterfly fish, clown fish, parrot fish, angel fish, surgeon fish, bat fish and groupers. If lucky divers may get a glimpse of White Tip Shark, Hammer headed Shark, Manta Ray and Blue fin jack. There are also more than 50 different varieties of soft and hard corals spread across the underwater marine park.
Barren Island (Active Volcano)
The Barren Islands is located at about 150 km from Port Blair and is a unique diving site and is recommended for professional divers and adventure seekers. The seabed around the Island is full of unexplored corals, variety of fishes and many unique and rare underwater treasures which only a fortunate few can witness.
Narcondam Island (Extinct Volcano)
The Narcondam Island is located at about 250 km north from Port Blair and is popular for its Extinct Volcano, this diving site is ideal for professional divers as they can explore the sea bed and rich marine life that is till date untapped and unexplored.
Located 160 km southeast of Port Blair is a secluded diving spot (an extensive seamount) in the middle of the sea and this diving spot is recommended only for professional divers to explore the untapped and unexplored marine life underwater.
Advice to Scuba Divers visiting Andaman Islands
- Divers should dive only in those diving areas that have been permitted by the local administration.
- Make sure you hire the services of a professional certified diving operator for scuba diving, as they will provide you with the required equipment, infrastructure and the best certified diving professionals to assist you during your dive.
- While exploring the sea bed do not walk or stand on the coral reefs.
- Do not touch, break or even collect live or dead corals.
- Take all valid permits and permissions before entering the National parks or any secluded diving spot.
- The Decompression chamber facility is available at Clearance Diving Unit, Navy, Port Blair, and Contact Number: 232871.
- Another decompression chamber has almost been setup at G.B. Pant Hospital (Government) - Port Blair.
Safety Guidelines for Sea - Enthusiast.
The beaches of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are beautiful and inviting, its crystal clear waters and coral reefs make it irresistible for many sea enthusiast to resist. But visiting tourist must know that only a few of these beaches are under supervision for swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling etc.
Though safe, the waters of Andaman have some dangerous marine animals and that they may attack thinking of prey or defending its territory, but this kind of incidence are very rare and if tourists follow the safety precautions mentioned they can enjoy swimming in the crystal clear waters of Andaman Islands without any worry.
- Take advice and guidance from the local administrators (Tourist Information Centers/ Tour Operators/ Forest Department Staff) about safe swimming areas/diving areas and avoid swimming in protected areas/un-patrolled areas in order to avoid dangerous animals.
- Look around for safety signs or signboards to help you know about potential dangers.
- Take advice from lifeguards to know more about the swimming conditions like currents, tides, visibility and presence of dangerous marine animals especially if you are entering into the water in an un-patrolled area.
- Always swim in company with someone for safety reasons and children should always swim under supervision of adults.
- In case you need help raise your hand up and stay calm and wave your arm for help.
- Do not hang or swing loosely your arms and legs in the water while taking a boat ride.
- Do not venture into the sea in the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Avoid wearing any kind of shiny jewelry or accessory while swimming, as they could attract predatory fishes.
- Do not swim if you have an open wound as many predatory fishes are attracted to blood odour.
Potentially dangerous marine life in the sea to look out for
Salt water crocodiles:
Avoid swimming or undertaking any water sport activity near creeks, mangroves, still waters or mouth of creeks as these are the potential places where salt water crocodiles are found. Occasionally these crocodiles also move deep into the sea so take advice from the life guards before venturing into the sea at these potentially dangerous places and alert the authorities if you see one to avoid any accident.
Sea Snakes can be recognized by their paddle like tail and these species are known to be highly poisonous. So stay away from them and do not try to play or handle them as a bite can be lethal.
Stone fish is generally found in shallow corals or rocks and are camouflaged in mud and sand. This fish has a highly venomous dorsal spine and its sting could be lethal. So divers must avoid walking on the coral reef areas, do not lift any rock or coral to admire it and wear a sturdy sandal while walking in shallow coastal waters as most attacks take place while stepping on Stone fishes rather than holding them.
Sharks are normally found in the open sea or in certain coral reef areas of the Andaman Islands. Divers must avoid diving alone and must not enter the water if they have any open wounds as the odour of blood will attract the sharks.
They may look very attractive and you might want to play with or handle them, but avoid any contact with them as a sting of a jelly fish may cause pain, giddiness or cause skin allergy. If you see a large school of jelly fishes move away from them or get ashore, and in case you happen to accidentally come in contact with them apply some vinegar or ice pack, but do not rub.