Learning Scuba Diving in Andaman Island's - A Complete Guide
Be it rather by a bit of obsession !.Though my heart always beats to be in the midst of mountains, but my mind craves to pursue a new adventure. Inspired by watching a few documenteries on NAT GEO, I should say , I almost got AQUADDICTED and wanted to do a certification course in Scuba diving and become a Scuba Diver.
Reason I choose Andaman Islands for diving ?
Swaraj Dweep Islands/ Kaalapani popularly known as Andaman's ! lying in Indian Ocean and being in proximity to the east coast of India, budget constraints as well was a strong reason to choose. The aquamarine color of water with clear visibility later on persuaded me to finalize the trip to Andaman islands. !
Being motivated by my plan, along with me 3 of my friends - Dr. Manjunath , Vinay Dunty, Srikanth Desikachar expressed their desire to join me on the adventurous trip.A direct flight from Bangalore took just 3 hours to reach Portbalir.Excited we finally set off for a 10 day, Certification Course !
Needless to say, it was one of my most satisfying experiences to complete my diver certification in the Andaman Islands.
Though their are couple of dive centers like Ocean tribe , Andaman Bubbles, Barefoot, who offer dive courses. I finalized Diveindia. All arrangements were done for Diving course in advance with DIVEINDIA based in Havelock islands.
We reached the ferry point and after 1.5 hours of journey by a Government ferry we reached Havelock Island.We hired a Tuk Tuk ( Local Auto ) and reached the Campsite adjoing to dive center, which was 3 kms away from jetty, it served as our home for whole trip
Ferry to Havelock
We checked into the tents and day was spent at leisure with introductory session of staff and course mates.Tents were spacious , clean and well maintained !
Tented Accomodation at Campsite
The tents were simple to accomodate 2 members with a queen size bed , a cold shower, a patio and attached western toilet.
The campsite was around 700 metres away from sea shore.A restaurant popularly known as the Full Moon Cafe was our food joint facing sea.
Which diving course did I choose?
Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI) are two reputed organisations that certify divers. Both are somewhat similar but I’d say, PADI is more popular among two, with couse material and SSI is slightly cheaper with online learning.
The most popular recreational dive courses are as below
- Open Water Diver
- Advanced Open Water Diver
How many days is the Certification course?
The Open Water Diver course will take four days to complete. This includes one whole day of theory and three days of skills training and four dives.
You can choose to complete your theory online at home so you have an extra day to explore the Andaman Islands. we studied at home with the help of study material. so I did my theory at my dive centre in Havelock.
The first 3 days i did a Open Water Diver course which allows to learn about basics of diving, about equipments and Usage
- BCD ( Buoyancy Control Device )
- Buoyancy Control
- Wet Suit, Scuba fins, Weights, Cylinder, Gauge
- Dive table and Dive Planner
- Mask and Blowing
- Marine life and Identification
- Diver Computer
- Signs under water for communication
The introdutory sessions for a day were done at Nemo Reef dive site close to Campsite in shallow water which involved more of Navigation, Mask ,Breathing techniques, Buoyancy and practice.
Visibility was typically 15-20 meters. We spotted, sea urchins, Puffer fish, parrotfish, sweet-lips, clownfish, box fish, Scorpion fish, and few corals. A gentle prick of a sea Urchin is very painful
After that we ventured into OPEN WATER for diving sessions with a buddy and Instructor. We dive up to 18 meters (60 feet) in the ocean.The dive sites are pre decided as per weather conditions and Cerfication level
Advance Course .
The Advance Course is for 4 Days and is designed to advance your diving and help build confidence and expand your scuba skills through different Adventure Dives in different dive sites.
The most of aweful dive sites are spread across 10 - 25 miles away from the main land. This is where most of the precious time is spent during day.These are of kaleidoscope of colors ,coral, pristine reefs and a colorful species of fish. The seas around the Andamans are some of the world's most prsitine. Marine life is abundant and many species of fish and coral are unique to the area.
Here in the far depths there is something here to offer for everyone. But what makes the Andamans so special is not only the amazing treasures you will find in her bosam. Here diver impact on eco system is minimal and that may be reason you see less diving community. All divesites have a visibility of about 20 -30 meters during day!
1. JOHNY GORGE
It is just few meters away from Minerva ledge also visited by dolphin is the famous Johnnys gorge, divers fight to dive here, its not a big reef but most diver sight the beautiful colored coral because they are surround by a colorful of swirling Barracudas, giant friendly Grouper, Unicorn Fish and Snappers, not to forget one of the few place to see shark on a regular basis and groups of Eagle Rays often drop in to add to the experience.
2. THE WALL
A small horizontal wall 50 meters long that drops in to the shipping channel near the jetty on Havelock, this is the best local site and is visited by a very large Napoleon Wrasse called Pierre, which are very friendly to divers. The top of the wall is very colorful with purple, red and yellow soft corals, alone the wall has many beautiful fans with Puffer Fish and Lionfish peering out at you and Nudibranchs trying to race around the wall. We see many octopuses and Scorpion Fish here and even Anglerfish are seen tucked into holes. On the sandy parts Kulhs Rays are spotted with or without their tails.
3. LIGHT HOUSE
A sloped reef about 30 minutes away from the shore , the coral tends to be better in the shallows with lots of Fusiliers, Lionfish, octopus and if divers are lucky a big gang of Humpback Parrotfish. This site is a great place to do night dives; we see lots of macro life as well as very small Lionfish, sleeping Parrotfish here..
A dive log book is been given to individual to make note of dive site, dive time,Marine life sighting and everyone has to update it regularly after diving.
4. DIXONS PINNACLE
Located at 18 m - 30 m there are totally three large pinnacles are surrounded with excitement from all the active feeding frenzy from the pelagics, Barracudas, Giant Trevally, Giant Groupers, Tuna and Mackerel. Beautiful Big Barrel Sponges perch on the edges of the larger pinnacle that is covered with Glass Fish that make it hard at times to look out at the schools of Batfish floating. One can site a Manta Ray cruising slowing with a wide flat body. There are many colors here with lots of juvenile Emperor Angelfish and shy Red-Toothed Triggerfish looking for holes to hide from the glares from the Napoleon Wrasse circling the reef.
Manta rays are normally referred to as highly intelligent and highly threatened species — are the largest rays in the world. The sea creatures live in tropical, subtropical, and temperate ocean waters across the globe. “Manta” typically means blanket or cloak in Spanish, describing the look of the animals’ large, flat, diamond-shaped bodies, which are characterized by triangular pectoral fins.
Manta rays have two horn-shaped fins protruding from the front of their heads, which has also given them the nickname as “devil fish.”. They glide slowly and seem as if flying in blue sky !
A Manta Ray Saors High in the Sea
5. MV MARS
We had a Wreck diving trip at 15 m deep popularly known as MV Mars.This is small wooden local cargo ship which sunk during a storm in 2006, it sits still upright, it is in crumbling stage and has become a new home to many of fish which inhabited the nearby reef located ten meters away. It is a short dive around the wreck, then on to the reef and finish back at the wreck, visibility tends to be not so good but great when it appears through the gloom because of loose sand.We were blessed to sight a sting ray on the sandy bed.
6. PILOT REEF
The closest dive site to the dive centre, a large reef sister to Minerva ledge. This site has lots of small Reef Fish with Napoleon Wrasse, occasional young Manta Ray and Leopard Shark have been spotted at times alone with big Stingrays, turtles, Scorpionfish, sea snakes and Trevally.
The above sites are just a few of the most visited during the dive season, some of the other sites are jacksons Bar, Minerva Ledge , Mac Point , V16 , and Stag horn park to name a few...! !
7. NIGHT DIVE
The Night dives are bit scary for first timer and really a memorable and a unique experience .Venturing into sea as sun sets is a expereince to cherish.The nocturnal creatures under water become active, we armed with powerful torches,did diving with respective buddies, identify marine life and do navigation. We spotted too many Scorpion fishes and Lion fishes
COMBINED STUDY @ FULL MOON CAFE
On the final day of the course, a written test will be conducted for the all course mates as a part of certification. Practical tests will be at a dive site.As long as you enjoy diving and passionate about it. You will love it !!
To make your visit memorable diving videos are done by dive instructors using a GO Pro .You can get it by paying nominal cost
Dont forget to copy it to your devices from respective instructors before you leave the campsite !
- If you are sea sick.Kindly take advice from doctor before start of trip and carry necesary medicine.
- Never Ever Breathe under water with Nose.
- The BCD filled with air, will make you float
- You need to make a slow descent and Slow ascent while diving. Follow instructions during every dive.
- Currents under water highly matter during diving.Be with you buddy always !
- Air in the cylinder is every Precious !
After completion you will receive a diver card from PADI to your registered address. Globally valid diving cards can be used for diving with a buddy in any destination across the world ! They are valid for lifetime !.
You need to do a refresh, your skills, if you have not dived for a long time.
If you got impressed and got motivated to take a course.
Here are few things that definitely will lurk in your mind for Sure ?
Here is what you need to know.....
Do I need to know swimming if i want to dive ?
Not really, however, it is preferred. Not all know swimming and not a prerequisite to take a course.Indeed it helps. Almost all professional dive centres have a pre-requisite to give a swim test and/or float test to make members comfortable in water.
I would definitely add that you need a decent physical stamina for this course. The skills training are rigorous and I used to be exhausted at the end of each day.
Cost for the Open Water Diver course ?
I paid 46,000 INR including tax just for my Open Water Diver + Advance course programme.Which Includes Dive suit, Accessories and equipment were provided by my Dive Centre. Snacks, Fruits, Refreshments during dive trip at sea.It is recommended to opt for both courses during visit
It’s best to check with your chosen dive centre for updated prices.
How to reach Portblair and Havelock ?
The best way to reach Portbalir is by flight / Veer Savarkar is Airport..
Book direct flights irrespective of deals. Try to reach by 12:00 noon so that you can board the connecting ferry on time.Government Ferry ply between islands and luxury such as Makruzz too.You can book @ https://www.makruzz.com. No Passport is required to visit Andamans.
What all things need to be carried ?
You need to carry..
- Knap sack/Duffle bag
- T shirts and Shorts quick dry
- Sun Cap
- Sun Glasses
- Writing material / Note pad and Pen
- Mobile Chargers
- Sufficient Currency/Cash / Dont rely on ATM
- ID Proof
- Lock and Key
- 2 pairs of Floaters
- Sun Screen
- camera with spare batteries/charger
- Go Pro with water proof casing and diving accessories
- Pen drive 32 GB/ External Hard disk 1 TB
Best time to dive in the Andaman Islands
The best time to dive in the Andaman Islands is when the underwater visibility is excellent. Hence, monsoons June to Septmber should be avoided as the water will be choppy. November to February is a great time to dive. March and April is shoulder season where tourists will be lesser because of the tropical summers but the waters will still be clear. I dived in the month of November.
Accomodation and Best Places to eat in Havelock
Based on your budget their are couple of Hotels, Resorts,Hostels,Budget stay.In season all get sold out. Few popular joints like Shaakahaari restaurant and Full Moon cafe serve vegetarian food.
Venom Restaurant is for those who love seafood.
Best ways to explore Andamans ?
Depending on your duration of visit, your travel days will vary. For example, I included Diglipur in the far north of the Andaman Islands which is typically not frequented by tourists. So my trip was for 10 days. If you leave out Diglipur and the Middle Andamans (comprising of Rangat and Long Island) then 10 days is ideal for your trip including 7 days of dive course
Places of Interest and worth visiting are
- Museums in Portblair - Tribal, heritage, Coral etc
- Baratang Island
- Chidiya thapu
- Neil Island
- Cellular jail
- Corbyn cove beach
- Mount Harriat
- Elephant beach, Radhanagar beach and kalapathar beach in Havelock
- Little Andaman
- Viper Island, Ross Island
Point worth to mention is that I never got any time to go around during the 7 days of my diving programme. In the mornings, I used to wake up at 6 am and go to the dive centre. The whole day went in training and by the time I returned to my resort in the evening, I was completely exhausted.
Visit to Nicobar Islands are out of bounds for tourists.Due to Security reasons !
Due to its location you need to remember that in Andaman Islands, it gets dark early. Aftermath their is nothing much to explore !.
However, a better way to end a day, is to watch a fabulous sunset with your loved ones and make your visit to this little Paradise memorable !