While the eastern fringes of the Andaman Sea have now become the playground of the rich and famous in Phuket and Langkawi, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, nicknamed the ‘Emerald Islands’ still retain the original wild and untamed character of this pocket of South East Asia.It’s undoubtedly one of the few undiscovered gems in India, that has escaped the clutches of mass tourism.
Of the 572 islands of the Indian archipelago that make up the Andaman & Nicobar Islands most are swathed in over 86% primary rainforests and only 36 islands are inhabited to the day.The glistering clear, warm waters a step of the pristine white sand beaches offers some of the largest variety of coral and fish life anywhere on the planet and conceals within it many unexplored wonders yet to be discovered. With colorful and healthy coral that escaped the coral-bleaching effects of the El Nino, a mind-boggling array of fish ranging from tropical reef fish of the Indo-Pacific region to big pelagics like graceful manta rays, different species of sharks, schools of barracuda, tuna, jacks and travellay or even an elusive dugong, it is truly a diver’s best kept secret!
Opened up to tourists around a decade ago, most of the diving takes place 38 Kms. from the capital city of Port Blair at Havelock and Neil Island. Havelock is the most visited of the islands and the most developed (although still minimal). The coastal water surrounding these islands is an abode of one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world. Home to the main Dive Centers- DIVEIndia and Barefoot among many others, the diving here takes place in small groups of 4-8 divers.
Notable dive sites around Havelock include the wreck of a 30 year old cargo ship the INS Inchkett, laying on it’s side in two parts, ‘the wall’, an underwater ledge going down to 55meters, with stunning growth all along it, ‘South button’ a small rock island with interesting overhangs and strange-shaped rock formations around it and frequented by Manta rays in season. For big fish lovers- large pelagics, schools of barracuda both chevron and great barracuda, big eyed jacks and stunning bluefin tuna schools are often spotted at dive sites like ‘Johnny’s Gorge’, ‘Jackson’s Bar’ and ‘Dixon’s Pinnacle’ among others. Large marble stingrays, eagle rays and of course the every popular manta rays are regular sightings at many sites around Havelock. Large turtles, giant groupers, napolean wrasses, giant clams along with reef regulars like titan triggers, parrotfish,pufferfish, unicornfish, murray eels are some of the delights of diving here.
Dive Safari trips are organized to other remote North Andaman Islands like Long Island and Mayabunder. However, the infrastucture here is very primitive, there’s very little information about it and the diving is still in the exploratory stage, but shows great promise. Whales sightings are quite regular and the abundance of fish unmatched as it is un-fished territory.
A unique feature of diving in the Andamans is it’s one of the few places in the World you can encounter a Dugong. Looking like a cross between a walrus and a whale, dugongs are one of the most unusual sea creatures you can ever encounter.
As the DiveIndia slogan sums it best, the Andamans can best be described as Undived, Undiscovered, Unbelievable!