Tucked away in a remote corner in the Bay of Bengal, these strings of islands are considered by many to keep some phenomenal secret dive experiences. Not explored until the mid 1800’s these places still live and breathe mystery.
Of the 572 islands only a few are inhabited by humans. Here still live tribes whom till today, are uncontacted and unspoiled by ‘civilization’. The forests here remain largely unspoiled and there is no large scale commercial fishing present. This does wonders for the life underwater!
The Andaman Islands are a Union Territory of India. The only way to reach them is either via Kolkata or Chennai, by boat or plane. There are no international connections. When you arrive in Port Blair, the main city, you have a few options for your diving.
Around Port Blair there is great diving near Chidiya Tapu or Wandoor. There are a couple of reputable dive centers in both places. Many people choose however to take the ferry over to Havelock Island, which is located around 50km away from Port Blair. Havelock Island is considered the main tourist hub and sports one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia, Radhanagar Beach.
Havelock Island is the largest of 11 islands in what is called ‘Ritchie’s Archipelago’. Of these islands only two are inhabited. The other island is Neil Island. You will find accommodation and dive centers on both of these islands.
Be warned though, on Neil Island the accommodation is simple and basic. Neil Island has no ATM. The diving around Ritchie’s Archipelago is awesome. Famous dive sites like Johnny’s Gorge and Dixon’s Pinnacle have everything a diver heart desires.
Stunning natural features like colorful coral reefs and enigmatic pinnacles make a perfect backdrop for an abundant marine life. One some days you just cannot believe your eyes on how much fish is there. Those days are magical which makes diving here, for some, a poetic or spiritual experience!
Another well kept surprise of the Andaman Islands is Barren Island. India’s only active volcano is located 100km away from Havelock Island and can be visited by special diving safaris, organized only by a few operators.
The diving here is incredible with its sheer cliffs and incredible visibility. Gentle Manta rays, agile Black-tip Sharks and giant Green Turtles are regulars here. But most of all the smoking, and sometimes rumbling, volcano as a backdrop makes diving at Barren Island an unforgettable experience!
Remember that the diving industry on the Andaman Islands is still in its infancy. This means that you still can find areas which are un-dived and because of the Islands remoteness and obscurity they are still well under the dive traveler’s radar.
You often find yourself alone with your dive leader or a small group on the dive site which certainly adds to the adventurous feeling. To reach the most of the dive sites you climb into an authentic Andaman Dunghi, which is a long slender wooden boat originally used by the locals to fish or reach the other islands.
The best times to visit the Andman Islands are from early October until late April. The water temperature is mostly around 27°C and 31°C which makes diving very comfortable and some even choose to dive without a wetsuit.
(By Remco Snoeij)