Diving Andaman Islands

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Andaman Islands, India

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Country: India  Area: India

Water Temp: 27 - 30°C (81 - 86°F)

Visibility: 5 - 40m (16 - 131 ft)

Depth Range: 5 - 30m (16 - 98 ft)

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Floating in splendid isolation in the middle of the Bay of Bengal are the Andaman Islands. The islands are one of the most remote and least visited areas of the world and offer excellent prospects for diving and exploration.

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Administered by India, the 300 or so Andaman Islands are the highest peaks of a submerged mountain range that stretches from Sumatra in the south to the Irawaddy delta in the north.

The Andaman Islands have everything you could desire from an adventurous yachting destination. There are literally hundreds of deserted islands to explore, each one seemingly more spectacular than the last. The beaches are magnificently pristine. The snorkelling and scuba diving is amongst the best in the world with an almost untouched marine ecosystem.

Starfish, Credit

There is a live volcano, thousands of square miles of untouched jungle, exotic and thriving wildlife and primitive hunter-gatherer tribes. The fishing is amongst the best in the world and the Andaman Islands are also starting to develop a superb reputation as a frontier surfing destination where the reef breaks have never been surfed before. They were declared a World Heritage Site in 2002.

The very best way to explore and dive the islands is by liveaboard but there are hotels we can recommend so if you want to go somewhere that is about as remote as you can get then the Andaman Islands may be the place for you.

Nudi,Credit

Many dive sites are within easy access and offer large coral fields, which are difficult to match and provide fertile breeding grounds for marine critters of all sizes. You can also find the bigger stuff such as manta rays, devil rays, white-tip reef sharks, a variety of groupers, turtles, octopi and so on.

Excellent diving can be found throughout the island chain, but the most spectacular sites are located at Narcondam and Barren islands. Both are designated wildlife sanctuaries, but their remote locations mean the best way to get there is by liveaboard. These are world-class dive sites.

The coral in the Andaman Islands isn’t what it used to be but the fish life remains excellent. Large scale fishing has never really happened here so fish die of old age meaning they get both big and numerous.

 Go now before too many people do!

Coral,Credit

Climate

The Andaman Islands have a moderate temperature all through the year within the range of 23°C to 31°C. It has a tropical climate. There are no severe climate conditions except for tropical storms and rains in late summers and monsoons. The best time to visit Andaman is from October to May though the dive season is from mid-December through to April as the seas are calmest. Water temperatures range from 27c to 30c.

Marine Conservation

The Andaman Islands are the focus of increasing marine conservation initiatives. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team (ANET: http://www.anetindia.org/) has taken a leading role in organizing local conservation efforts. Their initiatives combine research, education and conservation initiatives in hopes of protecting the 527 islands. They strive to better understand the region’s unique biological diversity, using that knowledge to guide sustainable development. This team has been in operation since 1989. 

Currently large scale fishing is not allowed, and is policed well. There are a number of marine reserve areas, which protect both marine and terrestrial life, along with fascinating indigenous cultures. There are also number of other non-profits, including the WWF, which are actively involved in protecting the area.

 
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Shore Diving

No shore diving available.

Boat Diving

Underwater, there is a lot to commend the Andaman Islands and the dive sites that are reachable on daily dive boats (though the best sites are only really accessible by liveaboard). There are a multitude of good sites in daily range of Havelock and Neil island where people will likely be staying.

Fishy, Credit

Due to strict fishing regulations you will find unusually healthy fish populations here, including large species like Napoleon wrasse and Malabar groupers, animals that are rapidly disappearing in other Indo-Pacific destinations. Mobula rays, often in large numbers, are common. There are also unusual species including flashlight fish, ghost pipefish and red-spotted blennies, as well as endemics like the Andaman sweetlips and electric-blue Andaman damselfish. Another signature fish is the distinctive Indian spinecheek anemonefish, whose vertical bars are bright yellow instead of the typical white or grey. Banded sea snakes are seen on many dives too. It isn’t a critter diving hotspot but you will get your fair share.

More Corals, Andaman Islands, Credit

Liveaboard Diving

A liveaboard trip is really the way to go in the Andaman Islands and there are a couple of decent boats operating there now. You can also look at private charters. A liveaboard will allow you to get out to the two signature sites of the Andamans:

Narcondam

Narcondam's prime dive sites include rocky ridges and steep slopes like Chimneys, Ooh La La and Lighthouse Reef, where massive barrel sponges, huge gorgonian fans and lush soft corals thrive in often-vigorous currents. Fish life can include the big boys like Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish and mantas, as well as occasional whitetip and grey reef sharks.  There are several sites to dive around this area.

The reef, Credit

Barren Island

The other world-class dive area in the Andaman Islands. Again, there are a number of dive sites around the island such as Purple Haze and Black Magic. That latter is awesome. It consists of a shallow ridge of jet-black sand, where fields of garden eels surround clusters of sand divers. The main event however lies a little way down the slope where you will find a thriving reef that drops precipitously into the deep. The contrast between inky sand and vibrant reef life could not be more striking, as if the purple soft corals and red encrusting It’s a great dive where you can expect all sorts of reef fish and pelagics, occasionally including mantas and even whale sharks.

Andaman Islands underwater, Credit

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How to Get There

Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman Islands is connected to mainland India by air and sea. Multiple daily flights from Chennai and Calcutta make the journey over the Bay of Bengal in 2 hours 15 minutes. From Port Blair, there are multiple ferry options to the islands of Havelock and Neil Island where the majority of the tourist development is.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Havelock Island is the only place with any major commercial development with the Adaman Islands. Here, you can find a number of different restaurants that range from cheap and cheerful to more upscale. While the island has no seriously upscale restaurants, the cuisine and prices are sure to suit most budgets and tastes. Best of all, Havelock is so small that all options are nearby. Rarely will you need to venture further than a few steps!

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Small local favourites include places like ther beachside dhabas and Geetha, while fancier options include B3, Red Snapper or the Clown Fish Café.

Liquor! Credit

While most places will serve beer and alcohol, you will be hard pressed to find any kind of club or disco around. This is generally a very sleeping and laid back environment. A fresh coconut may be what you crave more anyway. 

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Other Activities

Havelock and the Andaman Islands are a laid back place, where most activities revolve around relaxing, diving and the ocean. There are seven different beaches well worth exploring. Beach 7, also known as Radhanagar Beach, is among the most beautiful – and perfect for a day of seaside relaxing. There also happens to be great reef snorkeling right off the shore. Other popular ocean activities include fishing, kayaking and mangrove safaris.

Church on Ross Island, Andaman, Credit

If you’re keen on a break from the ocean, there are also some great jungle treks inland. Guides are available from local lodges. If you’re really keen, consider heading out on a multi-day hiking trip. 

Shopping is fairly limited here, with a few small stores selling essentials and curios. Mainland India will have far more variety. 

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Tips

Generally the islands are safe for tourists. As development grows there are some touts that will scam you if you let them. One issue is the prevalence of mosquitoes and sand flies to take lots of repellent and long trouser/tops for the evenings. Wild dogs can also be a bit of an issue, particularly at night on the beaches – a stick will do the trick to scare them off.

Crab, Credit

A hyperbaric chamber was recently opened on Havelock Island’s military base at Port Blair. The city also has a good hospital, though it is recommended that travelers carry all essential medicines with them since availability can be an issue at times. 

Note that all foreign nationals must apply for a visa to India prior to departing their home country. This can be a lengthy process so ensure that you leave yourself plenty of time. Visas are NOT issued on arrival. You will also receive a Restricted Area Permit upon arrival at Port Blair. 

When dining out, please do not eat at restaurants that serve shark fin soup. Sharks are severely endangered here, and it is appreciated if tourists do not support further poaching. 

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Diving end of August

Hi,

I would love to discover diving when I am in the Andamans at the end of August, maybe do an open water course.

There are so many companies you can go to, and I wonder whether the sites near Havelock and Neil are better than e.g. chidiya thapu or Long Island, or just really touristy?

Thanks!

Heleen

Are Feb/March good months?

Hi,

Would you recommend diving and snorkeling here in Feb/March? Is either month better or less busy?

Thank you,

Joanne

How busy is the first week of january?

Hi Guys,

Im planning a trip for the first week of January to the Andaman Islands, is this a good time to go? Is it busy ? How are the chances for manta rays?

Thanks in advance :)

Jurgen Van Duffel

0 votes

Hi Kim, Oct to April in the diving season. 1st week Jan is very busy due the to Christmas and NY holiday period. Diving wise it might not be the best as the NE monsoon might have some strong wind preventing you from visiting the further and deeper dive sites

is it possible to go for diving and snorkeling in late sept?

We are planning to visit the islands in late september/ first week of october. We know it is still the rainy season. How much does it affect snorkeling and diving? Is it possible to have good diving even in this period or it is better to go in december? Thank you

Jonas Frueh

0 votes

Matteo - for the Andaman islands the real rainy season is from around mid May until the end of July.. and due to lots of rain, wind and low vis this is the worst time to visit. That said, from August to November you tend to get some rain, some rougher seas but the diving (and snorkeling) can still be pretty good. You should be OK in September assuming you accept it will be sub-optimal, but probably still OK, conditions :)

jon

Joss Leonard

0 votes

Yea I agree with that.. might be rougher than peak season.. seas can be crazy still.. but the diving should be ok. Maybe worth asking a couple of dive centers what their schedules are.

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Thailand Divers Lomas

0 votes

Yes grat time of year. before the crowds of high season but the diving is just as good if not better as all the boats and tourists of high season have not scared the shy stuff away. www.thailand-divers.com

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