Red Sea & Indian Ocean
INDIA'S ANDAMAN ISLANDS
Frontier exploration for the adventurous diver
Water Temperature: 27°C/81°F
Diving: Sharks, manta rays, walls, sea mounts, coral gardens, atolls
Rebreather friendly (Siren)
Holiday extensions include: Tiger safari in central India
Separating the Andaman Sea from the Indian Ocean in the southern reaches of the Bay of Bengal lie the Andaman Islands. Once used as a penal colony under British Imperial rule, only 26 of these 576 islands are inhabited. Two hundred kilometres from the nearest Asian mainland, the Andaman Islands are officially part of India, where your adventure to these hidden islands will begin. The capital and administrative centre of the this little-known archipelago, Port Blair, was off limits to non-Indian visitors for decades and the adjacent Nicobar Islands are still closed! Visiting and diving the Andaman Islands really is a special adventure!
Beneath the waves lie reefs barely touched and hardly seen by other divers. In fact, until recently, only about 50 divers a year have been lucky enough to experience the Andaman’s hidden treasures. It is easy to see why Jacques Cousteau named the Andamans the ‘invisible islands.’ You can be among some of the first explorers in this incredible divers paradise! A lack of any local commercial fishing fleet, and the granting of only very few licences to foreign fishing boats, means the reefs are simply teeming with fish and macro life, as well as home to some thrilling sharks and giant rays, and the occasional dugong. The islands themselves are rocky, rainforest-clad droplets in an azure ocean, edged with champagne-coloured beaches fringed with palms, and are home to over 150 endemic plant and animal species. You may be lucky enough to witness a ‘snorkelling’ working elephant, as these creatures often cool off in the sea using their trunk to breath above the water! And where else can you go diving and then go off and search for Tigers or visit the wonderful Taj Mahal?
At Passage Island the sloping hard coral reef levels out at 22-28 metres and is known for its vibrant fish life. Here you can encounter Spotted Eagle Rays and Mobula Rays, schools of bannerfish, both Blue-fin and Giant Trevallies, Oriental Sweetlips and Hawksbill Turtles.
Fish Rock is a series of rocky pinnacles and underwater rock formations which now house fan corals in what was once an Indian Navy target practice area. The sea seems to have harnessed the power of the ammunition once fired here and can sometimes unleash powerful currents! Fish Rock is so-called for a good reason! Napoleon Wrasse and an assortment of groupers, as well as octopi and giant Yellow-margin Moray Eels, regularly put in an appearance here.
The two adjoined islands of The Sisters ought really to be called The Siamese Twins! The hard and soft coral reefs are usually explored as a drift dive to encounter giant groupers, White-tip Reef Sharks, Great and Chevron Barracudas, and nudibranchs, as well as beautiful Harlequin Sweetlips.
Sixty nautical miles out in the open sea is the barely visible pinnacle of Invisible Bank. This ancient reef is home to some enormous coral formations at around 18 metres deep. Drifting along with you on this dive could be Nurse Sharks, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Black tip Reef Sharks and Whip Rays – quite a collection of the bigger fish!
Barren Island is a live volcano. Its wisps of volcanic smoke may well have rendered the land barren, but under the water lies a different story! The reef topography allows for wall diving. Gentle sloping lava ridges and seemingly infinite drop-offs can be dived as a drift where you can hope to share the reef with some of the more spectacular residents such as Manta Rays, Grey Reef Sharks, White-tip Reef Sharks, Silvertip Sharks and Blue-spotted Sting Rays – far from barren! What makes this site all the more fascinating and unusual is the effect of the last volcanic eruption. The black sand encrusted walls make for a startling backdrop for the colourful fish and the graceful outlines of the silvery, streamlined sharks.
A now extinct volcano, Narcondam Island, is encircled by coral beds where you may witness gas bubbles popping up from the shallow sea floor. As well as the larger sharks and rays which can be found at Barren Island, Narcondam Island’s reefs harbour rich fish life as well as some fascinating macro life. Lionfish, Hawksbill and Green Turtles, Ornate Ghost Pipefish and several unusual nudibranchs all make their home along the ridges and among the coral gardens. Diving here offers pinnacle diving and current-beaten crests and rims, as well as some calmer coral gardens.
The hard coral gardens of Button Island offer the macro diver a gentle and shallow experience with anemones, mantis shrimps, banded boxer shrimps and giant clams. Schooling fish including Horse-eye Jacks, while Great Barracudas and an assortment of butterflyfish are found at nearby Campbell Shoal.
Named after the 18th century British marine surveyor John Ritchie, Ritchie’s Archipelago comprises 13 islands including Button Island, Havelock Island and Henry Lawrence Island. The thrill of diving in this area is that it is still being discovered and explored, so you really will be among the first divers to have the pleasure of charting new waters. The reefs which ring Havelock Island are home to a plethora of colourful and intriguing fish from lionfish lurking at Lighthouse to numerous splendid seafans at Seafan City, where residents include some large schools of tuna, jacks and groupers. The gullies and ravines of Pilot Reef make perfect homes for Leopard and White-tip Reef Sharks, and there is always the possibility of encountering a visiting Manta Ray. At Mac Point you might be lucky enough to see a dugong frolicking in the sea grasses!
Diving in the Andaman Islands can involve drift and current diving and divers should be comfortable and experienced with diving in these conditions before booking on Andaman Islands cruises, which are not recommended for inexperienced divers.
COMBINATIONS: India is a fascinating, sometimes disturbing, but always intriguing country. Whether you wish to explore the ‘golden triangle’ of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, or spend some days visiting the attractions of India’s southern states, or go anywhere in the country, our well-established Indian agents can create a custom-made itinerary for you. Talk to us about the possibilities.
FLIGHTS: Please contact us. There are daily flight connections to Port Blair via Chennai or Kolkata. We recommend a night in Port Blair prior to the cruise.