Diving the Andamans
One of the major reasons we came to the Andamans was to scuba dive. We had been waiting for this moment since we arrived in India. Unfortunately, the day before we left Chennai to fly to the islands, a doctor declared Thomas unable to dive because of a serious sinus/inner-ear infection. Major bummer!
So I was left on my own to explore the sensational underwater world of the Andaman Sea. Dumb luck led me to Barefoot Scuba, Havelock Island’s only 5-star PADI diving center – and a stroke of luck it was.
Shawn, the Norwegian running the center, went out of his way to help me put together a package of 10 different dives allowing me to experience a cross section of the islands diving opportunities. He and the friendly staff made sure that I always had somebody to dive with, a task made more difficult by the fact that I wanted to dive several sites that required advanced certification.
So, how was it? Spectacular.
I dove some amazing shallow coral sites, including two sections of Minerva’s Ledge, the Nursery and the phenomenal South Button. Extensive coral growth in a rainbow of neon colors, fans, anemones, swirling with a dozen different kinds of trigger fish, freakishly beautiful parrot and angel fish punctuated with ultra-bizarre Andaman Sweet Lips which look roughly like swimming traffic signs.
My package included a variety of deeper dives including Johnny’s Gorge, Jackson’s Bar, the Wall, and Dixon’s Pinnacle. Highlights included sea turtles, huge schools of barracuda, morays, mating octopi, beautifully colored lobsters, massive Napoleons, banded sea snakes (yikes), and some seriously opinionated potato groupers. I’ll always remember floating through clouds of gold fish – it was like I was floating in the world’s largest pet store aquarium.
Havelock and the surrounding islands were also experiencing an unusual jellyfish bloom, they were everywhere. (Such extraordinary blooms are predicted to increase as a result of global warming.) On one memorable decent through exceptionally clear water, we swam down through literally millions of grapefruit-sized jellyfish. Little purple undulating critters as far as the eye could see on all sides, above us, below us, everywhere. Simply breathtaking. (Anyone out there remember the jellyfish scene in the movie “Sphere”?)
But there was one serious downer! It seems good ol’ Tony and his dive partners were a little too fixated on one particular sea turtle. When we resurfaced and climbed on to the boat, the other members of our dive group were in a fit of hysteria over a 12ft (4m) manta ray that apparently swam over us while we were checking out the turtle. Oh the tragedy!!! How can a 12-foot monster swim over you, and you don’t even notice it???
Oh well, there’s always a next time.
Despite missing the manta ray, the dives were fantastic. And don’t worry about Thomas. He was able to get a taste of the big blue by snorkeling around South Button seamount. I even joined him on a break between dives because I couldn’t get enough.
For more info on diving with Barefoot Scuba, check out their web site at diveandamans.com.