Tuesday, March 23, 2010



Diving in Andamans

For long, a host of the esteemed readers of my blog have been requesting me to post some detailed information for the sake of tourists visiting the pristine islands of Andaman & Nicobar. Hence, today I’m posting this detailed information about scuba diving, one of the most sought-after water sports that tourists invariably love to indulge in while touring an island paradise.


There is no greater adventure than diving, my dear friends! Whether you are a novice or an experienced proficient diver, there is always something new, fascinating or challenging about venturing into the underwater world. Your mind may be mesmerized by clouds of colorful fish, your curiosity raised by the mysterious remains of sunken ships or your creativity awakened by the art of underwater photography. Your diving interests may range from a casual pastime pursued on vacation, to a constant passion, or even a career. Diving has something new to offer for everyone.

Diving in Andamans is a unique lifetime experience. The coastal water surrounding these islands is the abode of one of the richest coral reef ecosystems in the world. The specialty is that, here the coral reefs and underwater formations are undamaged by human activity and miraculously even the tsunami of 26th December 2004 could not damage them fully. The best season for diving is from December to April.


Many of the islands are surrounded by fringing reefs, often several hundred meters wide and separated from the shore by a lagoon of similar width. There are also more steeply sloping reef walls, and coral pinnacles or knolls. Divers can follow around steeply undulating hills of raven volcanic lava, which makes for some very unusual diving experience. There are plenty of steeply sloping and shallow reefs suitable for snorkeling.


Large pelagic beings are plentiful in these waters, as are a variety of sharks. Large schools of hammerhead often patrol the waters away from the reefs and Grey, Whitetip, Nurse and leopard sharks are found closer inshore. Silvertip and ocean Whitetips also sometimes appear out of the deep blue beyond. Enormous manta Rays are also often seen.

Few Dive Sites near South Andaman Island/Port Blair:
Cinque Island: One of the best dive destinations in the island, it has clear emerald water with a visibility of up to 80 feet. The deep dive offers a terrific variety of marine life, including black coral, sightings of sharks and is ideal for the experienced diver.


North Point: This site at Cinque Island is mostly highlighted by sponges and small corals and offers good diving because of the abundance and diversity of fish life.


Southeast Reef at Cinque Island is a good site for novices. The southeast part of the reef consists of hard and soft corals and these are very dense on the rocks down to about 16m (53 ft.).


Fish Rock near Passage Island offers an extremely colorful dive. The topography consists of rocky slopes, boulders and drop-offs, featuring large fan of corals and plenty of sponges. Below 25m, the rocks are covered in small bushy soft corals in numerous hues. Hard corals are not so evident. Grey and Whitetip Reef Sharks are almost always in the vicinity as are Nurse Sharks.


Among the rest of the marine life are Eagle Rays, Potato Cod, large coral groupers, fusiliers, sweetlips, turtles, batfish, bumphead, Parrotfish, Squirrelfish, curious and friendly oriental sweetlips, surgeonfish, yellow Tangs, Triggerfish, Tuna, Rainbow runners and many species of trevally.


Bala Reef: On the western side of Little Andaman, Bala Reef spreads over 4-5 sq. km and is said to be one of the best sites in the Andamans for coral- with vibrant colours.


Corruption Rock: Corruption Rock sticks out between Chidiyatapu and Rutland Island. The dive site is on the western side of the rock and is made up of big underwater boulders. The corals are not brilliant but the craggy undersea landscape of boulders is stunning. A fantastic wonderland of gullies, channels, ridges and canyons! Look out for giant napoleons and eagle rays, huge snappers, schooling fusiliers, banner and unicorn fish. Dolphins, tuna and reef sharks have also been sighted here.

Rutland Island: The shallow waters near the island have a good representation of most of the smaller fish and coral, and a good place for training open water divers. There is a ship wreck site also.


Snake Island off Corbyn’s Cove beach offers awesome rock faces and spectacular dive landscape. Marine life includes Trigger fish, Grunts, Goatfish and Rays.


Havelock Island: This is located approximately 50kms from Port Blair by inter-island ferry. There is a wide range of largely unexplored dive sites rich in underwater marine life.

Dive Sites near the Havelock Island:


Mac Point: Mostly hard corals and their inhabitants are found. Usually good visibility dugongs have been spotted here.


Aquarium: It is a fringing reef with lots of ‘fish-traffic’. Usually good visibility hard corals are found here.


Barracuda City: Tons of fish, sometimes turtles, mostly hard and some soft corals. Rather suitable for experienced divers.


Turtle Bay: This is an easy pleasant dive site not exceeding 14 meters. Rays are found in the sand and with luck turtles.


Seduction Point: A huge rock with different kind of aquatic life. Napoleons can be seen. The shallow part is full with stag horn corals and its inhabitants.


Lighthouse is a huge dive site, suitable for any kind of dives. Huge variety of soft and hard corals is found here. It is perfect for night-dives.


The Wall is a huge submerged rock. The Wall drops down to a maximum of 55 meters and is full of life. Huge forests of soft corals and schools of fish circling you, makes it always a memorable dive.


Pilot Reef near Havelock is a huge block of pristine hard corals. At the bottom (max 24 meters) ‘canyons’ are stretching out. Leopard and Whitetip Sharks have been sighted.


Minerva Ledge at Havelock is an even bigger block of hard corals. Tons of fish, usually good visibility and the possibility of seeing sharks makes it one of the top dive sites.


Campbell Shoal Off North Button Island: The bottom of this site is covered in mainly hard corals, with sporadic sandy patches and hosts a multitude of reef animals. The marine life includes Whitetip Reef Sharks, large cod and groupers, Coral Trout, Blue and Golden-banded fusiliers, Giant Trevally and a host of colourful reef-fish.

Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor: Hundreds of colourful varieties of coral reef fishes can be seen in the park. Some of these are clownfish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, angel fish, parrot fish, bat fish and groupers. Whitetip shark, hammer headed shark, Manta Ray, and blue fin jack are also occasionally seen. More than 50 types of corals are found in the fringing type of coral reefs in the park. Some important coral varieties found here are Acropora, Pocillopora, Montipora, Leptoseris, Fungia, Portis, Tubipora and Gorgonians.


Tips For Dive Tourists (inserted as per the instructions of the A & N Administration):


• Best season for diving – December to April.

• Dive only in the areas opened/permitted for scuba diving by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration.
• Do not dive with unqualified/unregistered dive operator for the same may be dangerous for your life. Avail the services of Scuba Dive Instructors certified by the international professional organizations such as PADI, CMAS, NAUI, BSAC or SSI for safe diving experience.
• Details about approved scuba dive centres, list of areas/sites permitted by the administration for scuba diving and the terms and conditions for operating scuba dive centres in Andamans can be obtained by Email: ipt@and.nic.in
• The Recompression Chamber facility is available at Clearance Diving Unit, Navy; Port Blair. Tel: +91 3192 232871
So, dear friends! Do treat yourselves with a soothing and enlightening tour in the peerless, historic coral islands of Andaman & Nicobar, this summer. I’m cocksure; you will have a great deal to tell your family and friends about.
Happy Diving! Cheers!!! J

Monday, March 15, 2010



Justice for Jarawas



Weeks after the last member of the Bo tribe died on the Andaman Islands, the Supreme Court of India has moved to protect the neighboring Jarawa tribe by suspending the operation of a controversial tourist resort about which I had written last year - "High Court Allows Resort Threatening Andaman Tribe".


The Supreme Court ordered last Monday that the company, Barefoot India, must close its Celebrity Resort near the Jarawa’s reserve area, pending further deliberation by the court.


Despite concerns for the future of the vulnerable tribe, Barefoot had challenged the legality of a Buffer Zone’ around the reserve. The buffer zone was designed to protect the Jarawas by preventing tourism and other commercial activity near their land. The resort lies within the disputed zone.


But concerns remain over the Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) running through the tribal reserve connecting North and Middle Andaman with South Andaman, and the poachers, tourists and other outsiders it brings into daily contact with the Jarawas. “The government of India is yet to act upon a 2002 Supreme Court ruling that the road must be closed”, says Survival International.




Most of the Bo tribe, whose last member Boa Sr died in January this year, died of diseases brought by British colonists in the nineteenth century. The Jarawas, who resisted contact with outsiders until 1998, are expected to have little immunity to many outside infections and could be wiped out by an epidemic.


Many of Barefoot’s visitors will have recently stepped off long-haul flights. Research indicates that about 20% of airline passengers develop colds or other viral infections within a few days of their flight.


Survival’s director Stephen Corry said, ‘Nobody wants to see the Jarawa go the same way as Boa Sr’s people. This week’s court decision to suspend the Barefoot resort is a positive sign. But if the Indian government is serious about protecting the Jarawa it must close the road and keep intruders off their land.’




Is this, at least, justice in sight, finally, for these vulnerable and callously neglected aboriginal tribes of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands? Well, time will tell…


Stats courtesy: Survival International

Thursday, March 4, 2010



With hundreds of uninhabited islands in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago making it vulnerable from the security perspective, India is planning to open more airbases in the islands.
The Indian Navy chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma said last month that India was planning to revamp the infrastructure in the 572 odd islands in the Bay of Bengal.
“The airstrip up north (Northern Andaman islands) needs to be refurbished. Even for smaller aircraft it is a tight fit,” Verma told PTI.

The airfield at Shibpur, Diglipur (North Andaman) is about 1,000 feet in length and is inadequate for smaller cargo aircraft like Dornier and AN-32. Currently, only helicopters are capable of conducting operations from the airfield.

More airfields and helipads will boost the surveillance and logistics capability of the Indian armed forces along the significant archipelago, located about 700 nautical miles away from the Indian mainland.

Senior officials say more airfields in the Andaman and Nicobar tri-service command are also in the offing.

Presently, there are airbases in Port Blair, Car Nicobar, and Campbell Bay. According to senior Indian Naval officers, plans are afoot to spread out air power in other islands like Katchal (Nicobar District) and Hut Bay (Little Andaman).

“We also intend to bring in night landing facility at the airbases,” Verma said.

The Indian Navy has recently inducted its amphibious vessel Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the Andaman and Nicobar command.

“We have inducted an LST and soon we will be inducting Operation Patrol Vehicles constructed at the Goa Shipyard Limited,” Verma said.

Andaman and Nicobar islands are significant for increasing surveillance in the Indonesian Strait and the Bay of Bengal. It would also help India extend its maritime power in South China Sea before the Chinese foreclose the option.

Coincidentally, in her annual budget speech, Ms Mamata Banerji, Minister for Railways in India proposed 114 socially desirable projects for updating the surveys and then to process through the Planning Commission. The proposed Port Blair-Diglipur line stands at serial No. 84 in the list of 114.

She said in her budget speech, “In my last budget speech, I had highlighted the need to take up socially desirable projects connecting backward areas. Many proposals for such connectivity have been pending for a long time. It is proposed to update the surveys for the following lines and thereafter these will be processed through Planning Commission for necessary approvals.”

Well, although this would be a good stride ahead in terms of the development of the serene island territory, whether the government goes about implementing these plans meticulously extending due consideration and caution to sensitively crucial issues such as environment, ecology, tribal and reserve forest issues etc., remains a big question mark…

Courtesy: PTI