We took a ten day trip to the Andaman Islands on a 17,5 m (55 ft) monohull steel yacht. This ship takes a maximum of 8 guests who are accommodated in 4 twin cabins and one double. The yacht is air-conditioned throughout and the large shaded aft deck has plenty of space for kitting up
Centred in the Bay of Bengal are the mysterious Andaman Islands. To the west lay the Maldives, to the east, Burma & Thailand. A chain of one hundred and fifty lush tropical islands, forgotten by the modern world. So little explored and undeveloped, that cannibals and stone-age pigmy Negrito tribes still exist in the islands impenetrable interiors. These reclusive tribes, hunt wild boar and deer as their main source of food.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be reached from Thailand by liveaboard. But they come under the jurisdiction of India, and until very recently only Indian nationals were allowed to go there. Now the Indian government has started allowing a limited number of tourists into the islands. Reports of the diving are laced with stories of people diving with over 100 manta rays in a 3-day period, and tales of schools of tuna with each fish in excess of 2m long.
The most striking feature and the big attraction of diving in the Andamans is the sheer number and variety of fish one can encounter. The diving is for this reason world class. Because of the almost total absence of commercial fishing and industrial pollution the sealife is extraordinary healthy. You can swim in vast schools of snappers or jacks. Other species one routinely encounters are mantas, tunas, grey reef and silvertip sharks as well as turtles, dolphins and occasionally whalesharks. Reeffish and smaller life are also abundant. Excellent corals are to be found throughout the area offering opportunity for divers and snorkelers alike. Visibility is in the 25 m + range. You will have the dive sites to yourself as there are virtually no diveboats in the entire area.
The trip starts in Havelock Island, which is the ships base in the Andamans.
Havelock Island’s beach number 7 (beaches are numbered rather than named) is a long, curved sweep of white sand, lapped by turquoise water and crowned by a forest of huge tropical hardwood trees. Inland, Havelock Island is like a piece of rural India cast adrift in the sea. Local children play naked outside thatched huts, holy cows amble by along the peaceful country roads, woman dressed in sari’s squat together for gossip and tea.
Narcondum Island, over 100 miles Port Blair is the crown jewel of diving in the Andaman. This long extinct volcanic island comprised of underwater boulders and pinnacles. Here divers will encounter Giant Sweet Lips, schools of Bluefin Trevally and Tuna, Napolean Wrasse, schools of Humphead Parrotfish and friendly manta rays. Narcondum can also boasts some of the most varied hard coral reefs in prestine condition to be found anywhere. South Button Island is home to lots of fish life ranging from Grey Reef Sharks, Yellowfin Trevally to Giant Napoleon Wrasse. More colors are found around Cinque and Passage Island south of Port Blair. Usual sightings include a variety of sharks, large Eagle Ray, large Coral Groupers, Potato Cods, Rainbow Runners, Dog-Tooth Tuna and Humphead Parrotfish. Different topology is found at Barren Island that is home to an active volcano whose last eruption was in 1996. Usual open ocean spices are found here in large number. Other more popular dive sites include Rutland Island and Flat Bank. Diving on near-shore reefs and the mangroves of Henry Lwarence Island is also a must. This is one of the few places where one find coral reefs right up to the edges of the mangrove forests.
Trips operate from December to April. There are daily flights to Port Blair from Chennai (Madras) and Calcutta. Two airlines now service the route those airlines being Jet Airways and Indian airways. Flights are of two hour duration and arrivals/departures are early morning. Dive Global highly recommends Jet Airways as it is much more dependable and has a better safety record than Indian Airlines.