Andamans Islands: Experiences to have

In this article I am going to cover various activities that can be done at Andaman Islands with a focus on Scuba Diving at Havelock.

My earlier blog posts on Andaman Islands about (1) Reasons to visit Andaman Islands (2) Port Blair and (3) Port Blair to Havelock Island – reaching Havelock Island from Port Blair and (4) Havelock Island – beaches, accommodation, food and local transport.

Scuba Diving

Before the dive

For Scuba Diving, the Elephant beach at Havelock Island is one of the best sites in India. From November the quality of water is clear. We visited Andaman Islands in Jan / Feb. Many people advise about visiting in monsoon season, but the water is not clear and scuba may not be available. At the Elephant beach and in Havelock Island you will come across several dive shops. Look out for those which are PADI certified. We did our dive with Barefoot Scuba.

Their staff met us at the Barefoot at Havelock one day ahead of the dive, we made all the payments in cash. Due to the remoteness of Havelock Island there is poor connectivity and you have to depend on cash payments.

Preparation

On the next day we reached Barefoot Scuba around 7:30 AM and changed into scuba suit. One of the instructor inquired about our medical condition and fitness. One also has to sign an indemnity undertaking to relieve the Diving agency against any liability. Then one of the instructors gave information about the scuba apparatus and the effects of water pressure on the body and science behind. As you go under water the fluid pressure increases and the lungs in response contract. As you move up towards the surface the fluid pressure reduces and the lungs expand. A sudden change of pressure can cause discomfort. So it is important to understand this information and provide accurate information about medical conditions if any.

Then we were taken to the dive site and paired with a dive master. The dive master is a trained diver and accompanies you throughout during the dive. The instructor demonstrated how to (1) breathe using the scuba apparatus (2) communicate using sign language with the dive master and what the signs meant and (3) remove water from your diving mask – should it get flooded with water and (4) use fins on the foot. He also briefed us about tying of weights around the waist to enable sinking and the depth under the water to which the dive masters will take us. A photographer accompanied us on the dive to capture photographs. The cost of getting the photographs is nominal. We were told that the dive will last about 45 minutes and we should take precautions when reaching the surface of the water. We were also told to avoid touching any objects under water.

During and after the dive

The dive is a wonderful experience, there is a different world under the water. Several coral reefs, colorful schools of fish and different marine organisms. As such you don’t need to know swimming for scuba diving, but if you know, more confidence. I went down to a depth of about 14 m. At regular intervals the dive master checked if I am okay, using the signals. Once you start seeing the underwater world, you feel that the dive should last longer, but the limited air in the cylinder reminds you of the reality. Before the supply gets over you have to return to the surface. Although the dive is assisted but needs a lot of effort.

After the dive we relaxed for sometime at the dive site. Then went to the restaurant to have our lunch. The overall experience lasts about 4 to 5 hours.

Other activities

Snorkeling

Snorkeling allows one to observe the underwater life with a diving mask, a breathing tube (snorkel) and swimfins. One can do snorkeling at Jolly Buoy Island. The water at Jolly Buoy Island is shallow and clear, which allows a clear view of sea bottom. Snorkeling can also be done at Elephant beach and Radhanagar beach at Havelock Island and North Bay (Coral) Island

Sea walking

One can do sea walking at Elephant beach Havelock Island and North Bay (Coral) Island. “Sea Walking” allows you to walk on the seafloor while you feel relaxed and at ease with your surroundings as you breathe normally.

Glass bottom boat ride

A glass bottom boat ride lets you watch and explore the rich corals and marine life surrounding Port Blair, from the comfort of your cabin.

Trekking

While at the Havelock Island, you can do a small trek from Radhanagar beach to Elephant beach. Essential to wear shoes, carry enough water. The surrounding forest is quite dense. Another option that can be considered is trekking from Mount Harriet to Madhuban covering about 15 km.

Bird watching

A number of species of birds such as owl, parrots, and pigeons can be seen at places like Mount Harriet National Park, Chidiya Tapu and in the dense tropical forests of Havelock Island. Good time to watch is early morning and the time of sunset.

Other places of interest

Placedescription
Baratang islandVisit for limestone caves and mud volcano. A day trip can be done, but 10+ hours required. So can be tiring experience.
Ross islandA piece of history. Ruins of old buildings. About 5 km from Port Blair. Can be visited by a ferry from Port Blair.
Jolly Buoy islandVisit for snorkeling, day trip from Port Blair. One must return the same day around 3 pm. Remains open for 6 months and then Red Skin Island is accessible.
Ross and Smith Island Ross & Smith islands are actually two islands – Ross & Smith joined together by a sand bar to make a single group of islands. Ross & Smith Islands requires forest permit from the Forest Office at Diglipur. Traveling to Ross and Smith Island requires 3 days at least. One must return the same day from this island.
DiglipurOffbeat destination, away from main tourist attractions (Port Blair and Havelock) in Andamans. Consider visiting if you are going to Ross and Smith Island. One can see turtle nesting and hatching at the Kalipur beach.
Neil IslandDense tropical forests, rich coral reefs and beautiful beaches. Visit if you want a laid back vacation. Can be reached by government run ferries and Makruzz. Some of the well known attractions here are Laxmanpur beach, Bharatpur beach and a natural bridge (rock formation).
Little AndamanOne of the least visited destinations in Andamans. Surfing is fast gaining in popularity in the island as an activity option with small resorts renting out surfboards and arranging for surf camps near Butler Bay beach. The island is emerging as a popular surfing destination in India.

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** My travel experiences before the COVID-19 pandemic