Diving in Andamans
Diving in Andamans
Having dived all over the world – from North Atlantic deep-sea wrecks to Florida to the Mediterranean to Red Sea to Maldives – we have always been drawn to a particular type of dive operation: one offering professional quality service, but in a flexible and relaxed manner - a shop where you feel like hanging out after the dive, having a refreshing post-dive beverage (we recommend “scuba libres”) and swapping travel/dive stories.
We'd like to think that our dive shop offers just that. Every single one here is here because we have a passion for diving, and a passion for the Andamans. All of us here at DIVEIndia – instructors, divemasters, staff, 2 boisterous not-quite-puppies & 1 grouchy cat – look forward to sharing that passion with you, not just as our customers but also as our friends.
DIVEIndia is the oldest dive center in the Andamans, and was founded by Vandit Kalia, aka Vinnie. A former management consulting drone, a very early midlife crisis (at the ripe old age of 28) made him take a year off as a sabbatical. He spent 6 months out of that year in Havelock, back in 2000 before returning to the corporate world. However, he was unable to resist the call of the islands and decided to walk away from the rat race to start DIVEIndia in the Andamans in December 2003.
The early days were interesting going. No one on the islands had any idea what diving was about, nothing was available in India, there were no reliable boats, boat staff or dive professionals. From a universe of 6 existing dive sites - Wall, Lighthouse, Aquarium, Barracuda City, Pilot Reef and Minerva Ledge, Vinnie started exploring and added South Button, Elephant Beach, the Inchkett, I-95 and later, Johnny's Gorge, Jackson's Bar and Dixon's Pinnacle (named after local staff who worked at Diveindia & trained under Vinnie to become the first dive professionals from the Andaman Islands). And thus, diving started to grow, other dive centers started and an industry was born.
Today, we have come a long way from those early days (when a fancy boat was a dunghie with a cover, the fast boat from Port Blair to Havelock took 4 hours and connecting to the internet meant plugging a laptop into the phone cable at a public call booth) - with fleet of customized dive boats, 14-15 dive professionals covering 2 islands, Havelock and Neil and customers from all over the world.
However, a few things haven't changed. We feel diving should be fun, safe and accessible. Everything we do is based on this. That’s why we’ve never adopted a premium pricing strategy, despite offering premium extras like small groups, unlimited shallow water training if needed, highly experienced guides, etc. And our primary goal is, as always, to make sure our guests have a great time here. We are not a big corporation, we don't have a fancy PR machine, we dont offer everything under the sun - we focus on one thing only, and we like to think we do it better than anyone else.
As an SSI Diamond Instructor Training Facility – a level awarded only to dive centers with a proven history of excellence – we are SSI’s flagship dive center in India and offer training all the way up to Intructor
We pride ourselves on our overall ethical practices: we dive responsibly and promote marine conservation; we help the Zoology and Forest departments; we have various reef monitoring programs ongoing; and we try to give back to the island that has given us a home, by training & employing local dive professionals.
We have found all the top dive sites of Havelock and Neil Island that you dive, and even now, continue to discover new sites each year.
Our goal is to provide our customers with more options for their training – so rather than limiting ourselves to just one agency (and reaping the cost benefits of an exclusive arrangement), we offer training with multiple agencies so as to give our divers more choices for their training. And all training is backed up by our quality guarantee – if you dont feel happy with your training, we will provide additional sessions at no extra cost.
Our eclectic group of dive professionals all share one thing in common - they've all quit other (read: better paying) jobs to do this. The reason is that they love to dive. And thats why no big corporations back us, we dont offer fishing-snorkeling-seawalks-Indian-Chinese-continental. All we do is dive (and we like to think we do it well!)
The Unusual Suspects
aka: Persona Fictitious
Vinnie is a SSI Instructor Trainer, a PADI Staff Instructor and NAUI Instructor. In addition, he is an experienced cold-water trimix/technical diver. He claims to be a wreck diver, but spends more time shaving his legs (supposedly for cycling/triathlons, although we suspect it is simply because he likes his legs to be silky smooth) than actually diving. No one has ever seem him in scuba gear. And actually, many people haven’t seen him at all. We refuse to confirm or deny whether he really exists.
aka: Fearless Leader
Vikas used to teach in Goa and consequently, goes into raptures every time he sees his own fin in the water. There is a popular theory that Vikas only learned to wear clothes a few years ago, but we can neither confirm or deny these rumors – best to ask him. In addition to being the Chief Instructor/Dive Center Manager/General Terror At Large, Vikas is also a keen underwater videographer, now with 2 very impressive underwater rigs (neither of which anyone has actually seen him take underwater).
aka: The Tamil Heart-throb
Sayeed is the longest-tenured member of our team. He came in, all bright eyed and bushy tailed and bloodied Vinnie’s nose with his tank on a night dive during his Advanced course – from there, he has grown into an SSI Instructor Trainer (how quickly they grow!). He has a mortal fear of dehydration and can usually be seen ambling from his man cave, a place of legend and lore, to the water fountain in the cafe to ensure that his bottle is full. Sayeed also runs our outbound trips.
aka: The Man
Have you watched John Rambo? Us neither. But the Karens are the tribe that Rambo helps. Our Karens have been settled in the Andamans since WW2, and are not nearly as militant, unless you are a fish (fishing is one of their main occupations). In addition to being a Divemaster, Ivan also handles the back end of our operations – boat maintenance, crewing, supplies, etc. We would come to a halt without him!
Melissa holds the record as being the only person on the Diveindia team who actually asked for, and went through, an interview process. She’s also known as Manisha, Alisha, Michelle, Melanie, Lis and even Vanessa and has a deep-rooted fear of toads taking over the world. She also handles the dive center operations and, were this an Evil Organization bent on taking over the world, she would be Number 2 to Vikas’s Dr Evil. Without the eye-patch.
aka: Mr Money
Stephen is another of our Karen dive professionals, and also holds an MBA in management (although we dont hold it against him). He dives, he handles cash and he issues our paychecks. We all like Stephen and we wouldn’t dare to make fun of him on the website!
aka: The Don
The Don is the Fixer and the A-Team, rolled into one. He’s a dive instructor, he is Luca Brazzi, he’s the guy who knows people who know people. In fact, we suspect he may actually be Batman, but we haven’t been able to prove it yet.
aka: The Stomach
Sahil has been known to do 2 things only: dive & eat (and eat some more). Sahil used to be a fitness trainer before coming to the Andamans, and for some inexplicable reasons, keeps misplacing his tee shirt and is forced to walk around shirtless. If you see him shirtless, do offer to help him find his shirt!
aka: The Betting Man
to being an instructor, Tanuj also handles all the certifications and is also known for his tendency to renege on his bets when he loses, citing all sorts of technicalities that would do a lawyer proud. Another one of our “clean shaven today/full beard tomorrow” brigade. Kids today, I tell ya!
Rahul is one of our senior instructors, and believes in 2 things only – the nourishing power of Snickers, and the Rule of Thirds (this is like the ‘Rule of Two’ of the Sith, but better. Much better. Ask him about it). He also has a fondness for single-malt, which has a significant bearing on his search for the smartest phone in the world.
aka: Scuba Pirate Ninja.
Abhedya has kept up the trend of coming here to do the Divemaster course, then sticking on for the Instructor course and then never leaving. His main claim to fame is his near-perfect Arnold impersonation. And the fact that he goes diving with a Patek Philippe.
What Neity lacks in size, she makes up in ferocity. A disgruntled architect, Neity packs more knives than an entire army of ninjas. You know how, after the incident, the neighbors always go “we never suspected – she/he was always so mild-mannered”? Yeah, that’s Neity. Be afraid.
aka: Frodo of the Week
After spending a few years in the wilderness [ie, working elsewhere] upon the completion of her Instructor Training Course at DIVEIndia, Mariam is back in the fold, where she belongs, spreading cheer and laughter whereever she goes. She is also our resident expert on camera memory cards and fake Latin accents.
aka: The guys that make it work
You only see the couple of them that are on the boat with you. You don’t see the guys that come in at 5:30am to ready the boats, to load up the gear, spares, safety kit, etc. or the guys that are working in the evening filling tanks, or sorting our gear. They are the foundation upon which we run – without them, nothing would get done.
Frodo Waggins, Bossdog
A FEW WORDS ON RESPONSIBLE TOURISM
The number of tourists to the Andamans is starting to increase. This is a good thing overall, as it helps improve the local economy and provides a better livelihood to the people of the islands.
However, increased tourist volumes, especially in developing economies, are accompanied by their own ills: increase in pollution/wastes, degradation of the environment and negative social impact on local culture. As an avid traveler myself, I am disheartened by the changes for the worse that have occurred in other “undiscovered gems” after their discovery. Ask anyone who has been to the Himalayas, to Goa, to Sharm El Sheikh or to Kenya over the past 15 years or so, and inevitably, the answer is: “it isn’t the same anymore.”
To prevent the Andamans from going down the same path, we request you to consider our suggestions below:
– Please be environmentally conscious. Solid waste is one of the biggest urban problems today, especially in developing countries which lack the waste management. Where possible, please avoid the use of plastics and disposables. Where unavoidable, please ensure that the trash is properly handled, not thrown out in the back.
– Limit the amount of water you use for showers. The fresh water table in Havelock has been decreasing every year, as tourist volumes increase.
– Do not touch or break coral, whether you are diving, snorkeling or swimming. Coral growth is very slow – taking years to grow each inch. Even a touch can remove the protective mucous covering on them, leaving them vulnerable to attacsk by other organisms. The old diving maxim – “ take nothing but memories, leave nothing but bubbles.” – holds true here.
– Do not give money, sweets or gifts to local children. Gifts are perfectly ok to people you know or who have helped you in some way. However, distribution of pens or candy to children builds dependency and leads to association of tourists with “freebies.” If you would like to contribute and give back to the Andamans, please donate to one of the many welfare organizations and NGOs working there.
– Please do not support businesses that operate in an eco-unfriendly manner. This includes resorts that throw their trash in the sea, snorkeling boats that throw their anchor on coral beds, shops that sell coral, turtle shells, tiger skins or similar prohibited items, restaurants that sell shark-fin soup, etc. If possible, let the person know why they have lost your business and in the event of illegal items for sale, please inform the local authorities.
– Raise your voice against shark-finning. This barbaric practice involves cutting off the fins of a shark while it is still alive, and dumping it back in the sea where it slowly bleeds to death. Charming, isn’t it?
– Please refrain from nudity in public places. We never expected that we would have to write this, but this is happening more often. Please keep local sentiments in mind – while swimsuits and bikinis are ok on the beach, nudity is most certainly not acceptable in India, and especially so in traditional Andamans.
– Do not engage or attempt to engage anyone to take you on a tribal tour. That is exploitation, pure and simple. We will call the police on anyone we learn is trying to do this.