Port Blair, March 28: Andaman’s oldest scuba diving center ‘DIVEIndia’ has been awarded India’s Favourite Adventure Tour Operator, based on a poll of over 7500 readers of Outlook Traveller magazine and website. Vandit Kalia, Managing Director of the company, was presented with a plaque and a certificate by Shri Parvez Diwan, Secretary of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India, at a function held in New Delhi.
The poll, validated by IPSOS, is an authoritative benchmark of consumer preferences in the areas of travel and tourism, including hotels, airlines and holiday destination and is part of an annual survey conducted by Outlook Traveler Magazine.
Commenting on the award, Kalia said, “This award goes to each and every person of the team, all of whom have quit corporate careers to pursue their passions – we strive to offer the highest quality scuba diving services and at the same time retain a personal touch, and being recognized by our guests for this is one of the most rewarding things for all of us, especially as it comes during our 10th year anniversary”.
DIVEIndia has been operating in the Andamans since 2003 and has established itself as one of the leading dive training agencies in India, offering training programs all the way from beginner to instructor. It celebrated its 10 anniversary in December 2013, and has plans to expand operations to cover all major Indian cities.
So far, muck diving has been synonymous with Lembeh in Sulawesi. Well, the Andamans is a geographical extension of the same region, and we – especially Vikas and Sayeed – have been exploring the macro realm quite intently, looking to expand the scope of what is available here.
During the season, we found a few “firsts” for the Andamans – electric clam, frogfish and devil stinger. And now that the off-season is slowly coming upon us, we have been doing some exploring… and this past week, we found the archetypical muck diving site: black sand, no rocks or coral, just lots of sea urchins and massive feather stars. And while here, 2 exciting new discoveries: ambonscorpionfish (!!!) and robust ghost pipefish!
With an average depth of 18m, and sloping down to 60m plus on one side, this site is accessible to all diver levels and we are also planning to do blue-water dives off from here, hoping to find hammerheads (fingers crossed). Will keep the world posted on what happens!
The site name is V16 for now, and it will be on our schedule of regular dive sites from next season.
So Vikas and I spent 3 days, sitting at the Port Blair port, waiting to get everything sorted so that we could lower our boat into the water (a process which, if one removes the waiting time, took an actual 20 minutes of effort). Yesterday morning, we woke up at 4:00am and headed over to the pier, departing Port Blair by 5, just at the crack of dawn.
Flat calm seas, beautiful lighting, a few sleepy gulls and Mako, purring along with her engines at mid-revs. A couple of bursts of speed got the speed up to well over 40knots and put big smiles on our face.
Today, Gregorio and his friends from Spain, who’ve been diving with us for the past 8-9 days, became the first divers to go on a dive trip on Mako – a sunrise dive at Johnny’s Gorge. Departing at 5am, we were there by 5:20am and had an amazing dive. A couple of the divers claimed this was their best dive ever (and these are people who have dived Galapagos and Sipadan, mind you), for the sheer wealth of fish life on the site.
So, this is what the future holds for DiveIndia this season — dawn dives, expedition trips to Barren Island, Invisible Banks, Campbell Shoal; extended range of day trip from Havelock to include North Button, Port Blair and Neil Island (including the drop-offs around Neil, where supposedly big sharks hang). These will be exclusive trips – 4-6 divers, 1 guide and 2 or 3 tanks, depending on where we go.
At the risk of sounding like we are tooting our own horn (we are, I admit, but I think we’ve earned it ), we can safely say this represents another evolution in what diving in the Andamans has to offer. The first was the new sites discovered by Johnny, Dixon and Jackson; the next was the North Safaris and now this.
As of now, we will be running day trips to virtually all sites visited by liveaboards, and a lot of other sites that they don’t know about (there’s that local expertise coming into play again). And you get to experience the magic of the Andamans as well…
Yep, it’s been a while since our last blog, but I think this one was worth it. We’ll be posting videos and clips online very soon as well.