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March 2020

Where should you go scuba diving – havelock or neil island?

By Dive Sites, Scuba Diving Andamans

Where should you go Scuba Diving next?

Havelock Island (SwarapDweep) or Neil island (Shahid Dweep)

Here are the best dive sites in Havelock Island and Neil Island to help you decide where you should dive next.

Havelock :

Dixon’s Pinnacle – Three pinnacles at different depths with abundant soft coral growth on them. Depths range from 17mtrs – 32mtrs. Schooling fish like snappers, fusiliers being hunted by trevally, banner fish, red tooth trigger fish, juvenile emperor angel fish, peacock mantis shrimp, Moray Eel, cleaner shrimps, turtle if you’re lucky. A dive site that is good irrespective of visibility because there’s so much to see. Ideal site for nitrox

Johnny’s Gorge – A gorge with rocks scattered around. Strong currents sometimes at this site. Depth ranges from 18mtrs – 30mtrs. Massive schools of snappers (different types), fusiliers being hunted by trevally, banner fish, White tip reef sharks, occasional turtle, Barracuda school, lovely swim throughs, shit loads of moon jellyfish in summer when waters get warmer…

Jackson’s Bar – Primarily a deep dive site ! A long bar which starts and stays at around 22-23mtrs with the edges dropping down to 30-35mtrs. Lots and lots of sting rays on the bar, soft coral, occasional rays gliding by, huge school of snappers, lots of Moray Eels… I can’t remember much about this site now cuz it’s been that long ?

The Wall – As the name suggests, a reef with one side dropping off to 60mtrs and the other side gently sloping down in the form of huge steps. Soft coral at depth but fish life concentrated between 9 – 15mtrs. Again, massive schools of fish like fusiliers, trevally, snappers, lionfish, angels, octopus, morays, crocodile flatheads, ghost pipefish, scorpion fish and a whole lot more. Easy dive site even if there is a strong current because you can simply hide from it. Perfect for all levels of divers. Except fucking try divers 😉

WhiteHouse Rock – Oh boy, where do I even start with this site. My favourite in the Andamans. Coming up from about 60 odd mtrs to as shallow as 8-9 mtrs, this dive site offers everything ! Insane variety of soft coral, fish life like groupers, residential turtles, octopus, Scorpion fish, Barracuda, trevally, rays if lucky. Swimming through the soft ‘black coral’ is like swimming through a forest, then around the corner the type of coral and colours start to change ( I need to look at the names of all those corals, forgot ) perfect site for deep,, Nitrox, fish id specialty dives…

S.S Inchket – Steam Ship Inchket was a Japanese cargo vessel which sank in 1950 (I can’t remember exact date) after hitting a huge rock. It took a long time for the ship to sink and so there were no casualties. The wreck is now an amazing site for all sorts of marine life. Coral, invertebrates, molluscs, reef fish, turtle -all reside here… The ship is broken in two parts and has a couple of narrow swim throughs, however, Penetrating the wreck entirely is not possible. The site ranges from 5mtrs at the bow to the deepest point being at the stern at 18mtrs. Visibility at this site is usually quite low but tends to surprise on some days. Currents if any are quite mild and most often because of thermoclines. A lovely site overall. One of the furthest dive sites from Havelock apart from WhiteHouse Rock, diving these sites requires planning based on the tide to have best conditions.

Neil :

Junction – called junction because it’s right at the junction of Neil and Havelock ! This is a deep dive site and topography is similar to Jackson’s Bar. Starts off at 23mtrs and goes down to 33mtrs, this dive site has a lot of soft coral and Gorgonian Fan coral in particular. The currents at this site can get really strong and since the life is primarily deep, dives tend to be shorter than others. Huge school of fusiliers feeding on plankton and being hunted by trevally make for an epic dive even if it is short. Strong currents at the junction could be an ideal place for pelagics and so drifting off if you have plenty Air after running low on bottom time could be fruitful.

Bus Stop – Bus stop is a gently sloping dive site with patches of reef and sparkling white sand in-between the reefs. Most often always very clear water at this site. The patches of reef are home to the reef fish and Moray Eels. One particular area where there is a fan coral has around 35 lionfish and can make for quite a site if they are all out in the open and not hiding under the overhang. Sandy bottom is home to a carpet of garden eels facing the direction the current is coming from. This site ranges from 13-22mtrs and continues sloping gently..

Margarita’s Mischief – Another patch reef, this dive site has patches of reef of what is supposed to be volcanic rocks. The way the reef is formed makes the reef patches look like it were some ancient construction with very rectangular shaped rocks placed horizontally and vertically. In between these rocks are invertebrates, morays, sand filled with sting rays, anemones, feather stars, and beautifully colourful Anthias. Surgeon fish, snappers, banner fish, red tooth trigger fish always cloud up the visibility. One section on the reef is where a lot of hunting happens when the current and visibility are just right – most often ! The site is fairly flat and ranges from 12mtrs over the reef patches, to 16mtrs in the sand… Beautiful site for all certification levels.

Fish Slate – Jeeeejus ! Whatasite ! Suitable for all levels of divers from DSDs to experienced certified divers. This site is a reef fringing Neil Island. Has amazing coral life starting at very shallow depths of 5mtrs. Boulder and a variety of branching and table coral make for picturesque views. Visibility at this site is most often clear and schools of fish are massive. Schools of Midnight snappers, chubs, red tail butterfly fish, sweetlips and a whole lot of fusiliers always hovering over the reef are a perfect safety stop. Reticulated Dascyllus and freckled Hawkfish are always above and between the branches of the staghorn coral. If this site really wants to show off, then even a turtle or dugong may show up. The max depth at this site is 12mtrs and currents are mild. A site you should definitely dive at from Neil Island

Busy Buro – A site just out of bounds for open water certified divers in terms of depth. Starts at 16mtrs, this is a flattish reef of volcanic rock. Not too much coral at this site but lots and lots of fish. Schools of yellow snappers at the start, stingrays or marble rays in the sand, lobsters and cleaner shrimp in the crevices followed by white snappers and golden sweetlips at the other end of the rock at 19mtrs make this another site off Neil with different schooling fish. Trevally hunting fusiliers is exciting to watch at this site because of the coordination of the trevally hunting and fusiliers darting all of a sudden.. Currents could be from none to moderate.

K Rock – haven’t dived it much. Only a couple of times so far..

Anchor Line – Another reef fringing Neil Island, a site ideal for DSD and open water course divers. This site has a  Sandy bottom at 6mtrs and reef filled with live boulder and branching coral. Schooling fish doing their thing and the sand bed right by it, makes it a perfect dive site for beginner divers to watch and understand why one gets hooked to diving. Easy relaxing dive site !

Nursery – This site is on the western side of Neil Island and again is a reef fringing the island. Schooling fish, lobsters, stingrays, octopus and cuttlefish are what can be seen here. A site suitable for all levels of divers starting at 6mtrs and upto about 12mtrs.

How to Become a Better Scuba Diver

How to become a marine biologist – Tamanna Balachandran

By Andaman scuba diving course, Articles, PADI underwater naturalist, Scuba Diving Careers in India, Underwater Naturaliast Course

How to become a marine biologist?

Essay by Tamanna Balachandran
How the marine ecology camp from last year influenced her and her decision to become a marine biologist.

The first time I experienced what the ocean had to offer was when I scuba dived, in the waters of Havelock. Then, I was a ten year old girl who had just fulfilled a life-long dream, mesmerised by the beauty of the underwater world I had gotten my first peek into.

When I returned five years later, a couple inches taller but with the same zeal for marine exploration, I decided to take part in the marine ecology camp. Over the course of the camp, I learnt more about the ocean I adored, from how corals were formed to figuring out how a particular fish hunts just by observing its features. I went on dives, guided by Chetana, where I was able to observe the subtlest interactions and behaviours, like the goby fish protecting the shrimp as the shrimp dug a safe home for the two of them, or parrot fish sleeping in mucus bubbles of their own making. The more I learnt, the more I felt like I understood. And I began to view the ocean no longer as a picture perfect fantasy world, but as a living breathing ecosystem held together by fragile, intricate relationships between its biotic and abiotic components. I realised that our ocean is straining to deal with the effects of our actions and it is our responsibility to fix what we’ve caused.

After the camp, I learnt and explored even more, and firmed my decision to play my role in marine conservation more actively. I attended wildlife conferences, heard from experts that had spent decades studying animals. And I decided to share my thoughts with the world; in August of 2019, I gave my first TED talk, titled “Bulldozing Our Oceans’ Integrity”. I shared my concerns about the effect that commercial fishing techniques like trawling were having on our oceans. Having decided a career path that will lead me to becoming a marine biologist, it is vital I continue learning and sharing my ideas but, also starting to take action for the cause. And so, this summer as well I’m returning to Havelock to intern in their marine conservation programme.

Photo credits Umeed Mistry