Monthly Archives

February 2021

Is Scuba Diving Safe in The Andamans

By Articles, Blogs, News

Is Scuba Diving Safe in The Andamans

As India (and most of the world) starts to open up and learn to live with COVID, a very common question we get asked is – is scuba diving safe in the Andamans, specifically from a COVID point of view.

To start with, let’s be clear on something – COVID hasn’t gone away and likely, will not for the foreseeable short/middle term. So the only way to maximize exposure to COVID is to stay at home and self-isolate.

When we go out and about – be it to the grocery store, be it to a restaurant, be it to work – we do have a certain additional risk that we are exposed to. So a more apt way of looking at things would be-  is that exposure greater or lower if we come to the Andamans for scuba diving?

In our opinion, coming for a trip to the Andamans does not pose a significant incremental risk – and in fact, is quite likely to result in a lower risk of exposure. This is for a bunch of reasons.

The first and foremost is that Andamans, at present, has negligible cases of COVID (4, at the time of writing this article on Feb 23, 2021). That means a very low risk of transmission by exposure.

Second, everyone who flies to the Andamans is required to get a COVID-negative test done within 48 hours of taking the flight. As is, the case load across the country has dropped significantly and by adding a COVID test, this minimizes the potential of exposure even further.

Thirdly, all tourist places are following regular safety protocols – sanitization, temperature checks, requiring people to wear a mask at all times.

Specifically to diving, we follow the protocols laid down by Divers Alert Network and PADI for sanitizing and disinfecting equipment between dives. We have also shifted much of our classroom training to online sessions, to minimize exposure and contact. Lastly, the fact that diving is conducted off a boat (ie, not in an enclosed space with recirculated air) also helps reduce the viral load, if any.

Look, we are not experts with complex mathematical models to determine risk. However, as people who live and dive in a place with no COVID cases (Havelock and Neil don’t have any recorded cases), we are acutely aware of the risk to ourselves, if nothing else. Based on the information available, we feel very confident that the risk – while not zero – is may actually be lower than what it would be based on just regular day-to-day life at home.

Which Island Is Better For Diving – HAVELOCK OR NEIL?

By Articles, Blogs, Dive Sites, Scuba Diving Andamans, Scuba diving Courses

Which Island is Better For Scuba Diving?
HAVELOCK (Swaraj Dweep) OR NEIL(Shahid Dweep)?

Another common question we get from our divers is – what is better for diving, Havelock or Neil?
The answer to that, of course, is… it depends.
It depends on what your experience level, the type of diving you want to do and what you are looking for in a vacation spot.

To start with, the 2 islands are very close together, so you are not going to see a significant change in the ecosystem and marine species between the two locations.
However, there are a few significant differences between the 2 locations:

  • Neil does not have the same mangrove cover as Havelock, and so tends to have lower sedimentation run-off. This results in generally better visibility closer to shore.
  • Havelock, by virtue of having the other islands of Ritchie’s Archipelago to the north, has a lot of sites that are sheltered no matter the wind or environmental conditions. This means that there are more shallow/sheltered sites for divers, where conditions allow access year long.
  • The drop-off into deep water is much closer to the southern side of Neil. This means a few more high-octane sites with a greater chance of seeing big pelagics (and we mean BIG).
  • Havelock has an excellent training reef accessible from the shore – a great place to do classes like Rescue Diver, Buoyancy, Navigation, Search & Recovery and more.

In addition to this, the islands themselves are fairly different. Havelock is all grown up now – it is has fiber optic internet, several restaurants and is pretty much a tourist island (albeit only relatively – compared to places like Goa, it is still positively rustic). Neil is still quieter and the package tourist hordes tend to give it a miss (or stay there only a night) – that gives it more of the quiet, “remote island” vibe of the Andamans. Depending on your preferences, you might find yourself gravitating towards one or the other.

Here is the list of top dive sites accessible from each island:

Best Dive Sites in Havelock:   The Wall, Slope, Pilot Reef, Aquarium, Nursery, Tribegate, Jackson’s Bar, Broken Ledge

Best Dive Sites in Neil:   Margherita’s Mischief, Junction, Bus Stop, Nursery (a different one!), Sea Fan City and a few more special ones that are going to be revealed over time.

Wait, wait, wait!

What about the Andaman, you ask – the world-class dive sites like Johnny’s Gorge, Dixon’s Pinnacle, V16, M/V Inchkett and Whitehouse Rock. The good news is – we can access them from both Havelock and Neil.

So as you can see, both Havelock and Neil are very good options. If we had to pick, we’d give Havelock a slight edge for newer divers looking to get some experience in controlled conditions or for divers looking to do some training courses. For advanced divers, we think Neil has the slight edge in terms of dives sites (although that edge is likely to increase in the next 6 months or so).